About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

California PART 1 - "Eureka!"

Mount Shasta

Monday, November 15th
Today I entered northern California from Oregon.  The first notable landmark was Mount Shasta, which is so big and rises so abruptly without connection to any other mountains, that it looked like an optical illusion sitting on the clouds - seriously, it looked photo-shopped!  "A colossus of four volcanic cones, the highest rising 14,162 feet above the flats of upper California, it's the crown jewel of the Cascades, a snow-capped peak that is one of the state's most beautiful landmarks, visible from as far as 100 miles away."

Tonight I stayed at the White House!  Okay, fine, not THE White House, but I just wanted to keep your attention, lol.  The White family was generous to let me crash at their place in Ukiah.  I was no match for her kids in a game of Clue, and Battleship, and I felt a little guilty having the whole loft to myself.  

                                                                 Tuesday, November 16th
Champagne Bath
This morning I took a "Champagne Bath" at the historic Vichy Springs Resort.  The 157 year old carbonated spring bubbles into the sunken tubs, and dilates the pores of your skin, creating a warming sensation, making it the only naturally warm and carbonated Vichy mineral baths in North America!  The property is located out in the country, surrounded my mountains and trees, and it was a beautiful morning, so it was nice that the baths were outside with a view, and even better, I had the place all to myself!  The water is said to contain therapeutic and medicinal properties, and can be used both internally and externally.  Read a blurb about it hereAs a bonus, I got to fill up my water bottle with the stuff!  If you can get past the sulfuric, rotten egg factor, it doesn't taste that bad :P

After taking a dip in the hot tub, my spa day took me down to Calistoga, where at Indian Springs Resort I immersed myself in my first-ever mud bath!  I checked in at the lobby, where I was provided slippers, a key, and a robe (a whopping $75 fee is charged if not returned!), and led to the locker room.  I killed a little time before my treatment in the Olympic-sized mineral pool, set at 102 degrees (bliss!).  Now it was time for the main event.  I undressed, changed into my white, flannel robe, and my attendant led me to the baths.  He helped me into the tub, and covered me neck to toe in hot volcanic ash.  Here I would lie for the next 10 minutes.  
Mud Bath
Take note that this is not a treatment for anyone with claustrophobia!  The mixture of wet ash and peat is heavy, and you're not going anywhere.  Think of it as a therapeutic straight jacket, lol.  I rinsed off in the shower,  then soaked in a claw-foot tub filled with "pure Indian Springs' geyser water, rich in minerals and salt," for roughly another 10 minutes or so.  The bathing room was very humid, and they provided me with cucumber citrus water to keep me hydrated.  Next I enjoyed the steam room for a bit, then was led to a simple, private room, where the attendant put on some relaxing music, and wrapped me in soft flannel blankets.  I cooled down for 15 minutes, before ending my experience with a little time at the tranquil Buddha pond out back.  I mean, it WOULD have been tranquil had a construction crew not been jack-hammering! :)

By late afternoon I made my way down to "America's most famous wine region," Napa Valley, for some serious touring and tasting.  "Packed in shoulder-to-shoulder along a narrow, 35-mile valley bounded by two mountain ranges, American wine-making's greatest and most famous names are all found in the verdant valley Napa Valley."  With over 300 wineries lining little Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, the drivers-side views of the vineyards alone, were mouth-watering.  So many wineries, so little time, lol.  
Distinguished as the first large scale winery established in the valley before prohibition, I decided on the Signature Tour & Tasting" at the Robert Mondavi Winery.  "Approximately 75 minutes in length, this in depth winery tour follows the path of the grape from the vineyard to the cellar to the finished wine.  Guests walk into the To Kalon Vineyard, visit the wine-making cellars (including fermentation and barrel aging) and receive a seated educational tasting of three wines with one of our wine education specialists."  Now I'm no sommelier, in fact the only bit of knowledge I ever really knew about wine was that red is usually paired with red meat, and white wine with fish.  However, by the end of the tour I felt like a pro!  Felt, being the operative word here, lol.

By nightfall I crossed over the iconic 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel whose 4,200-foot central span set a record for suspension bridges unchallenged for 27 years."  I drove down to Daly City to leave my car with Jonah, a perfect stranger from couchsurfing.org who let me park my car at his place the next five days.  Thanks Jonah, you ROCK!  Having a car in San Francisco sucks; I was so happy to take Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) there.

