California Road Trip 2018

Technially only half this trip is a roadtrip. My girlfriend and I decided to visit her parents in San Francisco, drive down to LA (never been), up to Yosemite (also never been), and back to SF. We gave ourselves a couple buffer days on either side of the trip. The timing worked out perfectly so that I could visit my friend in Seattle (also never been). But it was a great trip, roads or not.

Pre-Day 1: Cleveland to Seattle

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I flew to Seattle this morning to visit my friend from Buffalo who lives out there. I took the train to Capitol Hill and we met up, watched Michigan lose in the Frozen Four, then grabbed a couple margaritas. I have now been to 48 states, missing Vermont and Alaska.

Pre-Day 2: Seattle Adventures

Stops: UW Cherry Blossoms, Baillard Locks, Fremont Lenin Statue, Fremont Troll, Pike Place Market, Olympic Sculpture Garden, Space Needle

My friend was working today so he gave me his bus pass and told me to go wild. I first went up to U of Washington's campus to see the cherry blossoms on the quad. I wasn't the only one taking pictures, but I was the only one with a selfie stick. Another bus ride brought me to the Baillard locks, which divide the Puget Sound from Union Lake. They have a fish ladder with windows but no fishes came through. I did get to see some boats pass through! There's also a super pretty botanical garden on the grounds. I stopped by Fremont to take a picture with the statue of Lenin and the Fremont Bridge Troll and meet a couple cute dogs. I then traveled to the Pike Place Market, which is unbelievably overwhelming and not the best place to "just wander," but I found some good chowder at Jack's. I strolled down to the Olympic Sculpture Park before heading to the Space Needle to ride to the top and enjoy the view. My friend and I ate some sushi at *** before going to Neumos to see Frankie Rose and Alvvays.

Pre-Day 3: Seattle Adventures

Stops: MoPOP, Columbia Tower

Today we took our time and wandered around a park near my friend's apartment before heading to MoPOP downtown. It's an interesting place, similar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: some big exhibit halls but most of it is just flashiness for the tourists without much substance. The gift shop is also pretty disappointing (lots of junk, and none of the books/movies they mentioned in the exhibits). We went over to Columbia Tower, the second tallest building west of the Mississippi (and tallest in Seattle) for a great view of the city and the surrounding area. We met up a little later with some of his friends for Indian food and some beer.

Pre-Day 4: Seattle Adventures

Stops: Glo's, Seattle Underground Tour, Optimism

Today was my friend's birthday so we went to Glo's, his favorite breakfast place. We hung out for a bit then went to the Seattle Underground Tour, where we learned about the rampant prostitution in early Seattle and were lucky enough to see a couple of homeless men urinating in the gutters. We ate some pho on Capitol Hill before meeting up with all his friends at Optimism for some birthday drinks.

Pre-Day 5: Seattle to San Francisco

Stops: Golden Gate National Recreation Area

I said goodbye to my friend (and Seattle) and flew to Oakland. My girlfriend picked me up and took me home to meet her parents. After dropping off my luggage, we made our way to Golden Gate recreation area for an amazing view of the city and bridge. We took a closer look at the city, walking to the Wave Organ and eating some tacos. We ended the evening with a "drag roast" in the Palace of Fine Arts. It was a bunch of drag queens taking turns ripping on each other. An interesting experience.

Pre-Day 6: Sonoma County Adventures

Stops: RavensWood Winery, Unti Winery, MacRostie Winery, Sol Food

Today I went with my girlfriend and her parents to Sonoma County for some wine tasting. Fortunately no one noticed that I'm not cultured and know nothing about wine. There were some great spots for flowers and landscapes. After returning home, we ate dinner at Sol Food.

Pre-Day 7: Marin County Adventures

Stops: Marin Headlands, Marine Mammal Center, Duxbury Reef State Park, The Marshall Store, Point Reyes National Seashore

Today was quite the adventure. We started off driving into the Marin Headlands portion of Golden Gate Park in order to get to the Marine Mammal Center, where they rehabilitate baby seals, sea lions, and other...marine mammals. We then tried to go to Muir Woods National Monument, but it's so popular that we didn't feel like reserving a parking spot, so we just left. We then tried to find Duxbury Reef State Park, and ended up wandering around a cow pasture for 20 minutes before realizing Google Maps took us the wrong way. We did find the tide pools, with lots of live snails and dead crabs. We drove up the The Marshall Store for raw oysters, then back down into Point Reyes National Seashore to go to Chimney Rock lookout point. Done adventuring, we drove to pick up my girlfriend's grandfather for dinner, then packed to leave for our trip tomorrow!

