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what is it jess

22 October 2014

Our last two days in California 2014

We decided that we weren't going to get to Las Vegas this trip, but there's always the next summer and that means we can add in the Grand Canyon, a true night in Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam (plans already!). That's completely fine though, we got to relax on our last full day in California. We started it off by going to Starbucks and having delicious egg and bacon sandwiches and iced coffee.

We were eager to go find a beach and spend the day relaxing on the sand. We went to get buckets and ice for our ice bucket challenge that we had gotten challenged to days before. It took us much longer than it should have to gather up the things we needed to do the actual challenge, we went to a dollar tree and didn't find anything, so we went to Walmart, which was a really far drive away.

An hour and a half later we did end up near the beach. Finding parking was really really hard. It seemed everyone had the same idea we did because finding parking was a nightmare. We circled around roads, parking lots, got our parking space stolen a couple times and finally found a parking space another half hour later. Then as we were getting ready, we had a steady stream of people asking us if we were leaving or just getting there.

We were at Mission beach, one of the top beaches in Google lists of top beaches in San Diego. There was a bay part that was really nice, and a lot of people had brought giant tents and were pretty much having day parties with barbeques and playing volleyball and playing in the sand. We wanted better. We found the boardwalk somehow, found some digging tools and then tried to record a video.

A nice guy walking by started talking to us. Probably just being nice but ended up recording our video for us and introducing us in it. That was pretty cool of him to do because getting it set up was much longer than I might have been comfortable staying and doing with two Canadian strangers. We dumped icy seawater over our heads, and getting such salty water in your eyes is not a good feeling. Not at all.

That was over with and we were excited about playing in the sand, so we found ourselves a spot and started digging. As you know Christian likes to dig and jabbed at me for not helping him last time, so we started digging deep and piling it on in the center.

The sand here is so malleable and great to build castles with, I wish we had've stumbled upon a sand castle building contest because that would have been fun. After our sand castle was good enough, we started making things into it.

Oh, and of course we had a little helper. Kids love sand castles apparently. She was a bit more of a hinderance than a help, cracking stuff and being a little too harsh and the dad was a little weird. But eventually she got the idea to be careful and did "pat pat" and patted the sand down where it was cracking.

Between hour four and five it really started looking like something, like a real sand castle. My first super hands on one. We didn't even really use buckets, we only used shovels to dig. And it was deeeeep.

At the end it turned out really nice, we were really proud of it and people were coming by and complimenting us about it. You can see the boardwalk in the background. It was a pretty great place. Even though we spent the day digging and sculpting, it was really relaxing, and a nice way to wind down after the hectic week and all the walking around.

It was really hard to leave such work, to walk away from it to let some kid destroy it. But we managed to. In the six hours we actually were at the beach, about four people lost their children and the lifeguards made an announcement. We had a woman yell at us for not looking harder for her child.

We were covered in sand, well I was from head to toe. Christian less. We found a shower, changed and headed out to eat some supper. We found an In-N-Out close and each got two burgers and shared a fries. Just like the last couple of times we had been to the restaurant, we ordered a bunch of burgers to eat because we were going to miss it so much. Damn you In-N-Out for only being in California.

We decided to drive as far as we could that night, backtracking on the fastest highway back. We made it to LA before I couldn't drive anymore and we ended up staying in a pretty dingy motel. The one time we didn't get lucky with the Expedia app, which had served us well on the trip.

We woke up early and spent the next day driving almost entirely. I saw a tumbleweed and the highway was mostly straight and we didn't get back service for a really long time. The speed limit was above average so that felt a lot better. We even greeted a motorcycle on the highway.

We made it back to San Francisco, taking the Bay Bridge in. Traffic was bumper to bumper and not moving very fast at all. Waze keept recalculating because of the build-up, I'm not actually sure why because it was nowhere near rush hour time. But what should have taken five minutes to get on the bridge actually took half an hour.

In the midst of it, Waze told us to take this route where we had to cut through traffic but the sign said only buses and carpools. Well, we were two people and Christian urged me to trust in Waze. We seemed to bypass both the traffic and the toll entirely, which was weird and felt wrong but all of a sudden we were on the Bay Bridge and on our way into San Francisco.

I dropped Christian off at the San Francisco airport and went to find a gas station so I could fill up the car. I had seven miles left on it by the time I did find one and I had to withdraw money to pay for it and I had to use the bathroom so bad and it was weird being alone after the week entirely spent with Christian. I filled it up and drove to San Jose Airport to return the car and get to my flight.

I got the car back on time and found the place I was supposed to go and luckily for me my flight was arriving early. I boarded my plane to go back to LA where I was just that morning, erasing all the efforts I had made today driving to San Francisco.

Christian and I met in Washington and flew back into Halifax together. We struggled with the Immigration form, accidentally checking the commercial goods box when we didn't actually mean to. We got through okay and didn't have our luggage searched.

22 September 2014

San Diego Zoo & More Red Pandas

We had found a place late that night that promised a loft with a view of the stars while we slept. The guy had "upgraded" us apparently, and I say that in definitive quotations. It was a very comfortable mattress, and we had a decent sleep, but I woke up and stepped down on the floor and ants carried me to the bathroom. I'm talking like, the floor was covered in ants crawling around and they started making their way up the bed. We didn't stay very long and packed up, shaking things off and got out of there without talking to anyone who was staying or living in the house.

We packed the car, getting some clean clothes and pushing things back in the trunk and went to get breakfast at a place we found on Yelp. We drove down the road, got on the highway, down some more roads and started up a really big hill. I guess this was the first time I had looked in my rear-view mirror and discovered I couldn't see through it.

gasp I think the trunk's open.
What?!

So, if you know Christian, which I'm going to assume you don't, but if you did you'd know he's not the best packer in the world. By that I mean, he waits a little bit until last minute. I mean I suppose we had been living out of our suitcases. Our trunk was filled with clothes of his spilling out of his suitcase and clothes he had bought at H&M in Beverly Hills and some odds and ends he had laying around in our house in Sunnyvale that were stuffed into an H&M bag.

A couple things had fallen out of his H&M bag, because well, it was a shopping bag and the trunk wasn't meant to be left open. We went back around, found some clothes, some small trinkets, some water bottles. We didn't see much else, but they got thrown into the back seat. We went around one more time and found some electrical tape, a run over pen holder and a bracelet from our first rave. Back seat. We went around one more time, slower and stopped on the side of the highway, Christian thought he saw something.

His Kindle was laying in the middle of the highway, on a highway in San Diego, many cars had run over it. It was a mess of crushed screen, buttons completely off, the interior wiring exposed. It was a sad moment. We bowed our heads in a moment of silence for the fallen Kindle.

The line for the place we were going to eat at was really long, so we got frozen yoghurt for breakfast and went to the Apple Store to see if we could fix his phone, which wasn't recognizing the chargey cord. It turned out there was lint in it, and we found ourselves at the LEGO store, playing in one of those free lego pits. Christian became 5 years old again.

Then I got a dress, yay.

We left very soon after that to visit the zoo. We had one of the best burgers I've ever had, so big. A duck came up to us while we were eating and stood right next to where we were seated while we fed him fries. Well, Christian fed him fries and I was a little scared of getting bit. I eventually did give him a fry (a very long one to protect my fingers), and he rips it right out of my hand. Apparently ducks love fries.

We weren't wearing very good shoes for walking and after the multiple days of being on our feet all day, it was safe to say they hurt a little. We still managed to walk around the entire park and see all of the animals.

This was the first animal we saw, a meercat. They were sleeeeeeeping, and a little startled.

Also, I didn't realize rhinos looked like they had armor on.

Hippoes and toucans and weird antelope thing, oh my!

I didn't realized I would look this silly in front of the giraffes. I was hoping to look more kid in a zoo that's very happy to be seeing giraffes for the first time happy.

But this is a baby giraffe.

And this kitty was sitting watching everyone with his paw in his mouth, it was so adorable. :3

And these are elephants.

