Wednesday, April 16, 2014

California Trip: Part I

Back in January, Mike and I made semi-impulsive plans to take a trip to California. Mike had never been to California before, and I wanted to visit with one of my best friends in San Diego, and then drive Route 1 up the Pacific coast to Oakland to visit Funder/Mel/Aurora, and additionally make a side trip to Yosemite.

I’d had such a trip itinerary (as far as driving up the coast and seeing a lot of Cali) in the works for awhile. This trip enabled me to cross two more things off my 30 before 30 list: seeing Redwoods and visiting Yosemite.

April 4: Mike and I had hoped and planned to be out the door by 7:30a on Friday in order to make the drive to DC where we would catch the first leg of our flight. Saiph and Charles live next to one of the metro stations and had suggested we park at their place for easy access to the metro that would drop us right at Reagan.

Life being what it is, and us being hungry/forgetting things/needing to get gas, we ended up being about 25 minutes behind schedule on Friday morning. Fortunately though, Saiph volunteered to drive us from our parking location to the metro. Huzzah! Time saved!

Mike and I struggled to figure out the Smartcard vs. ticket fare situation at the metro, but in no time at all, we’d resolved our issue and were on our way!

Things with our flights (two of them) went without issue and we arrived on time in San Diego at 8p PST.

The first leg of our trip, San Diego, was so that I could visit with one of my best friends, Mandy and her boyfriend Derrick (D). Mandy and I can be quite ridiculous together. Mike was meeting everyone for the first time, so Mandy and I had plotted earlier in the week about her making an absurd sign to greet us with at the airport. It was hard for me to hide my glee over this from Mike for a series of days, but I managed. It was with a huge grin and giggles that I elbowed Mike to point out Mandy and D.

I hugged Mandy and D, introduced everyone, and we headed straight to In-N-Out to formally baptize Mike into California. On the drive there, we told Mike about In-N-Out, what it was, how to order, and what was good. He was a little confused at first I think, much as I was my first time, but it seemed to “click” once we’d arrived and ordered.

With In-N-Out in hand, we all piled back in the car to head to Mandy’s house to feast upon fast food and sushi, which Mandy and D had picked up earlier in the day. 

By this point, Mike and I had been plodding along for nearly 20 hours! It came as no surprise that when we finished eating we passed out, excited to dive into some fun and adventures the following morning.

April 5: The four of us woke early, but slowly Saturday morning. We putzed around the house, made breakfast, enjoyed our time together, and then headed to the car rental place so Mike and I could pick up our car.

I’d thought this process would take a short amount of time considering we had a reservation made already, but once again, life being what it is…no such luck!

All four of us drove over to the rental place, and once there, I let Mike go in alone to haggle it out. He’s got a knack for things like this, and from the phone reservation alone had already knocked our rate down to about $100 less than I’d expected. Now, expecting more still (ha), I was hoping he’d be able to snag us a bigger vehicle for the agreed price.

Mandy, D, and I sat in the car wondering what was going on. We joked about what car we might end up with, what was going on, and how things may be going.

About 25 minutes into the whole ordeal, Mike walked out.

The three of us were trying to figure out whether or not he had keys in his hand, eager and curious to know what had happened and if we’d gotten a sweeter deal. Sadly though, no keys.

Turns out he couldn’t sign for the car with his bank card, we needed a credit car, which I had. The sweeter deal had happened though, we would be getting a Dodge Charger. A 2014 Charger. A big, beefy, powerful sports car.

And so, I headed back in with him to finish the process, albeit a bit skeptical about renting such a fancy car! I had a million scenarios flying through my head of us being targeted for speeding and getting pulled over for nothing just because of the car we were driving.

Inside the rental place, we approached the counter and I handed over my license and credit card to finish the process. Except it wasn’t that easy…

The guy helping us was new. Something (I don’t even remember what at this point because so many things went wrong) glitched. The guy next to him tried to help us out. Then the computer crashed and we had to start over. Then they didn’t understand that we would be returning the car in Oakland, not San Diego, then it wasn’t okay to take the Charger, then it was, then the final price was screwed up. On and on.

By that point, Mike and I called it quits. We told them we’d just take a basic car. We wanted the price we’d agreed upon, we wanted to return it to Oakland, not San Diego, and we wanted to get out of there.

With the help of a total of 3 people, we finally sealed the deal, signed for a Mazda 6 for the agreed price, and headed out. *Whew*

I'd been texting Mandy through the whole process, updating her about what was going on and what car we were and weren't getting. Our texting conversation was rather comical as she would eagerly update me on each car that was pulled up to the door. Upon the decision to get the Mazda 6: "GREY MAZDA! GREY MAZDA JUST PULLED UP!"

A shiny new on at a that with < 5k miles! ...with a push start! Way more complicated than anticipated!

Mandy and I decided we'd let D and Mike drive the new car to her place to drop it off while I rode with her. Girls got their time and guys got their time. 

