from the road

Day 41: LA Overnight

Greetings from “our” house in Hollywood Hills!

Mica at Hollywood CottageSince we don’t know anyone very well in Los Angeles, we decided to spend our one night in the area using AirBnb. Catherine lived in LA for a few years, and she suggested this cottage to us. I know very little about LA, so I was glad for any advice we could get.

Catherine did not steer us wrong, that’s fo’ sho’! Helen, our host (and the owner of this awesome “Hollywood cottage”), is down-to-earth and totally chill! Right away, she warmly opened her house to us and gave us directions to a cool, “hidden” view of the Hollywood sign!

Helen is awesome, but her chihuahua Lucille Ball is a TRIP. We were advised to avoid all eye contact.

Mica with Hollywood sign Harrison with Hollywood signSo yes, we’re staying IN Hollywood Hills! It’s pretty fancy, but the houses aren’t what I expected. I think I confused it with Beverly Hills, so I’m delighted to find that the homes are mostly cute one-story buildings with neat lawns. Each one is different!

Hollywood HillsThough, of course, it is still a very wealthy area. That’s one reason why AirBnb is so appealing–we’d never be able to get this kind of location and with such “inside” knowledge in a hotel!

Helen also recommended that we go for Chinese in Chinatown!

Chinatown gate, LAHarrison was really excited to eat some quality hot-and-sour soup at Hop Woo!

Hot & Sour soupSomeone’s eyes may have been bigger than his stomach…DEFEAT!

Full HarrisonToo bad we’re only in LA for one night on the way down to San Diego. Of course, we could stay here a week and only scratch the surface. It’s definitely a different place. At 9:30pm on a Monday night, there was tons of traffic on the highway. Where are all these people going?

And here’s another thing! What do all these LA residents do for a living? It’s the second largest city in the US, but I don’t know what most of its residents do. Does the entertainment industry supply the majority of jobs here? I’m curious!

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Day 40: More San Francisco!

Let me tell you about something amazing that happened on my run this morning!

I ran down the Embarcadero, but I got a little turned around after the sidewalk started twisting around under the highway and around the tracks. I ended up stopping outside of a dog park where A FRENCH BULLDOG MEET-UP WAS TAKING PLACE! (I wish I’d had a camera. So many little Frenchie butts!) Since most Frenchie owners that I’ve met are pretty cool, I assumed they would be a good group of people to ask for directions.

When I was asking for directions, I noticed a woman and her husband with a brindle Frenchie who they were calling “Marlowe.” As it turns out, I had found a picture of this particular dog on the Internet a few years ago, and I had emailed back and forth a little bit with his owner Robin to ask some general Frenchie ownership questions. I knew from social media that she and her husband Gary had moved to the Bay Area, but I had no idea where they lived or if they were still there.

What’s the chance that I would happen to get lost and stop in front of the park where they meeting for a monthly French bulldog social event?!? I MEAN, WHAT!!!!!! WHAT?!?

I, of course, ran over to introduce myself, and Robin immediately recognized me. She and her husband were so nice; they got me going in the right direction and said to let them know if we returned to the Bay Area!

For Sunday brunch, we headed to the Haight (Like every other non-resident, I want to say “the height.”). I grew up staring at a poster from a Haight-Ashbury street fair at my mom’s house, so it was cool to realize that Haight-Ashbury actually is an intersection:

at Haight-Ashbury

(Okay, but also, ZOMG THE HAIGHT!! I was very resistant of what I perceived to by San Francisco’s yuppie culture until I realized that I’m pretty far on the yuppie side of things. At least, I am compared to some of the people I observed in the Haight!)

