California trip, Part 2

After my earlier wanderings in California, and my adventures at Wheel of Fortune, we tried to figure out a good spot to eat lunch. We decided on the Stinking Rose, a “garlic-themed” Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. We made our way over there (through traffic, of course!) and it took awhile to find somewhere to park, but then I realized that there was free on-site parking (score!) Lunch was good. I had the ravioli which was not overly garlic-y, though I did have a bit of PJs garlic pizza which was quite garlic-y. When lunch was over, and the waiter came back offering dessert, we asked him if there was anything with garlic. We thought we were so clever, but in the voice of someone who has probably heard that 1000 times, he did mention there was garlic ice cream (eww?).

By the time that we were done with lunch, it was around 3pm, and Anne and PJ decided to head back home. After some consultation, Kerry and I decided to head down to Santa Monica. So after we changed out of our WoF clothes and into something a bit more casual, we headed out. Traffic actually wasn’t TOO much of a pain but it took us a bit of time once we were down there to find somewhere to park. We ended up in an $8 public lot right by the Santa Monica Pier. I had brought a swimsuit to potentially go ocean diving but I had failed to get a towel. I remember intentionally not packing one figuring I could pick one up from my aunt and uncle. And while I’m sure I could have, I had forgotten to actually DO that :-D .

We walked up and down the pier for a bit, checking out the sights. Kerry rode one of the carvinal-style rides, and we checked out the markers denoting the end of the famous Route 66 highway.

We got an ice cream which was decent yet over-priced, and I found a penny (one of only 2 coins found during my whole trip!) While we were walking back on the pier we saw a crowd forming and looked over and it appeared that someone was shooting a movie there! Nobody I recognized and judging from the looks of it, probably a minor / indie project but it was still cool.

After that, I swung by the bathroom there and changed into my swimsuit and we headed off the pier down to the beach. Having had quite the experience in jumping in large bodies of water, it was fun, and I even got in a sweet wave jump. After a bit of playing around, we headed back to the car and back to Calabasas. Rather than going back via the interstates, we decided to drive back via the Pacific Coast Highway and Topanga Canyon which was nice.

We had dinner with Larry and Anne and I turned in pretty early in the evening. The time zone differential, coupled with knowing I’d have an early start the next morning made me feel awful tired. Got up about 3:45 the next morning to take Kerry back to Sacramento. Well, to take Kerry back AND FOR COUNTIES!!!! I had a route planned out which would let me pick up 25 new counties in California. When I explained to my aunt about how I was going to drive to Sacramento and back to LA in one day, she totally thought I was crazy. And frankly, who’s to say she was wrong? :-)

First problem was when we were trying to get onto I-405 north from US 101. You know how lots of times when you’re driving on Interstates, and you see electronic signs alerting you to lane or exit closures at some crazy early time and you kind of ignore them because who drives in the middle of the night? Well, alas, that happened to us. The exit ramps to NB 405 were closed until 5 a.m., and it was only about 4:25. So we had to detour around which thankfully didn’t take too much time or effort. After that, it was a pretty straight shot from I-405 to I-5 to CA-99. Thanks to the time change, even though it was awful early, I was still able to call home and talk to Carolyn for a bit. I did feel a bit sleepy while it was still dark, but once the sun came up, I didn’t have much of a problem. Kerry slept most of the early morning, until a slight detour off of CA 99 to get Kings County. While we were there, we stopped to get gas and some snacks, and I regaled the attendant with my amazing celebrityhood. We took a wrong turn to get back to the highway and drove down the main street of Kingsburg, which is apparently famous for its “Swedish Festival“.

Continuing on Route 99 through Fresno (the most populous US city without an Interstate in its borders), we got Kerry back home to Sacramento a little before noon. I spent an hour or two hanging out with her and her family, which was nice, as I hadn’t even met my youngest niece and nephew and hadn’t seen the other one in many years.

I had brought them each a little present so I could try and cement my status as “the cool uncle” :-) , and it was good to see everyone. But I couldn’t stay too long, as I still had about 10 hours before I’d be back to my bed, so after some directions to a grocery store (to pick up the obligatory “Dan travel snack” of lemon cookies), I was on my way.

There was some bad construction / traffic on I-80 westbound just west of Sacramento, but it cleared up before too long. I was listening to an Orson Scott Card book called Pastwatch, which I found quite enjoyable. I had read the book a few years ago but it was definitely a good listen also. I did one out and back on my way to San Francisco (to pick up Contra Costa County) and then approached San Francisco from the north. I got off of 101 right before the Golden Gate bridge and went up into the foothills to take a few pictures.

It was hard finding somewhere to park but I managed okay. It was here that a wave of sadness hit me in that I was getting to see all these cool sights and I had to do it all alone :( . It just wouldn’t work out that Carolyn and/or the kids could come with me, and there was nothing that could be done about it, but it still made me sad.

After crossing the Golden Gate into San Francisco, I made my way over to Lombard Street, billed as the “most crooked street in the world”. Traffic was moderately heavy in-town, but it got worse as I got going up the hill to the top of Lombard. The hill was pretty steep (of course) and I had to resort to driving with two feet – left one on the brakes and right one to push the gas. There was a lot of peeling out from cars, both from myself and from other cars. As I got closer to the top of the hill, I decided to pull an audible and instead of driving down the street, I parked off to the side and just walked the block and a half to the top and then walked down the crooked part.

With not a ton of time to spare, I figured that would work. I’ll have to remember next time if I’m in the area that it’s probably best to approach Lombard from a side street near the top of the hill. At the bottom, I decided to use my iPad to record a video of me trying to set a record for the fastest time to run up the steps. I didn’t get a great time (too many people in the way!) but it was fun.

Then it was back in my car and I drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf. I had some directions printed out about where to park but while driving, I decided to pull an audible and parked underneath Ghirardelli Square. I had planned on buying some chocolate there so I thought I could get some validated parking. But first, I hoofed it over to Fisherman’s Wharf. I took in the sights and stopped by the Musee Mecanique, which was pretty cool. Then I ordered a crab sammich (seemed like the thing to do) and by then it was time for me to head back to my car. I stopped into the Ghirardelli store and bought some chocolate, but not nearly enough to get my parking validated. It worked out okay though because I had only been there a little bit so the parking charge was not egregious. There was one guy painted all silver who was “posing” as a statue

Then I drove along the bay on the Embarcadero. Passed one homeless guy begging that I thought had a funny line – he would tell passersby “I’m looking for a down payment on a hamburger”. A little bit later, I passed AT&T Park and apparently there was a Giants home game – even though it was only about 5pm local time, there were a lot of folks dressed in orange and black. I was wearing my orange Browns shirt, so at least I was fitting in color-wise :-) . A little south of that, I got back onto the highway and then it was a long drive back to Los Angeles. For the most part (350+ miles) I was on US101, with only a few detours around (for counties!) A little north of Los Angeles, my route had me cut over on CA134, which saved a few minutes versus just staying on 101. Tragically, a few miles in, I was pulled over by the cops. The officer said I didn’t have my lights on, as well as that I was “following too closely” to the car in front of me. It turned out that I just had the running lights on, even though I had had no problem seeing things. He only cited me for the following though, which turned out to be a $247 ticket (!)

I got back to my aunt and uncle’s house around 10:30 p.m. and headed off to bed. I had another early morning – had to be up on the road by 530 or 6 in order to make it to the airport for an 8:15 flight. No real problems there – I had a bit of trouble finding the Avis dropoff but no big deal. Flight was normal and got back home around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. All in all, a very fun trip!

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