...except the guys couldn't get the Mazda started for about 5 minutes and then when they did Mandy  and I discovered her car battery had died. ...and her car was trying to start itself while no one was near it and the keys were out of the ignition. Eerie much? Fortunately, Mike realized that it was likely her auto-start button on her key fob misfiring. She pressed it and presto! 

We were able to borrow cables from another guy at the rental place, use the Mazda to jump Mandy's car, and we were off like a herd of turtles!

: : : : :

We dropped the car quickly at Mandy’s place, piled back into her car, and headed across town to a place they’d taken me to last time I was in for lunch – Baja Betty’s. This restaurant is located in and run by one of the gay communities in San Diego. The last time I went, I was ready to take our server home with me in minutes. He was personable, funny, and absolutely adorable, sharing stories about his boyfriend almost immediately. In addition, he brought Mandy and I (ignoring D, haha) free shots and took them with us. On top of that, the food was incredible. Because of all of these things, I was excited to go again and share it with Mike this time.

We arrived around 1:30p, right as their morning brunch specials were ending and right before happy hour started. The place was PACKED with some of the happiest people I’ve ever seen in one place. More men than women were clustered at shared tables, laughing their asses off at a myriad of jokes – undoubtedly fueled along by bottomless mimosas and other drink specials that accompanied the brunch menu. I couldn’t get enough of the happiness that was spread throughout the place!!

Within moments, we were seated at one of the only free tables. Our server, Heather, quickly informed us that if we held off for 20 minutes we could get happy hour price on margaritas. Excellent. We sipped water and browsed the menu while we waited, those 20 minutes passing slower than we’d have preferred. But the minutes did pass, and Heather took our drink orders and brought us back 4 margaritas in no time.

We ordered what ended up being an obscene amount of food, sipped margaritas, and had a shot or two (which Heather took with us). Everything was just as great as I remembered: amazing.

After Baja Betty’s, we made an impromptu stop at Goodwill to browse around at the absurdities that can only exist in Goodwill. Mandy and I hopped hither and thither looking at ridiculous things, hummed a little bit of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and waited while Mike tried on some clothes – which he ended up buying. *Score!*

Once we’d departed Goodwill, we headed over to see the Coronado Hotel, something my dad had suggested I do if we had time. As luck had it, even after 4 years living in San Diego, Mandy and D hadn’t been either.

We walked the beach awhile, the boys sipping some insanely priced beers they’d bought at the hotel as we went. I had to pounce into the Pacific a little bit, on par with every time I end up on a coast. I even pranced around a la Q a few weeks ago on the Chesapeake, but it just isn’t as fun without a horse!!

The Coronado
Yay beer!
A better shot of the Coronado
Us and the Coronado

Laughter and a kiss
So extravagant

With beach escapades complete, we mosied back to the house to change before heading out to a local bar with some unique pizza and beer – The Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH). A fellow patroller from home was in San Diego at the same time Mike and I were, and he met up with the four of us at BLAH. We all sat around talking awhile, enjoying some unique microbrews and pizza (ours  had no sauce, a blend of cheeses, and was topped with prosciutto and basil). It was a lot of fun!

Mike, Shane, and I

Our yummy pizza

We ended up splitting out of BLAH to head to another place across the street, Sycamore something or other, for a few more drinks, but we didn’t stay long. By that point, I had a nasty headache and was really sleepy (the 3 hour time change wasn’t helping). Mandy, accustomed to early hours, was also tired and the two of us rallied the guys to leave. We said our goodbyes to our friends and headed home where we promptly crashed to bed.

April 6: We rallied a bit quicker Sunday morning. D’s job allows for him to snag free tickets to the San Diego Zoo, which was our plan on that day.  We were up, fed, and out the door in time to make it to the zoo just after the gates opened.

We had a blast traipsing around the zoo at mach speed (much like last year). Mandy is an ornithologist/biologist, D is a botanist, and I am also a biologist, so our combined knowledge of all things plant and animal makes for a pretty fun time at the zoo. Mike seemed to enjoy our silly banter about all the animals, jumping in with ridiculousness of his own whenever possible.

He had to pose with all the statues
Cock of the Rock with his sign
View from the tram
And again
ALL the statues. I told you.

After several hours at the zoo, we headed to a place called Broken Heart, which I will address further in a later post.

From Broken Heart, we went to dinner on the beach, originally planning to go to Hodad’s, but the line that wrapped out of the establishment down the sidewalk 100+ feet, we deferred our dinner plans to a tapas place down the road. It was very good and totally worth it.

After dinner, we headed home to enjoy some more beer and a game of Cards Against Humanity (look this up if you don’t know what it is). With the four of us and the way our minds work, the game was a riot. However, still not accustomed to the time change, I was quickly exhausted and ready for bed again. Mike and I had planned to awake early to beat San Diego-LA rush hour traffic in our quest to drive north on Route 1 to Oakland.

Demonstration of Cards Against Humanity

It was with sadness (and a flamingo fight) that I bid adieu to Mandy that night since I wouldn’t see her when we slipped out in the wee morning hours. Living a country apart and seeing one another once or twice a year just isn’t enough! The time we spent together though was totally worth it and so much fun.

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