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...

Cali 4: Golden Gate Park, Berkeley, Pt Reyes

Friday, May 27th
I left Yosemite National Park and got to my friend Justin's new place in Oakland around 6pm and he and his boyfriend Jim and I went to the grocery store and came back and cooked a delicious shrimp pesto tortellini with portobello mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, had some wine, and watched "Riff Tracks" of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a version of the movie in the style of Mystery Science Theater, with hilarious movie commentators in the background talking over the actors.

Saturday, May 28th
This morning Justin & Jim and I hopped the Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and explored Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  First we visited the oldest remaining municipal wooden conservatory in the United States, the Conservatory of Flowers, where we admired the beauty of the Lowland Tropics (a steamy jungle of plants that are native to the low-lying tropical forests of countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia, in regions below 3,000 feet - banana and coffee trees, etc), Highland Tropics (an intimate glimpse of life in the cloud forests of the tropics above 3,000 feet - orchids, mosses, etc), Aquatic Plants (from the Amazon River to Mekong, the waterways of the tropics are crowded with floating aquatic plants like water lilies and lotus), Potted Plants (assortment of hibiscus, begonias, bromeliads, cymbidium orchids, vines, etc), and my favorite special exhibit "Wicked Plants," an eerie garden full of Mother Nature's most appalling creations, based on the New York Times Best Seller.

Next we visited the San Francisco Botanical Garden, more than 7,500 varieties of flora from across the globe, stretching across 55 acres.  We walked through the Ancient Plant Garden (“primitive” plant garden, which offers millions of years of change) and the Rhododendron Garden before I met my friend Bonnie from Minnesota who was visiting her sister who lives in Marin County.

It was Bonnie's birthday today!  I met her and her son, her sister, her sister's husband and nephew (it was his birthday, too!) at the north gate, and we walked over to the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in all of the United States, where we walked through the lush, peaceful pathways passing rock gardens, Buddhas, temples, crawled up the Drum Bridge (which reflects a perfect circle), then had tea and cookies at the Tea House.  It was so great seeing Bonnie, who after battling cancer is looking and feeling great, her smile brightening everyone's day as it always has, and it was wonderful meeting some of her fun, generous family, who insisted on picking up the tab and offered me their place to crash :)

Afterward I met back up with Justin & Jim who opted to stay at the Botanical Garden, while I caught up with Bonnie.  It started to rain again (off and on the throughout the day), so we hopped the bus and the Bart back to Justin's, where we finished the leftover pasta from last night and the Happy Potter Riff Track movie (so funny!). 

Sunday, May 29th
The Campanile (Sather Tower)
The first half of today was spent in rest and relaxation; I picked up an ear-bud for my cell phone, did laundry, enjoyed a delicious vegetable stir fry lunch Justin prepared for us, and then later we too the Bart to downtown Berkeley, where we window shopped the Games of Berkeley store, I grabbed a little Ben & Jerry's, walked Center Street to the grounds of the famous University via Frank Schlessinger Way to the Campanile (Sather Tower), a Venetian, 16th-century replica clock/bell tower - the symbol of the campus, then strolled through Sather Gate onto Sproul Plaza, a famous location for student protests (the first of which occurred in 1964 during the Free Speech Movement), then onto the lively sidewalks of Telegraph Avenue.  We checked out the funky T-Shirt Orgy store - a 3-level store filled with every kind of t-shirt you can imagine, then a Japanese dollar store (Justin teaches Japanese, so it's always fun shopping with an expert!).  We walked up busy Shattuck Avenue to a Dollar Tree, then I picked up a Mad Libs (America's Next Top Model edition, lol) at Half Price books before we noshed on yummy wood-fired pizza alfresco at Jupiter, two-story beer-house with great patio and live music, where we tried the "Odysseus" - wild mushrooms with danish fontina cheese on an olive oil-brushed crust, and listened to a folk-country/bluegrass band.

When we got back to Justin's we watched "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist," an off-the-wall comedy "movie within a movie, created to spoof the martial arts genre."   

Monday, May 30th
This morning around 9am I drove about an hour away to Point Reyes National Seashore, "the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent.  This peninsula is a popular recreational destination for the nearby San Francisco Bay Area, especially for hiking on its many trails and sea kayaking the shores of Tomales Bay and the coast. Point Reyes National Seashore offers some of the finest birdwatching in the United States, It is also one of the best places to watch Northern Elephant Seals in the winter months."

