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!

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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…

The gauntlet has been thrown down…

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After last night’s excesses, the only thing to do was to head to Denny’s for breakfast (hair of the dog and all that… ) We knew we were in the right place when we saw this:

Included in the “festivities” (?) was something just for T…

That’s right. It’s bacon sprinkled on an ice cream sundae. (That obesity epidemic is such a mystery… ) Despite my most persuasive taunting, T wouldn’t order one for breakfast. Lame.

With our triglycerides nicely topped off, we hit the road for San Jose, CA. It was a largely unexciting drive, save for the In N Out stop in Redding, CA, just after the busload of college lacrosse team got there and an epic line to wait in. Since we’d been planning to stop there pretty much before breakfast, there was nothing to do but suck it up and wait. (We did get to catch up on inane college boy conversations, so that’s something.)

Then after that, it was more mind-numbing hours of driving. The section between Redding and the Bay Area is always challenging. The scenery isn’t anything special and it just seems to go on forever. You pass an endless parade of depressing agricultural towns with the occasional casino or funny billboard thrown in for variety. But eventually, all of that starts to transition into urban sprawl and you make your way into the Bay Area.

Luckily, after living there for a number of years, I’m familiar with a good back way to get to my brother’s house and we didn’t sit in too much terrible traffic. Our rental car came with a NeverLostâ„¢ navigation system, which I think might have the least intuitive interface I’ve ever seen. T was trying to plug my brother’s street address into it and, despite being a fairly tech savvy individual, kept ending up on screens to change the language and whatnot. I was convinced the useless thing was going to end up jabbering at us in French or Ukrainian by the time he finished with it, but he eventually got it working.

We got to my brother’s place and were greeted by much wagging and jumping, most of which was from my brother’s dogs. (Especially since Erik’s recent knee surgery… ) We had a little time to unwind and chat about our adventures before heading over to meet Nerissa. With all of the terrible road food, my stomach was unhappy (to say the least) and I’d asked that we get dinner at Fresh Choice, an awesome salad bar restaurant chain they have down there. But first we got to tag along on a fun errand: Nerissa buying her first brand new car. It took way too long at the dealership, but the end result was a shiny new Hyundai Elantra and an awesome ginourmous salad for dinner, so everyone was happy.

Road trip day one: the “rolling back the clock” edition

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T and I haven’t taken a real vacation in forever, (i.e. one with no race involved) so we decided to remedy that with a good old fashioned road trip. We’ve been wanting to visit friends and family down in California, (and I’ve been jonesing for the sun) so our destination was decided. We’d driven down to Salem last night to break the biggest amount of driving into manageable chunks.  (Especially since I could work remotely and T could hang out with his family for a few hours.) Then the plan was to kick vacation off with a few hours drive down to Grants Pass in southern Oregon, giving us a very reasonable drive down to my brother’s place in Fremont, CA.

We weren’t sure our rickety old Saturn was up for the trip, so we decided to rent a sweet ride for the occasion. Behold, the new road trip mobile:

Oh yeah… big pimping in the Nissan Sentra…

It does have an attachment to plug in an iPod though, so that’s pretty sweet…

T finishes loading the bikes so we can get this show on the road.

Giddy with that feeling of being on vacation after a crazy busy work week, we set off. The scenery was gorgeous and it was actually sunny (although interspersed with rain clouds.) Even the dark rain clouds looked pretty against the bright green grass and ridiculously picturesque farms and whatnot. I wanted to take pictures every five minutes, but wisely decided to focus on driving instead. I did make T take a couple on my behalf:

About an hour from our destination, we started noticing a dusting of snow on the trees in the hills on either side of us. Then on the side of the road. Then it started snowing. In April. Curse this ridiculous state…

As we drove through the Cascades it was coming down pretty good, but luckily not sticking. As we got closer to our destination, we were treated to some gorgeous sun breaks, which T tried to capture from the moving car:

And a rainbow!

Grants Pass was all about the ominous foreshadowing. We turned into our hotel’s driveway at the exact same time as a car turned left into and crashed into another car. Good times. We’d booked a hotel room through Priceline for 40 bucks, which we were feeling pretty smug about until we checked in and they handed us two actual, honest to goodness KEYS for our room:

There was also some super swanky decor, but hey, it’s one night and it was only 40 bucks…

Because Grants Pass is a bustling metropolis, we had our pick of all of the major fast food chains (including the ill-fated Taco Bell that the person who’s now missing two bumpers of his car was trying to go to) and a handful of scary-ooking local joints. Then we saw the Sizzler. I hadn’t eaten at a Sizzler since sometime in 1989, so I was super excited about it. (Plus I felt it would compliment the decor of our hotel room nicely.) In another delightful omen, we headed to the door as another couple was exiting. They were gracious enough to warn us that a little girl had just thrown up in the entryway and we should be careful where we stepped. (Yum! Who’s hungry?) Unbelievably, we still went inside…

Sizzler is much pricier than I’d remembered, so we decided that we would just stick with the “salad bar.”

(For those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating at a Sizzler, the salad bar is not a very accurate description of the tacos, fried foods, and mayonnaise-based creations that accompany the tiny array of actual salad makings.) It was also quite the happening hot spot…

T was deeply enjoying his trip down memory lane. NOT! (How’s that for a flashback joke?)

This might be my favorite picture of T ever. The look of sheer terror on his face is priceless. It really sums up his dining experience nicely. He did manage to make the best of things with a little “Sizzler banana split” action:

I’ve got to hand it to him, the boy knows how to make the best of a bad situation…

Hopefully, the scary-looking people in the room next to us will keep it down, so we can get a good night’s sleep before we start this madness all over again tomorrow.