We had Sunday brunch at Magnolia Gastropub, where I was not a fan of Jordan’s brunch porter:

Mica with porter

Because he didn’t have to stay awake to drive anywhere, Harrison ate a coma-inducing plate of French toast:

Harrison with French toast

We walked around Golden Gate park in the early afternoon, and I was happy to recognize one of the shooting locations from Contagion.

fountain, Golden Gate ParkWe’ve been doing tons of walking the past few days with Jordan and Maria. They don’t own a car, so we’ve been mostly hoofing it all over town (with the occasional uber car for long distances or when our feet hurt). Yesterday, we walked almost 13 miles, and today, we probably covered about seven! And Maria and I spent most of today whining about our verrrrry sore hip flexors.

row houses, San Francisco

Today was apparently National Ice Cream Day!

Maria and Mica

Don’t worry, we celebrated at The ice cream bar, an authentic ice cream parlor/soda fountain!

(He’s toasting a homemade marshmallow with a torch.)
soda fountain employee making marshmallows

Om nom nom!

soda fountain drinksI’ve come to discover that the weather in San Francisco is highly dependent on your precise location in the city as well as the time of day. I like that the fog (“Karl“) rolls in every evening.

Karl the fogAnd, also, Jordan is eight-years-old:

Jordan with orange peelHarrison has always complained about the cold weather from the time he visited San Francisco in the summer with his parents. It’s definitely an adjustment to need a [thick] hoodie in the middle of July, but I find it delightful! I’m hardly ever sweaty here, and I don’t even need to run the air conditioning on full blast. Hurray!

Mica with "hair beard"We’ve so enjoyed our weekend with Jordan and Maria! They are really good friends and excellent hosts who always show us a good time when we visit. I hope that we can return the favor soon by living some place cool!

WVT in San Francisco![I set the camera on a timer and had to scurry up some stairs to get to the balcony of their loft. In the left picture, I fell and didn’t quite make it.]

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from the road

Days 38-39: San Francisco!

Greetings from San Francisco! It’s hard to believe that our “Chicago” friends, Jordan and Maria, moved out here three years ago. They’ve had sufficient time to “drink the Kool-aid” (with reservations, of course), and now, they’re showing us all the fun things that SF has to offer.

(This may or may not be because they’re gunning for the unofficial award of “Best WVT accommodations.” Ha!)

At Pier 39

On Friday night, we played Cards Against Humanity with cringe-inducing rounds. You know it’s going to be a good few days when you start the visit with a game that involves “giant lollipops.”

Cards against Humanity

On Saturday morning, we went to the massive Ferry building farrmer’s market for lunch. Look, J & M even wore matching outfits!

Jordan and Maria at farmer's market(Jordan was thrilled to share the discovery of this maple bacon sandwich with Harrison.)

Everyone was very excited about California peaches. I was mostly excited about eating all the samples.

Jordan with peachesFrom the Farmer’s Market, we headed to the Exploratorium, a very cool science museum right on the Bay. Harrison was really excited about all the cool physics exhibits. We agreed that this is how a science museum should be, i.e., good for people with short attention spans.

Exploratorium pictures

 

We continued walking down the pier and ended up at Pier 39, famous for sea lions. (They look like indistinguishable blogs on the pier in this photo, but they were there. We saw them!)

I love how sunny the weather is, but I definitely came prepared for the cold winds. I put on and took off my hoodie at least 20 times yesterday.

Maria with sea lions

Having already walked several miles, it was time for a break. We stopped at the famous Boudin bakery for a sourdough break. I didn’t realize that sourdough was “a thing” here, but I have been corrected. (Just a note though, I tried to order “just some plain toast” at the cafe counter, and it was like MIND BLOWN!!!! I think we broke the system.)

Boudin sourdough animalsEven though we took a picture at Ghirardelli square…

Ghirardelli square

…we opted for classy, jewel-like truffles at Christopher Elbow. (The ones we got form a square in this picture: Fleur de Sel, Passion Fruit, Lavender, and Raspberry.) I’m not usually at “fancy” chocolates-person, but I loved the lavender caramel flavor!

[Note: I love all the lavender plants growing on the West Coast. Harrison is amused that I always grab the flowers and smell my hand, and then say, “I love lavender!!!!”]

Chocolates at Christopher Elbow

In Hayes Valley, we played on Patricia’s Green.

