Say a Prayer When California Falls into the Sea

Thursday before departing San Francisco, we went to Dottie's True Blue Cafe for breakfast on Pat's recommendation. It is located in the heart of the Tenderloin district. We walked since it was only about 7 blocks from our hotel. Pat did warn that it would be a sketchy neighborhood, and he was right! I've never seen so much flagrant drug use in my life. The entire neighborhood smelled of marijuana.

At one point I witnessed a couple of people smoking crack--or at least I presume it was crack, as they were using those straight glass pipes that you've seen in the movies... or in the Marion Barry sting operation footage. What was most shocking about the crack smokers, is they were doing it in plain view of the Tenderloin District Police station! But, despite how frightening the neighborhood seemed, not a single person bothered us or even approached us.

Oh, yeah, and Dottie's was filled with normal people (perhaps the wrong adjective, but I mean non-homeless and non-addicts). There was about 8 people waiting for seats, and it was 10 am on a weekday. Of course the food was fantastic. Horrible for your health (we sat at the bar, so we saw the massive amounts of butter used), but extremely tasty. When we left there was about 12 people (some had to wait outside) waiting for seats.

From San Francisco we drove to San Jose, to meet Dad's friends Earle and Sandy Jenner. Earle and Dad worked together in the Sixties. I was 5 years old when I last saw them, so I only had a vague memory of them, but I did remember. San Jose is also the place of my birth, but Dad wasn't feeling well, so unfortunately he didn't get a chance to show me around the places we used to live.

We spent 2 days in Los Angeles. Dad and I were both suffering from colds by this point (mine had started in San Francisco), so we kept a pretty low profile in LA. On Saturday Dad stayed at the hotel while my friend Sharon (and her friend) showed me around town. Unfortunately, traffic was horrible, so a lot of what I saw was slow moving cars (possibly due to the many Oscar parties around town causing gridlock). We had Sushi at Manhattan Beach, then walked out on the pier.

We then went to the LA Observatory, which is a pretty cool building, not to mention the views from it. You needed a reservation to go inside, but I enjoyed just walking around the exterior. After that we intended to go watch the sunset from Santa Monica, but traffic foiled our plans. Later I picked up Dad, and then we headed over to Sharon's house for a home cooked meal! How nice!

Reminds Me: As we drove out of LA (and boy does that take forever... over an hour of driving at 75 mph and we were still in the greater metropolitan area), I couldn't help but think of my favorite lyrics from Firewater's "So Long Superman":
Say a prayer when California
Falls into the sea
L. A. I never knew ya
Goodbye, good riddance to ya
Go to hell and hallelujah
You never meant much to me

Sunday Dad and I headed to Santa Monica to meet my friend Melissa (who just moved to LA from DC) for lunch. We got there early, and strolled around Santa Monica. By dumb luck we stumbled on a very peaceful anti-war demonstration called "Arlington West". They had crosses in the sand on the beach--I thought one for every soldier killed in Iraq. Most of the crosses were white, and some were red. I asked what the significance of the red crosses was, and it turns out they have run out of room on their permit to fit all the white crosses needed to represent every soldier, so the red crosses represented 10 soldiers killed. The whole experience was very powerful, and not too unlike the Vietnam Wall, except it is current events instead of history.

After our lunch with Melissa, we headed to San Diego. We got there a bit late to do much more than get dinner then drive around and check out downtown from the car. Monday morning we got up and toured the aircraft carrier USS Midway. We both enjoyed that, and after 4 hours aboard, we still missed an entire section of the ship, but it was time to finally head Eastward. I type this to you from Yuma, AZ, where we are now one time-zone closer to home.

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Wine Country to San Francisco

Monday night we stayed in Calistoga. Perhaps not the best place to spend with your dad. It appears that the entire town is geared towards couples seeking romantic getaways. Finding rooms with two beds proved challenging. Anyway, we managed.

I was designated driver through wine country, and dad enjoyed sampling the wine, but he was disappointed that it wasn't like it was 40 years ago (namely free). Most of the vineyards charge $5 or $10 to taste 3-4 wines. I get it, although sometimes it did seem ridiculous. They have to do something to prevent abuse, and charging a small fee seems reasonable. But some of the winery's we stopped at sell wine for under $10 a bottle at the grocery stores in VA. That wine has been shipped and taxed, and you get a whole bottle for less than a taste of 3-4 wines. Furthermore, we were visiting wine country in the off season during the week. So, mostly I think it is reasonable to charge for the tasting, but sometimes it just seemed silly.

We arrived in San Francisco Tuesday. Just before sunset, I spotted an owl sitting on the roof of the building outside our hotel room. Later, Dad was a good sport and went to get sushi with me for dinner. There wasn't much cooked food on the menu for him, but he managed. In fact he even said he enjoyed the meal. He's come a long way the last few years with his culinary openness.