And this was an elephant with his tongue out waiting for hay to fall in his mouth.

We decided to take a couple pictures with the hippo lying down. I wanted to flop next to it and pretend we were sleeping like the hippo, but we were more adult about it and rode it like a horsie.

Then we saw the red panda. And we saw him for a good twenty minutes. My favourite part, as always. :) He was active and walking around and he wouldn't stay still, but it was still fun to see.

This is Jess watching red panda.

After we were done seeing the animals, the park was almost closed. We went to go get a caricature of ourselves, something we've been meaning to do for a couple months, there were so many places to get it done. I think it turned out well.

Grasping our newly drawn picture, we went on the sky tour in the dark and took a bus back to the entrance. We saw a lot and we were sleepy. We went to this adorable inn, with a king sized bed and white sheets and an adorable little patio all to ourselves. It was definitely somewhere I want to go back to and spend multiple nights at, the nightlife seemed great and there was golfing and some other activities. It was so beautiful.

We watched a couple episodes of Bojack Horseman and ate our weight in Welch's fruit snacks (!!) and went to sleep.

16 September 2014

Disneyland! <3

We stayed the night before about a mile away from Disneyland, in a cute place that had a bunch of coffee and snacks laid out for us Airbnb-ers. She offered Welch's snacks, which kickstarted my multi-day obsession with the fruit snacks. Yum.

We went to breakfast at a place the Airbnb place recommended, your typical American diner. It was cool, wood, and we had four different waitresses. Like, we sat down at our table and four of them came over pretty much in succession offering coffee. We got the yummiest food though, very filling. Very very filling. Can you guess which one belongs to which one of us?

It didn't take us very long to find parking. Christian got badly sunburnt the day before in Hollywood so he made us slather on sunscreen. We looked like ghosts walking around. We parked in the parking structure at Donald 3 something the first day. When you get in the minimal security where they give your bag a quick squeeze, we had the option to go left to Disneyland or right to Disneyland:California Adventure. Luckily Christian had got us a 1 park per day pass so obviously we headed to the Disneyland park first. :)

It was one of the hotter days, around 95F ... I mean 35C so we were just sweating the entire day, we made sure to drink lots of water.

It was so Disney as soon as we walked in. We saw Mickey and Minnie as we walked down Main St. We turned to each other and decided that we'd get a picture with them later, we'd have lots of chances to. We never did, as much as we saw them. We said we'd do it later every time. That's okay though, we got pictures with other characters.

We took the "It's a Small World" ride, where, as Christian says, kids disappear to when they get lost at Disneyland. We had the song stuck in our heads for half the day after that. We made it to Toontown, where we found Pluto (Faren thought he was Goofy). So we took a picture with him.

I absolutely love the level of contrast in this picture. I'll have to get it blown up and hung up on my wall. #unedited

What I loved about the park is that care was put into every single aspect of every small detail. They whole-assed everything, didn't half-ass anything. At all. Walking through Toontown felt like walking into a cartoon, there were cool cartoon hills that were kind of a brain-mystifier.

We went on, I think all the rides. Except the Haunted House, which was closed. But it was all lovely. After the rides I liked going and seeing the pictures, you know, even though were weren't going to buy any.

This was my first time on Space Mountain. Oh my god it was my favourite I think. They were all my favourite. But this ride was my most favourite.

This was on a really steep log flume drop.

The Buzz Lightyear game was a lot of fun, we just got to shoot things. After we got out the first time, we turned back around and went in a second time. Christian won both times (as he did with all the shooty games) and my score wasn't 0, it was just lower than his. Way to rub it in.

There were some really cool things there, the mountains they built felt like actual mountains.

There were so many awesome things that describing it wouldn't do it justice. I've said it before, but this is the king of things you have to experience yourself that you just can't take pictures of.

We took a lot of pictures with characters.

In the evening we went to see the parade, which is also awesome. Our feet hurt and we were happy to sit down for a while and enjoy the song and all the Disney characters dancing by. It was something. There were so many people around us after the parade was over. It was crazy.

I think a lot of people left, but we still had an agenda: hit more rides. There was almost an entire section of the park we hadn't got to yet.

We did that and we were just getting off Space Mountain for the second time when the fireworks started. We rushed to get ot the other side of the castle, but they were herding people away from it. We still had a pretty good vantage point. I definitely know they were the best fireworks I've ever seen in my life. It was quite the show and it was so captivating that we mostly stood there watching as they exploded all around us.

After that was over we were on our way out and decided to get a picture in front of the castle. Turns out it's pretty hard to get a good picture in the dark and everyone wants to use flash and not get enough of the castle in. I do really like this picture, regardless of how little the castle is in it.

But this one turned out okay, the last people we asked had a professional lighting thing and shone it on us instead of using flash.

We found a hotel instead of bothering with Airbnb, mostly because the place we booked wasn't responding. We passed out as soon as we got in and woke up the next morning to repeat.

This time we parked in Goofy and went to the other park. Which is awesome and more rides-y than the original Disneyland. The care they took that I was talking about earlier was evident here as well, for example the benches in the A Bug's Life were modeled after used popsicle sticks, with the fruit colouring on half.

Speaking of the A Bug's Life part, there was this 3D adventure in it and there's this part where he tells you to stay seated for the bugs to come out and these things move on your seat. I jumped so far up, and we were sitting in the front row, slightly embarassing.

We also went on all the rides here. A lot were closed for a while, including the biggest rollercoaster there and we had to go back later. There was another Toy Story shooting one which we also went on twice like the Buzz Lightyear one.

It was all a lot of fun and we were really lucky to get on all the rides. I was scared they'd be out of service all day, but I think we just managed to squeeze them in.

The Tower Of Terror was sooooooooo much fun. Remember when I mentioned that really scary drop ride at California's Great America? This was kind of like that but more amazing. It dropped and then went back up and went down and we were totally lifted off our seats and it toed the line of scary and was just plain fun.

We had too much fun in an obstacle course chasing each other with water and I managed to lose my sunglasses. We went to the lost and found later on to describe them and they said they'd send them back but they haven't yet.

On our way to ride the Tower of Terror for the second time, we were stopped at the Cars area and asked if we wanted Fast-Trak tickets to the Cars ride, which was one of the ones we hadn't got on that day. We went for it. The Cars section is also amazing. It looks exactly like the movie town in Cars and they sold drinks in cone shaped cups.

The ride was awesome. I'm glad we got in instead of going on the Tower of Terror again, even though that was amazingly fun. It started off kind of slow and kind of like the movie went but then we met with another car and we raced the other car. Ours won, but it was so exciting and we went through the race like in the movie where he races with Doc(?).

We watched the fireworks in Disneyland from the place between the parks. We were so lucky to have people walking in front of us the entire time the fireworks were going to frantically get into the park at the last hour. Ah well.

We decided to drive to San Diego from Anaheim. A long drive at 10 at night when you're exhausted from having fun and being on your feet all day. I was having a hard time staying awake and Christian was doing a terrible job of helping me stay awake by consistently falling asleep, but he was sleepy too so it was understandable.

All in all, magical. Very magical. Going to do again.

31 August 2014

5983 KM from Home: Long Beach, Venice Beach, Hollywood and Beverly Hills in a Day

We woke up the next morning at 6:30 (so many early mornings!) and drove to Long Beach for breakfast. I forgot to mention this in the last post, but Los Angeles is a dump. It just looks beaten down and uncared for and it's really...jarring coming into it. I didn't expect it to be like this. Long Beach was definitely my favorite part of LA, it was nicer and looked more cared for. We found some nice little places in LA, making the best of a bad city.

We went to this awesome little hipster diner and got some good eats. Here you can see my sammy. Amazingly delicious.

We stayed and enjoyed the serenity for a couple minutes while I answered some emails and then headed to Venice Beach for a nice walk on the boardwalk and looking at the beach. Christian mentioned Kassem G does all his videos here and that's kind of cool. There were a lot of t-shirt shops and people biking and I liked it a lot. Rollerblading is cool here!!

