To keep a long story short*, I'm going to go with bullet points.
- I'm am not built for airplanes. I think something a fellow traveler said, sums it up. "They need to start building planes in New York. I think they build them in Korea and think that every one who flies is that size. If they built them in New York, we would be more comfortable." This is from the same man who showed me a picture of his pot bellied pig, who was waiting for him and his wife to return home from their 14 day cruise.
- My first time renting a car was made more exciting by the speedy, if clownish, car that allowed me to hum along the California Autobahn, and keep up with the maniacal lead footed Natives.
- I cannot allow another five years to pass between visits with my dear sweet Cousin A. I treasure my friendship with her, and hold her wisdom and insight to be a valuable part of my life.
- Getting to meet her lovely children was one of the highlights of my trip. They are an adorable mix of their parents and I had such a fun time enjoying their energy.
- Of note, Folsom ain't just for prisons. That town is on my revisit list.
- There would be a hole in my life if my Granny Earlene were not a part of it. I could just sit and spend time with her and be completely content. I am so grateful to have been able to visit her on this trip, and my only regret is that the time was much too short.
- During said visit with Granny, I got to see a few family members that I met once, a very long time ago. One of them said during conversation, "Have you been watching the news? The Grapevine might be closed?" To which I thought, "That's nice, what is the Grapevine?" Let's just say that when you have to look at this to figure that out, your day just got a lot longer.
- After checking the road conditions and calling other local family members, someone said "If you are going to go, you should go NOW." Wow, a little drama to spice up my trip. Okay. I leave with Granny teary-eyed and saying "If anyone can do it, YOU can, Brooke." I feel as if I am a pioneer with the Donner Party (I know right State, wrong mountains). In that case, is it a good or bad thing I'm traveling alone?
- I speed through Central California in the rain and cold. Not really the weather I was looking forward to, and a friend so graciously tells me, "Well, it is seasonal weather." Yeah, thanks. I could have been stuck in this weather FOR FREE in North Carolina. But, I am in California for the first time in 10 years, I am going to enjoy it no matter what. Damn it.
- As I mentioned in a previous post, I am enamored by California and it's singular style. You just can't get this stuff anywhere else. It was very hard to remember I didn't have time to waste (there is that dreaded mountain to climb after all) and stop in every little town off The 99. Rusted neon signs. Old deserted motels. Bungalows. Main Streets. I finally zeroed in on Merced and asked the man at the gas station where downtown was. It was a short visit, it is hard to wander in that kind of weather. But I got enough pictures to have a good remembrance.
- Ah, Bakersfield. How your desolation provides little comfort for a weary traveler. It was still light enough to see The Grapevine, my nemesis, and what I was getting ready to battle. Definitely not what I was expecting when I planned this trip months ago. But, Granny was right, I can do it.
- I make it to the base of the mountain in time to be surrounded by darkness. I had previously thought that if I was going to be stuck going up in to these canyons of wind, I would at least need to have as much day light as possible. I am not the most brave night time driver. My day time self would be very disappointed at how over cautious I can be. But it was about half way through my drive in those mountains when I realize how grateful I was to be blind to everything outside of my peripheral vision.
- I wouldn't characterize myself as "afraid of heights". But, there are a couple of instances where I just can't handle what is below. One of those is driving along the side of a cliff. I remember being on trips back and forth to Truckee and having to ask my Mom to drive in the other lane so the valley below was out of my line of sight. All of those movies where a car goes off the side of the road and tumbles end over end just eat at my imagination. During this drive, I was more than grateful to be ignorant of those possibilities.
- Hello, SoCal! How I have missed thee. Lights fill the valley for as far as I can see. My arms are stiff from trying to make sure the steering wheel doesn't somehow get a mind of it's own, but I can almost forget that when I see Magic Mountain appear. I don't think I ever got to ride the roller coasters, but I always thought it sounded like THE coolest place. So, I had dinner at a Del Taco across the street. Killing one and a half birds with one stone.
- Let me take a moment to give a shout out to my friend "Michelle". We didn't really get along during the trip to Boston. But, having more wide open space for her satellite brain to guide me along the maze of freeways in California was a blessing. I have to say I had a very pathetic first world complaint while using the GPS during my trip. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I said to myself, "How in the world did we ever find our way around on road trips without GPS?". MAPS, dear.
- Have you ever heard of Hotel Indigo? It is my new favorite place. I actually first hear of the from Sweet Juniper and thought, how can there be a cool place to stay in Cincinnati (sorry)? [Can't find a link to Dutch's recommendation] But this place is stylish, comfortable, clean, and dare I say a bit on the luxurious side. If you have never bid on Priceline, you are missing out. I got a STEAL, thanks Mr. Shatner.
