Thursday, December 24, 2009

Houston: Home Sweet Home

Sorry for the delay in posting a new update. My little sister has been berating me nonstop to post something new and since I didn't get her anything for Christmas, I thought this could suffice.

We left Phoenix last Friday and booked it to El Paso where we stayed with Paige's Uncle Frank, Grandpa Derf (Fred spelled backwards...don't ask) and cousin Marie. Saturday we got up early and pushed all the way to Houston.

Highlights from the drive included eating at a pizza hut buffet in New Mexico, reviewing an "entrance exam" on Smyth family history given to the new fiance of one of Paige's cousins, and driving for 18 hours on I-10. My favorite question from the quiz was from the essay portion: "Explain in 1000 words why you want to be a part of the Smyth family. Because I'm in love with a member of the family does not count. Please be specific."

We've spent the last few days in Houston wrapping up Christmas shopping, hanging out with friends and family and getting settled into our new home with Justin. My best friend Justin recently bought a house in Houston and has graciously offered to let us bunk down with him until we get our own place. We are going to use his place as home base during the rest of our time off. Then we'll live with him for a few more months after we settle into Houston while we save some money to get our own place.

We're spending Christmas with Paige's family then heading to Dallas to spend some time with my family next week. We will probably spend New Years in Houston.

It has been a nice change of pace to settle a bit in Houston. When we initially packed the car for the roadtrip we also had to pack our whole house at the same time. With everything going on, we ended up with more crap in our car than we would have liked. After three weeks on the road, we've figured out exactly what we need and what we don't and we're glad to have the opportunity to trim the fat. I think Emma has also enjoyed having a bit more stability. Between being on the road and not being able to exercise because of her hurt paw, she was starting to get a bit antsy. I think Paige has also enjoyed the stability as well. The simple act of getting settled in with Justin and knowing where all of our stuff is has been a surprising relief. I've had a lot of fun exploring Houston (as opposed to Houston's suburbs) for the first time and I think we're going to end up surprised at how much we enjoy the city. Houston is wildly different from Portland, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. At first pass, there seems to be a lot of things to enjoy. That being said, we're still looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing the country.

Here're a few pictures from the last leg of our trip (Las Vegas to Houston):

Paige in front of the Hoover Dam

View from the top of CamelBack Mountain in Phoenix

Nephew Jaxson with Paige

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Alas, I have not yet convinced my sister to name her unborn child after me. Why does she have to be so selfish all the time? Other than that, Arizona has been great.

On the way to Phoenix we stopped at the Hoover Dam and at the Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff. Paige and I were pretty impressed with the Hoover Dam; its pretty damn big. Due to the overwhelming number of recommendations to stop and take the tour at the dam, we really had no choice but to stop. We were told by everyone to pay the extra money and take the "deluxe" tour. In the end we couldn't let go of the $60 for the fancy tour and just did the regular tour. I think we should have ponied up the dough though. The basic tour was just an elevator ride down to the bottom where we saw a big pipe and a walk to see the generators. We had a better time watching the videos in the exhibit hall than riding an elevator with 60 other people. Oh well-live and learn. In the end, just walking around the dam was the most impressive part. As my buddy Jackson from Portland told me, "the Hoover dam changed the whole west." Seeing the dam makes you understand how.

We cruised into Phoenix with our one headlight (still working on replacing that darn thing) and spent the night with my sister Summer. The next day we hung out with her and my nephew Jaxson at their house. Today we went on a hike in Phoenix up Camelback Mountain. The hike was nice except for the fact that I had to stare longingly at the walls all afternoon and wish I had a climbing partner around.

Tomorrow we're starting the two day trek out to Houston and basically skipping most of Arizona and New Mexico. It has been hard to skip so much of the southwest, but we've been consoled by knowing we'll be back here next summer to explore it more thoroughly.

I suppose that's all for now. As always, if anyone is interested in meeting up with us, give us a call and we'll come meet you. I would love to have a climbing partner I knew for once. El Potrero Chico over the winter anyone? Paige would love to see anyone other than me pretty much. I think I might be driving her crazy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pictures from Death Valley

Mosaic Canyon

Who knew they had sand dunes in Death Valley?