Christian and I meandered around the boardwalk for a while, looking in the shirt shops and tried to find some ice cream. Unfortunately for us, that day the ice cream trucks hadn't arrived or something and we wanted ice cream. We were lucky to have gone on a Tuesday when it wasn't as busy though I suppose. We both got some shirts and some memorabilia here, as it's a pretty iconic place apparently. I'm told there's also an area called Muscle Beach along it because of something Arnold Schwarznegger did. We made it down to the beach though and stepped in the water for reals. All the beaches down here are pretty beautiful as beaches tend to be.

We stayed there for a while and enjoyed the sun and the entire boardwalky part of it. Have I mentioned I really like boardwalks? So cool. Why don't we have any cool boardwalks in NS. Then we left for the Hollywood Walk of Fame to walk over some famous people's stars.

Finding parking actually on Hollywood Boulevard is a nightmare, and my weak point when I drive is definitely finding parking and doing it. It stresses me out, especially in big cities like Los Angeles where it's so congested with people. We actually did find parking on the actual boulevard and not a side street, I'm going with the belief that we got really lucky.

No one special is in this picture, it was just the only place that was momentarily clear of people to get a good shot of the stars. There are a lot of tourists here falling into the tourist trap of buying a tour of celebrities houses. I think we got asked upwards of 20 times if we wanted a tour "half price". It was hard to say no to some because they kept talking as they stood on Tom Cruise's star and you're just like go away I just want a picture of Tom Cruise's star.

It was a generously hot day and the pavement was scorching hot under the sun. Our naked skin suffered greatly. Christian has quite the tan lines from it, even better than his farmers tan because we forgot to put on sunscreen and we really should have. I think I fried my knees a little from kneeling on the pavement.

We got this one and were going to send it to Khanh but I think we forgot.

These pictures are super touristy and I'm totally not sorry because of how much fun it was.

We get down to what we think is the end and it keeps going in all the directions. I didn't realize it went on so far. I'm sad to say we didn't see all of them, but we saw the important ones.

It turns out Robert Downey Jr. doesn't actually have a star on the walk of fame, but has his hands and feet immortalized in the pavement in front of the Chinese theatre, which is where the most important people like Shirley Temple and the cast of Twilight get their names.

After that, we headed to the Hollywood sign, which is waaaaay up in the hills of Hollywood, or what I think is called Hollywood Hills. It was pretty awesome to be up there. They make it really hard not to trespass there (we managed not to!) and the people who live there get cranky if you park in the general area of their homes.

We drove back down the hill, the time of day is late afternoon. We figured we'd hit up Universal Studios because we wanted two full days at Disneyland instead of the half day we had left. We made our way over there and found out it closed at five. A theme park closing at five, wtf. It wasn't worth less than 2 hours for the price of admission, but Christian found this free museum called the Getty Museum that was the top-rated thing to do in LA, so we went there. It was so worth it. There were sculptures and paintings and drawings and they were all amazing. It was held in these white buildings with lots of glass on the top of a mountain overlooking Los Angeles. We got a lot of looking at stuff in, and even took a picture with a sculpture that the museum encourages you instagram.

After that closed we left towards Beverly Hills for dinner. Americans don't know what supper is, and our roommates laughed at us when we did say supper. Am I alone in thinking dinner is a lunchtime word? We ate at this place that boasted garlic made dishes called The Stinking Rose, which kind of reminded us of Monica's restaurant. Like, I'm talking garlic on every dish. Full cloves of it. We wanted Italian, and this place seemed really great. And it was.

We had some bread to start that was garlic'd, some caesar salad, I don't remember if it had garlic in it and we each had a garlic spaghetti dish. I guess the service was taking too long for the waiter and he felt bad so he provided us with garlic ice cream to try, on the house. I liked it, it was a little spicy in a weird way you don't get with ice cream, but I think Christian hated it. So we got an extra chocolate mousse cake. It wasn't so bad because we were exposed to the garlic so much before we ate the ice cream, but if you just tried it on a whim without desensitizing yourself it would be so overpowering.

30 August 2014

5983 KM from Home: The Road to Los Angeles

Guess what. We tried to rent a car. Again. We almost got one. So so almost. They said it would be okay to use my debit card because they saw how desperate we were to get a car and relented a little. If only my stupid Canadian debit card would work in this damn country. Sometimes it's so frustrating not being an American. And not being 25. And not having a credit card.

In the end, I guess it turned out okay not getting a car, because after asking our roommate Garrett if we could stay one more night, he mentioned he hadn't realized we were leaving so soon and we spent the evening with him and his girlfriend Gina. We ate some pizza, drank some delicious margaritas and played Cards Against Humanity. It really was a fun night and he invited us 'shoosting' in the morning.

Sunday morning we woke up early and left southward bound to a shooting range, where we got to shoot guns at clay things aka skeet shooting. It was my first time shooting a gun, especially a shotgun and I was hopeless until an old guy came over and told me to rest my cheek on the gun. Also I was closing the wrong eye. That helped tremendously and I ended up hitting one!! We got to do real 'merican stuff and then ate barbeque to finish it off.

I'm not going to tell you how we got a car, but I assure you it was legally. No grand theft auto or anything like that. We had a few hiccups before we ended up getting it, which was in the evening and the sun was setting, so our roommates let us stay another night and we had steak and pesto pasta and more of the best margaritas ever. We went with Joe to the Tesla store to get some swag (with an owner discount), we both got some pretty awesome tshirts and Christian got a mug, which ended up breaking on the way out the door the next morning.

We went to bed decently early and we woke up at 5AM to leave. We wanted to have already been an hour away from LA at this point in the day, but we weren't and that was okay. We had an eight hour drive ahead of us.

Aaron Paul had been posting information about a scavenger hunt the day of the Emmys, which Christian found out about the night before or slightly earlier, but he got really excited about it and we wanted to be there for that. But then we found out it started at 11AM and only lasted two hours, and we were further away than we would have liked to have been. We missed out on meeting RJ Mitte at an IHOP, and most likely Aaron Paul, which would have been amazing.

A couple things happened. We didn't leave until around 6, then we were headed down Highway 5, which isn't the highway we wanted to be on, it goes straight down the state and we wanted to be going down the coast on Highway 1, the movie highway. Longer, but better. We stopped at a McDonald's for breakfast around 8, then had to backtrack for an hour to get to the highway. Worth it. It was trees and hills on one side and cliffs, looking out into the Pacific on the other side.

All the images are links now for handier viewing.

The roads were turny and we had some very sharp hairpin turns. I saw 11 red mustangs on this road alone. Christian fell asleep a couple times here. This is what the road looked like most of the way.

It was a lot of highway driving.

There's not really much we wanted to see between San Jose and Los Angeles, but we drove through some nice ocean-side towns including Santa Barbara. We saw some zebras on a farm, in very high numbers for North America, and that was pretty awesome. I guess it helps that California is pretty much a desert. We drove past Hearst Castle and through San Luis Obispo, which is a beautiful and quaint little town, home of Cal Poly school. We finally stopped in Ventura, which is where we wanted to be the night before, and decided to go get some Indian food. Indian food is good, right? Right.

We got in and the guy asks if we ever had Indian food before, of course we have. I don't know if he ever saw my face, his eyes were on my boobs the entire time. It also didn't help that we were the only ones in the restaurant.

Christian got Chicken Tikka Masala and I got the Butter Chicken. We got some rice and naan bread and mango lassi for the table. He brings it over and that's cool. We eat, we're stuffed. We can't finish a bit of it because it was a big meal. We want to get going to LA as well, so the guy comes over again and asks if we're done. Christian says yes and asks for the bill. The guy goes "No you are not done eating, finish it!" and walks away. This happens one more time and then he brings me a drink, "for the lady". I don't know exactly what it was, but Christian asks for the check again and he clears the table. Then he brings over rice pudding "on the house" and walks away. I didn't want to eat it, I was already so full. Like, full on food baby at Thanksgiving full. We manage it down, separate the drink he brought into our water glasses and he finally brings over the check. And walks away again. We manage to pay and bolt. It was the weirdest dining experience I think I've ever had.

