Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm Alive!

Hey there readers! I just wanted to say a quick thank you for excusing my absence this week. I honestly didn't have any intention of taking a week off from blogging, but apparently I did. I've been busy with laundry and cleaning at home and catching up on hundreds of emails and other such things at work. Not to mention that I've had something going on every night this week. I was also given the lead on a project at work and elected the leader of the UAH Alumni group we are starting at work; so, to say I have been busy this week is quite the understatement.

I think my body has finally adjusted back to Central time, which has been a blessing. I didn't sleep very well for the first few nights I was back home, but the last two nights I have slept really well, thank goodness. My house isn't as put together as I would like and I hope to get that accomplished over the weekend. I did manage to clean most of the baseboards on Memorial Day as well as cleaned out from under furniture. It takes a lot of energy to get things back to normal after being out of town for two weeks.

I could ramble on a while longer, but I'd rather not bore you. Thanks again for your patience and understanding with the absence in new blog posts. I hope you'll come back next week as I plan to have a giveaway that I'm really excited about.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Zip Lining, Pebble Beach and Garlic Ice Cream

Friday was our final day in California, well, our final full day, as we have a 6:30 a.m. flight on Saturday. My dad had booked a zip lining adventure in the redwoods before we left and Friday was the big day. We had about an hour drive to get to the zip lining place and so we left the hotel around 8:30 to arrive around 9:30.

Our tour started at 10:00 and there were five other people with us. There were three women who went to college together that were probably in their 50s and were all kinds of crazy and then another father-daughter duo. We had two guides, Jim and Nigel and they were both nice and I especially enjoyed Jim's dry sense of humor.

Before we got out on the course, we practiced on a zip line low to the ground and after that we began our adventure. I was super nervous at first and didn't really feel comfortable until after the first two zip lines. We had a great time though and the place, Mount Hermon Adventures was a super nice place and also serves as a Christian camp. The entire adventure lasted a couple of hours. We learned a lot and really enjoyed ourselves and the people who were with us.

After the zip lining adventure, we headed to Pebble Beach and the infamous 17-Mile Drive. On the way, we stopped at a fruit stand and enjoyed some delicious strawberries. I also got some chocolate covered sunflower seeds to try. I haven't tried them yet, but I'm sure they will be delicious.

We spent a couple of hours (I think) at Pebble Beach. The scenery was beautiful and I'm glad we made the drive to see it. My dad had been before, but I had not. We also stopped at the Lodge and gift shop. I refrained from buying anything primarily because of the prices and I already had a baseball cap from the last time my dad was here.

We left Pebble Beach around 4:00 and headed back north. We stopped off in Gilroy and found the garlic ice cream and The Garlic Shoppe. The garlic ice cream comes in vanilla or chocolate. I tried the vanilla and it was good, and garlicky. I wouldn't recommend it unless you are a garlic lover like myself.

We stopped for dinner before leaving the area and enjoyed a steak which was good, but didn't hold a candle to the one we had in Napa Valley. After dinner, we trekked north to San Francisco and lodged for the evening by the airport so we could rise early and catch our flight. I'm sad to see the vacation come to an end and am really dreading going home as the loss of The Tide is still weighing heavily on my heart.

It has been a really great trip and I'm so thankful that we were able to enjoy this time together. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend such a nice time with my dad. If nature takes its course as it should, I will be forever grateful for this time we had together long after he is gone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Day at Yosemite

Thursday morning we woke up, got ready, and went back to the restaurant by our hotel to have some breakfast before heading off to Yosemite National Park.

We had about a 45 minute or so drive before arriving at the gates of the park. Somehow I got driving duty on this day. I had managed to weasel my way out of driving for all but one day up until this point. I got us there in one piece as it was not too bad of a drive on up into the mountain and into the park.

The fee to enter the park was $20 and that fee was good for seven days which I thought was really reasonable. We came into the park from the west side of Highway 120 and saw all sorts of glorious sites. God really placed some beautiful sites in this little corner of the world. Every so often we would pull over and take some photos.

We passed El Capitan on the way to the visitor's center as well as Bridal Falls and took pictures all along the way. Once at the visitors center, we found that we could walk up to Lower Yosemite Falls in less than an hour and we decided to do that. The pathway didn't take you to the top, but it took you pretty close to the bottom and it was a lovely view. We stayed there for around 20 minutes or so before heading back down and catching the tram to the visitor's center.

