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Archive for October, 2010

Due to time and technical issues – and the fact that much of the last few days has been more about regular life than about life on the road – I’m going to lump my Hollywood time into one posting. If I did it today, I wouldn’t be able to add the pictures or give the full story. So tomorrow (Monday) I’ll post an update on all my days in LA. Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

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(I’m hoping this post comes out ok- it’s the first one I’m doing from my phone due to some internet issues and I just realized I can do it this way…)

OMG OMG OMG –  I’m in HOLLYWOOD!!! You may think I’m crazy, but the fact that this is where I was going really hadn’t occurred to me. I was simply heading to LA to see my high school friends Jay Dugre and Mike (who I also call Duffy, to clear up any confusion) and their families, which I’ve been trying to do for 15 years.

My entire childhood dreams were consumed with Hollywood. I was obsessed with movies from the golden age, and wanted to be Vivienne Leigh, Katherine Hepburn or Elizabeth Taylor. As I know I mentioned in an early post, I was going to grow up, become a famous actress, win my first Oscar at 40 and adopt a four-year-old Vietnamese girl. While it didn’t exactly turn out that way, Hollywood has always held the sparkle and mystery for me. I really can’t believe I’m here.
While I would’ve loved to just jump into it all, I had a list a mile long of things I needed to do when I got to LA which I saw as my next catch up stop. Work and life logistical things I won’t bore you with, but that’s how I spent the majority of Day 50.

Jay, Cesha and baby Jack did get me out of the house for a bit, though. We went and walked around the Farmer’s Market, which has every type of yummy food imaginable, and is by the very cool Grove movie theater and shopping area, complete with trolley to take you from one end to the other.

I must say the weather out here is fabulous. I was so happy to shove my Fall wardrobe back in the trunk and break back out my flip flops, capris and tank tops (after washing of course).

The evening was spent relaxing with Duffy and Jen, watching Modern Family and mapping out the remainder of the trip
I’m on track to return on December 10, unless any house or work stuff come up in the meantime. I’m amazed at all I’ve seen of the country so far, but even more surprised at how much I’ve yet to explore…

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I woke up on Day 49 right down the street from Hearst Castle, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, and the place I’d specifically been driving to the day before. And you know what? I just didn’t feel like going anymore, so I didn’t. I got my morning ocean fix, and then got back on the road.

Harmony was the first town I drove through, population 18. They must not count cows because I saw way more than 18. I was heading inland, and rather than hike around the woods again, I was ready for a town. San Luis Obispo fit the bill. I was able to find a nice little restaurant with free wifi to update the blog before exploring. I made my way through the town, stopping in the visitor’s center and having a nice chat with a young girl who clearly loves her town and is excited by all it has to offer. Her enthusiasm was catchy and I spent the next couple of hours following her suggestions:

  • The 18th-century Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa at the heart of town
  • Bubble Gum Alley, where people have lined the walls with chewed bubble gum trying to break a world record (not sure if they acheived it or not, but I didn’t contribute, or get too close to the walls…)
  • The Freemont Theater, an art deco movie theater
  • Motel Inn, the world’s first motel – it’s closed but still standing
  • Madonna Inn, which is as much a tourist attraction with its outlandish pink decor and more than 100 uniquely decorated guest rooms, as it is a place to stay

After driving through Buellton to see the landmark Anderson’s Pea Soup Restaurant, I made my way to Solvang which is a completely Danish-style town. You feel like you’ve crossed over to Europe as you walk down the cobblestone streets and look in the windows of all the little shops, spotting a windmill here and there. It would’ve been a fun place to stay, but I had Santa Barbara in mind.

As I drove toward Santa Barbara, I suddenly realized that I no longer had any desire to do any more sightseeing – I just wanted to see my friends. Sure, horseback riding on the beach in Santa Barbara would be fun, but I’ve been trying to get to LA to see Mike and Jay for 15 years. Why postpone it any longer? Anything else would just be wasting my time. So I plugged Duffy’s address in Aidan and made a beeline for LA.

When I got to the Santa Barbara exit and saw the sign for the mission, I did veer off course for a few minutes. I saw the Mission Santa Barbara, dubbed Queen of the Missions, and spent a few minutes on the beach catching the last lingering rays of light before getting back in the car. It was after 9 when I reached Duffy and Jen’s house but I’m here. And so happy to be with my old friends…

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(Want to know something funny? I drove probably the shortest distance in one day so far on this trip – about 100 miles – and took a record-breaking 922 pictures! Don’t worry, I deleted down to the 160 featured in the slide show above. Yes, I am the queen of delete.)

I woke up in Monterey and needed to see the ocean. Immediately. And it was beautiful. I could’ve sat there all day, but it did occur to me that there’s more to the California coast than the beach, and I should probably see some of it while here. I looked in my handy Road Trip USA book (best road trip book ever in my opinion) and found that the San Carlos Cathedral was right down the street. It’s California’s oldest continuously functioning church and its first stone building. I took a moment inside – a wonderful place for prayer (obviously) – and felt ready for the day ahead.

