Hell in a handbasket…

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I’m frequently horrified by television commercials for various pizza chains and the ridiculously caloric “specials” they frequently promote. (Like 5 pounds of pasta for five bucks. Shudder.) But that was nothing compared to what I recently saw in the freezer aisle of my local supermarket:

(I particularly like the spelling of “wyngz.” It also has a note that it doesn’t contain any wing meat.) T was on board:

But seriously, is there really a market for this? Was there really a consumer out there that was thinking “Hmmm, this pizza is good, but it would be GREAT if it came with some misspelled, non-wing meat containing, chicken wings?”

Heading home

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All good things must come to an end and our big California vacation was, alas, one of them. We had a delicious brunch with entertainment by Bella:

Then it was time to bid the Cyclones farewell. On our way out of town, I spied this “vintage” Sizzler sign that reminded me of the start of this epic journey of ours:

I basked in the sunshine for as long as I could. But as we got closer to the Oregon border, the sun gave way to clouds and then almost exactly as we crossed the Oregon border the rain started and didn’t let up until we got to Roseburg, which was our stop for the night. Such a bummer.

Roseburg itself isn’t a very big town and I’d booked another Priceline hotel for us. (And officially have learned my lesson on that. Priceline is only for bigger cities, not tiny towns in Southern Oregon… ) This time we didn’t have a scary meth dude or actual keys to deal with, but we did have an odd spicy smell in our room (seriously, it smelled like turmeric in there) and this security enhancement:

That’s right, it’s a dowel rod you put in the window to lock it. It had this awesome label to explain it’s purpose. Fancy!

We finished out the evening at the area’s best restaurant: Red Robin. M, this picture is just for you (please pay special attention to the amount of dressing that came with):

So, our epic road trip was at an end. We figured out that of the 1,382 miles of I-5 from the top of Washington to the bottom of California, we’d driven all but 323 of them. (And since the only driving T did was as part of a convoy arrangement, that means that I have driven all of those miles – crazy talk.) I’d like to thank all of our hosts for feeding, sheltering and entertaining us. It was an amazing adventure.

How the other half drinks

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The last stop on our trip was to visit our friends The Cyclones at their new digs in Napa. We were greeted by this lovely picture painted for us by Miss Isabella:

(I’m pretty sure she had assistance with the lettering, but one never knows with the kiddos… ) After our time with the twins, Isabella seemed so big. Luckily, we were much more acclimated to babies and better prepared for all of her energy.

We’d initially expected to have the day to ourselves and had planned to do a big bike ride, but Jake had taken the day off from work to hang out with us. Unfortunately, Darcy didn’t have that luxury, but we were planning to go visit her at her winery later in the day. First, we had a great breakfast at a local diner and wandered through their lovely local market:

The boys drink coffee and wait patiently for me to take more pictures:

Afterward, we headed over to Darcy’s winery. This is her new office:

With this view:

And the lady herself, hard at work as usual:

She did take a break to take us on an amazing tour of the winery. We got to see the cave:

Which had a really cool facade on the outside:

But is, in fact, an actual cave:

The middle of the cave is an actual event space and has a Foucault pendulum in the center, which was way cool. It was too dark to get a picture of that, but I did get a cool picture of T taking pictures:

After that, we headed over to the tasting room:

We had a great time tasting some amazing wines with a very knowledgeable gentleman who guided us through the tasting. I learned a lot from him and Darcy. Afterward, we headed over to Darcy’s other brand which was a more reasonable price point for us mere mortals. The woman who ran our tasting there treated us like royalty. She even took us into their barrel room, which was pretty cool:

These barrels contain wines from around the Napa valley, with info on their soil/regional qualities. They use the room to hold events where you learn about the various barrels and how to blend them into your own personal bottle of wine. We got to taste from the various barrels, which was very cool.

On the way out, I had to photograph the olive trees.

I grew up with olive trees and was very entertained by the winery lady’s stories about having to stop patrons from eating the olives. (I’d done that as a child and had pretty much traumatized myself from ever wanting to eat an olive again.) They are still very pretty trees though…

T was pretty buzzed after all of the drinking, so we headed up to a fancy spa in Calistoga for lunch: Solage. It was a very pretty spot for lunch and the food was delicious (though their gorgeous empty pool taunted me throughout the meal.) The best dish was surprisingly T’s tofu salad. I don’t know what they did with that tofu, but it was RIDICULOUS. (T even asked for the recipe, but they either didn’t have one or wouldn’t release it.)

Then we headed back to the Cyclones place to chill out for a bit. (It’s amazing how tiring wine tasting and lunching can be. I don’t know how the rich do it!)

Crossing the Golden Gate

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Because we weren’t active when we lived in the Bay Area before, I’d never had occasion to take advantage of the awesome riding to be had in San Francisco and it’s environs. I was particularly keen on riding across the Golden Gate bridge and into Marin if time permitted. With all of the rental car shenanigans and traffic heading up to San Francisco, we got there a bit later than expected. And because we were in the neighborhood, I wanted to go to Sports Basement as well.