Wednesday morning I noticed the owl had not moved, and so I pretty much knew at that point I had been tricked. Pat and Thea did confirm that fake owls are quite common here to keep the pigeons away. I feel a little silly spending all the time I did on these long exposures of a fake owl.

Anyway, I met Pat and Thea for dinner for the awesome Zante's Indian Pizza. Then we went to this great cocktail lounge, where if you're adventurous, you just tell the bartender a vague idea of what you're in the mood for, and they mix up an incredible cocktail that you've probably never had before.

Tomorrow we head to San Jose to have lunch with old friends of Dad's, then we head south with our destination still undecided.

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Oregon/California Coast

The days do begin to blur together on the road. And I'm already not doing what I promised... which was keeping the blog tersely updated daily. Some pictures have been added to my flickr account. Also, don't forget to check out Dad's photos.

We stayed in Crescent City, CA last night, where our motel advertised free high speed Internet, and yet I was only able to surf for about 30 minutes. Tonight we are in Willits, CA, and the Baechtel Creek Inn has blazing fast Internet.

We made a slight detour to go through Redwood National Park. It looks like it hasn't been visited by citizens or park rangers for many years. Go to Sequoia instead. But our adventure for Sunday was walking into a biker bar called Lumberjack Saloon in Orick, CA. I knew it was a biker bar before we went in, but I figured we had to check it out. We stopped there for lunch. It sounded so much more interesting than the (forgot the name already) diner next door. Walking into it was almost like it is in the movies... we were the only non-locals in the place, and we definitely looked out of place. And as it turns out they weren't selling any lunch (they are a bar only kinda bar).

But the similarities to the movies ends there. Instead of the rough, tough attitude you see portrayed in the movies, we were warmly welcomed by everybody in the place (the bartender and all the customers). The bartender was very friendly in explaining our lunch options, and even offered to call an order in to the diner next door and have them bring the food over to the bar. We were driving so we weren't going to have any beers, so we ended up just going next door, but in retrospect I realize we missed out on a great opportunity. We could have basked in the surrealism of that place for an hour rather than just 3 minutes.

Oh, and one more observation. Both in Crescent City and here in Willits, they seemed to have abolished all child labor laws. We've seen at least 3 girls no more than 11 years old working in the restaurant industry here. Today we set out for wine country.

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You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

You don't always get what you pay for. Our first two nights in Seattle were in the Silver Cloud on Broadway. I'm a fan of their hotels. I stayed in the one in Portland last November. They are a bit pricey though if you're going to be staying in hotels for 4-6 weeks in a row. But very nice. At $159/night, you get what you pay for. Fantastic indoor pool, exercise room, a much better than average continental breakfast, guest laundry facilities, free internet, refrigerator/microwave and a great room in a hip part of Seattle.

Then we were off to Bellevue for the Rails training. I booked us in at the Sheraton Bellevue East (where our training was) at the group discount rate of $159/night. Now, this place was almost a dump. Not quite a dump, but almost. Our room was small, outdated, and smelled of mildew. The staff were a bit arrogant. The Internet was not free ($10.95/day). After taxes and Internet, the room was nearly $200/night. While we were able to walk to a few restaurants, we were not in nearly as cool of a location as we were in Seattle.

Well, after burning through a lot of cash in less than a week on hotel rooms alone, I was determined to be a bit more economical in Portland. And perhaps I over-corrected, because I couldn't find anything that didn't sound like a flea-bag motel in Portland proper, so we stayed in a Quality Inn in Vancouver, WA. But the point is, for $65, we spent a night in a huge suite with refrigerator/microwave, free internet, free HBO, etc... And it did not smell of mildew. It wasn't a great room, but it also is a Quality Inn, not the Sheraton. And it was roughly the same distance from city center as Bellevue was.

Anyway, enough complaining. Dad and I are doing well. He's driving at the moment and I'm typing. We just drove past Eugene, OR. We have no idea where we'll stay tonight. We're going to wing it. We're going to probably get off the Interstate soon and cut over to the coast.

UPDATE: We're in Reedsport, OR tonight. Pictures to be posted when I get a chance.

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Road Trip 2.0

When I set out on the open road back on October 4th, I had no intentions of spending six weeks getting to Seattle (rather I thought the entire trip would take that long). Three months after ditching my car in Seattle and flying home, I arrived in Seattle tonight with Dad for the second half of my road trip. Already the trip has gotten off to a spectacular start, with the simple fact that my car wasn't stolen, broken into, nor damaged in any way. Remarkably the car started without any difficulty. So, soon Dad and I will be setting out across the country, and I expect we'll spend about six weeks getting home. First we'll head down the West Coast in search of a warmer route home (although one can hardly complain with the balmy 50 degree weather here in Seattle). As with last time, I intend to update this pitiful blog, however I very much doubt that I'll be as verbose as I was on the way out. Thanks to all of you who have been in touch the past month or so... I really feel privileged to have so many good friends. I hope to see some of you along the way, and others when I get back.

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