Monday, April 21, 2014

California Trip: Part II

I've got many more photos, but as I've already delayed this post in an attempt to get them all edited/uploaded, I'll just wait to post them in a Wordless Wednesday post at a later date. For now, cell phone photos will suffice. Still stunning vistas!

April 7: Mike and I were up and at ‘em by 3:45a, out the door before 4:30a. The first several hours of the drive were without issue, as we missed most of the rush hour traffic. Yes!!

When we finally got to a point north of LA where we were safe from the danger of traffic jams, we stopped in Thousand Oaks (I think?) to snag a quick breakfast at IHOP. From there, we continued north toward Morro Bay, the starting point for our Route 1 adventure.

Driving through wine country along the way was incredible. I’ve seen a lot of different landscapes in my travels, but nothing quite like that! Stunning! So much green. Many grapes. Much growth. So wine. Wow.

Mike and I were both ooo’ing and aahh’ing along the way.

When we reached the start point for Route 1, we ooo’ed and aahh’ed even more as the landscape changed around us on our northward journey.

In no time at all, it became nearly impossible to NOT stop at all the possible places. Everything was just SO incredible.

We took so many photos, stopped at oodles of places, ogled at the redwoods in Big Sur, appreciated the aquamarine waters along the coast, and wrinkled our noses at the smell of the elephant seals.

The first true vista along Route 1 that we got to enjoy.

Alapay WAY AHEAD! *giggle*

Elephant seals!

Yes, they smelled awful.

Upward dog pose.

Kickass. And I can honestly say having driven this road now, its really not as scary as I anticipated. I've driven on some
super hairy roads in WV that DON'T have guardrails that were worse. Granted, you wouldn't fall off into the ocean, but still
there is great potential for death. Route 1 was very well protected in the hairiest areas.

Should I mention now that there is NO FILTER on any of these photos?

Someone tell me what this is.

Ate a yummy lunch under this redwood.

<3 stunning.

Before we knew it, we were just south of Monterrey! I dropped a text to Funder to update her on our progress north, and she cheered us along. We made plans to get dinner at a Peruvian place once we reached Oakland in a couple hours.

A little to our surprise, but not to Funder’s, we were a bit way-layed by traffic once we reached the Oakland area. Without too much of a delay, we pulled up to her apartment around 7:30p.

Mike and I fumbled with our things and ascended the stairs to Funder’s apartment where I called through the screened door, “Funder?” Funder and Cersei greeted us. It was like we’d known each other for a long while, not just a first meeting! I guess the internet/blogosphere is weird like that though!

We mingled shortly, met her husband Graham (who was feeling a bit under the weather! =( ) changed clothes, and then headed to the Peruvian place before anyone got too hangry.

Our server at the restaurant was (I think?) the owner; he was amazing! He asked us if we'd had Peruvian before, which of course none of us had, and he was so genuinely excited to have us and introduce us to it. He handed us menus, and then helped answer our myriad of questions about all the options on it that were unfamiliar to us. The mere act of being at the restaurant guaranteed that we would try things we'd never had before, but we really wanted to make an effort to try some unique things.

With the server's guidance, we tried 6 different kinds of ceviche (my first time eating ceviche!) and had a variety of other things involving: beef, beef heart, chicken, veggies, and a yuca polenta turned into a sort of french fry. EVERYTHING was amazing!! And the beef heart was actually quite phenomenal!

Throughout dinner - when we weren't chatting it up with the server - we shared a myriad of fun stories about food. Funder pointed out that one of the things she missed most when she visited home last year was how different the level of service in the food industry is between California and the east. She pointed out how servers in California go above and beyond. It's so true! We'd noticed just after a few brief days there, but it really was the truth. 

After we'd finished dinner, we stopped in a burrito place to get Graham some food. The whole time we were in that establishment we were discussing all the things we could do with Funder's crazy-weird Banders cat if he was dead. All were related to taxidermy or tanning in some form. Helmet cover? Couch statue? Arm rest? Saddle seat? Front hall mannequin? Needless to say, the other patrons in the place who were also waiting on food were shooting us dirty looks and judging us REAL HARD. *shrugs* Oh well.

We took the burrito back to the apartment to Graham, and then Funder hopped in the truck to lead us to a motel where we'd stay for a couple nights because Graham brought "the black plague" home and really didn't want us to catch it. 

On our way to the motel, Funder's truck began the mysterious noise. And wow. Loud. Mysterious. Much whooshing. Such noise. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, we spent a good time discussing said noise and Mike talked Funder through some troubleshooting ideas to resolve the issue...though as I'm pretty sure the noise is still occurring as of this writing, they obviously didn't troubleshoot well enough! SIGH.

Funder headed back home to take care of Graham while Mike and I headed to our room where we crashed to bed, suddenly exhausted from our big day.

: : : : :

April 8: When Mike and I awoke, he was bound and determined to find a place to get chicken and waffles, as he insisted Oakland was the "home" of chicken and waffles.