I grabbed a map and information from the long-winded woman at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, lol, and began my visit with a short .6 mi/1 km hike along the paved Earthquake Trail loop that explores the San Andreas Fault Zone with interpretive signs describing the geology of the area.  The most interesting part of the hike is seeing where a fence jumped 16 feet during the 1906 quake.  Other than that, you can probably skip this one.

Then I hiked Bear Valley Trail to Arch Rock, an 8.2-mile out and back hike, "probably the single most popular trail in the park, with the most direct walk to the ocean from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. This pleasant stroll through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek is mostly sheltered from sun, wind and coastal fog."  The hike was nice and easy, but pretty unchanging most of the way.  It took me 3 hours round-trip at a fast pace.  The natural sea arch at the end is neat, and the views of the ocean and coast are good.  I had lunch under a tree looking onto Divide Meadow on the way back.  Next time I'll try Tomales Point Trail or one of the others.

Next I drove through old, active livestock ranches past several milk cows to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light to save money (as is the case now with all lighthouses in the U.S.).  I walked about 3/4 of a mile from the line of cars backed up onto the shoulder of the road down from the small, overflowing parking lot, and down the narrow staircase of 308 stairs to the little old lighthouse 300 feet below the top of the cliff.  It is now a museum piece, "where the era of the lightkeepers' lives, the craftsmanship and the beauty of the lighthouse are actively preserved."  You can enter the lighthouse from 2:30-4:30 and hear a ranger talk, as I did.

Upon leaving the lighthouse area I drove the narrow road to nearby Chimney Rock, and hiked a little footpath to Elephant Seal Overlook, where I had the opportunity to see the large colony resting on the beach flipping sand onto themselves, and powerfully trumpeting while horse-playing in the water.  This was the highlight of my visit!

Then I drove down to Limantour Beach, a long, narrow spit of sand and bountiful wildlife area, bound between Drakes Bay and an estuary (so pretty, and my favorite part of the beach).  My travel book described this beach as picturesque, but after a little research, I think I should've tried Drakes Beach, instead.

Before returning to Justin's, I had dinner at Farm House Restaurant in Olema, bordering the park.  My guidebook hyped up the enormous bbq oysters, "a famous regional delicacy" the place supposedly serves up; a dozen for $18.  Well the oysters were good, but there's no 12 for $18 and they're nowhere near the size of the palm of one's hand.  "Barbequed Drakes Bay Oysters" are twelve [typical-sized] oysters for $29 (ouch!), with a choice of Sartain's Sauce of Petaluma (spicy chipotle), Mango-Bourbon Barbeque Sauce (hot 'n tangy), or Roasted Garlic Butter (very light flavor).  My request of all three sauces was happily accommodated, but a little overkill as usual (I heart condiments).  I have no idea what plain oysters taste like.  Maybe I need to learn to pull the reigns in a little, lol.

I think I got back to Justin's around 8:30pm.  Full day!

Tuesday, May 31st
This morning bright and early I packed up and said goodbye to my good friend Justin before he went to work.  Before leaving the bay area, I stopped at "Albany Bulb," a former landfill on a peninsula, to check out the sculptures mentioned in my "Weird U.S." guidebook.  "Because the Bulb is geographically unorganized and seldom patrolled by the Albany Police Department, it is often described as Anarchical. Many groups, including urban artists, local homeless, dog-walkers, teenagers, and environmentalists, use the Bulb area and feel they have a stake in it."  The bulb supposedly contains "a vast array of urban art including mural, stencil, graffiti, sculpture, and installation art."

The place is sketchy, so I parked my car a safe distance away, and walked a portion of the Waterfront Trail overlooking The Albany Mudflat to a large sculpture with graffiti reading "Look Out," and I knew I was in the right place.  I asked a gentleman on his bicycle where I should go from here, and he pointed accordingly and informed me the place isn't what it used to be, with much of the art not still intact, and that the place is inhabited by homeless.  He said if I play it cool then they'll play it cool.  I did some exploring but finished a lot sooner than I had originally anticipated, feeling a little uneasy and unsafe.  In short, you can skip this place.


Cali Pt 3: Sequoia, Kings Canyon & Yosemite

National Parks-O-Rama

Monday, May 23rd
This morning around 11am I packed up and said my goodbyes to Kyle & Alida- not an easy thing to do :(  The past 99 days with them has been a priceless gift.  They are true friends that I trust with my life and I can be completely myself around, and I love them with all my heart.  I told teary-eyed Alida that this was not goodbye, but rather an "until we meet again," and that we would see each other before long, as time flies so fast.  It really does.