Day 1: San Francisco to Monterey

Stops: Emperor Norton's Grave, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Today is the first day of our roadtrip! Of course I started it off well by setting my alarm for the wrong time zone, but we made it out onto the road without too much San-Fran traffic. We drove around Colma to look for the grave of Emperor Norton, and finally found it with the help of the cemetery front office. We also found the grave of his self-proclaimed "widow" and a myriad of other relations. We took Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, stopping by the Seymoour Discovery Center to see the whale bones outside and critters inside. We also detoured to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, where gravity doesn't work as expected. What a mystery! Another hour on Highway 1 brought us to Monterey, to fulfill my dream of seeing the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is one of (if not the best) aquarium I've ever been to. There were so many animals I'd never seen in an aquarium before (sevengill shark, mola mola, tuna, dolphinfish, wunderpus), and many I'd never even heard of (sand crab). We got dinner at PokeLab, wandered around the pier to take a couple pictures before heading back to the AirBNB once it started getting chilly.

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Day 2: Monterey to Los Angeles

Stops: Googie's, Pinnacles National Park, Pier 46, Haskell's Beach, Santa Barbara Pier Market

Today we slept in a bit before getting breakfast nearby at Googie's. Ready to roll, we headed to the western side of Pinnacles National Park. We did a ~4 mile hike up to the top of the rock formations, taking in the views (and tons of pictures). We then headed back out onto Highway 101, stopping for some fish at Pier 46. After some more driving we stopped at Haskell's Beach and wandered around to find a sign commemorating the time a Japanese submarine bombed the California coast during WWII. From there, it was just a quick drive to the Santa Barbara Pier Market for some Empty Bowl soup before finishing up and arriving in Los Angeles.

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Day 3: Los Angeles Adventures, Part 1

Stops: HomeState, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, Upright Citizens Brigade

We woke up to the wonderful LA weather and walked to HomeState for delicious breakfast tacos. We then packed up the car and headed to Santa Monica to walk around the boardwalk. We checked out the great ocean views and did some people watching. I even caught myself a tiny sand crab in the sea and surf. Feeling hungry, we ate some hand rolls near the beach, then headed back towards Hollywood to the Griffith Observatory. A free planetarium, it has amazing views of LA and awesome exhibits inside. And don't forget the shows, in what they consider the "best planetarium in the world." Feeling hungry (again), we got some Mediterranean food and chilled for a little bit. We then went to see a show performed by the Upright Citizens Brigade, which was hilarious...because it was so painful. I'm no improv expert, but it was kind of painful to watch. And with that, it was time for bed.

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Day 4: Los Angeles Adventures, Part 2

Stops: Hollywood Farmer's Market, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Graumann's Chinese Theater, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Page Museum, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

A new day for more LA! Today we headed over to the Hollywood Farmer's Market, probably the largest farmer's market I've ever been to. There were way too many breakfast choices, but I ate a pita wrap and picked up some dates (the food, not the activity). We wandered over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame for our tourist fix. From there we drove down the road to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, home of Hollywood's feral cats. We found a whole gang of adorable feral cats, right near the peacock pens (right?). We also found some super cool graves, including Griffith J Griffith (of Griffith Observatory fame). There was also a tiny statue of Toto. We stopped by the Page Museum to see the tar pits and the copious amounts of animal fossils. Needing more food, we went to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (delicious). Checking the weather, we noticed it was going to be freezing with snow in Lee Vining (and not sure why we were planning on going there to begin with), so we decided to rearrange our travel plans and just head straight to Yosemite the next day.

