On the high road to Arizona

On the high road to Arizona

Right, so with first the Yosemite and then the Sequoia National Park mountain adventures tucked tightly under our belts, we’re ready to embark on our third road trip, one that would involve crossing the state line into Arizona, no less.

This trip would be super-exciting for several reasons: first off, we’ve never been to Arizona, and to get there from California, we’re looking at, oh, a 10-12 hour drive *faints*, and of course, the very thought of seeing the Grand Canyon is enough to send tingles of sheer excitement down anyone’s spine, right!?!

Obviously you can’t embark on a trip like this without a whole lot of planning and logistics. The North American continent is yuge so even if a place looks like it’s a fingernail away on the map, it could, in actual fact, be one lo-ong, back-breaking drive away. To train for the drive, we may or may not have run 10 miles and done 100 pushups daily lol, just sayin’. So then our plan was to see as much of the landscape as possible and have fun doing it all within the confines of time and economics.

The common route for getting to the Grand Canyon from California would be, and I’m guessing here, by way of Barstow and Las Vegas. While many swear by Las Vegas because of its casinos and razzmatazz, for me personally, it’s a case of been there, done that and quite frankly, gambling and glitz ain’t exactly my cup of tea. I mean, if you’ve been to Vegas once or twice (or more, as I have), I think that’s plenty. So we decided to take the route less traveled from Barstow to Needles (the sleepy border town where Snoopy was born) and Flagstaff instead.

Once again, the morning sees us sneaking out of town with the rising sun – you know it – driving endlessly through hills, valleys and desert (yes, the Mojave) on to Needles on the Californian border crossing over to Arizona to Kingman and finally arriving in Flagstaff after two days of driving. Did we break into loud raucous cheers of victory as we crossed the border into Arizona? Ya betcha!!! That sure was a big achievement and a very lo-ong drive indeed for the uninitiated!!

On the high road to Arizona

Next up, fun stuff in Arizona!

An early morning drive to Yosemite

An early morning drive to Yosemite

There’s good reason why summer is the best time for traveling. I mean, what else would you do when such wonderfully long days of sunshine are calling out to you, right ? So we did the only thing there was to do. Taking advantage of the 5am sunrise, we got up early one morning, threw a few peanut butter and jam sandwiches into a Ziploc bag and soon we were on our merry way to the Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is in the Sierra Nevada mountains which means it’s literally in our backyard. Apart from the fact that the mountain road is winding for most of the way, it’s not too long a drive. Still it’s wise you want to get an early start to beat the tourist build-up because believe you me, as the day wears on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a parking spot.

I’ve been to Yosemite many times since college and in recent years but this time, a strange thing happened. As I sat in the back seat watching the endless blur of trees whiz by, I began to notice how beautiful the trees were. It’s funny how we see trees everywhere all the time and I’ve never thought of them as anything more than just plants that stick out of the ground and reach for the sky.

But now as I gazed out of the car window, I started to develop a brand new realization of the sheer number and beauty of all these trees rising high up above us. You know, there’s a saying about not seeing the forest for the trees but for me, all I could see were the trees (literally, of course *lol*) and how beautiful they are and just like that, I’m in love.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

At some point, we left the blur of the trees behind and entered a long, dark tunnel and just like the proverbial tunnel, this one opened up to an unbelievable view of hills, rocks and waterfalls. Yosemite is, of course, the land of picturesque waterfalls – big ones, little ones but every which way you turn, there’s one waiting to take your breath away.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

The waterfalls are exceptionally beautiful because of the snow melt from the substantial rain that California’s been getting this year. Seeing the deluge of water as it cascades down from a great height creating billowing clouds of mist as thick as the water itself coupled with hearing the thunderous roar as the water hits base makes this a truly amazing experience.

A word of warning though if you’re planning a trip to Yosemite this summer – the rivers are full and very fast-flowing, the slopes are slippery when wet, and many accidents have been reported this year where people have fallen into the water and gotten swept away. So be very, very careful out there!!

Of all the waterfalls we saw, the one we most wanted to see was the Bridal Veil Fall. It took us a while to find a parking spot at the trail to this amazing sight. The hike to the base of the Bridal Veil Fall is a short one along a tree-lined trail beside the rushing river that this waterfall drains into.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

As we got closer, we could feel the mist raining on us. We did get a little wet but we didn’t mind. It was a welcome shower on a hot day. Actually it felt more like we were getting a generous sprinkling of holy water and we were quite happy about that lol!

If we’d wanted to go further up the trail, we would’ve needed raincoats which we didn’t have but which many folks seemed to have come prepared with. We had umbrellas in the car but we wouldn’t have been able to use them because of how narrow and crowded the trail was. Still it was amazing that we not only got to see and hear this mighty waterfall but to actually feel it too!

Long days and the deception of work

When my morning alarm goes off, I jump up with a start thinking that I’ve overslept because the sun’s shining so bright it’s like high noon outside. I stumble across to my cell phone at the other side of the room and whew, it’s only 6-ish. To those of us who’re constantly complaining that we don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done, these unseasonably, incredibly long summer spring days are a dream come true.