We watched a movie about Yosemite at the theater and this part of the day gave us the biggest laugh of the trip. I probably cannot even describe it to be as funny as it was. The theater was obviously dark and when we stepped into the dark theater from the bright sunlight we could not see a thing. My eyes adjusted a little bit and I spotted three seats on the first row and told my dad to follow. I plopped down in a seat but my dad's eyes had not adjusted as well as mine and he grabbed what I guess he thought was a railing, but it was a man's leg. I started laughing and said, "that's a person." The man was totally cool though and didn't want my dad to fall so he didn't move. He laughed, his wife laughed, all the folks around us laughed too. The man said, "what happens in the mountain, stays in the mountain." That just made me laugh even harder. The man's wife said she had done the same thing before in a movie theater. The movie was ending as all this was taking place and so we all laughed and laughed for a few minutes. The man and his wife left and we stuck around to watch the next showing of the movie.

After the movie, we grabbed a hot dog at the cafe on site and then headed off again. We had planned on stopping at Bridal Falls, but it was not on the drive out. My dad also wanted to stop where the giant Sequoias were, but it was three hours out of our way so we left the park and I drove us out of the mountain very slowly as the road was sometimes treacherous.

Thursday night we stayed at Morgan Hill but before we arrived, he stopped in Gillroy which is the garlic capitol of the world. My dad had told me they had garlic ice cream and I wanted to try some. Long story short, the place with the ice cream was closed by the time we arrived so we are going to try again on Friday. We then went for dinner at a local Italian spot that made their own pasta. It wasn't too bad and I smelled of garlic the rest of the evening, which I suppose is fitting considering our location.

Friday we go zip lining in the Redwoods which will end our 2013 vacation. I'm sad it's coming to a close, but I suppose all good things must come to an end at some point.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Napa Valley and a Drive Into the Mountain

On Wednesday morning, we were up with plans to leave around 8:30 a.m. to go visit the Jelly Belly factory. We got a late start, however, because my dad could not remember the name of the hotel we were supposed to be staying at that evening nor where it was located. He spent about an hour searching and scouring and never figured it out.

So, we finally set out and made it to Jelly Belly a little later than planned, but still early enough that the crowds were not terribly large. We took the factory tour which was cool to see and it also provided historical information about the candy company which was interesting.

The tour lasted about 45 minutes, but it seemed like it was about 15 minutes. After the tour was finished, we perused the gift shop and I bought a couple of things for the children back home. I'm sure their mothers will be thrilled to no end.

After visiting Jelly Belly, we headed back to Napa and somehow came to the decision to stop at Sutter Home first. They were offering tastings (as were all wineries), but I was more interested in a tour to see how things were done. Sutter Home did not have any tours, but directed us to either Berringer or Robert Mondavi. So, we went to Berringer first.

The tour at Berringer was $25, lasted maybe 20 minutes and really wasn't that great. We went into a cellar, tasted three wines, and that was about the extent of things. So, we moseyed on down to Robert Mondavi where we paid $25 for a tour that lasted one hour and 20 minutes and had four tastings.

The tour was really great. We got a history of Napa, a history of the winery, we walked into the vineyard and looked at grapes and also got to go into the rooms where the wine is stored in oak barrels. While we were there, they were bottling wine and we were able to see that process as well. To wrap up the tour, we tasted four wines at a table with the others in our group. There were only eight of us and our guide said it would probably be the last small group for the summer since they do a lot of tours starting around Memorial Day. The experience at Robert Mondavi was really enjoyable.

Before we left Robert Mondavi, my dad made a reservation at a hotel and we headed in that direction. I then decided to look once again for the hotel where he had made our original reservation. As luck would have it, I called the first one that I thought might be it and in fact it was the hotel he had booked. It was America's Best Yosemite Westgate Lodge. So, I changed the directions on the Garmin, cancelled the second reservation and a couple of hours and a treacherous mountain climb later we had arrived.

The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, but the accommodations were nice. We had no cell service and no Internet, but there was a laundry, which was good news. Beside the laundry I noticed a men's and women's restroom and asked my dad if there were bathrooms in the hotel room. I thought we might be kicking it camping style. As it turns out, there were in fact bathrooms in the hotel rooms. Thank goodness.