Who's the best dog ever? Emma finally learned to settle down while on a dog run.

They have a golf course in Death Valley?!?! This seemed too absurd not to take a picture of. Where do they get the water to water the grass?

The lowest point in North America

Paige and I underneath the natural bridge in one of the canyons at Death Valley

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vegas Baby, Vegas

Ahhhh Vegas. What an interesting city. It is the epitome of commercialism and somehow still wildly irresistible.

We arrived in Vegas by way of Death Valley where we spent the better part of a day and a half. We scooted out of Bishop, CA early on Friday with hopes (my hopes) of climbing south of there where hopefully the weather was a bit warmer. Alas, the climbing locale known as the Alabama Hills was not as warm as its namesake would have you believe. It was a brisk morning and I could not convince Paige to climb with me. I will say, the climbing looked extremely promising and I hope to come back sometime when there are other climbers around and/or the weather is warmer.

From there we hopped into Death Valley and went for a few hikes. Our first stop was Mosaic Canyon, a very cool slot canyon that narrowed to just a few feet in some places. We followed up the canyon hike with a stroll along the sand dunes right before sunset and settled into our campsite just after dusk. The next morning we went for a run around the campsite and down around the visitor center. We stopped in at the lowest golf course on earth in the heart of death valley and headed back to our tent for breakfast and to get packed up. On the way out we made sure to stop in at the salt flat (the lowest point in north america) and for another short hike through yet another canyon.

Once we were back in cell phone range we called Marc Moore, Paige's friend from high school and met him at his house in Las Vegas. While we killed time before we headed down to the strip, Marc introduced us to the hilarious show that is "It's Always Funny in Philadelphia." I had no idea what I'd been missing out on. This show is hilarious.

Once we deemed it late enough to head downtown, we went on a tour of the strip that was not to be forgotten. After the statutory visits to Caesar's Palace, the Bellagio, and all the rest, we ended up at Marc s favorite spot, O'Shea's. If memory serves, we had a good time. You'll have to check with Paige for all the details, but I think we won like a million dollars. I don't remember exactly. I'm pretty sure it happened though.

There's not much to say for Sunday. It was a day of rest. It was much needed.

After Sunday's recovery, today I actually got out for a real day of climbing. While Paige tended to the home-front and to Emma's wounded paw, I went out and made some new climbing friends at Red Rock Canyon. In true Zach fashion, I found several groups of climbers and forced myself on them. By the end of the day I'd racked up almost a dozen pitches and managed to find a half dozen new belay partners that were willing to catch me (a kind gesture on their part considering I was generally twice their size).

Tomorrow we are going to head to Phoenix to stay with my sister Summer and my brother-in-law Matt. While there I will try to convince Summer to name her unborn child after one of her favorite brothers. I think Zachary Boyd has a nice ring to it. It sounds almost as nice as Zacharina Boyd in case the child is a girl. I'll let you know how it turns out. If I can't convince her to name her kid after me, we might go for a hike or something instead. Who knows.

Thats all for now.

P.S. I'll try to get some pictures up tomorrow from death valley.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quick Post from Vegas

I'll update later about our time in Death Valley, but I just wanted to make a quick note. We just got into Vegas and are staying with Paige's friend from high school, Mark Moore. I just want to say, its AMAZING! Holy frijoles, I love being back in a bachelor pad.

Recap of his tour of the place:
"We're moving, you can't mess anything up"
"put anything anywhere you want"
"this is the shower. It works how every other shower you've ever used works."

While he was running an errand, I unloaded a few things into the fridge. Here's a quick inventory of items in the kitchen:
  1. BB Gun (why won't paige let me have one of these?)
  2. Box of hamburger helper. I miss the helper. Again, Paige, why can't we buy this?
  3. A book called "getting it on"
  4. 4 varieties of pepper/steak seasoning
  5. Log cabin syrup (I buy this, but Paige would prefer if I didn't)
  6. 3 jars of peanut butter
  7. An amazing looking store bought apple pie
  8. A framed picture of the Backstreet Boys. Ironic? Hilarious.
Oh lordy, I miss living with men.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Shoeing, Adventure, and Bishop

Hallo there, friends. Sorry about the delay in posting, we've had a pretty interesting, some might say, painful, couple of days -- but more on that later.