I drove through Carmel and on down Highway 1, stopping every few minutes unable to believe the views. I was heading toward Hearst Castle, thinking maybe I’d be able to make their last tour at 3:30. Ha! At the rate I was going I’d be lucky to be there this week!

I quickly realized that Highway 1 is extremely remote from civilization – you drive miles (mainly at under 30 mph so it takes awhile) with no food, no gas and no cell service (apologies to everyone I was supposed to call back) in sight. Luckily I had gas and water, so I was fine. 

I love California for the many, many, many viewing points all along Highway 1. You don’t have to worry if you miss one because you know there’ll be another one within a couple of minutes. Of course, then you get up close and personal with the cliffs and see exactly how close the side of the road is and how straight down of a drop it is – often with no guard rails. There was no way I was going to try to take pictures while driving around there, or answer the phone (not a problem since there was no cell service) or even change the radio station. (I actually listened to a local station for a while, but then got so sick of the political ads that I went back to satellite.) And the bridges. Let’s just say sometimes it’s better not to know what’s under you (or not under you in some cases) when you drive over one. Check out the pictures and you’ll know what I mean. Highway 1 is at the same time the most beautiful and the scariest road I’ve driven so far.

Speaking of taking pictures, I wish I had a dime for every picture I’ve taken for couples along the road. They see my camera, assume I know what I’m doing and ask – or if I’m in a good mood I’ll actually offer. But it gets kind of old, too, because I get sick of seeing couple, after couple, after couple – am I the only one doing a road trip alone???

I very much wished I’d downloaded all my new iTunes store purchases to my iPod. I was a bit melancholy the night before so went on a bit of a music buying spree to cheer myself up. There’s so much good new music out there: Darius Rucker’s Charleston, SC 1966; Toby Keith’s Bullets in the Gun, the Country Strong soundtrack, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now, Sugarland’s The Incredible Machine, Trace Adkin’s The Cowboy’s Back in Town (every song on this is great), Kenny Chesney’s Hemingway’s Whiskey (featuring my new favorite song Somewhere With You) – I could go on and on.

I drove through Point Lobos State Reserve and Andrew Molera State Park before arriving at my longest stop of the day: Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. This was a stop worth paying for. I needed a good hike and this had multiple trails and promised Redwoods and a waterfall: perfect. I wasn’t 10 minutes into the hike when I ran into a couple coming down the trail. “I can save you a lot of trouble and show you my pictures,” said the gentleman. “It’s a long, straight up climb,” chimed in his wife, “Just when you think you’re there, you have to go down again and then up and down to reach the waterfall.”  “Thanks,” I responded, “but I need the exercise.”

The encounter with the couple made me think. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Not that they were telling me that, but it almost felt that way. You can do pretty much anything you set your mind to. (Other than making someone love you. That will never work. And I would never try because who wants someone they need to convince to love them? They’re clearly not worth your effort.) So many people think I’m crazy for taking this road trip alone, for hiking alone, even for going to the movies or dinner alone! It was just like when I was 16 and pregnant and people told me that you can’t have a baby or be a good mom, being single and so young. Of course, I wasn’t completely alone – Cris may not have been ‘ready to be a dad’ (like I was ready to be a mom – ha!) but I did have the most supportive family in the world. And I think all that’s turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!

I was snapped out of my thoughts by the sound of the waterfall, which you could hear long before you could see it. It was small, but pretty and peaceful. I paused for a few pictures (of course) before heading back. On the way, I talked to my little cousin Hannah who is having minor surgery on Friday (good luck, my dear!). I can’t believe she, like Allegra, is 13 – where is all the time going?!

I found my way out of the woods and back to the road, passing by Ventana (a landmark red farmhouse) and Nepenthe, a restaurant/shop named after the ‘drug of forgetfulness’ which is supposed to make you forget your sorrows. I considered stopping, but decided I’m fine.  Besides, I was running out of daylight and had one more stop: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which features a waterfall that drops into the ocean, a small old abandoned mill and the remains of the Waterfall House. I was lucky enough to be there as the sun went down and got some pretty cool pictures.