Maria in hammock Jordan, Harrison, and Mica climbing

And I found out that I was less agile/coordinated on playground equipment than I used to be:

Mica falling And after a steamy pho dinner (Vegetarian option, what!), we worked off some calories at Dolores Park in the Mission, overlooking the city:

Dolores Park^^Word to the wise: Slides are a lot less exciting when you get stuck on them.

Unrelated: What do you think of Jordan’s Raybans? I’m pretty sure I should get some….

Raybans on MicaAnd now, we’re off for a Sunday brunch adventure and more sightseeing!

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from the road

Days 36-37: Mountain View, CA

I’m happy to report that our windshield is replaced and we have safely arrived in San Francisco, CA. While I’m blogging, Harrison is button-mashing Mario 3 at Jordan’s start-up office, but more on that later….

OK, I am loathe to admit this, but the Bay Area really does have some nice summer weather. We’ve been enjoying walking in the sunshine and cool breezes with lower-than-swampy humidity. Seeing the current weather on the East Coast was a shock!

On Wednesday, we went for lunch and a tour of the Stanford campus. Our friend Ryan graduated a year before me from the MATESL program at Illinois and went out to join his then-girlfriend Stephanie, who is getting a chemistry PhD at Stanford. Like us, Ryan grew up in a mid-Atlantic state and went to Illinois for grad school, so we were interested to hear about his opinion of the Bay Area now that he has lived there for a year. His verdict? He and Stephanie like it a lot and want to stay!

We enjoyed a lot of fun parties with Ryan in grad school (Remember when I dumped the pretzels in the paella?), so it was nice to catch up with him after a year apart (though, let’s be honest, we g-chat enough that it feels like he’s still around!). And Ryan and Stephanie got married the same weekend as Muneer and Megan! I was sad to miss their wedding, so I’m doubly glad we got to see the new couple on WVT. Congratulations, you two!

With Ryan and Stephanie

Harrison had heard that the Stanford campus was the most beautiful in the country. I would agree that it is very attractive–flowers blooming everywhere and interesting red-tiled roofs. It’s such a different look from all the East Coast schools. Stanford campus
Harrison’s mom’s cousin Karla lives with her family in San Jose, so we made sure to let her and her husband Ken know that we were going to be in the area. The last time Harrison had seen his cousin Sam, he was crawling in diapers; now he’s about to leave for college at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts!

Not pictured is Karla’s sister Maria who left before I whipped out my phone for a picture. She was there though. I’m telling the truth!
with Ken, Karla, and Sam

It was so nice to relax in a home and eat a home-cooked meal after five weeks on the road! After dinner, we enjoyed a rousing game of Boggle, where Sam thoroughly trounced us all. with Ken, Karla, and Sam

But what about Mountain View where we were staying? Well, it has a very flashy and comprehensive computer history museum, which we visited on Thursday. I was very excited about the Babbage engine which we learned about in Media Studies!

Mica with Babbage engineThe museum is HUGE–tons of displays jam-packed with computer artifacts–like old versions of cellphones and the Apple II(e) that I played Oregon Trail on! Remember ACTUALLY FLOPPY floppy disks?!?

storage at the computer history museum

Harrison at computer history museum

The museum was definitely more than we could have hoped to accomplish in one visit, but I was glad we saw it. It’s very thorough and well-curated, unlike some history museums (*Cough*Museum of Western Expansion*Cough*).

Speaking of computers, we got to visit Matt at his and Emily’s place of employment. You may have heard of it:

Matt and Harrison at Google Maps building

 

Matt specifically works with the Google Maps team devising new enclosures for cameras. Isn’t that cool? Since I am basically the worst at efficiently fitting things inside boxes (making moving a REAL delight!), I am super-impressed at Matt’s engineering skills. I bet he’s a whiz at Tetris, too.

Harrison with giant android phone

We got a tour of some of the Google campus, which is just as cool as all the hype would suggest. Matt even showed us his mad barista skills and made Harrison a latte:

Matt at Google Latte machine…Maybe Matt should stay with computer enclosures and not jump into the field of latte art.