After our awesome day in Napa (thanks, Alex), we felt like doing, well, nothing. Yes, I know all of you out there are groaning -- but really, people, even when you're unemployed and traveling, you sometimes need a day to do nothing. We stayed in, played with the kitties, watched Apocalypto (or something like that), napped, and went for a run. Yep. That's it.

A big THANK YOU goes out to Meredith, Alex, Dumpy, and Izzy for opening up their home to us and letting us crash for a few days. A special message to Dumps and Izz -- sorry about the fact that you may or may not have almost died. You're fluffy, and we like you, even if Emma doesn't.

We left Sacramento after dropping Mer at work and making a quick stop at the grocery store and Trader Joes (yay Vegetarian Chili and Joe Joes!) and headed to Lake Tahoe. The region has been getting a lot of snow lately, so several of the roads around the Lake were closed off. We decided that driving all the way around the lake wasn't worth the risk of getting stuck somewhere, so we took the most direct route on the 50.

What I can say about Lake Tahoe -- it is definitely not ugly. Seems like you just round this corner and then there it is...this crystal blue lake surrounded by mountains. Breathtaking.
I wish we had pictures, but well, we were busy gawking and then busy trying to locate the visitor center to find out where to snow shoe that we missed the view points to pull off the road. Sorry folks!!

We got a recommendation from a very lovely man that ran a shop full of mounted fish and animal heads (turns out his "winter sports" were a little more hunting and fishing oriented than snow-showing) we headed to Spooner Lake for a little sunshine, snow, and exercise.

As we were getting ready to head out, we ran into an older couple that had just finished up. Apparently folks had been ice skating on the lake a few days before, so it was pretty solid. Walking across a frozen lake...that sounded cool!

Me walking out towards the lake:

I was having a blast watching Emma run around:

Zach was having a blast making faces at me:

And as it turns out, Zach and I are both scaredy cats -- we only got a little ways out on the lake before I started "hearing water." It's very likely I was hearing the water sloshing in the water bladder in my backpack -- but really, I'm risk averse. So the only one who got more than 5 feet from the shoreline was Emma (risk-loving).

The slight bump in the snow on the right side of the picture is the shoreline:

Feeling thoroughly tired (when we weren't on the lake we were shoeing through at least 2.5 - 3 feet of snow) we wrapped up the hike and headed back to the trail head. It was there we discovered that Emma had split her paw pretty badly. Good thing the bears are hibernating (or at least this is what we said to comfort ourselves).

Don't worry, though, we're making sure to clean and dress her wound a few times a day and she seems to be no worse for the wear.

After leaving Spooner Lake, we began the 180 mile drive to Bishop, California. This is where stuff got interesting.

We had noticed as the sun started to set that one of our headlights was out -- as we were driving through a very sparsely populated route, we couldn't exactly stop to fix the headlight, so we just drove on -- we could see just fine with our brights on, and since there weren't that many cars on the highway that wasn't a problem. So we're driving along, and a state trooper passes us, slows, then pulls behind us. Great. We're getting pulled over. We stop and the officer asks for my license and registration and all that jazz. He said he was only stopping us for the headlight, so I figure we'll get a warning and that will be that (I mean, even he can understand that there isn't exactly a Pep Boys in Mammoth Lakes, CA).

But. Wow. He was taking a really long time. I look to Zach suspiciously and ask -- is there anything on your record (because we're both listed on the insurance) that I should know about? -- because clearly my record is clear. He protests that there's nothing -- and we continue to wait. Officer returns:

"Ma'am, can you step out of the car?"

So I'm pretty annoyed. It's 13 degrees outside, and I think we've devoted enough time to my hatred of temperatures lower than 39 degrees. I get out of the car -- maybe I was swerving? It was kind of windy. Then this --

"Ma'am, seems you have a warrant out for your arrest in Oregon for an unpaid towing ticket on a Honda Civic, I'm going to have to take you down to county and book you until we can get this sorted out."