I can't believe that on this date one year ago I set off on this crazy adventure around the country.  I've made so many wonderful memories and friendships, and reconnected with old friends.  I'm so grateful for this trip.  It's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

It was a beautiful drive from Alida's on I-5; I passed orchards, desert mountains, and orange, poppy-dotted hills.  Around 3:45pm I entered at Sequoia National Park.  "This landscape testifies to nature's size, beauty, and diversity – huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees!"  I handed the gate attendant my America The Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass and saved myself the $20 vehicle entrance fee, and stopped at the nearby Foothills Visitor Center to get some info on hiking trails, parks highlights, etc., and began my visit with a short 1/4-mile hike down to Indian Head River.  I snapped a few photos and took a drive up the curvy, cliff-side "General's Highway," before pitching my tent on site 25 at Buckeye Flat campground.  I got a little "caution for black bears" warning from the camp host, then went for a hike on Paradise Creek Trail, whose trail-head is located right inside the campground.  The trail parallels Paradise Creek, over Middle Creek Bridge, passing pretty wildflowers, waterfalls and swimming holes.

At night I met Tim from Illinois, when I asked him and his dad for some lighter fluid.  Tim gave me the leftovers from their DuraFlame starter log, and then he joined me at my campfire a little while later.  We got really personal, talking about religion, sexuality, politics, etc.  We hung out at the edge of the raging creek just down from my site.

Tuesday, May 24th
This morning I packed up my tent and Tim came and wished me well and told me he'd refer me for a job at Apple once my trip is over!  I took General's Highway north, stopping at Hospital Rock to view the ancient red pictographs on this site that was "once home to nearly 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono, Indians. Archeological evidence indicates that Indians settled in this area as early as 1350."

View from the base of Moro Rock
I followed the line of cars (roadwork delays) into the Giant Forest area, my first stop on this 3-mile road was at "Auto Log.  Early visitors to the Giant Forest often had difficulty comprehending how big the giant sequoias are. To help give a sense of their size, a roadway was cut into the top of this fallen tree. Due to rot in the log, cars can no longer drive on it, but it remains an interesting historic feature."  I walked over to the Bear Hill Trail, and checked out "Colonel Young Tree."  The tree is massive, and isn't doesn't even make it onto the park's list of "30 Largest Giant Sequoias."

Then I visited awesome Moro Rock.  I ascended the steep, 1/4-mile staircase that climbs over 300' (91.4 meters) to the summit of the granite dome, which gave way spectacular views of the western half of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide.  The panoramic views were breathtaking.

I stopped to snap a photo of 2,300 year-old "Buttress Tree," which without warning fell in June of 1953.  I checked out the trees known as the "Parker Group, considered one of the finest clusters of sequoias which can be reached by automobile," before driving through the "Tunnel Log.  Sequoia and Kings Canyon have never had a drive-through tree. The Wawona Tunnel Tree, the famous "tree you can drive through", grew in the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park, 100 air-miles north of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. It fell over during the severe winter of 1968-69. Visitors to Sequoia National Park can drive through a fallen sequoia, however. In December 1937, an unnamed sequoia 275' (83.8 meters) high and 21' (6.4 meters) in diameter fell across the Crescent Meadow Road as a result of "natural causes". The following summer, a Civilian Conservation Corps crew cut a tunnel through the tree. The tunnel is 8' (2.4 meters) high and 17' (5.2 meters) wide, and there is a bypass for taller vehicles."

Then I got out of the car for a hike in beautiful Crescent Meadow, where several miles and wrong turns on the snow-covered trails later, I made it to "Tharpe's Log, a fallen sequoia that provided a rustic summer home for the Giant Forest's first Caucasian resident, Hale Tharp.  I was also lucky enough to see a bear!  A great hike, though my feet were freezing.  Note to self:  Never wear crocks if there's a chance of snow!

I stopped at the Giant Forest Museum to get a load of "Sentinel Tree," which at 2,200 years-old and 700 tons (the weight of two fully-loaded jumbo jets) is considered only average for a sequoia.

I saw another black bear before hiking a 1/2-mile to "General Sherman, the "World's Largest Tree," at 274.9' (83.8 meters) tall, and 102.6' (31.3 meters) in circumference at its base, with a total of 52,500 cubic feet (1486.6 cubic meters) of wood! 

