Redwoods Part 2

Saturday we woke up ready for our big hike across the width of the park.  With lunch packed and extra water, we drove to the welcome center to begin our 6 hour hike.

In the beginning, our energy was high. We chatted and came up with new hypothetical questions for each other, like what creatures we’d put in a saltwater fish tank if we didn’t have to take care of it. Interestingly, we both said octopus. After the first hour we got quieter, stopping every once and a while to listen to the forest. With our feet crunching the pine needle floor, it was tough to appreciate birds calling in the distance or wind sighing over the trees. But in those moments of stopping and listening, the forest seemed louder than ever.

I read on one of the park signs that John Steinbeck described the Redwoods as “a Cathedral of silence”. With no technical sounds like cars or phones (no service the entire trip for me) all of the natural sounds became amplified. While this wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this about a forest, standing in the Redwoods just felt grander.

After hiking to the coast and back, we were tired and ready to relax. Unfortunately this took longer than it should have as we drove farther South than we planned, and then had to drive even further South to the closest restaurant. It is crazy how spread out things are in the very North of California.

We spent the night at a motel, I won’t lie– it was nice to be in a real bed again! We were too far South to go hiking in more Redwood forests, so we switched up our Sunday plans and headed to the coast. Somewhere off the highway we found an awesome KOA beach campsite area that we were able to park at for free. Walking in the waves and sitting on a big rock just watching the sea was so calming. Even without having a typical 9-5 job, it is still challenging at times for me to be in the moment and enjoy things. Trips like this help remind me that sometimes it is good to take a break from everything and disappear from the cell phone service world!

Stinsen Beach and a new sweater

I finally went across the Golden Gate Bridge! This Saturday Ashwin, the doggies, and I headed to Stinsen Beach: population approximately 500.

After a long and extremely winding drive, we drove into the beachtown’s main area.  It’s crazy how many micro climates there are in Northern California. This beach town was at least ten degrees warmer, and even though the breeze was still there, the sky was free from fog and clouds. We got a quick taco and quesadilla lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Meeko and Snickers each got a tasty nacho chip– yum!

The main stretch of beach turned out to not allow dogs. This led to an Ashwin rant wondering why the world was against doggies. Unfortunately, I think it comes down to people not picking up their doggies poop. I certainly wouldn’t want to walk around stepping in that! Though in reality, all the sidewalks in San Francisco are covered in dog pee so…

We drove a few blocks north to a different section of the same beach, designated “County beach.” In other words, dog friendly! There were much less people, and all the dogs (except for one, but he was leashed) were well behaved. Meeko quickly found some friends to play chase with and graciously shared her favorite squeaky tennis kong with anyone who was interested. She even play wrestled for the first time with a 2 year old puppy! It was so fun to see her play biting, and teasing the other dog even though he had her pinned upside down in the sand.

Snickers had some pep in her step and even chased Meeko a little bit! She didn’t care for the cold water though, so we stayed away from the waves. We walked far down the beach, watching huge cargo ships floating slowly in the distance. Meeko entertained herself by galloping in circles around us while Snickers stuck by my feet. As we were leaving the beach, Snickers found a dead fish to roll in and got a second wind of energy. She sprinted around us, obviously very pleased with her new scent. I told her “We’ll see who’s laughing when you are getting a bath”

After some oatmeal shampoo and more running around the house, the dogs settled down for a nap and I made some chocolate chip cookies for the humans in the house. Ashwin said they were the best ones I’d ever made!

In other news, Snickers got a new sweater so she isn’t so cold on all of our hardwood floors. I think she likes it!

Our new place!

After two weeks of unpacking, errands, and figuring out where the dogs should go pee, I am ready to start writing again!

By some miracle Ashwin found us a very nice place in the neighborhood of Nob Hill. There are six apartments in our building, and we are on the top floor. The ground floor has a small market, which is very convenient. I wave hello to one of the guys that works there every morning. He also touched up the paint in our apartment while we moved in.

