from the road

Day 44: Brother(-in-law) & Hot Arizona

Look who we “found” in Alpine, CA this morning: Palmer (Harrison’s younger brother and my new brother-in-law)! After graduating from Harvey-Mudd last year, he moved to Alpine to work for a math problem-solving website/company.

As the first official guests, we got the grand tour of the living room/office. Actually, I just asked him a barrage of questions (“What do you eat?”, “How far is your work?”, “What is this falling-down building outside your window??”) while Harrison ate toaster pastries.

Palmer's living roomLiz, you will be delighted to see that Palmer has sequestered his fourth plate, haha. 

Palmer's plates(Actually, he explained his very thorough system of using one plate at a time and moving it to a different pile. He has all four on rotation!)

As you can tell, Palmer was thrilled to have us barge in on his apartment.

Palmer and Harrison

Since our lives are up in the air and Palmer is always traveling (He’s going to China soon for an international puzzle competition.), it’s not clear when we’ll see him next. Byyyye, Palmer!

Mica and Palmer

We commissioned a WVT puzzle from Palmer as his specialty is making super-complicated puzzles. We’ll put it up on the blog soon as a contest! Get your thinking caps ready; it looks like a DOOZY.

From Alpine, we turned east and drove down I-8 into Arizona. First, we passed huge piles of rocks in western California:

Rocks on i-8

I-8 runs very close to the US-Mexico border. From the car, we could see into Mexico…with a large fence in between. At one point, we went through some kind of checkpoint where border agents [I think.] waved us through.

highway checkpoint

In Phoenix, we photographed the Arizona state Capitol:

AZ state capitolIt was so hot when we got out of the car in Phoenix–the car thermometer read 104 degrees! That saying “But it’s a dry heat!” is a load of bunk! It was like walking around in a giant oven but without any of the good baking smells. At one point, I tried to sit on a little ledge and leapt up, yelping in pain because the hot bricks felt like they were burning my legs.

Meanwhile, Harrison was fascinated with a cactus:

Harrison with a cactus“Be careful,” I said, “Don’t touch it!”

Harrison touching cactus“Yep, they’re sharp. That would hurt a lot if you ran into it,” said Harrison.

Yes, gentle readers, I have married a genius. 😉

We continued our trail across and north in Arizona. We passed through Sedona briefly, right after sunset. The red rocks were pretty cool!

red rocks outside Sedona

Unfortunately, we didn’t see/feel/perceive any energy vortexes. Note: This website says that it’s vortexes, not vortices.

We’re stopping over for the night in Flagstaff, AZ. I was surprised that the surrounding area is quite forested. This was what the drive between Sedona and Flagstaff looked like.

forest outside Flagstaff, AZPretty big change from the hot rocks, right?

Another big day of driving tomorrow, so I’m headed to bed!

Standard
from the road

Day 43: Seeing the Pacific Ocean & Dorothy!

I realized that we’re about to turn eastward on WVT, heading slowly back to the East coast. Crazy, right? As such, our brief sojourn in San Diego is our last stop near the ocean, so I wanted to soak in all that salty goodness today.

After a run along San Diego’s Embarcadero, we grabbed lunch at Bay Park Fish Co. Harrison was excited to eat an authentic fish taco in San Diego. (The authenticity is perhaps disputable, but he says that they were de-licious.)

Fish tacos at Bay Park Fish Co.When we had a family reunion here in 2008, I loved running and walking around the Mission Bay Park, so I made sure to hit that up today. I was shocked to see so many people in the park, enjoying a picnic, swimming, or windsurfing, on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m guessing that they’re mostly summer tourists, but maybe San Diego residents get out to enjoy the occasional mid-week fun-day.

Mica in Mission Bay Harrison in Mission BayWe were not, however, content to see only the Bay. We headed over to Mission Beach to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean, which is FREEZING.

Mica in PacificHarrison was not thrilled about this, but he MANNED UP and walked right in.

Harrison walking towards waterHe made it in, just barely…
Harrison in water

 

…before posting a hasty retreat!Harrison retreating from water

 

 

 

That’s okay, we got an obligatory couples face-photo on the boardwalk so you know we were there!

on boardwalk

 

What??? TWO free Lara bar samples on the boardwalk?? SAMPLES?!? Mission beach is the best!

Mica with Lara bar eyes

(I’m frowning here because Harrison wasn’t taking the picture as fast as I wanted and people were staring at me.)

Not content with just Mission beach, we headed to the swanky La Jolla area for a view of the sea lions at La Jolla cove:

at La Jolla coveYou can see how gray it is in the background–the clouds blocked out all the warm sunshine, and with a breeze blowing, we were cold! I did not stick around to take photos of sea lions. Nor did we stick around long enough to feel really poor because La Jolla is for the fancy-pants rich!

For dinner, we went to Bleu Bohème to meet one of my sweetest and goofiest friends, DOROTHY! She and I took several high school classes together, but one that sticks to memory in particular was senior year Anatomy & Physiology, where we learned that eyebrows are like “eye mustaches.” Anyway, Bleu Bohème came with a glowing recommendation from Dorothy:

“Do you like French food?  (haha!)  😉  There is this cute place called “Bleu Boheme” that is super cute.”