I continued hiking the 2-mile Congress Trail through the heart of the sequoia forest.  Famous sequoias along the trail include the House and Senate Groups, and the President, Chief Sequoyah, General Lee and McKinley Trees.  The most fun was walking through a section of one of these giant things!

I drove up to neighboring King's Canyon National Park, via the Scenic Byway, stopping at a few overlooks and for groceries at the market at Lodgepole Visitor Center & Village, before arriving at Azalea Campground in Grants Grove area around 7pm.

From several unoccupied sites I picked #88, pitched my tent got a fire going, and had some wine, oysters and sardines before journaling and bed.  At about 6500' elevation, versus 2800' at Buckeye Flat last night, the difference in temperature really makes a big difference.  I think it was about 10 degrees!  Thank god for my THREE sleeping bags, lol!

Wednesday, May 25th
I left my campsite at 9:30 this morning (90 minutes earlier than yesterday, woo-hoo!), and went to Grant Grove.  I spotted a couple of deer close to the road, which were nearly run over by the little park service vehicle that stormed through!  I walked around the trails of giant trees, stumps, and trees scorched by forest-fire, walked through the hollow trunks of massive fallen sequoias (awesome!), and stood in awe of General Grant tree.  With a height of 268.1', circumferences of 107.5' and cubic volume of 46,608', it's the biggest tree in King's Canyon and the third largest tree on Earth!

I drove a few miles up to Panoramic Point, which offers spectacular views of the High Sierra, but was unable to take advantage due to the several feet of snow that covered up whatever trails led to the viewpoint.  I wasn't too let down though, since was able to take in stunning views on the drive to Hume Lake, a beautiful lake with nice beaches formed by a rare and historic multiple-arch dam, and continuing on Kings Canyon Scenic Byway for stops to take in the grandeur of the water-carved canyon at Junction View (amazing views of both the Middle Fork and the South Fork of the Kings River) and Yucca Point.

Hume Lake
As I drove out of King's Canyon National Park my check engine light came on, and I called several Honda locations to check prices on diagnosing the problem, and renewed my AAA membership!

I arrived at Yosemite National Park at around 5pm via Highway 41 at the south entrance into Wawona.  There I stopped in at the Visitor Center where I felt overwhelmed by all the confusing information they gave me , and was disappointed to find that all the campsites in all the campgrounds were reserved, and the one campsite for available (Camp 4) for walk-ins was full.  I would have to arrive at Camp 4 tomorrow morning between 7-8 for a shot at getting placed at a site there, and I would have to sleep in the car tonight :(

I drove into the Yosemite Valley (the most popular district of the park), first stopping at "Tunnel View" for expansive, post-card picture views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome.

"Tunnel View" of Yosemite Valley
 I grabbed some groceries from the Village Market, then attended the ranger-led presentation on Native Americans & The National Park Service - a look at the hardships endured and continued struggle for peaceful coexistence.  Ranger Ben, a Native American himself, shed light on the treatment of Native Americans as the national park service claimed their lands, sent them to boarding schools, and paid them to dress like the Plains Indians give tourists more of a show.  He also explained common misconceptions of Native Americans.

Mist Trail
Afterward, a man named Rob from San Francisco took notice of my Chargers sweatshirt and we got to talking and he invited me over to him and Pete's campsite.  They had a fire going on probably the largest site in the whole park - a half-acre!  The three of us got acquainted and after they discovered I didn't have a site, they generously offered for me to stay at theirs! :)

Thursday, May 26th
This morning Rob fixed up a delicious grilled munster cheese sandwich and they sent me off with trail mix before I hopped the free park shuttle and hiked the "Mist Trail" up to Vernal Fall (moderate, very wet hike with 1,000' elevation gain and 600 slippery steps up a granite stairway to the top) and Nevada Fall (strenuous; another 2,000' elevation gain - a total loop of 5.8 miles, drenched with spray along the Merced River surrounded by massive granite cliffs, glacial features, and views of at least four of the valley's biggest and best waterfalls.  Yosemite instructs to allow 5-6 hours; I completed the hike in 3h45m with a pat on the back :)

I got back to the site in time for lunch, where Rob again cooked some food for me, before I set out for hike #2, the hike to the top of upper Yosemite Fall - a steep, 7.6 mile up and back trail with 2,700' elevation gain.  "One of Yosemite oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877), the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall."  I took in spectacular views from Columbia Rock, and once at the top of the falls, I took a load off and enjoyed even more stunning views of Yosemite Valley.