We finally get to LA an hour after that, about 5:30-6:00. A long away from 11AM. We find the Staples centre where the Emmys are being held and find parking a long time after that. I'm pretty proud of myself to have been driving both in LA and once on an eight lane highway! And people told me I wouldn't be able to drive in Toronto. Psh.

We watched the Emmys in a bar beside where they were being held, very upscale. Christian got a beer. I got nothing because I get to be driver.

After they were over we tried to find the red carpet. And did. I don't know if we were supposed to be there, and I'm not sure why they hid it so much away from the public if it's such a public event, but there were a lot of well-dressed people streaming out. We saw Miss Claudette and Crazy Eyes and Big Boo walking out and posing and Stephen Colbert and a lot of people holding Emmys that we didn't recognize. Louis CK walked right past us, close enough where we could slap him. Did you know he's really tall?

We got pushed away by security for some reason, even though we weren't doing any harm. We walked back out and found a girl walking in a red dress leaving a trail of fainting people. It was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and she looked a little lost and there were paparazzi with cameras in her face and it was kind of sad. We also saw Jim Parsons talking to some interviewers when we peeked around a wall. We didn't get a good look because then all the little girls there discovered it and ran over with their iPads and phones and squeals and got securitys attention.

We were leaving and walked right past Derek Hough, and he looks just as pretty in real life. After that we walked around a bit and decided to go back to our Airbnb place for the night. Another early morning the next day. We got there and it was an old guy living in a mansion. He had so many old artificats, pottery from the Inca, Aztecs, Mayans. Things from Greece, India, Italy, Russia, Nazi war stuff like helmets and cutlery. It was all very cool and we got a walking tour and story of it all along with a glass of orange juice before we passed out.

19 August 2014

The Winchester Mystery House

This weekend was a very low key weekend, as it's the last one before we drive all over the state of California and look at some things. I'm still trying to work out how we're going to fit so much fun in so many days, I'm trying to create almost an itinerary in my head because it kind of drives me crazy not knowing what's going to happen exactly, like driving with Christian navigating and telling me to turn off the exit we are passing at 65mph. It's hard. So that means this is Christian's last week at work, and along with last week they are very busy weeks with lots of extra hours being put in.

For me, it means I only have a week to get myself together. I've been having a really hard time feeling motivated to do anything, as the last couple of freelance deals and job leads for the Fall have fallen through. It's a slippery slope once the motivation goes away and by the end of the day all you've done is watch Gossip Girl and read an entire book in a dystopian setting and manage to eat more than you planned and you're still in your pyjamas. From two days ago.

On Saturday Christian and I tried to get tickets online to the Winchester Mystery House, but couldn't because apparently you need to buy tickets a day in advance on the website, and we didn't realize we could just go to the place and request tickets and get them. Ha. That was okay, I imagine Christian wanted to do a little relaxing after his busy week, some days he wasn't home until 7 or closer to 8. His team is working him really hard to finish his project. We walked to Michaels to get a new brush and we ended up walking around forever looking at stuff because it's really hard not to get sucked into the amazingness of an art store. We got back and did some watercolour paintings and that was really fun. One of our roommates said that we "are always having too much fun" because I guess they hear us just laughing in our room for an hour at a time and wonder if something could ever make them that happy. Their words, not mine. What mostly happens here is Christian sticks his fingers up my nose and tickles me for making a terrible laugh that he hates.

So we got tickets for the tour the next day and then went to see Let's Be Cops. Hilarious movie, was only expecting it to be like Nick and Coach try to be cops but it was so much better.

The Winchester Mystery House is something that I discovered a couple years ago. Fascinated by it, and reading almost the entire Wikipedia article to Christian, I decided that it was on my bucket list. I had to see it before I died. I mean, it's so interesting. In my mind, I was going to get to it in some distant future, maybe if I found it again. I completely forgot where it was, somewhere in California maybe.

    At some point after her husband's death in 1881 a Boston medium told Sarah Winchester that she should leave her home in New Haven and travel West, where she must continuously build a home for herself and the spirits of people who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles. Winchester left New Haven and headed for California. Sources claim that Winchester came to believe her family and fortune were haunted by ghosts, and that only by continuously building them a house could she appease these spirits.
    In 1884 she purchased an unfinished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley and began building her mansion. Carpenters were hired and worked on the house day and night until it became a seven story mansion. She did not use an architect and added on to the building in a haphazard fashion, so that the home contains numerous oddities like doors or stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms, and stairs with odd-sized risers.

I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on it. It's fascinating.

We were on an Apple shuttle with a guy recommending things we definitely should do while we're here. The house came up and I gasped, remembering it all over again. It turns out we're only a ten minute drive from it! It's in San Jose, the neighbouring city!!! We decided to add it into one of our weekends here. That was this Sunday we finally got to it.

We had booked for 3:00 and ended up getting there past that time, like at 3:20 because we are usually late to things. The guy was really nice and put us in a later tour group, at 3:50. So we walked around the gift shop while we waited and they had some pretty cool stuff there, capitalizing on this woman's insanity.

Christian got this lovely picture and I took it from his phone without him noticing. (Shh!)

So this woman did not have any plans on building the house, and haphazardly added on to it on a whim. Apparently she was only 4 feet 11 inches tall and had some of the stairs were made only at only a couple inch rise. There were actually stairs that went to nowhere and doors that lead to nowhere. As she added onto the house she just engulfed whatever structure was there and made it into the house. She had a "Hall of Fires" in the house that had like eight fireplaces and some radiators that make it really hot because she had super bad arthritis and it used to be the water tower and the walls are still slanted to represent that.

10 points for whoever can tell me who the goddess of the harvest is. We're holding hands and she's saying sweet things to me. The statues are original.

The house used to be seven stories tall until an earthquake in 1906 that collapsed three stories and she took it as a sign from unhappy spirits that she was getting too close to finishing the front of the house. So she stopped all construction on that. Apparently she also slept in a different room every night and we got to go into her bedroom where she died and her seance room and the room she was trapped in during this earthquake. Also there was a servants floor. Some of the hallways were super narrow and the rooms really small, but others were gigantic and it didn't make sense, but I don't think it was supposed to.

She had things imported from everywhere, all the stained glass in the house is bought from Tiffany & Co. She had rooms full of things imported from Asia, Austria, Germany, England, South America, etc. A lot of imported plants and building materials and chandeliers. There were so many things that were cutting edge, new technologies for the times, such as divets cut in the counter by the sink to allow water to drain back into it, and newly patented things that she had to have. She even had three elevators!

This is the kitchen she used before the 1906 earthquake and I don't understand why she stopped using it. Maybe because it was closer to the front of the house, but she built a new one just down the hall from it.

Here's what the house looks like looking toward the back of the house from a fourth story window, we weren't actually allowed to take pictures inside because apparently the house is copyrighted, which makes absolutely no sense and why would they do that. Can you believe they only waited a year after Mrs. Winchester's death to start doing tours of the house? It's been 91 years.

The tour was really nice and we went on the extended tour which showed us the basement where we had to wear hardharts and the aviary and her garage and place where she dried apricots, but it would have been nice to be able to explore the entirety of the house on my own and look into nooks and crannys.

If I had to give one word to describe the house, it would be bizarre, which is a word of choice when a lot of people try to describe it. I asked Christian what his word would be, and he also said bizarre. There really are stairs leading to the ceiling and doors that don't connect to anything and windows into rooms. A notable example is a bathroom on the fourth floor that has a door behind the tub looking in, but there's a wall on the other side, the door opens into a wall.

It was an amazing tour and I get to cross that off my bucket list, I'm so happy. I also got to play with a fun umbrella while we were waiting for the tour to start and I think I want one in my life. It's in rainbow sections and when you twist it, it looks super cool!