A little back story for those of you before I tell you how awesome County jail is --

About a year and a half ago, in between theft one and theft two of my Honda Civic, I came home from vacation to find my car marked as an abandoned vehicle in front of my house (since you know, it had been there for a week or two because I don't drive often and then went out of town). I try to call the number on the thingy, but no one answers so I take the tag off and then move the car, figuring this is okay.

The next day I return from work to find my car missing. At first I thought maybe it had been stolen again (foreshadowing, perhaps?) but a few hours later I located it at a tow yard. I picked it up, paid the tow fee, and figured I was done with it.

Six weeks later I got a letter in the mail addressed to my father from the County. Seems that on top of the towing fee, I was supposed to pay a fee for my "alleged" abandoned vehicle. Apparently there was a ticket on the car (there wasn't, just a sticker from the towing company). I call, try and sort it out, to no avail. The County won't let my father (me) protest the charges until I pay the fine, and since it's been six weeks, the fine is now $500. I call Dad to ask if he's gotten any similar letter (the title was in his name at this time) and he insists that I do not pay the ticket. I mean, he went as far as saying, "PAIGE, I WILL BE VERY ANGRY IF YOU PAY THIS TICKET." And I could just imagine him stamping his feet and turning that very red color that he turns when he's very angry. So I told him, hey, it's in your name -- I don't care. He took down the number to call the place and that was that.

Skip forward to yesterday. Upon arriving at the Inyo County Jail, they explain that when the title was transferred into my name, the ticket also transferred. Because I failed to pay the ticket they issued a warrant. And then it was official. I was arrested.

Now, this isn't exactly the type of adventure I thought I would be having on this trip -- I mean, if I was going to be arrested, at least I would have liked to have done something -- and since I'm risk averse (as aforementioned) this was pretty unlikely. And normally I would think I'd be reacting pretty badly. I mean, I cry when I'm cold or when I miss my friends (I MISS YOU!). You'd think I would cry, but no! The whole thing just seemed absurdly funny to me.

I guess the good news was, since it was relatively early, I didn't have but one cell mate. We'll call her Hettie. Hettie had but 3 teeth and smelled of malt liquor, but Hettie was nice enough. She didn't so much talk to me as talk around me (something about it being too late, too cold, and her dinner was burning), so I just sat there, hoping that all that saving that both Zach and I had been doing for this roadtrip would cover my bail/lawyer if needed.

Long story short -- once Zach paid the man the ticket price and some paperwork was passed back and forth, I was free to go.

We got back on the road to Bishop, and pulled into our motel a few hours later than expected, but still early enough to catch some horrendous movie on FX that Zach made me watch.

Today we spent the day climbing (more accurately, Zach bouldered. I read a Tale of Two Cities and walked around with the camera). I am including a few photos that I took that are not quite as sucky as my normal photos.

Zach on a bouldering problem at the Happy Boulders.

Getting ready for his next climb:

Walking with the dog at the foot of the hill:

Emma running and having fun:

Trying to catch the Sierras as they looked -- I'm not good enough with the camera to do them justice:

Well that's it yall, at least for today. Tomorrow we head south toward Death Valley.

And yea, just kidding, we really only got a warning for the headlight, but it did take a REALLY long time for that cop to get back to the car -- long enough for me to worry about Dad's OR warrant coming back to haunt me. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Race Results

FYI-for anyone interested, we placed 13th in the Open Coed Relay out of 249 teams in the California International Relay Challenge.

Pictures from Napa, CA

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cat Hunts, Wine Tastings, and World Domination

Today finds us once again, reporting live from Sacramento. Paige and I have decided to extend our stay here by one more night so we could spend time with Meredith when she returns from her business trip.