There was a restaurant beside the hotel and we had dinner there. We both had burgers which were good and the people were really nice too. They did not have Diet Coke (they had Pepsi) and at this point I had not had a Diet Coke in two days! I walked over to the hotel to get one from the machine. The first machine was sold out and the second machine spit out a DC that expired in January. I was disappointed, but I soldiered on.

 After dinner, I did a couple of loads of laundry. The laundry room closed at 9:00 so I stayed with the laundry until it was done and locked up for the owner who had come in around 9:00 to shut the door. I was gone from the room about an hour or so and when I got back my dad had no idea I had been gone so long. I guess it's a good thing I didn't get kidnapped by a bear. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Made It Out of Alcatraz and Out to Napa Valley

Tuesday morning we started our day about 9:00 a.m. with a breakfast at Denny's which my dad thought was fantastic and I thought was meh. It just didn't hit the spot for me and I didn't eat much of it.

After breakfast we jumped in the car and took off driving around San Francisco. We first stopped at Lombard Street, which is the crookedest street in the country. My dad drove and I rode and then he drove down again while I took some photos. I wasn't to keen on driving down it myself so I skipped that bit.

We then drove to see the houses known as the Painted Ladies. These are the houses that are used in the opening credits of the show Full House. I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but it wasn't exactly what I had been anticipating and I was a wee bit disappointed, as was my dad.

The next stop on our driving adventure was Baker Beach down below the Golden Gate Bridge. The winds were really high in the bay on Tuesday and it was freezing. I didn't want to get sand all over my feet and clothes since it was still early in our day so we didn't walk on the beach. If it had been closer to the end of the day I wouldn't have minded a stroll, but I just did not want to spend the whole day with sand all over and in my clothes.

We also drove through Chinatown and Nob Hill. I can't recall if I mentioned it or not, but we had actually walked around Chinatown on Monday morning and since we never found the meat market we decided to drive around, but again we were unlucky in finding the meat market.

Finally, our driving adventures came to a close and we parked back at the hotel and kicked our feet up in the lobby for an hour or so. Then we walked down to Pier 39 to take in the sea lions again. They were quite fascinating and I wanted to watch them again before we went to Alcatraz.

Our tour for Alcatraz was at 2:40 and we were to be at the boat at 2:20. So, around 2:00 we headed over that way, but first I took a ride on the carousel at Pier 39 because I do enjoy a good carousel ride. When we walked over to Pier 35 to get on the boat, the sign said the next available Alcatraz tour was next Monday! We certainly lucked up in getting the tickets for Tuesday afternoon.

We spent almost three hours on the boat to and from and actually on the island of Alcatraz (hopefully that makes sense). There was an informative movie to start and then a self guided audio tour through the cell blocks. It was very interesting and we both really enjoyed it and found it informative and entertaining.

We arrived back at Pier 35 and caught the F street car back to the hotel where we got in the car and headed out of town. Only we ran into a problem where the GPS on my phone wouldn't work and we spent about 30 minutes in limbo trying to figure out which direction we needed to head. Finally the Garmin started working and we made it to Napa Valley a little before 8:00 p.m.

The hotel recommended a nice steak restaurant and we dined there and enjoyed the best meal of the trip thus far. The steak was out of this world good. The name of the place was Cole's Chop House and if you are ever in Napa you should check it out. It was the best steak I have probably ever had in my life.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and called it a night so we could get some rest for Wednesday's adventures.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hot Weather Follows Me Wherever I Go

Monday we had no firm hour-by-hour plans as to what we were going to do. My main objective for the day was to visit Alcatraz and in the evening we had tickets to the Giants vs. Nationals baseball game.

We left the hotel around 9:00 a.m. or so and grabbed breakfast at a Starbucks - there's one about every 100 feet here it seems - since the hotel where we are staying here does not have free breakfast. We then bought a day pass for the transit system which included all manner of street car, cable car and bus.

We rode the street car up to the cable cars and then rode the cable cars for a while. We then walked to Chinatown and perused the streets and open markets but never seemed to happen across a meat market with the chickens hanging about which is what I was hoping to see the most in that area of town.

We then went back to the pier where the Alcatraz tours were and found out there were no more tours available for the day. So, we bought the next available tour for Tuesday, which was at 2:40 p.m. We suspect that a lot of people who were from the docked cruise ship took Alcatraz tours, therefore the sell out.

