#TBT Manhattan Beach

I have a confession to make: I am terrified of the ocean.

Stepping into a large body of water – with or without a life jacket – creates a silent kind of mind-numbing terror. Part of this is that I literally sink like a Stone – its not just my last name, it’s what I turn into in water: total dead weight. I don’t even panic, I just fall into a calm state of giving up. I accept the water as it wraps its cold arms around me and drags me to the bottom of the abyss.

When we reached the Pacific Ocean on this trip, it was late at night. Around midnight, I think. We were bone-tired but we knew that we wouldn’t have much time the next day to spend at the beach, so Amanda and I dropped off our bags and my brother at the hotel and set off for a late night rendezvous with the Pacific. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks off the shore, so we didn’t have far to go. I had been to the beach before, but in Florida several years before. That did not prepare me for the sight of the ocean at night.

Ink and infinity is how I remember it. It was a cloudy night, so the only light came from the shore behind us. Everything was black: the sand, the water, the sky. There was really no way to tell where one thing ended and another began. We stayed a safe distance from the water, but when we stopped to sit, I couldn’t shake a nervous feeling. If that water came up just a little too far and swept me off my feet, I knew I’d never be found. I would give up and let the water take me where it willed.

We walked quite a distance on the shore that night, stopping at a couple of guard stands. We passed few others enjoying the quiet night – if deafening waves can be considered a “quiet.” Despite the terror playing on the edges of my consciousness, I could have stayed there all night. But sleep overcame us and we crawled back to our warm beds.


#TBT: Yosemite National Park

When I was going back through the video for this part of the trip, I didn’t come across many clips. I also couldn’t remember much about visiting the park. I remember Bridal Veil Falls and that was about it. So I looked up the first telling of this story.

Not much there either.

By this point of the trip we’d gone as far west as we were going to and had started the return trip home. With only a few days left on the trip, we were tired and tired of eating out of the trunk of the car. We were tired of sleeping in tents. And we were disappointed that we weren’t able to finish going up the West Coast to Washington.

After the excitement the night we arrived in San Francisco — the night we thought we had enough time to drive to Seattle — we just crashed. In the time it took to try to map out a route from northern California to Seattle, we realized there just wasn’t enough time. We went from being at the top of El Capitan to the bottom of Death Valley. The Gypsy Trip had switched from embarking on an exciting adventure to finishing out a list of places to see on our way home. That was how we treated Yosemite: Not as a place to explore and experience, but as a place to come in, check out the high points, and high-tail it out to the next destination.

in retrospect, I wish we’d taken the extra time to go up the coast. It would have been impossible to do it on the timeline we agreed to, and I would never have been able to get back to work on time. I was worried about getting in trouble for attendance, but I shouldn’t have been. I came back to work for about two weeks before leaving permanently for an internship. What’s the worst they could have done? Fire me for my last two weeks? So here’s the lesson to take away from my trip to Yosemite: Take the extra days NOW. You never know where life will take you, so enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

Featured image credit: From Flickr Creative Commons, By Edward Stojakovic. 

#TBT: Death Valley

#ThrowbackThursday: Each Thursday, I revisit a past adventure and publish more of the story than made the first cut.. Beginning the series, I will be recounting parts of the Gypsy Trip – a cross-country endeavor in 2010.  

I really love Thursdays. Its the day that – even though its still within the work week – I get to go on a little adventure. Sure, I’m still technically stuck at my desk watching the clouds roll by outside my window, but for a few minutes I can pull out some old video and relive some pretty amazing adventures. This week we’re traveling back to Death Valley.

It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s dusty. It lives up to its name. But it is also beautiful.

