I said I would write about each of our trips this year and here is the first entry. I am fortunate enough to have my birthday fall on Memorial Day weekend. I am even more fortunate to have great friends to join me on a return trip to California as part of my celebration. Angela and I have gotten good at adding 1-3 PTO days to natural 3-day holiday weekends making for nice multiple 4-7 day vacations without too much effort. This approach allows us to take our standard work vacation allotment and stretch two to three times as far. I recommend this method to everyone.
Back to the trip anyway. I decided this time to do something a little different heading out on a holiday; I completely turned off my work email access and did not sign onto any instant messaging protocols. Sure, I used my iPhone to check weather, directions, and read the daily news, but all in all, I was fairly disconnected. I suppose it helped that the Yosemite lodge where we stayed in was completely devoid of any cellular signal at all; though strangely we had great signal throughout most of Yosemite park itself, even on the mountain. The lodge did offer up plenty of weird bear statues, however. See for yourself:
Aside from the, let’s say, interesting, statues, the Yosemite Cedar Lodge, is a great stay and only minutes outside the park. It was at the lodge that Anna presented me with my present, Bumble Bee, who was to become our travel gnome through California. I really do love everything about California, beginning with the drive out to Yosemite from the airport. We all made road trip cd’s to listen to and Anna was very creative in capturing every leg of the trip with a specific track and Angela was the expert photographer. The rolling mountains and windmills dotted along the landscape really make for a picturesque drive in and fill the mind with visions of riding for hours into an endless landscape for infinity. I know, weird, maybe that is just my idea of vegging out.
Moving on, we started the first full day of the trip straight into the heart of Yosemite, taking in the views, the falls, El Capitan, and then, the underestimated path up to Glacier Point. To be fair, we all walk, run, exercise a lot, so a 4.6 mile hike looked to be fairly doable. That is until we realized we were heading up an actual mountain side to the top. We were 2 and a quarter miles in before we realized that it was not going to be smooth going at all, but we braved it out and had this picture to show for it at the end. What really hurt, however, was finding out that there was no free shuttle back down the other side. So we, trekked back down from whence we came and avoided the $25 a head tour ride down. All in all, from car door, to Glacier Point and back to the car, was actually over 10 miles up and down the mountain. Needless to say, we were too tired to do anything but head to the Happy Burger, eat, and get ready for the next day.
Oh, and what an eventful day Monday proved to be. You see, we knew the giant redwoods where near by Yosemite, an hour and a half according to most estimates. What you have to realize, however, is that the ones near by are within the park, just before Hwy 41 breaks from Wanona, and becomes the 4 hour trip to King’s Canyon National Park. We thought we would, like the day before, make a quick trip out of something that extended all day. We obviously need to get better at our park sight seeing estimates. Yeah, we were pissed, tired of driving up and down swerving mountain roads for three days, and ready for the urban jungle of San Francisco; but, in the end Jessica got to hug the hell out of her giant trees and we all got a little closer to our nature side.. Bumble Bee opted not to hug the tree but instead pose in front of one.
Though we spent more time wearing our selves out than taking it easy, I really did enjoy Yosemite. I think it was great to be away from the computer, email, phone, technology in general, and around great friends surviving tests of our collective endurance. I will admit that having GPS on the iPhone working at least was great, because California roads do some tricky things. Also, we watched an hour an half of Cheaters Sunday night, but the humor was a good break from our long hike. I recommend everyone go to Yosemite at least once, and make a three day trip out of it at least, and ASK us for advice on what NOT to do!
Next up, is Tuesday and our first full day in San Francisco. We could not have been luckier, the weather was the epitome of a perfect day in the bay. 73 degrees for the high, no fog, no precipitation, no wind. Just perfect. We did not waste a moment of it. We left the hotel fairly early and did not come back till late. In one day, we managed to visit the Embarcadero, China Town, Mission District, Metreon, Union Square, etc. We were lucky to have Jessica’s friend Audrey as a tour guide around Mission, which is an area I had not seen before. Imagine Little 5 Points, only way bigger and very much still mom and pop stores.
What really makes San Fran great are all the little pockets of culture that really do bleed into one another and become a thing of their own. Like the bar we finished up at. A spanish named spot, forgot the name, with pinniatas hanging from the ceiling, serving mostly American micro brews, occupied by young art types, with French and Italian pictures on the wall. You gotta love it, culture overload. Don’t get me wrong, Atlanta has varying cultures, but I do not really believe they mix quite as invent-fully as in other cities. Bumble Bee, liked the mexican food mostly and fittingly so, because it is in the local restaurants that Angela and I really see the difference between Atlanta and anywhere else. One language, one great big homogeneous crowd, everywhere in Atlanta. Whereas the sounds from the diners in NY, Miami, San Fran all seem to come together into an esperanto soufflé. I love it.
Wednesday was probably my most trying day and I owe my travel mates an apology for my seething quite frustration during the early part of the tour. I just thought I had booked a small private wine tour around 4-5 vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. Yet, I was very disappointed to see a giant, fanny pack inducing, tour bus pull up at our hotel at 8:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I won’t recommend that company again for wine tours, unless you like the big coach bus type tours; it’s just not for me. I am glad, however, that the day finished up well and my friends enjoyed themselves. Even more so, I am glad it has inspired a brilliant creation from all of us that you are due to see in the near future, we hope. I am also glad to see that Bumble Bee did not drink himself under the table, though he tried.
We later met up with Audrey again in Union Square for sushi and did a little shopping. I must say, the stores in San Fran get better stock than we do, and my new shoes are evidence of that. We finished off the day with a luxurious party in our hotel, with gourmet chocolates, fancy robes, and drinks. Bumble Bee, as you can now see, likes to eat. Here he is at the sushi place expertly handling the chop sticks that Anna seemed to have to work at.
Thursday, and our last full day in San Fran. Unlike our first full day, this was a traditional weather day in the bay. Wind, fog, cold, but we had packed for it, so we were able to brave it out. We visited the Marina district, Palace of Fine Arts, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf where we ate bread bowls, curved our necks around Lombard street, and ate chocolate Ghiradelli square among other things. I think our feet, backs, and wits are all shot. The best part about Thursday was the Catamaran Sunset Sailing trip through the bay that we took that evening. I try to make it a point to go sailing whenever we are near a body of water. Seriously folks, do it, just make sure the trip is a sunset sail with all inclusive “refreshments.” Worth every penny, I promise you. What can be better than music, dancing, lover’s romancing, toasts, and gorgeous landscapes, to really remind you that you are on holiday and life is to be enjoyed. Bumble Bee seemed to think so, he was lost in thought, and I think even shed a tear, realizing we were going home the next morning. Anyway, till next time, get somewhere…