We walked down to Pier 39 next and watched the Sea Lions which was exceptionally entertaining and perused a few shops. Then we went to Fisherman's Wharf and had some lunch. Right after my dad took his last bite, he started feeling bad, as is sometimes the case with his condition and so after we left the restaurant, he went back to the hotel while I bought some souvenirs for a few folks back home. I also walked up to Ghiradelli Square which was probably the most disappointing thing of the whole trip. It was only a shop that sold chocolates and the prices were more expensive than they are at home.

The weather was exceptionally warm for San Francisco. The high was 80 and the sun was beaming down on te city like it might never appear again. Needless to say, we did some sweating. The people here were very happy with the warm day and there were tons of folks out and about. We were hoping for overcast and cold, but it seems we brough the warm weather with us.

I made it back to the hotel and rested for about an hour before we left for the baseball game. We left for the game around 5:00 and used the transit to get there. It took us about an hour to get to the park. We meandered around for a bit before going inside and finding our seats. We had great seats between home plate and third base and they were also under the overhang which helped keep the chill off. Most people out in the open were bundled up like it was the dead of winter because it was cold out there.

The Giants won 8-0 and there was one home run which I missed because I was walking back from buying some popcorn. We also enjoyed some delicious hot dogs because no sporting event is complete without hot dog.

We took the transit back to the hotel, arriving around 11:30 and we called it a night. It was a low-key but very fun day in the Bay.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Finish Line in Santa Rosa and The Golden Gate

Sunday morning after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we departed Livermore and headed to Santa Rosa to watch the finish of the final stage of the Tour of California. I had looked up the details the night before and found out the riders would be circling the final stretch three times in downtown Santa Rosa and made plans to get there early and steak out a good spot.

We left Livermore a few minutes before 8:00 and arrived in Santa Rosa a little after 9:00. The spot where I set the navigation on the phone to take us landed us right where we needed to be and we lucked out and found a free place to park in a Sears parking lot. The city was still setting up for the finals and there were not too many people milling about when we first arrived.

We made our way down the street and checked out the merchandise tent and the vendor tents. At the Nissan tent, we were given cards for a free jersey, all you had to do was test drive a Nissan at a California dealership and send the validated card in (remember this for later). We also got free Cliff Bars and other random freebies.

After perusing the vendor tents, we made our way back up to the finish line and I found a spot between the 100 and 50 meter marks to stand. I actually sat on the curb for about an hour and a half because the race was still a ways out. Once I did stand, the roads had filled in with lots of people which was good to see. The three laps by the riders went by quickly but was so exciting. I took some photos, beat on the side boards and yelled all at once The final time the riders came through I just cheered because I wanted to just enjoy it all. I was hoping Tyler Farrar from Garmin would win the stage but it ended up being Peter Sagan from Cannondale. It was still and exciting finish and I'm so glad we were able to be there.

I wanted to make my way towards the podium after the finish, but so did everyone else and so we just decided to go back to the car and head on out of town. The navigation system sent us a great route where there was little traffic and I spotted a Nissan dealership as my dad was driving. We stopped in and the manager just validated our cards without making us do a test drive. We also went ahead and filled up with gas because it was at a good price of $3.93 per gallon.

Soon after we were back on the freeway and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. We stopped there and walked across and back, taking our time and enjoying the views. It was a very clear day and there were lots of people out and about.

We then decided to check into the hotel and after resting about 20 minutes we loaded up and went out again. We just drove around town for a while and then went to South San Francisco to go to church at the Airport Church of Christ. The crowd was small, but it was a good church and the people were very nice.

Before church, we had looked on the Garmin for placed to eat and the Garmin told us there was an Outback nearby and so that's what we decided on. However, when we drove to the address there was not an Outback in sight and I looked on their website and there are no Outbacks in this area. So, back to the hotel we went and ate seafood at a place at Fisherman's Wharf which was good. We were back to the hotel around 9:30 and I promptly went to bed. It was a long, but very fun, day.

On the agenda for Monday is Alcatraz and the San Francisco Giants baseball game and whatever else we can find along Fisherman's Wharf. We are only a couple of blocks walk from Fisherman's Wharf which is very nice since that's where all the action is. We are looking forward to whatever the day brings us.