And we concur, it IS super-cute (and tasty)! I love all the melted wax candles that look like sculptures at each table:

candle at Bleu Bohème

It was great to see Dorothy, whom we last saw in (we think) 2010! She has been out here for the past five years pursuing a PhD in Speech Pathology, and she’s hoping to finish up next year. However, she, like us, has fallen out of love with academia, so it was a dinner full of commiseration and grand expressions of empathy for how we all made the wrong life decisions. (But also, really fun!)

Grad school makes us feel like this:

Grad school facesSometimes, we try to talk with our mouths full and look like this:

Mouths fullDorothy, we lurf you!

with DorothyAnd, once again, grad school, we do NOT lurf you:

sad grad school facesWe’ve crammed a lot of sightseeing and friend-seeing in our 36 hours in San Diego! Tomorrow, I’m going to take deep lungfuls of sea air to prepare me for our drive into ARIZONA. Oh lawwwwd, it’s gon’ be hot, and I am not ready for it!

Standard
from the road

Day 42: Beverly Hills to San Diego

Like the movies have us believe, LA has palm trees.

Palm trees in LA

And also, plentiful sunshine, expensive cars, clothing, houses, children’s furniture stores–oh, the list goes on! We said “good-bye” to Helen this morning and descended from Hollywood Hills via Mulholland Drive, Rodeo Drive, and Wiltshire Drive. It was a feast for the eyes, that’s for sure.

And, you know, I think that the abundant wealth and sparkle of the city convinced me that Los Angeles is where we want to move…

…which is why I am delighted to share with you that we found a new house(s)!!!! 


Our "new" house

Yes, yes, we’ve decided to move into BOTH of these two adjacent homes in the heart of Korea town! This zip code isn’t quite as flashy at Beverly Hills, but, you know, our new home boasts a luxurious outdoor bathroom and impressive sunroofs in all rooms. And when we move into the neighborhood, property value is certain to increase. We’re such trendsetters; this will be 2013’s most expensive US zip code, for sure.

Okay, so we didn’t find a home in LA (HAHAHA, like you fell for that!), but we did find Chris Choi!

We met Chris through Dan and Alejandro while he was studying in law school at UofI. As it turns out, he just flew into LA from Washington, D.C. yesterday and wanted to meet up with us. What a serendipitous meet-up!

Chris has lived all over the world, but he is an LA native and knows good Korean food. So, of course, he chose a pretty awesome Korean restaurant, Soban, for lunch today. I knew it was authentic immediately upon entering because (1) a seizure-inducing new feature about goats was playing in the background and (2) a mesh colander filled with stainless steel utensils was prominently displayed on the bar. The food was so good that it made us realize just how crappy the Champaign Korean food is. (*sigh* There’s one less thing to like about it.)

Soban gives you tonnnnnnns of banchan (side dishes). BANCHAN EXPLOSION!

Lunch at Soban with Chris

(Chris says I look more Korean than he does. I disagree. Thoughts?)

I’d say we did a pretty good job though….

Empty platesLike us, Chris is applying for jobs all over the country. I hope we end up in the same city because he’s a cool guy and I know he will be my gym buddy for LIFE if we’re in the same place. (Right, Chris? RIGHT?!?)

After lunch, Harrison wanted to revisit the CalTech campus, which, contrary to the impression you may have from this blog, is actually his one true love. After spending his first “independent” summer there in high school (He says: nominally, doing research but in reality, being payed to play pool and hang out with awesome people), he has talked about it with a sort of dreamy, drunk-on-nostalgia voice for the ten years that we’ve been together.

Harrison in front of dorm

So yeah, I was expecting a lot! It is a very pretty campus. I mean, there are olive trees lining the quad with the dormitories.

CalTech QuadHe somehow neglected to tell me that THERE ARE TURTLES IN A CAMPUS POND! This is clearly the best part. World-class academics ain’t got nothing on turtles.

CalTech turtlesAfter the turtles, it was all downhill. I got the post-lunch sleepies and fell asleep in the car until we reached the outskirts of San Diego.

We’re staying in downtown San Diego at the swanky Omni, which is a very generous wedding gift from my (and now, Harrison’s!) cousin Trent and his husband Rick! I visited their lovely home in the hills five years ago for a family reunion, and I was pumped to go back and see them and to eat Trent’s homemade Mexican food!

The house has gotten even better–they now have two great dogs, Ellie (chihuahua) and Sarah (lab)!

Trent, Rick, and dogsTrent and Rick are two of my most favorite relatives! Trent is a kindred spirit who loves musicals and enjoys when I post pictures of the satellite radio Broadway selection on Facebook. And Rick is a retired police officer, and he told us all kinds of cool stories. We heard a pretty awesome one about how he helped find the missing dolls from a million dollar Barbie theft in the 90’s by searching through records and talking to tweekers. [Raise your hand if you knew what a “tweeker” was. Please! Put your hand down! You didn’t know!]

Meanwhile, Sarah listened to our conversation with great dignity!

Sarah & Ellie

 

Rick is a San Diego native, and Trent has lived here for 25 years. They had lots of great things to say about the city, and their arguments about the weather were pretty convincing (“We own some hoodies. That’s about it.”).

WVT in SD

So, maybe we’re not going to live in our airy home in LA, but I might just be convinced to move in with Rick and Trent FOREVAAAAAARRR (Okay, guys? Lady-dogs? All good?? Yeah??)

Standard
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!

Standard
from the road

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.]

Standard
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!

Standard
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.

Standard