California, What a trip!

by Rex - 2000-02-02 - in life / travel /


Thursday, before we left on Saturday, I took Austin to his Grandma Joy's house. We had a good visit and he took to her immediately. I left him on Friday morning and drove back to Nashville. I was supposed to get my eardrums cut open for the plane ride because I had ear infections, but the steroids and antibiotics had put a negative pressure situation in my ears and the eardrum was inverted. I couldn't get the procedure done. I was so scared that my ears would hurt, but they did pretty well.

We left on Saturday morning about 6 AM. We flew to San Diego and got there around noon. We stayed on nearby Coronado Island. The hotel was beautiful and the island was immaculate. We rested about an hour and then went to the San Diego Zoo. I was disappointed in the zoo.   Everyone said that it was amazing, and it was just so-so. People were waiting for 90 minutes to see the giant pandas. I caught a glimpse of them through the slats in the wooden fence after we waited for 30 minutes. I decided to get out of the line — who needs another hour wait to see a sleeping panda in full view. I saw enough. The maps were backwards — all tourists just turned them upside down — looks like they would fix that. The gorillas were the best by far. We spent about four hours at the zoo and then drove around San Diego.

It was a really cool place. The nearby Spanish Harbor was packed with hundreds of boats and it was beautiful. We went to the Fish House for dinner and had an hour wait at 8:30pm. By 10pm we were eating in our sleep (jet lag). We were so tired. Rex went to sleep 3 times at the table. I ordered lobster and barely had the strength to wrestle with it when it came. We would have been eating dinner at midnight at home!!

Sunday morning, we drove around Coronado Island and stopped at an artist exhibit. Their work was good, but not as good as the artists thought, judging by the prices. We went to La Jolla and strolled around the streets. That is a very neat and scenic place. The beautiful people live there. It was really strange to see so many pretty people in one place. We had lunch at George's on the Terrace, overlooking La Jolla Cove. We had great fish sandwiches and a great view of the ocean and cliffs. One thing that I did notice was that the weeds that we spray our yards for back home end up on their "gourmet sandwiches"!

After our meal, we drove up the coastal highway through Oceanside, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, LA, and Rex's favorite, Laguna Beach. On the way we stopped to see the Queen Mary cruise liner that was in Long Beach harbor. They use it as a hotel now, but it has an interesting history of elite cruises and wartime service as well. It was the sister ship built after the "Titanic."  Sunday evening we stayed in Santa Monica.  Big disappointment. That town was so dirty. We got up the next morning and went to the famed Santa Monica pier. The carousel was impressive, but that was it. The place was like a filthy fairgrounds. We walked through the Pacific Palisades park that was supposed to be so beautiful — there were bums everywhere. We actually saw different classes of bums. Some had camped all night under the trees and just woke up like they were in bed. They would prop up against a tree still under their covers and made you feel like you were trespassing in their bedroom.

Monday we drove to Hollywood and saw the Walk of Fame and Mann's Chinese Theatre. Again we were struck by the nastiness of the city. We drove up to the Hollywood sign and that was neat. We drove through the hills and looked at a few stars' gates — you can't see anyone's houses. We tired of that quickly. We saw the gates of Liz Taylor, Brad Pitt, Ronald Reagan and the houses of Art Linkletter and Madonna. The roads there were rather hilly. The homes were a lot smaller than I had thought. One thing that was impressive was the Rodeo Drive stores and the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (Pretty Woman). That evening we drove to Morro Bay. On the way we saw Malibu (speck on the map), lots of little beaches, and ate dinner in Santa Barbara — it is really pretty. It looks a lot like San Diego, but nicer. The streets were pleasant with nice shops, and the harbor was full of boats. We spent the night at a bed & breakfast in Morro Bay, The Baywood Inn. Our room was beautiful. Rex had a bottle of champagne and a cake waiting in the room.

Tuesday morning we woke up and strolled by Morro Bay. We stopped in a little coffee shop for the best hot chocolate that I have ever had. It was a very relaxing place and very remote. Their claim to fame was the Morro Rock, made of volcanic rock from thousands of years ago. We drove to the rock. It was in the bay area. What you will never see on any advertisement of the place is that immediately to the right of the rock is a factory with smokestacks. They cut that out of all postcards. It kind of takes away a bit of the allure. We saw a rock in the ocean beside a factory. After an appropriate two minutes of looking at the rock, we drove to Hearst Castle. It is in the middle of the desert at San Simeon. It is a true sight to behold. It belonged to William Randolph Hearst — Patty's grandfather. He had it built over a period of 15 years. It was magnificent!! It was started in 1919 and building stopped in 1934. It wasn't completely finished, but he got into some financial trouble for a while and ceased building. It had three guest homes that went with the main home. It had indoor and outdoor pools. It had a private zoo. You must see it if you are ever in the area. It is remarkable. It is even bigger than Biltmore Estate. That tour took several hours. We ate lunch at a roadside market where they charged $2.79/gallon for gas!! The average price was $1.89 all over California. I guess that you can charge anything out in the desert.

We drove to Monterey that evening. We went through Big Sur, Carmel, and all of the beautiful beaches on the way. You don't want to miss the area around Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park — some of the best scenery in central California. In Monterey, we stayed in town at the Monterey Bay Double Tree Hotel. The town was so lovely. We got up the next morning and walked a couple of miles on the ocean walk to the aquarium.