Interestingly enough, this in turn gives Emma one more night to capture one of the cats, Izzy and Potsticker (affectionately called Dumpy because of the extra weight she carries). This may be just enough time, considering Emma's getting closer and closer. Only this morning she had her closest call yet. Due to gross negligence on the part of someone who shall remain nameless (their name starts with a "P" and it rhymes with "rage"), Emma escaped our bedroom before the cats had been put away. Unfortunately for Emma, her fast food breakfast was just a tad too fast and narrowly managed to elude her. This morning Emma went after Izzy, the more agile of the two cats. If slow and pudgy Dumpy gets chased next time, Dumpy might find herself in a world of hurt! Despite the sheer Glee Alex gets from seeing the cats scramble, we'll be keeping Emma on a short leash for the rest of the trip. We'd really like to make it to Christmas without any feline casualties.

After the big cat hunt, Alex took Paige and I up and down the Napa Valley to taste some wine. We stopped in at about a half dozen wineries or so. I don't know much about wine, but I'd say that most of them were at least as good or better than Franzia or Carlo Rossi. We had fun and the area was gorgeous. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. The highlight of the adventure however was when we stopped for lunch at KFC/A&W. With Alex's help, I finally managed to out-vote Paige and get some fast food! Where else would you stop to eat in Napa?!?!

We rounded out the evening with the finest pizza Digiorno had to offer and played a couple of games of Settlers. True to form, Alex snatched victory from the hands of defeat right at the end of the first game. I demanded a rematch. While I continued to use about as much strategy as one uses when playing Candyland, Paige unseated the champion and dealt Alex his first ever defeat. And since what's mine is Paige's and what's Paige's is mine (thats how marriage works, right?), really, it was ME who dealt him his first defeat! I don't care that Paige did all the hard work or that I made mistakes after mistake. I don't even care that it wasn't really Alex's first defeat! All that matters is that I won... and that feels damn good.

And since I beat Alex, that means I am free to go home for Christmas! Woo Hoo! It doesn't look like anyone is going to be able to get time off to meet us in Vegas, so here is a revised rough itinerary for anyone who cares and/or lives along the way and/or still wants to meet us somewhere:

12/8 Happy 20th birthday for my little sister Mackenzie (if you are reading this call and wish her a happy birthday. I don't care if you don't know her. Her number is 214-532-1475.)
12/9 Leaving Sacramento in the morning, spending the day in Tahoe
12/10-11 Climbing in Bishop, CA
12/12 Death Valley National Park
12/13-14 Climbing Red Rocks/Going out in Las Vegas
12/15 -19 Climbing Arizona/Camping Arizona/Staying with Summer in Phoenix
12/19 Drive Phoenix-El Paso
12/20 Drive El Paso-Austin/San Antonio
12/21 Arrive in Houston

Remember, if you want to meet us, our travel plans are flexible. We'd love to see any of you.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Roadrunner, Roadrunner going 100 MPH

More from Sacramento.

Last night we prepared for our big run in the best way possible -- by eating a gigantic meal. The race course takes runners from Folsom, CA to the Capital in Sacramento. For any race-nerds, here is the course map. The gigantic meal was doubly important as we all know big meals make you sleepy, and when you need to go to bed at 8:45 pm to get a full-night's sleep (the last bus to transport Zach left at 5:30am from downtown Sacramento), being tired is a good idea.

This morning Alex was nice enough to let Mer and I sleep for another hour while he took Zach to the convention center. We never got a straight answer from the race staff on whether or not relayers could leave bags on the bus to check -- so we dressed as light as we could for the weather. Zach got out of Alex's car in a pair of shorts, running tights, and a long sleeve shirt. Turns out that's not quite enough when it's 34 degrees outside. It was a cold, cold ride to Folsom. Luckily they let the runners sit on the bus until right before the race -- still, upon arriving at the starting area, he was less than warm. Lucky for Zach, marathon runners often wear layers to warm up in that they have no intention of wearing for the run, "throw-away layers," that get tossed at the starting area as the race begins. Also lucky for Zach, he has no qualms about wearing used clothes from strangers that may or may not have been thrown on the ground.