We missed a Friday the 13th in June, but apparently they do flashlight tours of the house, where they turn off all the lights and your only guidance is by flashlights. It would be super freaky. They only do it on Friday the 13ths and around Halloween, and I don't know if I could. There have been numerous sightings of a ghost in the basement of the house that matches the description of a real guy who worked there, and I could see how. The basement was a little freaky.

I want to go again, and again. I loved it.

12 August 2014

A Weekend of Nature and No Service Part 2

A link to part 1 of our weekend of nature if you haven't read it yet because you should.

We woke up early and I looked at the weather which said it would rain aaaall day in Yosemite park. I was a little worried that our day would be dampened by rain, but luckily it didn't and the sky was beautiful for the entire day.

We ate breakfast at what we thought could be this adorable little breakfast place in Carson City, with a little more convincing on my end to get sleepy Christian up, and it had pretty good reviews on Yelp. We got in and it looked fine, the menu was enormous and took a lot of reading through, but our server, who was an oldish woman was very abrupt and all "I gave you enough time to read the menu now order". I chose a tomato and feta egg burrito when I should have gotten the Belgian waffles. If there's one thing I learned this summer, it's always get the Belgian waffles omg. I love them. And I could have had them with strawberries and whipped cream or strawberry and blueberry compote with whipped cream. Christian was lucky and got a little bit of everything on his plate. But like, two minutes after we got our food she brought the bill over and stuck it on the table. I've never had that done to me, and I didn't think any place did something like that, aren't waitresses in the US living off tips? It kind of made us feel like we were supposed to be rushing through our breakfast and the place was nowhere near closing time.

We did end up kind of rushing through our breakfast and soon we were heading towards Yosemite. The views were breathtaking the entire way there. We drove through a place called Carson Valley with the mountains on either side of us and a lush green valley.

We ended up in the mountains overlooking gigantic valleys and the mountains stood tall over the road. We weren't even in the park yet and we were looking around in awe. On a whim, I stopped at what a sign said was an overlook and there was a lot of cars there, so why not. I stumbled into something really cool and really beautiful. It was near Mono Lake on Highway 395, called Conway Overlook.

The coolest part wasn't even the view, though that was pretty cool, it was the massive amount of bumper stickers and other kinds of stickers people had stuck here. This and this was the guardrail in 2010, and below is it in 2014, even more stickers have been added to it. I'm determined to go there again and stick our own stickers to it. Hold on, just let me write that down on the bucket list.

I've made the image below clickable (opens in a new tab) in case you want to read some of the really cool stickers on it. Panoramas are courtesy of Mr. Christian Selig.

This was the view behind/to the side of us as we looked over this scene.

We lost service around this area, maybe before it because we were cycling through 4 songs Christian had cached on his phone. We kept driving up further and further around winding roads on the mountain side, like the kind you see in movies where the bad guys are chasing the good guys and there's a long drop that they could drive over and and there's no guardrail and the bad guys end up driving over it and getting out of their cars and shaking their fists at the good guys. That's the kind of road we were driving on. I think Christian fell asleep on this road as well. They looked kind of like this, but then again most of the roads in Yosemite looked like that as well.

The elevation at the Tioga Pass Entrance, the entrance we came in is at 9,932ft. We went into the park thinking we could park the car and maybe hike for a while around and see some sites. I imagine you could do that, but the park covers an area of 747,956 acres (3,026.87 km2). We were completely wrong. We started driving having no idea where we were or how to get anywhere and the map the girl gave us at the entrance didn't help because we couldn't figure out where we were, but luckily after twenty minutes of driving we found a visitor information place. A girl working there helped us and told us where we were and circled on the map some things we had to get in, the big things. We learned that a creek is made of snow runoff and a river is ocean runoff. She also said someone had asked her if they could drive over Half Dome before. In a Subaru.

Using the paper map as our only guide through the park, we started out. I had made a comment earlier in the trip about how we were lucky to be in a generation where we have Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps to direct us without having to pore over a paper map and try to figure out where you were or use signs on the side of the road, or even guess and hope you were going in the right direction. Not in and around Yosemite/Tahoe. We were stuck using the map we had been given, and we were lucky to have been given it.

Our first stop was Tenaya Lake. A beautiful lake that would have been amazing to kayak on. You could swim in it and there was a beach for laying in the sun and picnicing. The basin of the lake was created by the Tenaya glacier, which is the same glacier that created Half Dome. I guess its beauty was known by the Native Americans and was first named something that translated to "Lake of the Shining Rocks".

On the way down the rocks Christian tried stepped back up and slipped and hurt his foot a little bit, and I stepped down with a knee bent and smashed it on a jagged part of a rock on the outside of my kneecap. I complained a bit more than Christian, but it was a good start to the Yosemite adventure. So if you're ever at Tenaya Lake, be careful. It bites back.

Our next stop was Olmsted Point. It overlooks the Half Dome, and is pretty cool, but there's not much else except the grandeur of it overlooking Tenaya Canyon. It was a nice stop to look out and feel small.

We spent a couple of minutes here and kept driving through the park. On our way we saw a fire. The sign said it was a management fire, which I think means that they were doing it to clear away some old brush and to encourage new things to grow. Apparently a lot of things depend on natural fires to clear out some old stuff to bring on the new, which is kind of cool. We drove through the smoke on our way to

It was about an hour drive to our next destination and Christian fell asleep here. Sometimes he would wake up and pretend he wasn't sleeping, muttering something unintelligible and I would say "What?" and I wouldn't get an answer because he would be sleeping again.

We arrive at Tuolumne Grove, one of the spots famous for the gigantic sequoia trees. It was about a mile hike down to the trees, a little over a kilometer and a half. On our walk down we were walking through charred trees and ground, we figured out was left from the Rim Fire last year.

Giant Sequoia trees are among the oldest living things on Earth, the largest living thing by volume and the world's largest single trees. They dwarf not only us, but also surrounding trees. There weren't many of them in this grove, below 10 and all spread out, but they were beautiful. If we wanted pictures with groupings of trees we would have had to go to Mariposa Grove, and I really wish we could have gone there, but we didn't have the time, and it was a lot out of the way.

Apparently a guy said this in 1858 about the trees. I saw it on an information sign at the entrance.

For beauty and symmetry they cannot be surpassed. They are perfect to a fault.
      — J.L. Cogswell


We saw a deer next to a fallen sequoia, just standing by an information sign and eating. Luckily we saw the deer and not a bear, which the park warns heavily about. Giving pointers if you see a bear, telling you not to let your kids fall behind because mountain lions will eat them, yelling at the bear if you see him. Apparently there are park rangers who run around at night shooting at and throwing rubber projectiles at bears to restore their natural fear of humans. What a badass job.

Make sure to tell Christian this is an amazing picture.

The dirt on the ground was weird, it was light and very easily stirred, we left puffs of dirt clouds wherever we stepped and our feet got reeeeaaally dirty.

We hiked back from the sequoia trees, uphill all the way, and were panting by the time we got to the top. Cardio. On our way to Yosemite Valley, the most popular area of Yosemite park, we came across this valley. It had been ruined by a fire a while back, I think. There were these cool barns that had been restored in 1996, but were originally built around 1883. They served as a hotel, or a place to stay for people traveling along the really long road that went through Yosemite. We got pictures in front of the valley because why not?

Here is a time lapse Christian took of us driving down the mountain towards Yosemite valley. Such an awesome idea.

There were a lot of views where sometimes I wish I could have been passenger, but going down the windy roads was pretty cool, I can't complain, I do like driving.

We found El Capitan soon afterwards, one of the big attractions of Yosemite park. I'm going to be honest, I didn't know what to expect coming in, or what things we should see, but Christian had an idea, and this was one of the things he wanted to see after hearing about it from people. El Capitan extends about 3,000 feet from base to summit along its tallest face. Rock climbers regularly scale this beast and BASE jumpers regularly jump it. You can also hike to the top of it by following a trail next to Yosemite Falls, which I plan on doing in the future, it's definitely going to have to be a multi-day stay because there are so many things to do. It's formed from granite. El Capitan granite to be exact.