The walkway was by the beach and we saw a lot of sea lions on the rocks. The aquarium was fabulous. It is a must-see if you ever go there. It has a great design and lots of cool things for kids and adults. We ate lunch at Bubba Gump's restaurant. It was a typical theme restaurant — cool setting with mediocre food. We did a bit of shopping by the pier and then took the "17 Mile Drive."  It is a very scenic drive that centers around Pebble Beach golf course.  It is also the only private toll road west of the Mississippi ($7.75 per car). It was the highlight of my trip. It is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. The homes are enormous and stately. The ocean is so beautiful with the cliffs and rocks. The famous "Lone Cypress" at Pebble Beach is the most scenic place. The greens fees were $295, so Rex just looked at the course.  I can't believe that people actually pay that amount for a game of golf. There were tons of deer on the golf course. We counted over 40 at just two holes. Factor in the difficulty of the deer and the greens fees and I just wouldn't play there. One deer was laying over one of the holes!! If you ever go to Monterey, please take time to do the 17 Mile Drive — at least the coastal part of it.

Wednesday evening we drove to San Francisco. We drove into the city at night. It was a sight to see. The Bay Bridge was all lit up and was beautiful. It was a clear night so all of the lights were bright.  We stayed downtown by Fisherman's Wharf. The next morning we got up and walked around the shops on Pier 39. We saw the famous seals at Pier 39, they were having a big time. They used to stay on Seal Island, but after the earthquake several years ago they wouldn't go back. They took up residence at the pier so they built little floating docks for them. We toured Alcatraz that afternoon, very cool. That evening we took a tour of the city which included the "Presidio" and "Golden Gate Bridge." I have never seen so many different cultures of people in one place. We ran across Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Czech, British, French, Chileans, Mexican, etc.  It really was a potpourri of people. The lack of space really bothered us. They don't have civilian cemeteries because of the land expense. The average rent for a 2-bedroom home is $2700 per month!!!

Friday morning before leaving San Francisco, I decided to drive down "Lombard Street," the most crooked street in the world. We then headed for Muir Woods — redwood forest. It is a must-see. It is the most peaceful place on earth. The trees are enormous. There was one tree that we could not see the top of! We took a three mile hike through the woods and enjoyed it immensely. Afterwards, we drove to Napa Valley. It was very different from what I thought. I envisioned a two-lane road with the grapevines growing right up to the roads. I thought that it would be hilly and lush. What we saw was wineries located on a 4-lane highway that was very commercial. It was disappointing. I guess that I thought that it would be a quaint town. The bikers were riding on the side of the interstate road. We stopped at five wineries and tasted at four:   Stags Leap, Plumbjacks, Robert Mondavi, Francis Ford Coppola's, and Berringer Brothers. The best was at the Coppola winery. He also had a museum of his Hollywood awards and props — the desk from the Godfather movie and the car from Tucker. The Berringer Brothers was the most visually pleasant — it looked like a real winery that you think of. After tasting some 18 wines, I decided that I just don't like wine at all. I did make one purchase of a special "director's series" that was the best and that I considered tolerable. That evening we stayed at a fabulous bed & breakfast in Calistoga Foothill House. You must stay at this B&B if you are ever in the area. We stayed in the Evergreen Room and it was so wonderful. It had a private patio with a garden and waterfall just for us. Some of the other rooms were wonderful too. One had a waterfall outside that looked like it fell right in to your bathtub inside. It was a big tub for two with the waterfall outside a full window. The owners were interesting. Doris went to the American Culinary School and is a fabulous cook. Gus is retired from Toyota and is a very gracious host. Every evening they host a gathering with appetizers and wine tasting. It went well into the night when we were there. I think that Doris had a bit much. We didn't see her the next day. They really did a lot of extra-special things. They put fresh-baked cookies in the room with a stuffed animal. They put sherry by the bed for a nighttime toddy. Everything was so PERFECT!!! It was the most wonderful place that we stayed.

Saturday, it was time to go home. We left for the San Francisco Airport at 10:00AM and our flight left at 3:45. We had a wonderful time. Austin stayed with Mom, Laverne, and Brenda over the vacation time. He got to know everyone well and hopefully everyone has fond memories of his visit. We couldn't wait to see him till Sunday. We crashed Laverne's hotel room at midnight when we returned to Nashville, so we could be with our boy. He seemed irritated that we woke him, but the next day he was so happy.

If you ever plan to go to the coast of California, please tell us. We had some friends help us with our plans and they did a fabulous job of telling us the important things and the ones to avoid. I know that I would have done the one hour drive to the famous geyser in Calistoga, but a friend of Rex's saved us. She said it was like an old man's moist fart — not the 60 foot spectacle that it is advertised to be.

I forgot one of the best things — The Madonna Inn. It is outside Morro Bay. It is an inn with theme rooms. The decorations are like nothing that you have ever seen before. It is like Elvis and Phyllis Diller decorated the place. It is so interesting. The men's bathroom is a cave. The urinal is a waterfall!! Each room is unique. Some have 7 foot stone tubs or special stone beds. It is truly weird. You should see this if you get a chance.

Anyway, just a long note to catch you up on what we have been doing!!


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