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
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.
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
Wednesday, November 17th
|SF Public Library
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
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
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.
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
Sunday, November 21st
|Justin the thinker
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.
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 :)
|"Aunt Alida" w/ baby Jacob
|Jenny & I
Tomorrow I fly to Hawaii, woo-hoo!
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