Lower Yosemite Falls
I made friends with James Michael from Louisiana, a ranger who just started working at Yosemite a couple weeks ago.  We got to know each other a little, and he put his ranger knowledge to work, pointing out trees as birds (like "Steller's Jay," a beautiful black and blue bird sporting a mohawk, with a very distinctive/annoying call).  Yosemite says to allow 6-8 hours to complete the hike - I charged up the mountain in 2 hours, and made it down in 90 minutes.  Yeah baby!

Afterward, Pete showed me to the free hot showers (hallelujah!), then they treated me to a fantastic dinner and '02 Shiraz, before two young, hilarious British guys from a nearby site came to provide us entertainment, lol.

Friday, May 27th
El Capitan from Yosemite Valley
This morning after yet another yummy grilled munster cheese sandwich, we all packed up and I said my goodbyes to my new friends Pete & Rob.

I went to the Visitor Center to ask about Glacier Point Road, and to my luck found that it would indeed open today!  It's usually open a lot sooner, but it's been delayed due to massive snow this year.  It would open at noon.  I walked through the back door of the visitor center to the amphitheater and watched "The Spirit of Yosemite," showing "the rare beauty of Yosemite with the historical influences that helped to create it."

Afterward I stopped at a few points of interest along the 7-mile loop around Yosemite Valley, including popular Bridalveil Fall, which with all the snow melting, was so intense you couldn't even see it through the cloud of spray at the viewpoint, which had inches of water running down the trail to it!

Half Dome from Glacier Point Road
I arrived at Glacier Point Road at about 11:30am, and took my place in one of the several lines of cars that had already formed.  At about 11:45 I watched a worker replace the "Closed" sign to "Open," and the enthusiastic crowds excitedly waited for the traffic controller to flag them up the road.  I was one of the first (yay me!) to drive up the watery tree-lined snow-banked road, stopping at Washburn Point, boasting the most breathtaking views of the high country and Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome and Vernal & Nevada Falls.  I followed the road up to the end of the line at Glacier Point Overlook, which had similar views, but added in the grande Yosemite Fall.

Then off to visit my friend Justin in Oakland!


Calif. PT 2 - Staying w/ "The McMorgans"

Getty Villa - Friday, 3.4.11
Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri
On Sunday, February 13th, I arrived at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, after taking the red-eye from Honolulu - and I actually slept (a first for me)!  I didn't receive as warm a welcome as I had anticipated.  My friend Thomas was too sick to pick me up, and his parents were out and about, so I spent $45 on the Super Shuttle for a ride to Thomas'.  When I got there I saw his car in the driveway, but no one answered the door after several knocks, and Thomas' phone was off.  Odd, since he knew I was flying into Cali this morning.  His parents vehicle was gone, so I figured they had all went somewhere together, but I left a message on their answering machine, just in case.  After lunch, several hours later, his parents returned as I was lying on the front porch napping, lol.  They said "Matthew, why are you waiting out here?  Thomas is inside."  "Inside?!"  "Yeah, he must be sleeping."

I didn't get to see Thomas before picking up my car (which they were generously storing for me in their driveway), which I found very strange, and in the coming months of visiting the Los Angeles area, I wouldn't hear from him.  I still to this day don't know what happened to my good friend; if he harbors resentment for some unknown reason, or what, but I hope he's well and happy.

Ladder Trail at Painted Canyon
Friday, 3.11.11
Over the course of the 3 months I stayed with Kyle & Alida up in Canyon Country, (approximately 30 miles north of L.A.), this scenario repeated itself over and over again, as several people I reached out to had apparently moved on with their lives, awakening me to the harsh reality that long-distance friendships are often temporary, getting shoved into the corner of Facebook Friends-only status.  Life goes on.  The thing to do is move right along with it in enthusiasm, while treasuring the memories of friendships past.

The best long-distance friendships pick right up where they left off, no matter the amount of communication between visits, and this was fortunately the case with a few of the friends I did manage to see, who happily filled me in on what I had missed, and excitedly introduced me to the new chapters of their lives.  