As the day went on, the wind got worse (at one point the car door almost blew off the hinges – do you think Volvo would cover that?) and I was slightly afraid I’d blow off a cliff if I didn’t accidentally drive off one first. I had no desire to pull a Thelma and Louise, and just kept praying my brakes would keep working – even more than I did in San Francisco! It was rather scary, especially when it got dark (sorry Dad – I had no choice but to drive in the dark until I found somewhere to stay!), there were no lights, mountain on one side, cliffs dropping into the ocean on the other, and people were tailgating you even though the roads were narrow and windy and the speed limit was 20 mph. This (and when I, who is slightly afraid of heights, was standing at the edge of a cliff taking pictures of the drop) was when I was thinking how it’s good I’m doing this. I need to face my fears. It reminded me of the new Karate Kid, which we watched at Jason’s in Oklahoma. There’s a part when he’s hurt and everyone tells him he doesn’t have to get back in the ring, but he says he has to because he’s still scared. He needs to show himself he can do it so he’s not scared any more. It is so true. There is no better way to get over something than by facing it straight on.

Even with the tinge of fear, I loved the ride. Have I mentioned how good California smells? Better than any other state – it’s like a never-ending Yankee Candle! And the scenery is constantly changing. From the ocean (and the biggest seaweed ever), to the mountains, through Redwoods and farm land, it never gets boring.

I eventually came to civilisation (and regained cell service) around 8 pm in San Simeon, near Hearst Castle. (See, I knew I wouldn’t be there by 3:30!) I found a motel, and collapsed with my not so healthy dinner of microwave popcorn and diet coke. I had more than 900 pictures to go through and didn’t want to waste time in a restaurant. I also had people to catch up with, such as Mike and Jen to tell them that at the rate I’m going, I’m not sure exactly when I’ll reach LA…

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Oh my goodness. When I got in my car in Los Gatos on Day 47, I glanced at my odometer and couldn’t believe I’ve put more than 10,000 miles on my car already. And I’m on the complete other side of the country, and need to drive back, so I can only imagine what it will read at the end of this trip. I know I’ve been driving a lot; I guess I didn’t realize quite how it all added up. I also can’t believe I’ve been on the road for 47 days – it really does only feel like a couple of weeks. People keep asking if I’m sick of being on the road yet. Absolutely not, I’m loving every minute (even the not so great minutes). Even all the many, many minutes of driving.

Driving in San Francisco is similar to London. You have to drive 20 minutes to get a few miles. Then there’s the added complexity of the hills. You’re kept busy praying that your brakes keep working – it reminded me of The Princess Diaries when Anne Hathaway is taught to drive. I can’t even imagine learning here! Thank goodness I don’t have a standard. I also paid a new high for gas – $3.25 a gallon. Actually, I guess I paid more in Vancouver, but I’m not even sure what that was exactly, as it wasn’t in gallons – it was like London. I paid more than I want to think about, really.

I was wondering how I’d feel – if I’d still love San Francisco. And I do. I so do – more than I’d like to. As soon as I drove into the city, parked and got out of my car, I was in love again. Standing on the pier I knew I’d be happy waking up here every day, just as I was in London. If only all my family and friends were here. It makes me wonder if Plymouth (the place I’m considering settling if I decide to change courses and open an inn back home) will make me feel this way. It is on the water (good). And historic (good). It’s not a city (both good and bad). But Boston is so close, as is all of the Cape. I’m skeptical. But then I remember what Sarah dubbed ‘the summer of love.’ We had such a blast that summer, spending many weekends in downtown Plymouth. So maybe it could be the place for me…

Pushing the future from my mind to live more in the present, I left the pier and hunted down an open-top bus tour to get reaquainted with the city, which is glowing from excitement at going to the World Series.  Here are a few of the tidbits I learned on the tour:

  • Levi’s invented jeans here for the gold rush.
  • Martinis and jukeboxes were both created in San Francisco.
  • The phrase ‘sugar daddy’ also originated here, for a man who worked in sugar and fell for a girl who was immortalized in statue.
  • San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in the country (and my favorite).

Of course I learned other things, but those stuck with me. If you haven’t been here, please do visit. I love the piers, the unhurried bustle, the content atmosphere, the cool art everywhere, the friendliness – and it was the first place I’ve had guys start hitting on me by commenting on my cowboy boots – very funny! I also had a great mini-makeover at the Benefit counter in Macy’s. I ran in for one thing, and after Obsaitha worked magic on my face for a few minutes, I walked out of there with more product than I realized I couldn’t live without. And no, I don’t have buyer’s regret – I love Benefit!

I was so overwhelmed with excitement for being back in the city that I considered changing my itinerary once again and spending a few days just in the heart of the city. Then I thought about what really matters to me and that’s having more time to spend with my good friends in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to lose time with them just to be in San Francisco longer by myself. And I even cut my tour short to visit another friend – Neal, who I was close to at Dean. It was so good to see him and his family – he hasn’t changed a bit, which I love. (Perfect text timing, Neal!)

I was happy – I got a glimpse of a city I love, and know I will visit again as soon as possible. But it was time to go, as I wanted to take my time getting to LA – to enjoy the scenic route, stopping at many of the places Luke, Laura, Joy, Lauren and Neal all said are must-sees. So very many, it will be interesting to see when I actually reach LA!