Golden Gate Bridge
Justin met me at the station and we walked to his place as we caught up - it was SO good to see him!  We became good friends while I was living in Minneapolis, MN, but he recently moved to San Fran to continue schooling in the Japanese language.  Already a fluent speaker of Japanese, the course he completed allowed him to teach, which he is now happily doing :)  His place is in "Tenderloin" a sketchy neighborhood in downtown (aka "Skid Row," or 'Wine Country,' an allusion to "winos" (street-dwelling alcoholics").  Basically, when you step out your door you should expect to be repeatedly asked for money by beggars, see many homeless, and, as with what happened to me, be shouted obscenities at for walking by.  So anyway, it's a good place to experience a side of San Fran that the tourists don't often see (or wish to talk about, lol).  After dropping off my bags he showed me a couple points of interest in his area, including an over-the-top cathedral. 

                                                                 Wednesday, November 17th
SF Public Library
This morning Justin went to work and I blogged at the San Francisco Public Library, boasting SIX floors that fill over 376,000 square feet of shelves, offices, study rooms, a wing for children, 300 computer terminals, and room for 1100 laptops!  All this for only $140 million - what a bargain, lol.  When Justin got home from work we went to the 6th annual "Mole To Die For" contest at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, offering the public a chance to "taste dozens of different moles, and vote for your favorite."  The event was scheduled from 7-9pm, and we arrived at 8pm with our $7 entrance fee.  They gave us a $2 discount, and we soon realized why - ALL but two moles were completely devoured and the voting was closed!  We were totally ripped off, but at least the two sauces we did get to taste were delicious, and it was cool that the event shared space with a gallery displaying art which celebrated Day of the Dead, a Spanish holiday that remembers deceased family and friends.  The art displays ran the gamut of sad, dark, fun, festive, wild, wacky, and tacky, and many of them included personal altars with photos honoring their loved ones.

When we got back to Justin's, he introduced me to one of his favorite TV shows, a mockumentary-style comedy centered around an immature news crew with no clue what they're doing.  Damn it, I forgot the name of it!

Thursday, November 18th
Today I visited my old high-school friend Britta, who I got
caught up with over some frozen yogurt (or "Froyo" to the cool kids, lol).  It was short and sweet, and not at all awkward as I feared it might be after nearly a decade without contact.  It was no surprise that she is doing well for herself being happily married with a great career.  To me, she's always been of those rare, "whole package"-type people.  She's successful in everything she does, and while she could be a super model but for a couple of inches, she has an awesome sense of humor, a brain, an inspiring attitude and zest for life, and I've never heard her utter an unkind word about anyone.  Britta, let's trade lives, haha :P

After froyo, I explored the area by foot some more, before hopping a cable car back to Justin's. 

                                                                 Friday, November 19th
Japan Center
Tonight after Justin returned from work we went to Japan Center in Japantown; "The Gateway to Japanese culture, cuisine, and shopping" and one of Justin's favorite places.  I had never been in Japanese mall before - it was fun!  The decor was cool; there were staircases imitating Japanese bridges with zen rock gardens underneath them, and it was my first time in a Japanese dollar store (I bought an umbrella).  Afterward, we grabbed food at the grocery store for the potluck party at my friend of a friend Justin Lee's house.  We first met when our mutual friend Andy invited me over for a send-off for Justin Lee and his friend Patrick's cross-country bicycle trip.  It turns out Justin Lee's bike broke down in San Francisco, and he loved it here so much that when his bike was repaired he decided to stay!  With an open mind, you never know where you'll end up :)

Saturday, November 20th
Today is the day for Alcatraz Island, yay!  We decided to walk down to the pier instead of taking transportation, since I'd get to go through Chinatown and see more of SF.  We passed by the iconic needle-shaped TransAmerica Building, "the tallest and probably most 
Grant Avenue, Chinatown
recognizable skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline," on our way to Chinatown, which was just like I remembered it - fun, festive and clean - of all the Chinatown's I've been to, this is my favorite.  It's also the "the largest one outside of Asia" and "the oldest in North America."  Apart from the herbal and souvenir shops, pagoda roofs, and culture, attractions include the Tin How Temple (the oldest in the U.S., founded in1852), the Sing Chong Building (one of the first places rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake), and the Gateway Arch (the only authentic Chinatown Gate in North America).

Despite our best efforts (e.i., a lot of running), when we reached the pier, we found that we literally missed the boat!  To add insult to injury, the representative was completely unsympathetic and would not re-book us for the next boat :(  I was super bummed, but after Justin let me vent for 10 minutes we had a fantastic day of exploring.  

Lombard Street
We saw Lombard Street, famous for having a steep, one-block, one-way section consisting of eight tight switchback turns that have earned the street the distinction of "crookedest street in the world."  Bill Cosby described like this: "They built a street up there called Lombard Street that goes straight down, and they're not satisfied with you killing yourself that way—they put grooves and curves and everything in it, and they put flowers there where they've buried the people that have killed themselves."  LOL!