Off to a good start the rest of us alighted on our buses and headed to our check-points. It remained really, really cold (temps topped out around 37 degrees) and cloudy for the race, but once you were running it felt great. Mer and Alex were nice enough to let me run it in, which is pretty awesome. My leg started at mile 20 of the marathon -- since I couldn't check a bag (and since I waited the longest on my bus -- about 2.5 hours) I was wearing more layers than I wanted to run in, but decided to tough (sweat) it out because I wasn't willing to lose my one and only sweatshirt for the trip (also my Michigan HMP hoodie -- GO BLUE).

So, as expected, about two minutes into running I was too hot and took the sweat shirt off. The shirt had my relay number on it that designated me as a relayer and not a marathoner -- as it turns out, crowd support is pretty awesome. For my friends that are real marathoners, I apologize -- I soaked it up. After the Chicago femur fracture I doubt I'll ever get the feeling of having that many folks support me doing anything, so it was kinda awesome (even if I was pretty much a fraud -- sorry, I considered yelling, "I'M A RELAYER I'M A RELAYER" but thought that might annoy the runners more than my anonymous soaking of support).

I had a great run and ended up finishing well before I or my teammates expected me. All in all it was a great race, super fun. Thanks Meredith for signing us all up.

The rest of the day? Well. We've done almost nothing. Naps all around! And it was glorious.

Check out the pics from the race and look for more coming tomorrow!


PS -- As it turns out shopping directly post race with Meredith and Alex is pretty funny. They walk into the grocery, each grab a basket and separate. Back at the line --

Mer's basket: Milk, eggs, hash browns, fruit
Alex's basket: Half pound fried chicken and a dozen donuts

Pictures from the California International Relay Challenge

In reverse-time order:

The team in front of the Capital after the race. For my coworkers -- note the Kaiser SWAG on Zach's head...

Another shot of the Capital.

Zach supporting me as I "recover." Mmmmm chocolate milk and cookies.

Zach's pretty.

The leader. By the time I saw him at mile 20 he had at least a 1-2 minute lead on the next guys behind him (and that was at 1:47).

Mer took this for Lisa (I think the Foo's cuter)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Welcome to Sunny Sacramento

In case you were wondering, the hippies over in Berkeley actually DO know how to run a BBQ joint. Between Pablo and Patrick's company and the pulled-pork plate, we had a fabulous Thursday night. I think we might have even convinced Pablo to join us in Vegas. Now if he can just convince the good doctor to come along, we'll be all set to have a rip-roaring good time in Las Vegas next weekend!

After dinner Paige decided to shake her money maker in the kitchen with our temporary roommates until I finally had to say good night and pass out fully clothed on the couch. She was moving a bit slow on Friday morning due to her late night dance-athon so we got a bit of a late start. Nevertheless, we managed to sneak in a quick tour of the Berkeley campus and grab coffee and a bun at Crixia Cakes (highly recommended) before we headed east to stay with our friends Meredith and Alex in Sacramento.

Woo Hoo Sacramento!!! We've had a blast since we got to Sacramento. The cute little city aside, it has been a blast to spend time with friends we haven't seen in ages without feeling rushed like we do at the holidays or long weekends. Since we were SOA (starving on arrival) Mer and Alex took us out to eat at Meredith's favorite restaurant, Sandra Dee's for some tasty southern food. From there we retreated to the house to open a bottle of wine and battle it out with a rousing game of Settlers, a new board game for Paige and me. Even after Paige, Meredith and I teamed up against Alex, he still managed to snag the victory. From what I understand he is all powerful and can not been beaten. Naturally, given my competitive nature, I'm not leaving his house until I have beaten him. It might be a while. Mom, Dad, I hope I can make it home by Christmas.

This afternoon while I strategized for victory in Settlers, we trading in the Thule box that fell off of our car for a nice new one from REI. Nothing beats the REI return policy (we actually got $25 back). Later Meredith and Alex took us on a 20 mile bike ride along the American River to warm us up for the marathon relay we are doing with them tomorrow. The marathon relay should be a lot of fun, but Paige and I didn't run so much during our last few weeks in Portland and are a tad out of shape. To say that we are both under-trained for this event would be the understatement of the year. We'll let you know how it goes. I hope they have beer at the finish line.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pictures from San Francisco

Note the "Danger BioHazard-No swimming" sign this woman has hung her clothes from

Trans America Pyramid

Paige in front of the Embarcadero

obligatory picture of the Golden Gate Bridge

The Palace of Fine Arts

Paige inside the Palace of Fine Arts

By request of Sharon: Pictures of Emma

Emma in Northern California

Thursday, December 3, 2009

San Francisco

So here's the latest from San Francisco: The buildings are gorgeous, the hills are steep, and the drivers are vicious.