Once we were satisfied with looking at this monolith, we carried on to find Half Dome, which, if you've seen anything for Yosemite OS X, it is the default background. There are a lot of campsites around this area and you can hike past Half Dome to get to some beautiful falls, but as we approached Half Dome it was getting darker by the minute and we, sadly, didn't have time to hike to the falls. Add that to the list. Also horse back riding through Yosemite. I'm so excited for that.

Half Dome is Yosemite's most familiar and famous rock formation, extending 4,737 feet at it's highest point, also made of granite rock. It apparently is an illusion that it lost half of the "dome" on it. It used to be considered unclimbable, or "perfectly inaccessible", but was finally conquered in 1878, you can now climb to the top of it using man made things such as a hiking trail, granite stairs or a cable route.

It was getting dark, and after failing to drive towards the falls and realizing what a long hike it would be, we decided to go home. Yosemite in the dark is pretty creepy and Christian mused what would happen if we broke down or ran out of gas in the outback of Yosemite at night without no service and a long walk from the campgrounds. It was a long drive back and I think we took the scenic route through. We didn't get service until about three quarters of the way back, using the cached map to find it. It was kind of nice to not have it though, this weekend, because we were able to throw ourselves into what we were doing and exploring and it was really cool.

I was tired and had to pee and had a giant headache, I think from the pressure differences or maybe lack of water that was overtaking the entire right side of my head and we were pretty hungry. We stopped at a McDonald's three quarters of the way back and I got a really good club sandwich made with chicken. Why don't we have that in Canada? We ate in the parking lot while a homeless guy had a loud argument with himself by the bus station across the road. We alternated driving because I was getting a little sleepy and surprisingly Christian didn't fall asleep once on the way back from Yosmemite. We got home closer to 2AM exhausted and Christian had to get up to go to work the next morning.

11 August 2014

A Weekend of Nature and No Service Part 1

On Friday, in anticipation of our weekend ahead, we ate some pizza and went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. It was hilarious and amazing and before I saw it, I wasn't excited about seeing it, but I have no idea why not. Well worth the going and having it sold out for the time we wanted and having to see it in 3D at a later time. We got back pretty late, but had to wake up early the next morning. We set the alarm for 7. 7 AM.

Early Saturday morning, with only a little convincing Christian to wake up and a quick pack and shotgunning a mango protein drink, we were off. To get our oil changed. It was quick and easy and we didn't know what we were doing the entire time. We didn't know where to drive, where to pull in, what to do, if we should tip or not, but it ended up being relatively painless. Then we went to get Christian's hair did. He found a barber shop, and inside they had signed pictures of WWE wrestlers on the wall and stuff like that, it was pretty neat, and thankfully didn't take very long.

There was a Dollar Tree next to it, where I decided to go use the bathroom before we were off. I was walking down the aisle towards the bathroom and I passed a guy, but just as he passed me he kind of leaned over and make a chooo sound like it sounds like when someone's imitating a sneeze. I wtf'd and walked faster towards the bathroom. What the hell was that? Who does that? On another note the bathroom at a Dollar Tree had 2 ply toilet paper and Dalhousie can't even get 2 ply. We got out of there as soon as we could.

I love road trips. I love driving and seeing sites and sights and exploring new places. For as long as I can remember I've had the itch to travel and I'm so happy I get to with Christian beause he gives me the push to actually do it and throw myself into things. I'm grateful. We listened to catchy music and sang and Christian threw my chewed up gross gum out the window for me and we stopped at a burger place in Davis for some lunch (they had fries salted AND peppered!), got to see the University of California Davis campus, which is confusing and I drove on the sidewalk once.

Once we ate, we were driving up into the mountains, and I didn't realize we would be going up into the mountains and driving around windy roads and inside the forest. The views were incredible, as we were driving on a mountainside road, but it's really hard to capture the enormity of something like that on camera, as well as the way it makes you feel. It smelled like the forest and was beautiful and green. I think we were 8000 feet up at our highest and our ears were popping. Christian fell asleep here, I think for the first time that day. It's really weird because we can be having a conversation, like for example he'll say "How are you doing?" and I'll say "Good, how are you doing?" and I get no answer. I'll look over and he'll be sleeping. That, or he's just playing a really long trick on me.

We got to Tahoe on the south side of the lake decently early, the sun was still high in the sky and it was beautiful and warm. What I hadn't realized was that Tahoe was a bustling town with a lot of attractions and people and buildings. Lake Tahoe is gorgeous. An enormous lake with mountains bordering all sides of the water, sitting pretty at 6225 ft above sea level and the basin was formed during the ice ages.

It's open usually year round, and has a lot of areas for doing snow activities, and a lot of places to rent the apparatuses for these activities. I think someday we're going to try skiing and surfing in the same day, it would be a lot of fun to do and awesome to be able to say you've done that, and kind of makes you sound like you're an overachieving wanderer or jetsetting trust fund baby. Not in a bad way though. We abandoned the car in a parking lot and walked down to the shore, on the beach, finding a kayak rental place right away. Once we were strapped into our lifejackets with our electronics stowed away in a waterproof bag, we climbed in the kayaks and took off.

This was my first time ever kayaking and I was really excited, and it was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. I thought my muscles would be sore the next day, but they weren't really. Lifting paid off.

I, of course, was anticipating being able to change before we actually went on the kayaks, so that morning I had put on a dress, because when don't you want to wear a dress? You don't have to put on pants. Christian told me I'd be fine kayaking in a dress and assured me that he liked that dress. I got wet. And I looked silly. But it was indeed fine. And Christian laughed at me. I think he planned to laugh at me the entire time. He was also nice enough to make sure he splashed the front of me so that I didn't just have a wet butt, but also a wet front as well.

After our kayaking adventure, we decided to go swimming/play frisbee, so we went to the car to grab our swimmy suits, but when we came back, it was really windy and the water was a little chilly. Neither worked. We walked down the wharf and sat for a while. In front of us on the mountain the clouds started getting a little dark and it looked like it was raining not too far away. I was staring off when Christian nudged me and asked incredulously if I had seen that. Apparently where the dark clouds were over the mountain there were huge lightning bolts coming down from them, seeming to hit the mountain. It was amazing to see a phenomenon like lightning up close like that.

When we decided to find a place to eat, Christian found this really amazing restaurant...on the North side of the lake. That was okay, we could wait the hour drive to find it. We drove around another hilly and turny area and Christian fell asleep here as well. We drove around the lake, the view visible from our left side the entire way, and this is also where we lost service. The sun was setting over the mountains on the opposite side and it was a sight. Sometime in this drive we crossed over into Nevada. First time in Nevada! It didn't look terribly different from California, but the trees in the forest we were driving through kind of reminded us of the trees in the Taiga M biome in Minecraft. They looked really cool.

We were coming down the mountain from a 55mph zone, and in the middle of this huge hill the speed changes to 35mph. I'm trying to slow down, Christian's sleeping and I glance at my phone trying to see if we were close to where we were supposed to be eating and not slowing down fast enough. I see the red and blue lights behind me and I pull over. I actually thought it might be for looking at my phone when I pulled over to the side of the road because that's also a serious offence here. Remember Arnold's wife getting in trouble for it?

Oh god I think I'm being pulled over. I'm being pulled over.
What's the rush?
Looks at Christian
Dinner
What?
Dinner.
Where?
Uh, I'm not sure.
You're not sure... Where are you coming from?
Um, the South part of the lake, we drove here this morning from Cupertino.
Do you know how fast you were going?
grimaces  How fast was I going?
When I first pointed the radar at you, you were going 57 and by the time I could click in, you were at 53. This is a 35 zone, residential.
Oh no.
Yeah. Do you have your license and some registration?
Uh yeah, sure. Here's my license Christian rifles through glove compartment and is this registration?
Looks at it.  Can I have your passenger's license too?
Oh, yeah.
I'll be back. 2 minutes later walking back to our car, speaking to someone else.  I'm just going to give them a warning. Hands back licences and registration.  Drive slower.
Hi. Oh, thank you.