Getting an early start knowing you have a full 15 hours of daylight ahead of you is a great feeling. While it’s technically not quite summer yet, Summer seems intent on elbowing Spring swiftly out of the way. And if our air-conditioning weren’t acting up so often, that great feeling might easily be a superlative. Except the darned thing keeps blowing hot air instead of cold.

So between toasty temperatures and cranky AC, we figured we really must do something about it. We did the next best thing: jump in the car and drive to San Francisco to escape the heat. Well, okay, the heat was one thing but our real excuse was the Memorial Day sales. Now if you’re a serious shopaholic, you don’t just stand there doing nothing when it’s raining discounts and promos out there.

Two productive days of retail therapy later, I’m happy to report we have a few, not many bagfuls of spoils to show for our hard work. Shopping is work? You’d better believe it! Do you know how many pairs of jeans I had to try on before I found my one true love? And don’t even get me started on the shoes. Sifting through rack after rack, shelf after shelf, hunting down your size, waiting in line for the fitting room clutching armfuls of clothes, yeah!

But it’s only when you get into the fitting room that’s when the real work (or workout, depending on how you look at it) begins. You’re doing countless squats trying on a pile of jeans and your ankle socks keep coming off with your jeans and you’re doing countless bends to get them back on. At some point, I hear someone saying, to heck with these socks, I’m leaving them off. But not me, I hate stepping on the cold, sandy floor and getting my bare feet dirty… so I keep on keeping on with the battle of the socks!

So yeah, it would seem, and I’m not even going to fault you for thinking, that it’s been all play and no work around here lol. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that around here, the term ‘work’ often takes on meanings that are worlds away from how others may view it.

Peace out… uttered with tongue in cheek.

Lunch in Carmel

Lunch in Carmel

Over the long Labor Day weekend (was that really 2 weekends ago? wow), we snuck out of town early one morning just after sunrise on our little road trip to Gilroy, CA. Our mission: to catch the Labor Day sales… what else? But before that, we decided to make a quick turnoff to Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch.

Lunch in Carmel

If the thought of lunch in Carmel, dinner in Gilroy somehow conjures up images of lunch in Paris, dinner in New York, well, this would be the poor man’s version. Gilroy and Carmel are less than an hour’s drive from each other, so we’re not exactly talking jetset here lol. Nevertheless, good try!

I’ve been to Carmel many times since college. You know, there’re places where no matter how many times you’ve been there, it’s still that same old sleepy town of beautiful houses, quaint stores, narrow streets, gnarled trees and uneven sidewalks. It seems nothing ever changes there. And it’s nice, seeing everything as you remember ’em from the first time.

Carmel sits on the California coast with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. On the drive in, I’m eagerly anticipating glimpses of houses and picket fences partially hidden from the main road by leafy vegetation and angled driveways. I admit I’m a diehard romantic and everything about this little town could’ve come straight out of a romance novel.

Soon the residential road gives way to artsy-craftsy stores with lattice display windows and painted doors lining the narrow cross streets. The next thing that hits you is that everyone is out walking their dogs. Yes, everyone! Okay, maybe not the people milling around outside the little hip restaurants patiently waiting for a table.

Lunch in Carmel

It’d be nice if I could remember the name of the restaurant where we had clam chowder, and fish and chips when Hip2bDaughter1 was three years old. I don’t even know if it’s still there. Probably not. But the Italian owner was so nice he gave Hip2bDaughter1 extra packets of those little saltine crackers he saw her reaching into my packet with her chubby little fingers, and there was none left.

On our last trip here 3 years ago, we discovered Flaherty’s. Quite by accident. They served the best lobster linguine carbonara we’ve ever tasted. In fact, we started with one serving and just had to order another because it was tha-aat good! And the owner, an older bearded man, promised us free ice cream on our next visit when we couldn’t stop raving about his food.

And this is what we’ve come back for this time. Sadly though, they seem to have changed owners because, heck, that one-in-a-million lobster linguine ain’t on the menu no more *bawls loudly and stomps feet*! There’s just no way! Devastated, we resorted to ordering their crab carbonara instead which tasted weird because of those, those pesky green onions in it!!!

Lunch in Carmel

I mean, who would put green onions into pasta and WHY?!! You know what, I associate green onions with Asian food and I would rarely, if ever, use it in Western cooking simply because the pungent flavor of the green onions would overpower the subtle aroma of the Italian herbs. So what kind of pasta would that be then?

The million dollar question is, what are those chopped green onions doing in that pasta? Well, we think we may have figured out the answer. We could be wrong but it’s probably to appeal to the palates of Chinese tourists so that when they see those familiar old green onions, they’d think, hey, there’s green onions in this so it probably tastes like Chinese food!