We spent our first night here in a luxurious bed where Paige experienced the long since forgotten joy of waking up, getting out of bed and not freezing. Which in turn meant that I got to experience the long forgotten joy of waking up, getting out of bed, and not having to console a crying wife with frozen appendages. It was glorious.

Naturally, being in the bay area, we decided we needed to go into San Francisco and see the city. The only thing we had planned was a meet up with Daniel Templeton, a friend from high school who lives in the city. In an effort to be more mobile and to possibly walk around with Emma, we decided to drive into the city, park the car and explore from there. Being a human compass, this sounded like a stupendous idea. I looked up a nice parking garage online, noted the slightly less than outrageous price, and motored directly to it. Upon pulling into the garage and tapping the "low clearance" sign with the ever-so-troublesome Thule box, I backed out onto the street and searched for another garage. After this Austin Powers-esque moment played itself out several more times, I decided it was time to drive back to Ashley's house and take mass transit into the city. So, 15 minutes after driving across the bay bridge for the first time, I got to turn around and drive back over it again.

San Francisco: take two.
Mass transit is a beautiful thing. I don't know why I didn't have faith in it from the get go. We had no trouble parking the car at a park-and-ride and getting into the city lickity-split. We'd heard from several people that we should check out the Mission district, so we got off at 16th and Mission. Between the raving crazies and all the homeless people, the neighborhood was a little grittier than we expected so we decided to skedaddle We headed north towards downtown and proceeded to walk all over the city. We checked out SOMA, Market Street, the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, nob hill and several other neighborhoods. We finished the afternoon up at City Lights bookstore and then headed to happy hour at a nearby bar. Daniel met us there with his lovely girlfriend Stacey. We had a few drinks, went to dinner and called it a night.

We went back into the city today and hit all the touristy stops. We walked the entire Embarcadero, saw the sea lions on Pier 39, and basked in the neon glow of Fisherman's Wharf. A former colleague of mine (from back when I actually did work) picked us up and gave us a tour of the west side of the city and dropped us off just under the Golden Gate bridge. We took the obligatory pictures and wandered back downtown to meet another friend from college for wine. Oh and by the way, in case you are curious, there are absolutely no rules about how many people are allowed to squeeze onto a single city bus in San Francisco. Or if there are, they are blatantly disregarded. On our normal sized city bus, there were well over 120 people. A small asian lady leaned on me for a dozen blocks or so. It was sort of nice and sort of not nice. In the end it was too much. We finally had to swim our way out and walk the last few blocks.

And now I must bid you adieu. We are headed into Berkeley to meet up with my friend from college for some BBQ at a place called T-Rex. I'm not so sure how good BBQ could be in Berkeley, but I hear this restaurant is the only place to get dinosaur this time of year. What are you going to do?

FYI: Some pictures are available on facebook, but I'll try to post some more on this website later tonight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hwy 1, She Giveth and She Taketh Away

So we left open mic last night, which by the way, sounded a lot better than Ear Bleed Arcata Open Mic Night.

sidebar -- I looked up whether bleeding from the ear is ever a good thing, or even just NOT a bad thing - as it turns out, the only time bleeding is expected and/or a good thing is due to deliberate puncturing of the eardrum to drain the ear of unwanted fluids and blood originating from extreme infection. This procedure should only be performed by a licensed surgeon. Since neither Zach nor I have extreme infection and/or unwanted fluids and blood in our ears AND I seriously doubt Aaron, the performer from the open mic night in Arcata, was a licensed surgeon (at least he did not testify, testify, testify, testify, testify -- yes really -- testify, testify to being so), YES, it is safe to say that the open mic night performance in Arcata was horrendously bad.