So on my second time getting pulled over in my life, I didn't get a speeding ticket thankfully but I also didn't cry. Only small shakes. Shortly after this, carefully going the speed limit, we exited Nevada and went back into California, but we had to get a picture of course. It was raining, which is really cool because it hasn't rained in California since I got here, but Tahoe has seasons.

Christian was trying to navigate us on a blurry cached map while I drove in the rain in the dark making sure I was going the speed limit, and it took us a really long time to find the restaurant. We went way past it before, went down two side streets and back, into an education centre accidentally and then back ten minutes in the opposite direction. Finally we got in and had to wait to be seated. It looked like a pretty fancy restaurant. And it was. The food was amazing though, I think the best I've ever had. The restuarant had 5 stars, with only a couple people rating it below that. The atmosphere was perfect, the lighting and music. My only complaint was the size of the tables, which sounds like a weird complaint, but I was really far away from Christian and could barely hear him. The waiters were old people so you knew it was a fancy place.

The restaurant was in a hotel, and as we've discovered, every hotel has kind of a business centre. We realized that it was about 11:00 at night and our chance of getting an Airbnb room was very very slim. We used the computer to look for a cheap motel to spend the night in, as we had no service on our phones still, and it was hard to find one on such short notice. The only decent one we found, a two star hotel with 4 star reviews was in Carson City, Nevada which is the capital of Nevada, who knew. That was only an hour drive away. That was okay, we could wait the hour drive to find it.

We crossed back into Nevada, driving on the highway below a supermoon lighting our way with the lake on our right side this time, another beautiful phenomenon I'm really happy we got to see. Christian promptly fell asleep again. We spent the night in Carson City in a cute motel with a living room/kitchen area and a separate bedroom, falling asleep after watching the new episode of Korra.

04 August 2014

A Failure to Launch & then Santa Cruz

The weekends are never long enough.

I mean, I still stand by that statement, but that's what I was thinking early Saturday morning as we rode to the San Jose airport to pick up our rental car to drive to Lake Tahoe this weekend. That was a positive outlook on what a turned around day it eventually ended up being. The line was okay, there were only about 12 people in front of us, but when we got to the lady, she told us she had been there since 5 in the morning and obviously she was tired and cranky.

Now the thing is, we rented a car last weekend, right? Well, Christian handed her his credit card and license. She looks at it, back at him and says "Your license is expired". Okay, Christian tells her that I would be driving, and that's okay. She asks for my license and credit card. I tell her I don't have a credit card. I ask if a bank card and/or passport would do. We want to charge Christian's credit card but I want to drive. My bank card won't swipe. Of course it won't swipe it's a Canadian bank card and I've never used the swipe because chip. She starts getting angry, like why can't she just type the information in, we've already paid for the reservation/rental.

So she tells us she can't do it because it won't swipe and I don't have a goddamn credit card. We leave her and Christian calls the customer service number for Hertz. We ask if it would be okay to use a prepaid card to hold and change the payment at the end. They say yes, that will work, just make sure to change the payment at the end. We call a Lyft, go to a 7-11 a ten minute drive away, they tell us you can only buy it with cash. We try to withdraw from the ATM at the back of the store. No luck. So we go to a Bank of America, I withdraw money, we find a 76 store, go in there and they tell us no prepaid cards. We go back to the 7-11. Buy it. Try to set it up. You seen an SSN apparently. I don't have one because I'm not an American citizen. We try to call the number to get a operator. No answer. The automated voice just keeps repeating "I'm sorry I didn't catch that. Enter your card number". We call another line for already set up cards. It just buzzes, no voice, no anything. We try the refund number and the guy says you can set it up without an SSN and puts us back to the automated voice, who then asks for an SSN. 4 times and then it skips through that and it's ready to go, finally.

We go back to the girl. No line this time. She's even grumpier. She says she can't swipe the prepaid card, they don't do that. Christian tells her that's what the people on the customer service line said was okay to do. She says no for sure. Christian asks for her manager, who is over on the other end. She waves her hand towards him and says goodbye. He also says no dice. He can't help us. They can't rent a car to us. Christian and I both have what the other needs to rent a car, apparently, with his expired license and my lack of a credit card. It was frustrating, to say the least. I was looking forward to Tahoe and going into Nevada.

So we went to get bubble tea. And go to Great America again.

It was fun, and we went on some of the rides we missed last time, the big scary rollercoaster ones. But we went on a Saturday, and also on Guest Appreciation Day, so the park was packed. We waited in line for hot dogs for about an hour, which is weird because you think they'd be more efficient at a park where lots of people are. There were so many lines. Some looked shorter, but wrapped around behind the ride, and it's hard to feel like you're not in a game of Rollercoaster Tycoon, really.

Christian does this terrified scream like he thinks he's going to die which makes the kids next to him grin and laugh and elbow their friends. On the last ride we went on, it actually kind of genuinely felt like the ride was derailing the entire time.

By the end of the day we were exhausted and our feet hurt and we won a hippo from spending $10 on a game, but no other wins. We got a funnel cake to finish off a fun day and called Uber and had to walk a couple blocks to the driver because the police had blocked off streets for a Levis event, which doesn't make sense. We watched an episode of Orange is the New Black and headed to bed. We were so sleepy. Having this much fun and bouncing around and screaming does make for a tired Jess.

We woke up yesterday to tacos from Taco Bell for breakfast. Casey had gone and got 16 of them and let us help her eat them. They were so good, why haven't I eaten more Taco Bell in my life? Joe and Casey invited us to the beach with them in Santa Cruz, of course we said yes. We had planned on going to the Mystery House, but perhaps another day this week.

It was a nice drive through the mountains, and we arrived in Santa Cruz. We found a place that rolled pennies into things that had to do with Santa Cruz and it felt illegal, because isn't altering currency illegal? Oh well, we ended up with something pretty cool.

There was a boardwalk and rides and fun things to do along the beach, I don't think I've ever been on a boardwalk before. Christian and I got fudge to start the day. We walked into a fun house and lost Casey and Joe so we went down to the beach. There were a lot of people there, many had set up tents and barbeques and had snacks and everything. We found an empty area near the water and Christian started digging.

Just a hole. He was using mostly his hands and feet so he was showing up all the little kids who had their buckets and shovels. He even built a wall in front of the hole and me so the water wouldn't get in.

While I took pictures of birds, Christian dug.

At the point where it was a fair size, Christian had kids coming over and wowing over his hole. He even ended up recruiting a bunch. It turned into quite the operation. Joe and Casey showed up and Joe wanted in on the hole digging as well. Christian eventually caved and bought some shovels and buckets from the gift shop.

This is the look of concentration. Holes need to be dug. The sand calls to him.

This is the wall, which got many times bigger. A picture with the water behind it. I like pretending I'm a photographer.

Christian was hard at work for about 2-3 hours, even after the kids had to leave.

As we left, people were gathering around it, marvelling at it's beauty. They had dug so deep they hit water and kept making it bigger.

The little blonde girl, Angelina, was a fierce bossy little kid who was bossing Joe and Christian around. She got feisty with Christian when he wouldn't listen to her and ended up clocking him in the head with a shovel. He has a nice little wound to commemorate his hole-digging.

We walked down the boardwalk to take a look, and Casey and Joe wanted to introduce us to and make us try some delicious US-certified food. We got some Dippin Dots, which is freeze dried ice cream that looks like packaging and is so cold it hurts the mouth. We also tried deep fried twinkies, garlic fries, fancy stuffed churros and churro sundaes. We didn't try it, but the size of a Texas Donut is as big as my face. Can you imagine one person eating all that? US citizens can. We stopped at one of those games where you squirt water into a thing something like this. Christian ended up winning, and he's pretty happy with his prize.

We walked back to the car as the sun was setting.