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Yes, you’re right. Some of you remembered that one of my original milestones was to be in San Diego by today so that I could see the Patriots play the Chargers. I’m afraid I didn’t make it. I revised my itinerary a couple of weeks ago when I realized it just wasn’t realistic. I didn’t want to rush down the California coast and miss out on so many things, especially since I can see the Patriots play back home. (Albeit in the snow by the time I get there.)

Well, instead I’m in very rainy San Francisco. I’m rather disappointed as I love this city so much and I’d like to be off exploring, but it’s good too because it gave me time to simply sit and catch up with friends. And that’s exactly what I did. In the late morning I met Joy and her family at their home in San Francisco (I was supposed to meet them earlier for dim sum, but surprise, surprise, yours truly was running late).  Then in the late afternoon I visited another high school friend, Lauren, and her family at their home in Oakland. The funny thing is, neither of them knew the other was out here. It’s amazing how people spread out around the country, and the world. Some for school, some for jobs, some for love, some simply to escape. Many love it in their adopted homes, but it’s also interesting how many end up back home again – at least eventually.

Between visits I popped over to see the Golden Gate Bridge, since I wasn’t sure if I’d have a chance tomorrow or not. While hunting for a good viewing point I found another National Historic Site – Fort Point. The Civil War fort is right on the water, just underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I braved the elements – and nearly sacrificed my camera – to get photos of the bridge, waves (which I was afraid for a bit would wash away my poor car) and the fort.

Over dinner with Luke and Laura we came to the consensus that, since the weather is clearing, I must spend a few hours in the city tomorrow before heading south on route 1 (just like home). So I’ll play tourist for a few hours in the morning (well, I guess playing tourist is my full-time job right now, so nothing new there) and see if I still love the city like I used to. What I know, though, is it’s time to hit the road because if I stay here any longer, I’ll put on 20 pounds! After another wonderful dinner, Luke, Laura and I headed straight for another little gelato shop. Yummmm… At least we walked a bit after, and then went on another brief road tour before heading home. It’s going to be hard to leave – it always is when your hosts are family and make you feel so at home!

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I’m loving California! (Don’t worry, folks back home, so far I’m still going back east eventually.) The day started with a great breakfast and conversation with Todd, followed by a brief walk among the Redwoods, since he knows how much I love trees. They were incredible, gentle giants – and Todd explained that these – some of which are a few hundred years old – are the babies. I can’t wait to see the parents!

 I was sad to bid him farewell, but glad to know that some friendships are forever enduring, it doesn’t matter how much time or distance there is. I feel like I gain new insights with everyone I visit, and take a piece of them with me along my journey. So I guess I am really never alone…

It wasn’t long before I arrived in Los Gatos to visit my uncle Luke and aunt Laura. (Yes, General Hospital fans, I am staying with Luke and Laura!) Despite the weather, they gave me a whirlwind tour of the area. It reminded me so much of being with my Dad and Maggie – very warm, welcoming and comforting, and including a chauffeured tour around town, learning all sorts of interesting tidbits about the area and people, just like my time with my parents. We went for a rollercoaster ride through the Santa Cruz mountains, complete with peaks and dips and hairpin turns – and fabulous views, although there weren’t really safe places to stop for pictures.

The San Gregorio General Store was our first stop. It is the neatest place, everything rolled into one: a live band, bar, restaurant, book store, post cards, gifts, clothes – you name it, they have it. A true old-fashioned general store. We sipped our hot beverages, soaked in the atmosphere and browsed the goodies. (Luke said I fit right in with my cowboy boots.) I was tempted, but continue to hold strong, resisting major purchases – hope you’re proud of me! Pescadero Beach was next, with crashing waves and crazy surfers. It was a first for me – wearing cowboy boots on the beach. I let Luke do the wading and he found a big starfish, which he saved by throwing back in the water.

It would be hard to say what the best part of the day was, but Pigeon Point Lighthouse might be it. Seeing the lighthouse up close was great, but I especially loved the seals basking in, well, not exactly sun, but in the light, rain and wind. No, the weather didn’t seem to bother them a bit. We even witnessed a baby trying his hardest to join the others on the rock. Eventually he succeeded, but it took him awhile. And I can’t forget Luke’s favorite part: the old whale bones by the lighthouse. Final sight-seeing stop: Greyhound Rock in Davenport, a monster sitting in the ocean by a small beach, complete with caves to explore.

The evening was a culinary delight – at least in my eyes! Melt-in-your-mouth clam chowder and calamari at Zelda’s on the water in Santa Cruz, followed by ice cream at Powell’s Sweet Shop in Los Gatos (raspberry white chocolate for Laura, banana chocolate chip for Luke and strawberry cheesecake for me), and finally concluded with espressos, lattes and caramel hot apple cider at Starbucks. Yes, we rolled home, admiring the Halloween decorations on the way…

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