I’d like to state for the record that there was no moving crew. It was just Ashwin and I, moving the rest of his things from his old apartment to our new one with a U-Haul. I’ve never been so happy to see a split box spring! When we emptied out the car it was a very strange feeling. I’d been living surrounded by my things for over a month and to seeing it spread out made me realize how full the car had really been! Between the various spices that had spilled and the vinegar spill back in North Carolina, the car was not smelling good at all once it had baked empty in the sun for a few days. Had I just gotten used to it??

So far Snickers’ least favourite thing about San Francisco is the hills. Specifically the one we live on. It is actually at 45 degrees. At first, I was having them go potty in the little dirt squares around the street trees on our hill, but Snickers was really having a tough time balancing while she peed. And then it would all just run down the hill. Now we go around the corner to a nice flat street, four times a day.

I am so glad that my trip is over as I am really anxious to get writing! It is hard to believe that August is here already–only four months until my first graduate school application is due.

Location: Home in San Francisco, CA

A Weekend in Carmel, California.

We spent this weekend in a beach town called Carmel. The first beach is a state park, and the second beach is in the more upscale part of town. The second beach allowed off leash dogs, and Meeko quickly made lots of friends Friday afternoon.

A Temporary Home

We’ve been so busy bouncing from hotel to hotel that I haven’t had a chance to update!

Last week Sunday, we finished up our scenic tour of the California Coast, arriving at our Sacramento Residence Inn hotel around 1 AM. Along the way the dogs explored an outdoor mall, we played on another beach before getting talked to by another life guard, and we watched another sunset reflect off the ocean.

When my family moved from Tokyo to Buffalo, New York, we lived at a Residence Inn for 3 months. It was February, 1999 and it was very, very cold. We didn’t know where we wanted to live yet, nor where my sister and I should go to school. For a while, we spent our days exploring the scraggly woods in the hotel’s lot and then warming up by the big wood fireplace in the lobby. After Japan, seeing snow everyday seemed very exciting. Once we did start school, we would do our homework in that same lobby, making hot chocolate and eating the free food. Now, whenever I stay at a Residence Inn, I sometimes get that feeling of home when I recognize some of the familiar aspects, like their fireplaces in the lobby.

This time around, I was most excited about having a mini kitchen and being able to do laundry– I hadn’t gotten a chance to do any since staying in Corpus Christi! It took 3 dryer cycles and many quarters, but having clean socks again was totally worth it.

Lured by a hotel promo, Ashwin had us switch hotels in the middle of the week. It was stressful for all of us, and unfortunately we ended up losing money on it after the first Residence Inn decided to charge us the $100 pet fee after all. By the end of the week, the dogs and I were not in the best of moods, yearning for the promise of domestic peace in our new apartment. If I had run an experiment on my own emotions throughout this trip, I think I reached my breaking point of enjoying being on the road at around the 1 month mark. Right now, I dream of an empty car and eating off of actual dishes!

Location: Sacramento, CA

San Diego and Venice Beach

I picked Ashwin up from the San Diego airport Friday evening. The first thing I noticed was how many bags he was carrying. How was this all going to fit in the car? Unfortunately we are back to only having one dog crate set up in the car, while one dog sits on my lap. The hotel room felt like a resort after all my cheap rooms, and the dogs really enjoyed walking around the grounds and sniffing the koi pond.

We spent the weekend driving along historic Route 1 (sometimes called 101, or Pacific Coast Highway), leaving our San Diego hotel after a quick lunch with a friend of my Grandparents.  I would not recommend starting this drive from San Diego. It really was not a fun or beautiful drive until after we passed through Los Angeles. We drove through several towns, not really seeing much of the coast. Ashwin stopped at a fruit stand and bought a box of mangos– the car is so stuffed at this point that we cannot see out the back window. We debated stopping at a beach, but decided that we should focus on getting to our stop for the night before it got too late.

Ashwin had a friend from college who lived right on the Venice Beach boardwalk, so we spent the night in an empty room (the new roommates were moving in the next day). Venice Beach reminded me a lot of the vampire movie Lost Boys, with high school kids skateboarding and hanging out on benches. There was even an outdoor muscle gym. Meeko liked the tennis courts the best, though I don’t think the players appreciated her barking every time they hit the ball. And of course, no boardwalk beach town is complete without a variety of homeless men. One of them had his own table set up as “The Wine-o,” where he would sing songs to you on request, tell jokes, or whatever you wanted him to do for his booze money. I had to applaud his entrepreneurial spirit.