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Day 5: Los Angeles to Midpines

Stops: Sequoia National Park

Now that we weren't going to Lee Vining, we were able to drive up the west side of the national parks. We somehow dodged LA traffic on our way out of the city, and got breakfast in Bakersfield before making our way to Sequoia National Park. It was amazing how much the temperature dropped as we headed up into the mountains. It was a little chilly but we make the short hike to General Sherman, the largest known tree (by volume). I've never felt so tiny! We enjoyed the drive out and stopped in Fresno for dinner, then finished our journey at Midpines for the evening.

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Day 6: Yosemite Adventures

Stops: Yosemite National Park

Today was AMAZING. We ate breakfast at the motel cafe before hitting the road to Yosemite. As soon as we entered, disaster struck: I hadn't put my memory card back in my camera! Needless to say I was quite distraught. Fortunately, Yosemite has a great general store, which had memory cards! I didn't know what size to buy, so I bought the one with 8GBs...which means 4K+ pictures! The sky was perfectly clear, so it was definitely picture time. We did a short hike to lower Yosemite falls and enjoyed the great view. We then decided to try a longer hike, the Mirror Lake loop. Unfortunately, the creek had overflowed and blocked the trail near the end, so we were forced to backtrack almost the entire loop! There were some amazing views, and I was disappointed to discover that even with all this extra storage, my phone takes better pictures than my camera does. We ate dinner at one of the restaurants before making our way to the Tunnel View to take pictures with all the other photographers gathered around. We also made a stop at Bridle Falls, which was just an explosion of water over all the rocks (not fun when it's only 40 degrees out). But we survived, and made it back to the motel alive!

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Day 7: Midpines to San Francisco

Stops: Merced, Free Speech Monument, East Bay Vivarium, Book Passage, Paxton Gate

Today was not a good day...my camera was stolen. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We packed up and left Midpines, stopping in Merced for breakfast. We then made it to the Bay Area, quickly stopping at Berkeley's campus to see the "Free Speech Monument," and the East Bay Vivarium pet store (like a tiny reptile zoo). We made it to my girlfriend's house, then went to wander downtown SF. Stopped by Book Passage for books and Paxton Gate for animal baculi, then parked and met her parents for dinner. Got back to the car, found the window smashed and the camera (which was in its tiny backpack sitting on the floor of backseat barely visible) gone. None of the books, bags, or jackets had been touched. Losing my camera sucked, but what makes it a million times worse is that it had ALL my Yosemite pictures on it. Fortunately I took a few with my phone, but it still sucks.

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Post-Day 1: SF Adventures

Stops: SoulCycle, El Huarche Loco, Cloudflare HQ, 21st Amendment Brewery, Gott's, Exploratorium

I decided to take my mind off the death of my camera by experiencing SoulCycle for the first time. Not sure how to describe it, but it was a "unique" experience. We ate lunch at El Huarche Loco then drove around the Presidio (very pretty), then got stuck in rush hour traffic in the Financial District. Fortunately we made it to Cloudflare HQ to see the wall of lava lamps before they closed, then walked back to the Embarcadero, stopping by 21st Amendement Brewery and some weird looking statues. We ate dinner at Gott's before spending the evening in the amazing and very cool Exploratorium.

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Post-Day 2: More SF Adventures

Stops: California Academy of Sciences, Amoeba Music, Camera Obscura, Bison Paddock, Belga, Monroe's, City Lights, Sam Wo's, Golden Boy, Royal Oak

My last day in California! We went to the CAS for a few hours, checking out the rainforest and amazing aquarium in the basement. We walked to Amoeba Music just to check it out, and walked back past all the miscellaneous people celebrating 4/20 in the park. We drove to the beach so I could see the Camera Obscura, then back into the park to see the bison in their home. For dinner, we went to Belga's and ate some oysters before heading to the decades happy hour at Munroe's. Here's my favorite part: we went to a bookstore (City Lights), asian restaurant (Sam Wo's), and got pizza (Golden Boy) all at 11PM on a Friday in San Francisco. Taking it down a notch (books and pizza), we met my girlfriend's friends at Royal Oak before crashing at her place overnight.

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Post-Day 3: San Francisco to Cleveland

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This morning we got up in the city to drive back to my girlfriend's house. We packed everything up and I said goodbye to her parents and the kitty then headed to the airport. I flew to Dallas and was almost stuck overnight due to a big thunderstorm. I made it to Cleveland around 1:30AM, it felt good to be home.

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