Sports Basement was even more awesome than I’d imagined. Plus, Nerissa had a 20% off coupon from giving blood that she’d given me. I scored some cycling knickers and the world’s cutest bike jersey (pictures to come) and some adorable monkey socks, so it was a very successful shopping trip. If you like sporty clothes and find yourself in San Francisco, I highly recommend visiting. Then it was time to actually take the bikes out for a ride. (They’d covered a lot of miles thus far, just all of them on the bike rack… )

Our destination:

Hipstamatic Chrissy Field:

We hit the road and had a little difficulty figuring out which path led up to the bridge. This did give me more opportunities for pictures, so that was good:

We knew we were on the right path when we saw the legions of wobbly tourists on rented bikes weaving their way up the hill. Luckily, I have tons of multi-use path riding experience from those occasional sunny days on the Burke Gilman, so I could go around them. But there were still spots where I actually had to come to a complete stop with all of the oblivious tourists. I took advantage of one such stop to take a few more pictures.

Ooooh, old-timey bridge:

And a non-Hipstamatic version:

Who are these clowns?

I was intrigued by this big group of surfers down in the water at the base of the bridge:

We got onto the bridge without too much incident and it was pretty cool. There were gusts of wind and a crazy mixture of fast cyclists and the aforementioned tourists (hilariously, both of them used bike bells, so for a while there was a cacophony of ringing behind us.) I also had to stop and take pictures at random intervals:

We ended up just turning around at the end of the bridge and riding back because weaving around all of the tourists was getting old. We didn’t really have enough time to do the longer ride I’d envisioned without sitting in crazy-talk rush hour traffic, which didn’t seem worth it to me.

Road trip EXTREME

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So far on our trip I’d been doing most of the driving (much like I do in our day to day life.) But after all of the not feeling well and what-not, I’d decided that I was going to start trading off with T. Just in time for T to wake up with my stomach bug. D’oh! Luckily, all he had to do was lay in the car and do his best not to barf in it. I’ve done the drive between LA and the Bay Area about a million times, so it was fine.

We were staying with my brother for the night because we were doing a car swap. Because Nerissa got this:

We were getting her Toyota Camry:

It’s a 1997, but has 100,000 miles on it. Because it’s an older car there are a couple of issues we’ll need to work out, the most worrisome being that the passenger floorboard gets wet when it rains. (But that won’t be a problem in Seattle, right?) 😉 The plan was to drop our rental car off at San Francisco’s airport on our way north, but when we called to set that up, we learned it would be a $500 charge to do that. (We hadn’t been sure that the timing would work out with Nerissa getting her new car in time for us to take her old one, or I’d have just set up a one-way rental from the beginning or at least asked about crazy-talk fees.) So, it was convoy time.

This road trip just kicked it up a notch…

The happiest place on Earth?

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When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to live near Disneyland. In fact, my junior high marching band played there for three years in a row. It got to a point where we went often enough that I was actually tired of Disneyland. My final visit during this time was in 1987, when they opened Star Tours. They opened the park non-stop from Friday through Sunday and because we were in high school, we thought it would be cool to spend the entire weekend there. Some friends had gotten a hotel room for Saturday night, but my parents weren’t about to let me participate in those kinds of shenanigans, so I was there from Friday night through Saturday night (only 24 hours.)

Then I moved out of Southern California and the tickets for Disneyland got more and more expensive, but I’d been wanting to go back for some time. So, today was the day. Unfortunately, today was also the day I woke up with a weird stomach bug. Not to go into any grody details, but it wasn’t good. I sat on the couch and ruminated over it and ultimately decided that if I can barf my way through an Ironman, I can tough my way through Disneyland. 😉

The first half hour or so was definitely rough, but as long as I kept moving, it was okay. There was a moment in the line for Small World that was a little dicey. But the thought of barfing in front of all of those children helped me hold it together. 🙂

We wandered around for a little while after that and I started to feel better and was definitely glad I came. Enjoy some more Hipstamatic goodness:

Old timey T & I:

And because I’m a child, I had to take a picture of “Red Rockets Pizza Port” (South Park fans should know why… )

Here’s T on the rush hour traffic ride…

The most disappointing ride was definitely the submarine. (Man, did they ruin that thing!)

I did get a cool picture of the bubbles, though.

Thankfully, my favorite ride remains it’s cheesy awesome self…


Space Mountain was a little much for my stomach:

And this was as close as I was willing to get to the teacups:

But I will say, the nice thing about my stomach ailment was saving a bunch of money on food! And all things considered, we had a pretty fun day. We had planned to stay later and watch the big fireworks show and all of that, but I was pretty oversaturated by about 7:00, so we called it a day and headed back to Heidi’s. Hopefully, it won’t be fourteen more years before I return.