The dogs had a lot of fun walking through the boardwalk in the evening, and in the morning when they woke me up. We all slept on one of our sleeping bags, including Meeko! In the morning, we walked out to the ocean, but not 5 minutes of standing by the water we were cornered by a lifeguard in an orange SUV telling us “no dogs.” The only signs I saw said no vehicles on the beach!

We drove through Laguna Beach, Malibu, and many other beach towns. It was neat to see all of these notorious places, but I was surprised how generally dirty Southern California was, especially LA!

Location: Venice Beach, California

Go West!

On Wednesday, June 27th 2012, Snickers, Meeko, and I officially made it to the state of California!

I spent the morning packing up the car and trying to figure out what I should do with myself for the next few days. Ashwin booked a hotel for us in San Diego on Friday night, where we would start our journey driving along the coast of California. So, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning were totally up to me. I decided to go to Palm Springs, California where my Grandparents on my Mom’s side lived until they passed away. I have many happy memories from my visits there, from swimming in their condo’s pool all day to hiking at Joshua Tree National Park with my sister. Knowing that the next two weeks were going to involve more living out of hotels and suitcases and frequent moves, I wanted to find a place where the dogs and I could just relax. I booked a two night stay in Palms Springs, not bothering to check the weather.

It turns out that Tuscon, Arizona is very hot in the summer. I’m talking 100+ degrees. The Southwest is in the middle of an intense heat wave, and Palm Springs is not exception. I met my cousin and her boyfriend for lunch near University of Arizona’s campus. My cousin is completing a PhD there, studying deep space. I’m not sure exactly what her degree title will be, so rather than be wrong, I will just leave it at that! At our family get togethers, it’s always clear that none of us even come close to understanding the work she does– it’s very impressive!

We figured we could eat outside on a patio in the shade, so my dogs could come along. I really underestimated how Snickers would feel about the heat again. Even with plenty of water, it was clear she was uncomfortable. To make matters worse, the waitress informed us that dogs were not allowed on the actual patio, but we could tie them up to the gate surrounding the patio, and then sit next to them. Poor Snickers spent the whole lunch trying to squeeze herself through the bars to get closer to me. Meeko seemed okay eating ice cubes and greeting passersby. My sandwich and half salad were perfect, and it was fun getting to catch up with my cousin.

We walked back to campus to sit in some shade by the student union to chat a bit more before I headed out. They both recommended that I take I-8 rather than I-10 as passing through Phoenix would slow me down. There was only a 20 mile difference, and some of I-8 ran along the Mexican border. “It’s a much prettier drive,” they assured me, “and maybe you’ll get to stop for a border check!” I took their advice and found myself driving through huge cacti forests, sand dunes and two border stops. These are random checkpoints where all highway traffic stops and you get questioned one car at a time about where you are coming from, where you are going, and if you are a U.S. citizen. My cousin told me that the questions tended to be light if you looked American. As in, if you didn’t look Hispanic.

The first border check asked if the car I was driving was mine. I almost said yes– I’ve spent so much time in Ethel she’s really starting to feel like mine! “Um, no, it’s my boyfriend’s.” Then they asked if I had any plants or animals. I reflected briefly on my time with my lucky bamboo plant, then pointed out the two crates in the backseat. “I’ve got two dogs with me in the back.” I was waived through. The second border check was a bit more intense, and the van in front of my got put in neutral and pushed over to the side for more inspection. But still, I was waived on through fairly quickly.

When we were finally greeted by the “Welcome to California” sign, I was ecstatic. We’d made it! After almost a month of traveling, we were finally here. I started thinking about all of the things I hope to accomplish this year. New ways to make money, all kinds of writing endeavors, going through another application season, and really just finding myself and what I am meant to do with my life. I am so excited for this year, and cannot wait to get settled in our new place in San Francisco.

Getting to Palm Springs took longer than I thought due to all the border stops, and by 9pm I knew I needed to get some dinner. I stopped at a travel center for their Subway only to find the place crawling with flies. I wasn’t taking any chances, so I left that store. In the same plaza, there was a drive through Starbucks. There is something about drive throughs that I really dislike– it’s weird ordering things when you can’t see them, and the whole yelling to the speaker is weird. In this age of technology, why have we not been able to improve on drive throughs?