Like just about everywhere I’ve ever been, I want to go back to spend more time. We really only made one stop off on the Gypsy Trip and that was at Zabriskie Point. There was a reason for this that I went into greater detail on the first telling of this story. Without rehashing too much, it was the setting of a cult classic Amanda – one of my travel partners on that trip – had seen. It involved stealing a jet, an orgy in Death Valley and then crashing the jet. Since Amanda’s YouTube channel is gone, and along with it the video, I thought I’d put up my version of the story. It’s ridiculous, and therefore awesome. Amanda is the blonde narrating at the end of the clip; my brother Cory is the guy helping her with the reenactment.

Also in this week’s video are a few snippets of video that I finally edited down. You’ll get some scenic vistas of dusty Death Valley, some complaints from me about needing to “Q.” (Because we felt like we had better manners if we weren’t constantly complaining about how badly we needed to find a ladies room in the middle of nowhere, and called it “Q” instead of “P.”)

#TBT: The elusive Golden Gate Bridge

#ThrowbackThursday: Each Thursday, I revisit a past adventure and publish more of the story than made the first cut.. Beginning the series, I will be recounting parts of the Gypsy Trip – a cross-country endeavor in 2010. 

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Who knew finding this bridge would take the better part of an afternoon?

The first telling of this story didn’t even include any part of this week’s #TBT, probably because all I was thinking about that night when we turned in was the prospect of continuing our drive up the West Coast. At this point we were nearing the end of a 13-day roadtrip and the only things we really planned to do in San Francisco was to find the Golden Gate Bridge and drive Lombard Street. For those of you who may not know, Lombard Street is called the “crookedest street in the world” because it contains eight switchback turns to get travelers down its steep precipice.

You would think that with all the research that occurred before the trip and the GPS that came loaded in the rental car we wouldn’t have any trouble finding these two well-known San Francisco icons.

Think again.

Our search for Lombard Street was fruitless so we turned our attention to the bridge, finding it only as the sun was setting.

Consider Lombard Street on my #BucketList for my next trip to San Francisco.

Detours and dead ends

New Gypsy Trip TagAfter the massive amount of blogging I had to do the last couple of days to get caught up from when my wireless network abandoned me and my Blackberry decided to revolt, I took about 24 hours off. I’m terribly sorry, because everything we saw yesterday in Yosemite and San Franciso should have been immediately shared.

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park

I’ve wanted to visit Yosemite National Park since I discovered Ansel Adams’s photograhy when I was a teenager. I had his photos as my desktop backgrounds for years. I finally got to visit and I was not disappointed. Of course, we had limited time and didn’t get to explore the park as much as we all wanted to, but we did get to see some breathtaking rock formations and Bridalveil Falls.

San Francisco actually turned out to be the best part of my day. Not that I was expecting to dislike the city; I knew I would enjoy it. I’m just usually more of a park kind of girl and less of a city kind of girl when it comes to visiting new places. We ended up getting to see a good portion of the city because Google Maps, not Sheila this time, led us astray.

When we got into the city we drove along The Embarcadero and got to see most of the piers. The real fun began when we tried to find Lombard Street so we could drive down the twistiest road in the city. Google maps kept having us turn off The Embarcadero and circle a few blocks and then go up The Embarcadero further and circle a few other blocks. I think we circled a four or five times before we finally tried plugging a cross street into Sheila and seeing if she could get us there.

She didn’t.

We finally gave up, but even though we didn’t find Lombard Street, we got a nice driving tour of some of the streets of San Francisco. In our search for the twisty road, we found a park on the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge and were able to get pictures of the bay, the city skyline, Alcatraz, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

I could have sat on this wall forever, taking in the bay, but it was chilly outside and getting colder. Don’t forget a hoodie if you plan to go to San Francisco!

By this time it was going on 9 o’clock and we were all famished. We haven’t gotten much better about making time for meals in our travels; we’re usually just in a hurry to get to the next place! We decided to stop somewhere on our way out of the city to eat something other than a hot dog or a turkey wrap. We found Mel’s Drive-In on Lombard Street and decided to stop.