Double happiness

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Though I myself have never wanted to have children, I couldn’t be more thrilled that some of my dearest friends have them. I’ve enjoyed seeing the changes in my friends as they become parents and I like meeting the babies and watching them grow up. Heidi’s babies are particularly miraculous, as she had such a tough pregnancy and they were born pretty early. But now they are two beautiful baby girls. Here’s my favorite picture of Kenley:

Kenley is the more headstrong one. She’s already testing her boundaries and has very firm opinions on her likes and dislikes. While I know Heidi has her work cut out for her with this one, it’s exciting to see what Kenley is going to do in this world. It’s pretty hard to imagine anything getting in her way!

And here’s my favorite shot of Kamryn:

Kamryn is very sweet. She’s a little more reserved and is a bit more cautious. But, when she smiles at you it feels like a million bucks. T won her over with a few rounds of peekaboo, which was pretty adorable. They are still small for their age, particularly Kenley, so Heidi is constantly trying to find ways to get more calories into them. Her dad had suggested butter rolled in Parmesan, so we tried it:

(The plate is Heidi’s from when she was a little girl. Isn’t it sweet?) We spent a great day hanging out with Heidi and the girls. I particularly enjoyed watching them play in the backyard:


It was a fun and tiring day. Heidi is an amazing mom to those girls and it was a treat to see her in action. Honestly, I think a day with twins might be more tiring than any number of my triathlon exploits. 🙂

Honorable mention

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I would be remiss as a dog-lover in not mentioning Miss Oatmeal’s progress.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about Oatie before, but she was a rescue from a puppy mill where she spent the first four or so years of her life in a cage. She’s progressed amazingly over the years that Heidi’s had her. This time she jumped up in my lap within an hour of my arrival. She was absolutely in love with T:

It was wonderful to see her looking so well!

Heading south

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The next morning, we cooked another lovely breakfast before packing the car to start our journey down to LA. While I was excited to see Heidi and meet her twins, the thought of that boring drive down I-5 was not. Before getting in the car, I did get to don my beloved Keens. (Forgive the pasty white legs, it’s been a long time since they’ve seen the sun… )

We did opt for the scenic route getting to the 5 via Gilroy, which was quite lovely. (Even with the douchey Porsche that would roar past everyone before the road would go to two lanes and then become a speed limit nazi, driving EXACTLY the posted speed limit and then repeat whenever the passing lane would appear. Eye roll… ) Once on the 5, we could join the people driving 80, so it was all good.

Growing up in Southern California, we often took exception to the suggestion that we didn’t have seasons. Later in life, I’d joke that our seasons went something like this: Spring = the hills were green, Summer = the hills were brown, Fall = the hills were on fire, Winter = the hills were black. As we approached the Grapevine, I was reminded of this as the hills were a lovely green color:

The best part of getting to the Grapevine is that it’s the final leg of the journey and soon enough we’d arrived at Heidi’s cute little house in Burbank. It was so exciting to finally meet her twins, who were eating dinner and a little shy of new visitors, but so adorable. It was also so great to see Heidi and Tom. There was a flurry of baby bathing and getting ready for bed. We got to sit in on story time:

After the babies were down for the night, we got some delicious takeout from a local place and chatted. It was nice to catch up with Heidi and Tom, it’s been a long time since we’d been down for a visit and obviously a lot has changed in the interim. I was excited that we’d have the whole day tomorrow to hang out. Look forward to lots of pictures of the twins…

California adventures

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Hanging out at my brother’s house is sort of like hanging out in an Bizarro world version of my own life. House vs apartment, sun vs rain, sciency jobs vs artsy one, etc. But their routine is pretty much identical to ours on the weekend. We sit around, eventually make a big breakfast and then plot out what we want to do with our day. T & I injected a quick (and horrible) run into the mix, but otherwise it was a lovely lazy Saturday morning.

We decided to go to a local nursery that specialized in native plants so that they could look at some of the plants a landscape consultant they’d been talking to was suggesting for the backyard. It was up on the Peninsula and involved being outside in the sunshine, so I was game.

The twisty, winding road to the nursery was not fun. (At least not for us. The 4 million cyclists we passed seemed to be enjoying it very much. Well, the ones going downhill at any rate… ) The nursery itself was very pretty, tucked into a little glade. There was a cute little dog to greet us and it looked more like a botanical garden than a nursery.

They had some plants in pots, but then a large section of them in their “natural habitat.” T & I walked around while Nerissa & Erik tried to match plants to their groundplan.

We even saw some local wildlife – a banana slug:

Afterward, we got some amazing pie at a local bakery and wandered around Stanford’s Rodin sculpture garden. (For those of us who went to a state college, the notion of having a sculpture garden in hard to grasp, let alone one filled with actual Rodins… ) Erik & T posed with one of the giant heads:

Afterward, we went back to Erik & Nerissa’s place to chill out for a while before dinner. Here’s Nerissa in “chill out mode” (or as close as she gets to it… )

And my brother showed off part of his costume for the Bay to Breakers (Kali was very interested in it… )

(I like the idea that he just sits around the house like that.) Later we went out for a very nice dinner in downtown San Jose. Because of the Sharks game, we had a part of the dining room all to ourselves. It was like dining in a private restaurant. A very lovely evening. Too bad we had to get back on the road tomorrow…