The night prior, Funder had recommended using Yelp! to find restaurants, citing that she'd had great luck with it as long as, "You just look at the star ratings, not the user reviews." Mike had thought he'd seen a place down the street that sounded promising, and Yelp! agreed that it was, so we headed to Ole's for breakfast.

The atmosphere at this place was like an old-timey diner, you know, the kind you see in all the movies. It was hoppin'! Once we were finally seated, our waitress - a busty black woman, who called us "honey" and "sweetie" as she flashed a winning smile - asked what we'd like. Mike asked her, "Can I get some chicken and waffles?" an item not listed on the menu. The waitress replied with little hesitation and much enthusiasm, "Honey, you sure can!" And he did. I got pancakes. But Mike let me try the fried chicken and WOW. Hands down the best fried chicken I've ever had! Who'da thunk?!

After breakfast (a late breakfast at that!) we headed to Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods and we don't have them in WV. Also, we figured if we got some groceries we could save money on meals later. And boy did we! It was one of the best decisions we made as this trip provided us with snacks and four meals through the rest of our trip for $30/person. Not bad!

As we were checking out of Whole Foods, Funder shot me a text to see if Mike and I would like to join her for a hike with Dixie. ABSOLUTELY! We were eager to get out and move about after our previous long day in the car. Funder texted me the address and some directions to supplement, and we headed out to meet her.

The barn is nestled in this little canyon in the hills outside of Oakland. The change in scenery from city to SO MANY TREES! was crazy. Mike and I were overly thrilled with all of the green as we drove along.

Funder was already at the barn when we arrived, pulling the Mazda in behind her truck. We all rallied, getting appropriate shoes on for hiking, and then she gave me a tour of the barn.

It was so cool!!

I had never been in a barn quite like this one. It wasn't huge, but the way it was constructed gave the place the illusion of being much larger. It was so open and airy. Very, very cool to walk through.

And then, then I got to meet the infamous Miss Dixie. And let me tell ya, she's even more beautiful in person than she is in all of Funder's photos. And honestly, Funder, she looks even heavier (in a good way!) in person. She's just lucky to be one of those that the camera removes 10 lbs. from in photos ;-) because she really looked to be such an incredibly perfect weight IRL!

What is also more than evident IRL, Dixie's personality. She's got tons of it. And you can't fail to notice it right away. I've never met a mare with such personality! Dom's Ozzy exudes quite the presence, and Dixie radiates her own in a way you just can't miss. What a character!

Funder turned Dixie loose in the outdoor arena for a short bit to see if she wanted to loose some antics before we all went hiking. Dixie was relatively subdued about it all though, so Funder put her back on the lead and we all headed for the trail.

You want me to walk up WHAT? Do you know I did a 50 a few days
ago? Because I DID. Did you hear I LED a TON of that 50? Because
I DID. Now. Let me eat, human.

"Dixie, we WILL walk up this hill and THEN you WILL get grass!"

Climbers be climbin'

Within minutes of our hike, Dixie was hawking all the best grass and dragging as far behind Funder as she could get away with in order to snatch up as much grass as possible. Funder chastised her verbally for her antics, and Dixie's body language argued right back. What a pill!

With time though, a routine was settled upon where so many steps were equal to so many moments pause for grass consumption. While both Funder and Dixie rolled their eyes at one another about the arrangement (hehe) it did seem to work well.

Mike and I loved getting out to stretch our legs on this hike. The previous day (a long one!) in the car had us aching to get out and move. And we were loving the scenery and the flora of the area that was so different than our own. 

Funder remarked that the weather was quite warm for the area on that day, a whopping 81°F, but Mike and I didn't mind. After the winter we both worked through on the mountain this season (Mike especially as he worked 60-70 hour weeks nearly every week) the heat was a blessing. We'd kind of forgotten what it was like to sweat, haha.
And so begins a short series of how NOT to get two people to both smile for the camera

I've got it!
Funder's got it!
Funder's still got it!
I'm catching on....
Annnnd this is as good as it gets. Dixie's eating grass.

As our hike continued, we wound along beautiful single track through the redwoods and beyond. The trails Funder has access to from her barn are simply gorgeous! The footing was great in comparison to the areas I traverse often at home, and the scenery - a change for me - was stunning. Mike and I had a blast chatting with Funder the whole time.

By the last third of our hike, Dixie had me trained. Funny how animals train us humans.

I'd been fetching grass from areas that Funder wouldn't let Dixie stop, so that she could munch it as we walked along. I'd stop, pluck grass, jog to catch up, rinse, repeat. Dixie recognized this pattern by the third time I offered her grass, so she began giving me quite the expectant look when I approached her - with and without grass! And so, I continued my grass plucking quest for the rest of the hike, much to her enjoyment. Clearly, we humans do serve a purpose!

We ended up doing a ~4 mile hike, which didn't seem all that far at all! 