It’s kind of hard to miss this charming little silver diner with its neon signs. I ordered a charbroiled chicken sandwich with twisty fries, and I suggest you do the same. It could have just been that I’ve been deprived of decent meals for most of this trip, but that was the one of the best chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

Diversion Averted

New Gypsy Trip TagIf you had asked me 24 hours ago where I was headed today I would have told you Seattle. After we got to Russ and Charisse’s Friday night we started talking about all the other places in the area we could see. We talked about Yosemite, Redwoods, San Francisco, the Pacific coast, the Northwest. Aunt Charisse is a California girl through and through. As she spoke about different areas in California and beyond, you could see how much she loves traveling the west coast.

We originally planned for this trip to go through Washington and Oregon, but nixed it because we felt like it was too far. Imagine our excitement to realize we weren’t as far as we thought, and then our disappointment when we reality struck and we recognized that, like all good things, this trip had to come to an end.

We started mapping our route during dinner at Mel’s Diner in San Francisco last night. At first count, it was something like 13 and a half hours to reach Seattle from our hotel in San Marcos. And that wasn’t including passing through the Redwoods. Amanda’s and my wants differed slightly here because she preferred to drive straight through to Seattle to be able to see that city, while I didn’t want to be so close to the Redwoods without stopping to pay homage to their awesome hugeness.

We discussed stopping an hour or so short of Portland instead, giving us about the same amount of driving time, but allowing us to see the Redwoods and visit the coast one more time before we headed back inland.

In the end, none of it mattered. With the amount of time we hav e left on this trip we couldn’t afford to spend another day going farther north with out making some headway back east. By hitting Yosemite and doubling back to San Francisco, we spent a third night in California, leaving us four days to get from the west to east coast, putting us driving no less than 12 hours a day for the rest of the trip, not including stops for Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore.

We began a big push to make up our lost ground this morning. We have about 265 more miles to make it to Idaho Falls tonight and then on to Yellowstone in the morning. We’ll have around 10 hours of driving to cover each day for the rest of the trip to get home Wednesday.

I have lotsa pictures and video from San Franciso that I hope to get posted fromthe cabin tonight. 🙂 it was such a beautiful city!

We must have lost our minds

I’m pretty sure that sight of the Pacific Ocean has made us completely lose our minds. After we got to Sacramento today, Aunt Charisse started talking about all the different things we could have done, but didn’t,New Gypsy Trip Tag and all the things we could still do. And it got us thinking.

You see, waaay back when we began planning this trip, we were originally going to start out going through South Dakota, the Pacific Northwest, down through California then through the Southwest before coming home. In an attempt to keep from overdoing it on our trip, we ended up cutting out the Pacific Northwest part and gave up on it entirely. Well, we brought it back.

With just a few extra hours of driving a day, we’ll be able to see the Redwoods, the coast up to Seattle and Seattle itself, while still being able to see Yosemite, San Francisco and Yellowstone.

I’m throwing out the red binder and all my plans for the trip. And I’ve never felt better. 🙂

And they said Sacramento wasn’t cool

New Gypsy Trip TagToday we made the haul from SoCal to Sacramento to visit my aunt and uncle. But before I get to everything we did, I want to share the story about how I met them.

Almost 10 years ago, I met my Uncle Russ, Aunt Charisse and their daughters Charisse Ann and Carole for the first time. Uncle Russ, or Ken as he’s know by everyone else in the world, is my Grandpa’s son from a previous marriage. After Russ’s mother left my Grandpa, she took Russ to California and he didn’t know that he had even lived in Cincinnati, or even what his real name was, until he was a teenager.

Russ’s mom sent pictures to Grandpa over the years, so my mom and her sisters grew up knowing they had a brother somewhere in California. Beginning when they were teenagers, they tried to find him. All during this time, Russ never knew about his family in Ohio. As Russ got older and began learning more about his early childhood, he started looking for his lost family too. Finally, in 2002, with the help of an ancestry website, we were reunited with Russ. He flew to Cincinnati shortly after to meet his father for the first time in about 40 years, and to meet his mom and sisters for the first time in his life.