Matt's latte wormGranted, we went from one extreme to the other: the un-fun and un-fancy environment in grad school to the super-fun and super-fancy Google campus, but it was really encouraging to see companies who seem to value their employees and have come up with clever productivity models. Now, if we could only find jobs at these places!

Also in Mountain View, we watched Iron Man 3 with Chinese subtitles and got some kickin’ job advice and networking connections from Emily. Plus, we helped care for this very scary (and flea-ridden) cat:

`scary cat!Not nearly as cool at Matt and Emily’s two cats, Leon (“Little/Leopard” cat) and Winston (“Big/Brown” cat):

Leon & Winston sniffing my shoes

 

Thanks to our hosts, Matt and Emily, and to our friends and family for a great first trip to Mountain View! It was a non-scary introduction to the Bay Area, and I can see why you all enjoy it so much!

WVT with Matt & EmilyI may just get converted into a fan of California after all. Maybe. We’ll see.

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from the road

Day 35: The Redwood Forest

I’m getting in a short, quick post before we go out for the day.

Yesterday, we drove down Routes 1 and 101 to get from Crescent City to the Bay area. It was an intense drive with some long stretches of non-stop hairpin turns, but Harrison got us to our destination safe and sound. And neither of us got carsick and puked, so that’s a win too.

The scenic (foggy) view from Rt. 1, the Pacific Coast highway:

View from route 1

Kitsch we found along the Avenue of the Giants:Harrison on California bench Mica & Bigfoot Statue

We climbed inside some redwoods. They are immense, though even that seems like an understatement.

Mica in redwood Harrison in redwoodOh, hai, Golden Gate Bridge (what we could see of it):

fog on Golden Gate Bridge

We’re staying with Matt (Harrison’s college friend) and his wife Emily in Mountain View, CA:

Bubble tea with Emily & Matt

They have two super-spastic cats who went for a ride on a spinning chair last night: Cats on chair

I also made the mistake of taking a Claritin before bed for some allergies and was up ALL NIGHT. Not awesome. I may be taking a nap in Mountain View this afternoon….

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from the road

Day 34: Down to California

Pastries from Boulangérie Nantaise

 

Before he went to work today, Steggy picked up pastries at Boulangerie Nantaise down the street from his apartment. What a great host, right?

Then it was time to get in the car and drive down Route 5 to Olympia, WA, to the State Capitol building. I was getting bored of pictures of our faces, so I shoved my iPhone in Harrison’s hands and proclaimed, “Take a picture while I jump up and down!!!!”

Washington State Capitol

And lunch at Cafe Yumm in Portland, OR. We wanted to go by the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, but the line was way out the door. Instead, we went to Stumptown Coffee Roasters so Harrison could get a teeny-tiny mocha for the road.

(Check out the creepy gloved hand on the door behind him…)

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

We continued down the coast to Salem to photograph Oregon’s State Capitol as well. Steggy’s girlfriend Megan had warned us that it’s pretty ugly, topped with a golden lumberjack statue (which, from far away, resembles a giant golden dong).

Harrison is not sure how he feels about the building. I like it a lot!

Oregon State Capitol“Suddenly” (but really, a long time later), we entered Jefferson, the 51st State, northern California and got our first glimpse of the famous redwoods.

RedwoodsAll day, the temperatures outside had been climbing steadily. Somewhere in southern Oregon, the car thermometer reached 100 degrees. Once we crossed the mountains in northern California though, the temperature dropped precipitously. When we emerged from the redwoods on the coast, it was in the mid-50’s and gray as a zombie apocalypse movie.

Gray skyWe’re spending the night in Crescent City, CA, which is a small town of 7,500 right on the coast of California. It’s apparently quite prone to tsunamis, so that’s just awesome.