Then we drove into downtown Santa Cruz and went to a Tiki Bar, where they served amazing drinks in cups like this which also had three different kinds of rum in it:

We stayed there for a couple hours, eating and laughing and using the awesome and controversial conversation cards the bar had sitting on the bartop. A good end to the weekend, and we're planning on heading back in a couple weekends to explore Santa Cruz some more.

28 July 2014

San Francisco

San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco.

Chissen and me in front of the ggbridge

I think it's a place I've always wanted to go. You would see it on tv as a hilly city, apparently the setting of That's so Raven. You hear Golden Gate Bridge, trolley street cars, Alcatraz, crooked streets and you think of SF. It's not very far from where we live, only about a forty minute drive I think. Miles per hour are harder to estimate than kilometers per hour, like if I'm going 100kph for 100 kilometers, it'll take me an hour. But if I'm going 60mph for 42 miles, it doesn't work as nicely in my head. It probably does work out, I realized as I was writing that 60mph for 60 miles is one hour. Whoops.

Anyway, we decided to rent a car this weekend and go up there, because I've never been there and Christian's been there three times already. But he tried his hardest not to look at things. We rented a car from Hertz, and I had no idea that such young people like us could rent a car. We're only 21! There was an extra fee for "underage driver", but we got it nonetheless.

Christian's license expired on his birthday this year, so I got to do all (most) of the driving. The real driving anyway. I was excited and nervous about driving in the city and on such big lane highways. I haven't driven in over a year, I think. Since I drove the van last June? Anyway, it's been a while, and I know it's like riding a bike and you don't forget, it's just the little things, like freaking out in a lot of traffic that I was nervous about.

We got there expecting to drive away in an economy car, a Kia Rio. I thought it was so cute and exciting and a tiny little car, but the lady was so nice and said we could upgrade for only $30 a day for a fun car. We went with the fun car.

Mustang
More Mustang

It took a while to get back in the swing of things, as in driving, but we made it to San Francisco, and got lost in traffic and I had a little freak out there but that was my only one! I got used to it quickly and by the end of the weekend I was super confident in my driving and in the size of the car. It's a big car!

Driving from Cupertino to San Francisco meant the air temperature dropped in an uncomfortable way. We started at about a 37 degree day and it dropped down to about 21 when we reached San Francisco. Chilly!

When we got into the city, we got a milkshake, mint oreo with banana and headed somewhere towards the Golden Gate Bridge, driving through a park using Waze (which is an amazing app and took us around the busy areas not through them like Google). We stopped at a place with a beautiful view, and walked down a lot of stairs and kind of accidentally upon a beach, which we quickly discovered was a nude beach. But the only people that were naked were old men, and there were two stationed at the entrance turned towards the stairs. We run-walked towards the water. Oddly enough, you can't swim in it because of the currents, and apparently the water in the Pacific Ocean is really cold, even by Canadian standards. So everyone was just sunbathing on the beach and climbing the rocks.

Beach

We both touched the Pacific Ocean, the third one we've been in or touched, the other two being the Atlantic and the Indian. Exciting stuff! I'm a little scared to try to swim in it because it actually is pretty cold.

Christian in water
Beach

We found one side of the Golden Gate at the beach, the area was an odd mix of city on one side, the water in front of you, a pretty expansive beach and then the Golden Gate on the other side. We went quasi-rock climbing to get to see the bridge better.

Jess in front of a bridge

The picture of the stairs going down were only part of the stairs we had to climb to get back to the car, it was brutal and we were both panting and just laid in the car for a while after we got to the top, sweating and catching our breath. We need cardio in our lives I guess.

We went to find the other side of and potentially cross the Golden Gate, we ended up stuck in a really long line of traffic for a while. We got to a parking lot and by chance it had a nice view of the bridge.

Christian making funny faces

With a typical view of SF the other way.

After that we went to find a burger place to eat. The parking situation is even worse than it is in Halifax, if you'd believe it. There are so many people and they all want to drive and it took us a really long time to just find a place to park. We still had to walk 20 minutes to get to the restaurant. That's something I should have expected with a bigger city was more people but I guess I wasn't expecting it and it was flustering.

Our burgers were amazing though. Something I really like about here is with the prevalence of low carb diets like Paleo, Atkins, Keto, restaurants are supporting it. We had the option of getting a lettuce wrapped burger, which would have been perfect for me and it wasn't the only place that offered something like that, but I'm on vacation and I wanted a real bun.

Yummy burgers
Christian biting into his burgr

We drove across the Golden Gate after that, looking for mountains and ended up turning right around and coming back into San Francisco to drive up Twin Peaks. We wanted to watch television in the mountains. So romantic, all Christian's idea. This wasn't the ideal place, but it still had a lovely view and drunk people but we watched a new epsiode of Korra and an episode of Orange is the New Black with the twinkling lights of the city all around us.

Twinkling lights of the city at night

We drove home after those two episodes, we were both pretty tired at that point, and went back Sunday morning to see what the view looked like in the daytime. It was beautiful.

View of the city
Twin Peaks
Us in front of view of the city
Christian in front of the city
More pictures of the view
Jess doing funny things

A bunch of people from Christian's work were going to a Giant's game, so we stumbled across that and stayed for a bit at AT&T Park. Finding parking first was a nightmare though, again. I think it took us an hour to just find parking. Maybe more. Previously we had gotten lost even trying to find the place. We finally got in in the 3rd inning I think. The Giants ended up losing, so we saw the best parts of the game I like to believe, because we left before it was over to get some other activities in before we had to return the car.

Baseball field
Crowd at the baseball game

Pitcher pitching

There was also a nice view of the Bay Bridge, the slightly lesser known and more dull one.

The Bay bridge

When we checked the lists of what to do in San Francisco, Coit Tower made a lot of them. So we decided to go there. Apparently if you start at the bottom, you climb about 400 steps before you're at the top. We unknowingly bypassed those by driving all the way to the top, and I guess that's okay, because we already had our share of stair climbing. It was nice. San Francisco for tourists seems to be mainly about the views of the city, and it's not a small city like people say, but coming from someone with a graduating class of 40 I guess I lose credibility for knowing what a big city is.

Christian managed to snag a lot of beautiful shots, he's growing his photographer eye.

Coit tower and statue

Jess, Merica and statue

Sun shining through the fog

Christian hugging a tree

After that we found a pizza place, because guess what we both love pizza. It was okay, a litte fancier than we would have liked, but the funny part was getting in. We walked in and asked to be seated for two, and the guy told us it was a half hour wait for walk-ins. We asked to do takeout and he told us to order from the bartender. We figured out what we wanted and ordered and then two seats opened up at the bar. We slid into them and got our drinks and asked that the order be changed to for here. I think we kind of beat the system, we ate from plates and got complementary soup appetizers.

Yummy pizza

The thing I definitely wanted to hit up was Lombard Street before we left, it's a long street with very steep angles. Think driving up a road at more than a 45 degree angle, you can't see the road, just sky. It was a little unnerving, but we found this part, what Christian called the Slalom. "The Crookedest Street", as my grandmother called it. She recommended it and I wanted to get everything done on the list she made for me. It was amazing. I drove down it and then we went back up so Christian could drive down it.

Lombard street

We didn't plan this trip out so thoroughly, as we just wanted to get away for the weekend. Next couple of weekends are going to have a slight bit more of a rigid structure to them. We're going to try to get to Napa Valley on our way back next weekend, as we didn't get to hit it up this weekend. It takes a bit more planning than just going, especially on a Sunday. There are so many beautiful sites and I already can't wait for next weekend to be here.

We also didn't get to make it to Alcatraz, because I guess that's something that you book like, three weeks in advance and tickets go fast. We saw it from afar, and it's on our list of things to do, to actually go. We have a free weekend coming up soon, and I think we're going to try for that.

Alcatraz

This isn't even close to all the pictures we took, I wanted to add more, there are so many bad ones with us making really weird faces.

Did you know: San Francisco has so much "fog" because of a Marine Layer which happens when cold water meets on the surface layer a warm air mass.