I ordered a small hot chocolate and an oatmeal, or “Perfect Oatmeal” as Starbucks calls them. I’ve had both things from Starbucks before and have never had any problems. Both items tasted fine when I ate them. Well, by the time I got to the hotel, I knew something was wrong. I was up until 3am waiting out food poisoning. My best guess is either the water for the oatmeal was contaminated, or the person preparing everything just had dirty hands. Pretty scary considering they shouldn’t really have been touching anything!

My current location is at a Panera Bread in Palm Springs because the “free WIFI” at my hotel does not reach my room. I’m still not 100%, but I think a nice hot soup will do me some good, despite it being 102 degrees out and climbing. The dogs and I probably won’t do much today unless it cools off this evening. But they are having a great time snuggling on the bed with me watching National Geographic in the air conditioning. Lunch time!

Location: Palm Springs, California

Cross country road trip: The Plan

I’ve given a lot of thought into how to approach this road trip. My conclusion is that this is a perfect opportunity for me to explore the Southern states that I have never been to before, and to really take my time. I realize that cross country road trips are usually “once in a lifetime” ordeals, but this is actually my second cross country road trip.

The first one was the Summer of 2009, driving San Francisco to Pittsburgh with my boyfriend, with the express purpose of getting his car to Pittsburgh and going to Lollapalooza. With limited time and money, and no doggies, we took the Northern route, camping at the Grand Canyon without a tent and arguing over who had to drive through Nebraska. This time around, I’ll still have money in mind, but with no job to get to (or concert to be at) I can take all the time I want. I also know that driving by myself from Raleigh to San Francisco, I have to be realistic about how many hours I can do each day.

There are a few places that I know I will be staying longer than one night. The first is my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding in Raleigh– I’ll be there from May 30th until June 4th.  We are staying at a family friend’s house, who I’ve heard also has a dog. Maybe Meeko and Snickers will make a friend?

From there, I am heading to Mt. Juliet, Tennessee to visit my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins. One of my cousins has started a family, but I have never met either of her little boys. I’m very excited to meet my new second cousins! I haven’t seen this side of my family in about six years, but with the potential of being in the South for grad school, perhaps I will get to see them more often.

After that, I’ll be on my own for a bit, going through Arkansas and Mississippi. I’ve driven over the Mississippi river once, but this time, I’m going to find a place to stop and hang out by it. Maybe there is a state park along it so I can dip my feet in? If it’s not too out of the way, I plan to drive through the campuses  of Ole Miss (University of Mississippi in Oxford) and University of Central Arkansas as they are potential MFA programs for me. In my head, living in these places for three years would be a grand adventures, but the realistic side of me says you’d better go check these towns out before you sign any leases!

I’ve never been to Louisiana, and being a huge Anne Rice/Vampire Chronicles fan, I have this image of Louisiana that a mix of the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and James Bond’s Live and Let Die. I’m very curious to see New Orleans, to see how reconstruction is going and to find Lousiana State University, one of my dream MFA programs, and University of New Orleans. Continuing west, I’ll stop and see McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

After a few days in Louisiana I’ll drive further south to Corpus Christi, Texas where my sister lives. She’s just finished one part of her schooling to become a Navy Pilot! They are deciding which of the planes they want her to fly, which will determine her next step of more specialized training. By this point, I will probably be sick of driving, so staying at my sister’s for a week will be a fun mini-vacation for all of us!

Driving through the rest of Texas, I’ll head up to the University of New Mexico then west through Arizona. I love the landscapes of the Southwest, especially all of the rock deserts.

What happens next is still undecided. Do I drive along the coast of California along the famous Route 1? Or do I avoid any traffic jams by driving through Nevada? Ashwin votes for California, but I know it would be cheaper and less congested to go the other way.

I plan to make posts each night, and there will be lots of picture taking for each of my stops. I’m very curious to see how this trip will go, especially with two doggies with me, but at this point I’ve done all of the planning that I can!

Next stop, West Virginia!