I’ve boiled this story down considerably for the sake of space. Its just amazing that we were able to visit relatives that, until about eight years ago, no one ever thought we’d find.

Uncle Russ recently started a new business repossessing property in the Sacramento area. In the process of repossessing buildings, he’s had people come after him with machetes and hammers and had the SWAT team called after he went to a property. Charisse Ann, my cousin, thinks he needs a reality show made after his business. I’d totally watch it!

We went to Old Town Sacramento, where it all began in the first gold rush in the country. The streets are fashioned after an old western town, but the shops and restaurants are eclectic and modern. There is an awesome costume shop with just about anything you could ever want to dress up as just about anything. The city as a whole is very pretty and I’d love to be able to spend more time there.

If this entry seems less than sparkling, it has nothing to do with how I feel about Sacramento. It has everything to do with the fact that it is 2:40 a.m. and I’m about to pass out. I LOVED Sacramento, even its tiny little river. 🙂

The Sacramento version of the Golden Gate Bridge.
We stumbled onto this amazingness looking for a Pauly Shore wig.  Don’t ask.

At World’s End

New Gypsy Trip TagFinally, we made it to Manhattan Beach. The town was adorable at night, and positively stunning in the daylight. We had to make a pit stop at a McDonald’s on the way; we’ve had a bad habit of not stopping to eat on this trip. By 11 p.m. the most any of us had to eat was some peanut butter crackers and chocolate donuts. I tell you that was the best quarter pounder in the history of my life.

We stayed at the Sea View Inn on Highland Avenue. It consisted of a cluster of three or four buildings surrounding a small, bean-shaped pool. We climbed a couple of steep flights of stairs to get to our room. Our front wall was solid windows, giving us a view of the pool and a glimpse of the ocean. Amanda and I were in the room long enough to change and then we headed to the beach.

Now, when I think about Southern California beaches, I think of sun and the associated heat. We spent from about 11:30 p.m. until almost 2 a.m. walking and sitting on the beach and I was near hypothermia before we left. But it was worth it.

I’ve never been a water person. I swam in pools when I was younger, but I prefer to not be soaked head to toe anymore and not to sit and sweat on the side of a beach. The Pacific Ocean changed all that.
The first glimpse of the ocean I got last night absolutely terrified me. There is something about seeing the dark, smoldering grey of the cloudy night sky meet the inky black of the water on the horizon. When the only thing breaking up the shades of black are the white caps of waves crashing up on the shore, the ocean is a beautiful, terrible sight. There was no moon, no stars. The only light on the beach came from lighting along the bike path and the flashlights we brought with us.

We could have stayed there all night watching the waves break on the beach, but we were getting soaked from sea spray and frozen. I think it was around 60 degrees outside, but it felt much colder.

We intended to get up to watch the sun rise, but my Blackberry’s alarm didn’t sound (have I mentioned that I’m really over this phone?) and Amanda snoozed through her alarm. We got up at 8 a.m. and had about three hours before we had to check out of the hotel and be on our way.

It was warmer, but still cool. I really never thought we’d be sitting in the beach in our sweats shivering. But we got to watch surfers, sea gulls, fishermen and runners along the beach. I never wanted to leave. The morning was still overcast, we didn’t get out of the cloud cover until we were almost to Santa Monica. Instead of the ocean being shades of black, the water took on a greenish color that complemented the grey sky. The white caps of the waves started out brown as they picked up sand on their way up the beach.

I need to get back to this beach.

We finally left with the intention of following the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco but we underestimated how much time it would take to get up the coast. Not far past Santa Monica we diverted and headed straight to Sacramento. We aren’t sure yet what we’re doing tomorrow, but we’ll be figuring it out soon!

We made it!!