I have to say, this town gives me the willies. Even though I’ve seen plenty of gray skies, the fog and clouds are oppressive and make everything look desolate–like out of a horror movie. And being somewhere that’s just so far away and different from “home” just gives me an uneasy feeling, even though I know that’s totally irrational.

Our hotel (The Curly Redwood Lodge) is a time machine to the 70’s. There’s brown shag carpet, and the interior is all “rich,” dark wood. According to the sign out front, the entire building is made from wood sourced from just one curly redwood tree, hence the name.

And it is no way creepy that our room has a locked door! (No worries, parents, the hotel has good reviews! We’re safe!)

Locked door in hotel Tomorrow, we drive down the Pacific Coast highway. Harrison will enjoy this immensely. I will be clinging to the “Oh shit” handle on the side of the door!

Also, we discovered today that the windshield has developed a significant crack (about a foot long) at the bottom. Any advice on how to deal with this? How much does replacement cost? Does insurance cover it? How long will it take to get this replaced?

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Day 33: A beautiful day in Seattle!

We woke up to this view this morning:

Elliott Bay, Seattle

And then to this:Steggy with Top Pot doughnuts

Andrew was the perfect host. He walked down the street and brought back a dozen Top Pot doughnuts. They were, as expected, delicious!

Then he took us around Seattle Center and pointed out all the cool things.

Fountain in Seattle Center

 

Fountain in Seattle Center

I really liked this little park garden. There are so many lavender bushes around Seattle, and they are all in bloom right now!

Lavender in Seattle CenterWe also saw a superhero!

Woman in Superhero costumeIn the afternoon, we drove down to the Ballard area to visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

Chittenden Locks, boats

It’s summer, and the Cohoe (salmon) are running. Okay, swimming, but it’s called running. A very opportunistic seal was waiting on the other side of the locks for some free and easy lunch.

Seal at Chittenden locksYou can watch the salmon swimming up the ladder through big observation windows. It was surprisingly fun to watch the salmon struggling against the intense current, trying to get upstream to SPAWN. Every time one made it through the little opening, we cheered loudly and without shame. Go, salmon, go get some!

Salmon on salmon ladder

Also, I squealed with delight about this pug going on a standup paddle boarding adventure:

Stand-up paddle boarding

After the locks, we walked around a seafood festival and had lunch in the Ballard district.

Selfie with Steggy

On the way back to his apartment, Steggy pointed out the Lenin statue in Freeport.

Lenin Statue, FreeportThis evening, we met up with my great aunt (I think? My grandmother’s sister-in-law…) Susie and her son Jimmy for a tour of the “UW” (“You-Dub”) campus:

Husky statue at UW

 

While the mascot is now the Huskies, it used to be a “sunny” gnome. Less fierce, to be sure….

I really liked the little glimpse we had of the UW campus. The view of Mt. Rainier is amazing, but Jimmy said that Seattle residents just take it for granted.

UW campus

Check out where we ate dinner! (Ivar’s.) I loved all the Northwest coast art and decorations!

Ivars, Seattle

 

I kept saying how much I love Seattle weather. Jimmie and Susie insisted that the nice weather we experienced today is not the norm. I’m not sure how I would do with nine months of gray drizzle, but I LOOOOOOVE the low humidity. We walked all around in mid-July, and I barely broke a sweat! By comparison to hot, stinky city summers (New York, I’m looking at you!), this seems like paradise.with Jimmie and SusieJimmy also really wanted us to see the famous troll under the bridge, but we are sworn to “secrecy” as to its exact whereabouts.

Giant Gnome, Seattle

Another thing we really like about Seattle is how casual everything is. (“I once heard rumor of a restaurant that required a tie. I don’t think it exists,” says Steggy.) It’s such a nice, walk-able place with a relaxed atmosphere. I feel like we’d really fit into Seattle in this respect.

Thanks to our wonderful hosts in Seattle! We really enjoyed staying here and catching up with friends AND family! It was a memorable and impressive first visit, and we hope to come back soon!

WVT, SeattleAnd we could not have asked for better weather! Thanks, Seattle, for delivering!

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