Once back at Dixie's outdoor enclosure, Funder let me take a gander at her feet, which was really fun and interesting after seeing so many photos over the years! They're really uniquely shaped compared to most hooves I see/deal with. So long and oval in shape. Photos lead the eye to wonder if they could be trimmed differently, but they're RIGHT where they should be. Very, very cool. Funder's done such a phenomenal job with them. I don't know that anyone out there could have them looking better than she does, professional or otherwise!

With Dixie put away, we began discussing evening plans that involved some Asian flavors.

First stop, a bubble tea house for me to fulfill my desire for bubble tea that has been long-standing. I indulged in not one, but TWO bubble teas - honey milk and ginger milk. NOMZ. This seemed like a BRILLIANT idea at the time, though in hindsight, not so much as it filled my little belly so much that I couldn't enjoy our second stop.... authentic Korean restaurant. At Funder's suggestion, Mike and I both ordered this big stone bowls of food. Funder's: pork (yes?). Mike's: octupus. Mine: tofu because I just wasn't feeling overly adventurous. Prior to our entrees, they brought out a noodly soup dish with a tangy-tomato-esque broth. Then a series of 16 or so small dishes containing a myriad of strange foods and foods prepared in strange (to me/us) ways. I did my best to sample all of them despite my apprehension about what some of them may have been.

The entrees arrived, quite impressive in both the presentation and amount of food present. I was able to nibble at mine and Mike's some, but by that point the two bubble teas + appetizers had sunk in hard and I was full beyond full. For someone who has almost exclusively only eaten until comfortable (not full) for nearly a year now, this was a very uncomfortable situation for me! Oi vey. 

So much color! So much crazy food.



Despite only picking at my entree, I can confirm that it was very delicious. If I had the situation to do over again, I would 1) not have two bubble teas! haha and, 2) order a dish with a sauce component. The tofu was presented on top of my dish cold and not dressed up in any sort of sauce. The sauces present from cooking both Funder and Mike's dishes lended much more flavor the veggies and rice beneath them. 

Overall though, excellent place. Definitely a fun first experience. We really enjoyed our dinners!!

With food babies in our bellies, we bid adieu to Funder and headed back to the motel for the evening. Except, halfway there Mike and I got to scheming. We were planning to head to Yosemite the following day and Mike really wanted to spend two nights IN the park. Originally, I'd figured we would just find a motel somewhere, but we both were up for something more adventurous in an attempt to save some money. So we started scheming and came up with the idea of sleeping in the Mazda. 

We stopped briefly at the motel to change clothes and test out the car camping idea. We cleared the trunk, threw down the back seats and squirmed in. Plenty of room for me (5'6") and even for Mike (6')! We squirmed back out and sped off to Bed Bath and Beyond, Goodwill, and WalMart to scruff up sleeping/camping supplies. 

Our trip to BB&B was fruitless, our GoodWill venture turned up some clothing scores but no camping luck, and we finally ended up at WalMart where we purchased some sleeping bags that we figured we would return two days later when we were done with them (don't judge us lol) as we both had zero desire to 1) pack them home on the plane and 2) replace our much nicer sleeping bags we already had back in WV.

Sleeping bags in tow, we headed back to the motel where we crashed out for the night.

: : : : :

April 9: Dawned relatively early. We breakfasted on some of our Whole Foods purchases, packed up the car, and got on the road to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB), something I really felt I needed to do since I was in the area. I've seen it on so many television shows through the years, it seemed it was worth seeing. Additionally, it would be neat to see another city.

We hit traffic right before the first bridge across the bay to SF. Fortunately, the company was good and we weren't too bothered by it.

Once across the first bridge, we wound our way slowly through SF to the GGB. I settled for the Fort Point area to snag photos of the bridge because Funder had cautioned that there would be a toll to cross it. We'd already paid one toll to cross the bridge into SF, so avoiding a second if possible was preferable.

We found our way to Fort Point with little issue. Mike stopped in a series of places so I could jump out and take photos of the mist-shrouded bridge. It was SO much cooler over there!

Crossing the first bay bridge

Going across the first bay bridge

San Francisco

Mike and I eventually settled on a good place to park, gathered food, and hiked over to the fort where we found an out-of-the-wind location to have a picnic. It was very pleasant. =)

After our picnic, we hopped back in the car and high tailed it across California to Yosemite.

The drive and various landscapes we crossed was quite interesting. We discussed many of the to-us oddities as we went. We stopped outside of Yosemite before dark to get dinner at a pizza place before rolling into the park. 

We finally pulled into the park around dark, just in time to glimpse the sunset between the trees as we wound our way into Yosemite. 

Emerging from the tunnel and the vista of the exposed cliffs left from long-gone glaciers, we were impressed and humbled by their looming bulk, present and impressive even in the starlit darkness.

We found our way to our campsite, set ourselves up for the night, and settled to sleep, surprisingly comfortable in the back of the Mazda. We were eager for a good  night's sleep as we had big plans of adventure and exploration the following day. 

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