We visited Coit Tower (a 210-foot monument to SF firefighters) with panoramic views of Alcatraz Island, Saints Peter and Paul Church, the Ferry Building, and the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay bridges.  Inside the tower, the walls are painted with beautiful murals of San Francisco back in the day.  Then we went down to Fisherman's Wharf, a historic area on the bay once populated by fisherman and their fleets, now full of shops, restaurants,  and tourist attractions.  We ate at Neptune's Palace on Pier 39 - we had great food (yummy seafood sampler plate) and a window seat right over the water with spectacular views.

View of Alcatraz Island from Coit Tower
After dinner, we got ready for his friend's birthday party over in Oakland.  The party was great!  His friend has a beautiful home (the gays know how to decorate, lol), and had an awesome spread of delicious h'ordeurves, plenty of booze and bevs, his unusual friend recited an abstract poem that made me go "Huh?," and instead of singing the same old birthday song, we each chose a song at random in our heads, and on the count of three sang it simultaneously, creating a vibrant cacophony of ill-sounding noise from around the room (I won't call it music, lol).  I believe I sang "Pretty Woman," lol.

                                        Sunday, November 21st
Justin the thinker
We had to get our butts up early, and this time didn't walk, lol, but we were able to board a boat to Alcatraz Island, woo-hoo!  Not only does the island provide a fascinating, narrated self-guided tour of perhaps the most famous federal prison in US history, but also shares the less-popular history about early military fortifications, and later occupation by American Americans.  Oh, and the island also lends killer views of San Francisco!

When we were finished we caught a boat back, I said my goodbyes to my good friend Justin, picked up my car from Jonah's, and headed down to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, November 23rd
I went to "The Happiest Place on Earth" today - Disneyland!  Read about HERE.

Friday, November 26th
I've been staying up at my good friends Alida & Kyle's house the past couple of days, about 30 minutes north of Los Angeles.  Alida's quite persuasive (i.e., dominant, lol), and she insisted for months that I be at their place for Thanksgiving, so I actually rerouted my trip to be here in time.

The game is on - Kyle's happy :)
Alida & Kyle were my first good friends I made when I lived here in Los Angeles.  I met them when I started working at a luxury boutique hotel in Burbank. We bonded right away by sharing experiences about our useless boss, and stories about our crazy coworkers and the eccentric business guests and celebrities.  When my apartment lease in the ghetto with Satan was up I took Alida up on her offer to move in with her (I even left my apartment a few weeks early because it was so bad).  About a year and a half later Alida & Kyle were in a relationship (aww...), and I was ready to move out on my own, so it worked out quite nicely for them that when I moved out, Kyle moved in. 

"Aunt Alida" w/ baby Jacob
They're both a bit older than me (40's).  Alida's a blonde bombshell (think Stiffler's mom if you've ever seen American Pie) who cusses like a sailor and drinks like a fish. When she's not out shopping she's at home watching garbage gossip shows like "Real Housewives of New York" (oh why did she have to get me hooked?!), or cooking enough comfort food to feed the Chinese army. Kyle is her exact opposite - a frugal, more introverted, bookish guy, who organizes collections for ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, "the world's largest research library on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered heritage and concerns." I like to think that he basically sorts porn all day (my dream job, haha). They're quite smitten with each other, and are going on a few years now. Their place is like a geriatric center for pets. If Alida takes in one more sickly old stray she could register as a non-profit. 

Jenny & I
Today we celebrated Thanksgiving. Apart from the usual feast for the masses that Alida whips up just for Kyle and I, she was having extra company, so she upped her game, and though I took only a little sampling of each of the 20,000 dishes she prepared, I must have had at least two plates full!  Kyle turned on the football game, and neighbor Liz brought baby Jacob over, former neighbors Sandy & Tim came, as well as Jenny - my sweet friend from Montana that I met when we both worked for a premium cellular phone company.  I introduced Jenny to Kyle & Alida before moving back to Minnesota, and they've since become good friends.  I like to think of it as a parting gift, lol.

Tomorrow I fly to Hawaii, woo-hoo!


               -----------------------------------Fun Facts & Trivia----------------------------------- 

~ The California Condor found in the Santa Lucia Mountains in Central Coastal California is North America's largest land bird with a wing span of 10 feet. 
~ One out of every eight music festivals in the United States is held in California.
~ If California 's economic size were measured by itself to other countries, it would rank the 7th largest economy in the world.
~ The state motto is Eureka!, a Greek word translated "I have found it!" The motto was adopted in 1849 and originates from the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada . 
~ The first motion picture theater in the United States opened in Los Angeles on April 2, 1902.  ~ Reputed to be the most corrupt politician in Fresno County history, Vice-leader Joseph Spinney was mayor for only ten minutes.
~ One out of every eight United States residents lives in California.
~ The largest oil can collection in the world, of 10,000 cans, is found in Santa Rosa, CA. 
~ The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has enough steel wires in its cables to circle the earth at the equator 3.5 times.

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