- They say you can't go home again. Such a cheesy cliche, but they also say it's a cliche because it's true. Mom gave me the address of the house we lived in during the bulk of our years in SoCal. 11179 Hamal. I remember the back hoe digging the tree out of the back yard and playing in the pit left behind. I remember the beautiful eucalyptus (I think) tree outside my window. I remember the walls off the canal jutting into the sky just past our property line. It is never as enchanting as you remember. Especially when some jerk has ripped out your beloved tree. AND replaced it with a Palm tree.
- Monday Morning. A-Day. I have been anxious for months about this day. I had built up such a nervous energy that it was manifesting itself as hives the week before I left. I was nervous on the short drive to T&N's house, but not shaking and scatter-brained, as I thought I would be. I knocked on the door and entered their sweet home. Scanning the room for A, anticipating his sounds. He was playing on the floor, a happy little wiggle of a boy. Hugs all around. Looking back, I was so lost in the moment, I don't really remember holding him for the first time, again. I just remember enjoying his precious chubby cheeks. Dancing and happy. My own nose, pointing back at me.
- A had a snack and we went to lunch. T decided we would go to the Mission Inn, and I am so glad he did. What a beautiful place. Even in the rain we wandered for hours, sneaking up stairs and down elevators. I would love to stay there someday. Although it is not a REAL Mission, it sure felt what I imagine Spain would be like.
- After a few hiccups in arranging dinner plans, I was on my way to meet my old friend Joe. I have known him for 10 years and we have never met. Strange to be so close to someone but to have never set eyes on them. You would have never known it, our evening was so comfortable and familiar. Even though he kept trying to convince me that The Academy Awards was right across the street. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, that is. That would be an EMMY statue. (I apologize for the two pictures after that. Need to know basis. But enjoy them anyway.)
- Tuesday Morning I wake up to the thought that if this day is covered in rain, like the others have been, I will declare my trip ruined. A bit on the dramatic side, but I have had enough. N says the beach is on the schedule and I just pray that the poncho my friend Brian recommends is not needed. I follow T&N to Newport, as I will be traveling up the coast later that evening and nothing in SoCal is "nearby".
- When I tell N that I got a little weepy when we crested the hill and I could see the ocean, she shares that it has always been her favorite part of a trip to the beach as well. Another reason on the list to love her. (Yes, there are greater reasons, but I am so glad A will grow up with someone who will share a love for the ocean with him.) I have been to SoCal beaches, but 20 years between visits is much too long. It is breathtaking. I am overwhelmed by not only how beautiful it is, but how different it is from the East Coast. I don't feel ashamed to say the West is better at this kind of stuff. We walked down the beach to a tide pool and from N's pictures of a previous adventure in starfish sightings, I was excited to get a first hand look. No luck. Maybe that dreaded rain sent them in to hiding. I know the feeling. All in all, it was a much needed experience, the ocean is a calming force in my life.
- We finish our time together, in Balboa. I've had the time of my life, taken more pictures of seagulls than should be legal and been called out on my "obvious tourist behavior". I'm ok with that. We walk back to our cars and THIS is where I make sure I'm paying attention. To relieve the guilt and pain of not being aware last time. I hold him, kiss his neck and say goodbye. I realize now that I did not need this trip as much as I thought I did. I did need to hold him one more time, while he is still a baby. But, I knew the moment I saw them that T&N were the ones. I had faith in their compassion and love. A's life is better spent in the uncomplicated awareness that while I am out there, loving him and wishing the best for him, I don't want to confuse his young mind. If he wants to see me, I will be there in a flash. But, for now, I will allow him the freedom to have a happy undisturbed childhood.
- PCH, Pacific Coast Highway. Being a beach nerd, I always imagined the PCH to be the ultimate in a California Coastal Advevnture. Granted, I didn't travel the entire lenght of highway, but it was fun nonetheless. I was on my way to meet an internet friend for dinner in Redondo Beach and I'm glad I chose a visit to his hometown, rather than more of LA with the other option of Anaheim. I was so tired, I'm sure he thought I was looney tunes. But it was nice to decompress during conversation with one of the coolest guys I know.
- There are Goats every where. Even in the most unexpected places.
- When the fun is over, you have to pack everything back up and check out. And fly all the way home. And get stuck in Minnesota for a few extra hours while they discover the landing gear might not be working to the best of it's ability. And deplane. And pack yourselves back in another sardine can, I mean airplane. And get home at one in the morning. And have to go to work the next day.
- But, while I was off having my adventure. The family I work for was at Disney World. I came to work Thursday morning to stories of princesses and beasts. I'm glad we all have our stories to share.
*Yeah, sorry about that. I have a lack of editing skills.
P.S. I blame any and all bad photography on my camera phone. And on Joe, for allowing me t0 leave my REAL camera behind.