It's crazy to see in just a few years' time how much people's lives have changed!  
Kyle completed his Masters and is now archiving documents for ONE, and Alida very unfortunately has had to experience many losses including her father, putting down Roger, (her loving yellow lab of nearly 15 years), and losing both cats - Cash (aka "Wormy") after 18 years, and Cary ("Little Guy") after 15, both having organ failure.  Kyle & Alida, or "The McMorgans," have had family additions as well, including Bones - an old, black, disheveled, affectionate cat with an insatiable need for attention, who meows relentlessly whenever he's not napping (especially every night at 3am like clockwork!), and Blue - an old white cat with cauliflower ears and the most amazing blue eyes you've ever seen, that never ceases to find new piles of stuff to knock over when falling asleep on them!
Dani made the move from her parents house to a beautiful duplex only a couple blocks from the ocean in Long Beach.

Jenny from Montana is now a successful radiology technologist living with her new boyfriend "Hap" in her new apartment in Burbank.
Salton Sea - Saturday, 3.12.11
 Sherwin from South Africa became Director of Branding & Standards for a high-end hotel on Rodeo Drive, and is planning to adopt a child with his partner of many years.
Terrell is a creative musician that after years of dedication is anticipating releasing his first CD, which he personally wrote, composed, and sang for.
Most of the 3 months at the McMorgan Household in Canyon Country was spent:
Sippin' gin & tonics down at the pool

Hitting the gym (24 Hour Fitness)

Running the paved trail at neighboring "Discovery Park

Patronizing the stores (Hot Topic, Buckle, Express, Finish Line), restaurants (BJ's Pizza & Brewhouse, South Point Argentine Grill) and cinema at the Westfield Valencia Town Center (The Adjustment Bureau, Scream 4 and Hanna)

Running errands with Alida (Jo-Ann Fabrics, Bank of America, Food4Less, T.J. Maxx, Big Lots, Fox Liquor)

Repeatedly having my butt whooped playing Chronology & Trivial Pursuit with Alida & Kyle

Getting bloated from enormous Alida-style meals
Huntington's Japanese Garden in Spring
Photo from Wikipedia.com
Friday, 4.22.11
Watching television (Justified, Anderson Cooper 360, Celebrity Apprentice, Colbert Report, House Hunter International, Real Housewives of Miami/Orange County/New York City)
Listening to Alida continually express her concern that Kyle would burn the house down whenever he tended to the fireplace
Highlights during my stay with the McMorgans:

Touring the grounds of the Getty Villa in Malibu, "an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria"
Hiking the desert, wilderness trails of Painted Canyon (Ladder Canyon Loop and Big Painted Canyon), gasping in horror at the beach of never-ending fish skeletons ringing the shores of the Salton Sea, and joyriding through the busy streets of Palm Springs (in place of the overpriced tourist trap of Tahquitz Falls) on a 3-day camping trip with a buddy from Minnesota
Playing the role of server for Alida's birthday dinner alfresco, after a day of wining and dining at Sea Fresh Restaurant and Old Creek Ranch, in the peaceful getaway village of Ojai
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Tuesday, 4.19.11
Faking fine etiquette over tea & scones at Rose Garden Tea Room, before exploring the immaculate gardens at the Huntington Botanical Gardens with Sherwin
Cheering like pirates and 4-course-feasting with my hilarious friend Dani, at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament attraction
Observing gas bubbles (and good-looking gymnasts), climbing trees and staining my shirt at the La Brea Tar Pits, before admiring huge homes, eying creative cupcakes, and strolling the storefronts of Larchmont Village with Terrell

Almost fainting from an amazing, nearly full-body "foot massage" at Man Han Tang, before grabbing sushi and hitting up the hilarious drag shows at Hamburger Mary's with Sherwin
La Brea Tar Pits, Saturday, 4.23.11
Getting hit on throughout the day of volunteering at Kyle's work, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives
Searching for silver in the alleys of shops in Downtown's festive Fashion District with Alida

Listening to storytellers and wining & dining with Kyle, Alida and her mother Phyllis, at the Ojai Arts Center, Ojai Vineyards' Tasting Room and Ojai Cafe Emporium
Trying to locate Judge Judy on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stepping in the footprints of movie stars at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, strolling and dining in Beverly Hills, loving the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood, exploring Santa Monica Pier to Point Dume and the homes in the Malibu hills, via the Pacific Coast Highway w/ Brandon & Heather
Attending the 2nd annual ONE Queer Film Fest: A celebration of the diversity, culture and history of our queer communities with Alida & Kyle

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