Aargh, I don’t get it! The very premise of spending so much money traveling to far-flung lands is to experience the different cuisines and cultures and everything else that’s new and unfamiliar. Take in a breath of fresh air, know what I mean?? It completely defeats the purpose of going all that distance only to snap a few photos and eat the same old stuff you’ve been eating every single day of your life! Am I making any sense here? Lol!

Anyways, back to my story. I had to have my clam chowder, of course and I honestly wasn’t prepared to be as disappointed as I was. This was clearly a case of too much potato, too little soup.

Lunch in Carmel

As for the fish and chips, the fish was fresh and flaky. Very nice. I would’ve loved to have eaten more but between the three of us, there wasn’t quite enough to go around. I guess we hadn’t taken into account the fact that Carmel being a touristy place, the portions might be a little smaller than what we’re used to.

Lunch in Carmel

Still we had a pretty good lunch. The weather was so nice – around mid-60F which meant we could walk around in light, long-sleeved tops – that we decided to stroll around town for a bit before we left for Gilroy.

Have you ever been to Carmel, CA? Did you find any good restaurants you’d love to visit again?

One for the ant

One for the ant

Seems like I blinked, and it’s April. Where did the time go? Don’t ask me, I have no idea, I wasn’t looking! Mostly the weeks of preparing for the acocalypse have kept me crazy busy. While the grasshoppers have been singing and dancing in the fields, the ants have been hard at work scurrying back and forth with heavy loads on their backs. Don’t envy me, I’m five shades darker than before just from dashing in and out of the sun daily in near 100 degree weather (Vancouver, how I miss thee!). Okay, so now that this chronic bulk shopper is done, she’s finally getting a breather 😉 .

Well now, that’s not to say that life has been all work and no play. Hanging out with our Korean friends has been so much fun. Not to mention that I broke the record and had soju and what was that – whiskey? for the first time. I know. It’s bound to send some shockwaves through this little blog of mine. Heck, I don’t even drink, not even socially! I’m strictly an orange juice person. But our friends like to have soju over dinner and they’ve somehow managed to persuade me to try some.

soju

Obviously I had no idea what soju would taste like. It looks like water so I figured, how bad can it be, right? And quite honestly, it isn’t bad. It’s easy to drink, not heavy or intense, and it doesn’t seize up your tongue. Drinking a little now and then is okay. I don’t advocate drinking but like I tell my kids, if the social setting calls for it, we should drink responsibly. Each time before we start dinner, our friends would insist on appointing designated drivers for each car, even though we don’t drink nearly enough to get anywhere near drunk. Gotta love them for it.

On that note, here’s my friendly little reminder to everyone, never drink and drive, be sure you have a designated driver. Like mine, he was only allowed to sip sipping iced green tea 😉 .

Zigzagging down Lombard St.

Zigzagging down Lombard St.

Like I said, the streets of San Francisco make one heckuva fun ride. We were all set. First stop, Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. This time, I parked at the top and we walked down these stairs.

sf154

No matter how many times I’ve been here, the feeling is always the same. I’m completely knocked off my feet by the beauty of the homes on both sides of this street. They have a quaintness all of their own. I’m sure they must look like a page off a decor magazine inside. What makes them even more mysterious is that I’ve never seen anyone go in or out. It’d be interesting to see who lives here.

Living on such a winding slope of a street must be quite something. I can’t imagine reversing in and out of the garage. But if you live here long enough, I guess you will eventually get the hang of it but surely it must be a bit of a daily adventure. See those little green dots I’ve marked on the hedges to show how the street zigzags its way downhill.

Lombard St

When we got to the bottom of Lombard Street, we climbed back up the stairs, got into our car, and I did something I’ve never done before! I freakin’ drove down Lombard Street!! This is a first for me and I gotta say maneuvering those bends and screaming all the way down was quite a thrill! I wonder why I never thought to do it before. By the time we got to the bottom, Hip2bDaughters were lamenting that the ride was too short! Let’s start over. Sure, let’s do it again next time, why not? it was fun!

The streets of San Francisco

The streets of San Francisco

After spending a half day in San Jose walking around Japantown, and checking out the Japanese shops and restaurants, and a Buddhist temple, we hoarded a stash of Japanese pastries and sushi. It’s a shame that after our In-N-Out escapade, we couldn’t fit in another lunch – there were so many Japanese restaurants there.

The next morning, we headed out to San Francisco on a cold, gray day with patchy fog (nothing like the white wall) which wasn’t so good for picture taking but good weather to be out. Okay, so you know you’re in San Francisco when the streets turn into a roller coaster. Wheeee! Up and down we went, and as if that’s not thrilling enough, many of the Stop signs are at the top of really steep inclines! which literally leaves you sitting tilted backwards as if you were in a dentist’s chair.

Tilted backwards

I was almost afraid that when I took my foot off the brake to step on the accelerator, we would inadvertently go sliding back down the incline. If I were driving a shift stick, that would be a very real possibility. Thankfully with an auto, we just went screaming as we rolled forward down the slope, hahaha!!! So much fun!

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