Back to the point, yes, we left and traveled south through Mendocino to arrive at our campsite at Van Damme State Park which all in all wasn't too shabby. I think we're getting better and better at this camping thing, or at least more and more clear about what we need to do better and better.

I'd say Emma has earned a C + in slack-line dog-run leashing. She does all right when she's eating and we're setting stuff up around her -- not sure if she'll ever be cool with it for extended periods of time. Regardless, she didn't get eaten by a bear so I'd say 1 point for the the dog-run.

I am still having temperature issues -- apparently I don't own base layers, socks, or water resistant gloves that can actually keep me from A) Being a super-bia in the morning and B) Crying and apologizing for being a super-bia in the morning approximately 30 minutes after I warm up. If you're struggling with what to get me for Christmas, any of those things would be amazing -- and Zach would thank you for preventing this vicious a.m. cycle.

After a breakfast of beans and egg tacos seasoned with my tears, we headed off to downtown Mendocino to see the sights. Mendocino is a sleepy little coastal town with picturesque cliffs, art galleries, book stores, bed and breakfasts. We got to the city around 9 and walked around for a few hours. Notable sites -- one of the galleries had many pieces by this artist that were pretty cool and, quite surprising, if not disturbing, the visitor center's photo mushroom exhibit ("We used to have a live mushroom exhibit -- but we had to get rid of it because they got smelly").

Nothing like fungi to get you in the mood for some physical activity. Zach suited up to bike a 30 mile stretch of Hwy 1 between Mendocino and Port Arena. Emma and I went ahead in the car, stopping to play ball at a few of the beaches and take some photos at a view point or two. I would share some of the photos with you if I could -- the northern coast from Hwy 1 is absolutely stunning with it's misty cliffs and crazy big, powerful waves -- but I can't because, again, my photography skills can best be described as "sucky" and so you'll have to hope that Zach caught a few shots from his bike which will undoubtedly (and annoyingly) come out better than anything I took with our nice camera.

Zach and I met up at the Port Arena Lighthouse -- or more accurately at the cafe 2 miles from the lighthouse. A short bagel and cheetos break later, we were off again. Hwy 1 is gorgeous. Really. Gorgeous. Hwy 1 is also super, super curvy -- up to this point it hadn't been so bad, but the section of road following Port Arena was especially treacherous, hugging the cliffs of the coast and twisting with hairpin turns. As some of you (namely Mom, Dad, and Penny) know, I don't do so hot with the motion sickness. You're reading the words of a woman who spent 95% of all childhood roadtrips in a drug induced coma to avoid throwing up (Thanks, Mom).

sidenote -- My grandmother's best friend, Aunt Jeanne, once lost a prized hat to my "problem." I had a red slurpee before leaving the hot springs. I rode in the very back of the Suburban. The hat left blue, came back purple. You do the math.

Just as I felt like I was going to toss my cookies, though, my attention was drawn elsewhere. As we rounded a particularly tight turn, a strange noise not unlike the noise your garbage makes as it is hurled into the back of the municipal truck tumbled through the roof of the car. I instinctively looked back to see what had shifted in the car that would make such a noise when out of the rear passenger window I see our entire Thule box tumbling off of the roof of the car and rolling towards the cliff side of the highway (for those of you wondering) . Lucky for us, the box is pretty heavy and not designed for rolling, so it slid to a stop before reaching the edge. Zach had just enough time to slide the box out of traffics way before any cars came by.

One of the brackets was broken, another bent, but no one was hurt, the car is fine, and REI has an outstanding return policy. We strapped that puppy back on the car after unloading a few items (yay cam straps) and headed on to San Francisco.

We're staying in Richmond tonight (and possibly tomorrow) with a friend of J.J.'s, Ashley, and her housemates, who are all lovely and wonderfully hospitable (can you say warm, homemade mushroom barley soup??). We even got to drink some Kompucha -- apparently Christian, Emily's brother and housemate loves this stuff. He likes to tell people how awful it is, and then force them to drink it. It wasn't so bad -- kind of like carbonated sake.

Alrighty, that's it for tonight, I'm pooped and so is Zach. More tomorrow!