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California, What a Trip

by rex - 2000-02-03 ( life / travel / california )

Before we left, I took Austin to his GrandmaJoy's house. We had a good visit and he took to her immediately. I left him on Fridaymorning and drove back to Nashville. I was supposed to get my eardrums cut open for theplane ride because I had ear infections, but the steroids and antibiotics had put anegative pressure situation in my ears and the eardrum was inverted. I couldn't get theprocedure 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 gotthere around noon. We stayed on nearby Coronado Island. The hotel was beautiful and theisland was immaculate. We rested about an hour and then went to the San Diego Zoo. I wasdisappointed 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 themthrough the slats in the wooden fence after we waited for 30 minutes. I decided to get outof the line - who needs another hour wait to see a sleeping panda in full view. I sawenough. 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 fourhours at the zoo and then drove around San Diego.

It was a really cool place. The nearby Spanish Harbor was packed withhundreds of boats and it was beautiful. We went to the Fish House for dinner and had anhour wait at 8:30pm. By 10pm we were eating in our sleep (jet lag). We were so tired. Rexwent to sleep 3 times at the table. I ordered lobster and barely had the strength towrestle 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 anartist exhibit. Their work was good, but not as good as the artists thought, judging bythe prices. We went to La Jolla and strolled around the streets. That is a very neat andscenic place. The beautiful people live there. It was really strange to see so many prettypeople 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 Idid 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 stoppedto see the Queen Mary cruise liner that was in Long Beach harbor. They use it as a hotelnow, but it has an interesting history of elite cruises and wartime service as well. Itwas the sister ship built after the "Titanic." Sunday evening we stayed inSanta Monica. Big disappointment. That town was so dirty. We got up the next morningand went to the famed Santa Monica pier. The carousel was impressive, but that was it. Theplace was like a filthy fairgrounds. We walked through the Pacific Palisades park that wassupposed to be so beautiful - there were bums everywhere. We actually saw differentclasses of bums. Some had camped all night under the trees and just woke up like they werein bed. They would prop up against a tree still under their covers and made you feel likeyou were trespassing in their bedroom.

Monday we drove to Hollywood and saw the Walk of Fame and Mann'sChinese Theatre. Again we were struck by the nastiness of the city. We drove up to theHollywood 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 ofLiz Taylor, Brad Pitt, Ronald Reagan and the houses of Art Linkletter and Madonna. Theroads there were rather hilly. The homes were a lot smaller than I had thought. One thingthat was impressive was the Rodeo Drive stores and the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (PrettyWoman). That evening we drove to Morro Bay. On the way we saw Malibu (speck on themap), 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, andthe 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 waitingin the room.

Tuesday morning we woke up and strolled by Morro Bay. We stopped in alittle coffee shop for the best hot chocolate that I have ever had. It was a very relaxingplace and very remote. Their claim to fame was the Morro Rock, made of volcanic rock fromthousands of years ago. We drove to the rock. It was in the bay area. What you will neversee on any advertisement of the place is that immediately to the right of the rock is afactory with smokestacks. They cut that out of all postcards. It kind of takes away a bitof the allure. We saw a rock in the ocean beside a factory. After an appropriate twominutes of looking at the rock, we drove to Hearst Castle. It is in the middle of thedesert 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 wasmagnificent!! It was started in 1919 and building stopped in 1934. It wasn't completelyfinished, but he got into some financial trouble for a while and ceased building. It hadthree guest homes that went with the main home. It had indoor and outdoor pools. It had aprivate zoo. You must see it if you are ever in the area. It is remarkable. It is evenbigger than Biltmore Estate. That tour took several hours. We ate lunch at a roadsidemarket where they charged $2.79/gallon for gas!! The average price was $1.89 all overCalifornia. 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 beacheson 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 theMonterey Bay Double Tree Hotel. The town was so lovely. We got up the next morning andwalked 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 therocks. The aquarium was fabulous. It is a must-see if you ever go there. It has a greatdesign and lots of cool things for kids and adults. We ate lunch at Bubba Gump'srestaurant. It was a typical theme restaurant - cool setting with mediocre food. Wedid a bit of shopping by the pier and then took the "17 Mile Drive." It isa very scenic drive that centers around Pebble Beach golf course. It is also theonly private toll road west of the Mississippi ($7.75 per car). It was the highlight of mytrip. It is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. The homes are enormousand stately. The ocean is so beautiful with the cliffs and rocks. The famous "LoneCypress" at Pebble Beach is the most scenic place. The greens fees were $295, so Rexjust looked at the course. I can't believe that people actually pay that amount fora game of golf. There were tons of deer on the golf course. We counted over 40 at just twoholes. Factor in the difficulty of the deer and the greens fees and I just wouldn't playthere. One deer was laying over one of the holes!! If you ever go to Monterey, please taketime 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 atnight. It was a sight to see. The Bay Bridge was all lit up and was beautiful. It was aclear night so all of the lights were bright. We stayed downtown by Fisherman'sWharf. The next morning we got up and walked around the shops on Pier 39. We saw thefamous 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 residenceat the pier so they built little floating docks for them. We toured Alcatraz thatafternoon, very cool. That evening we took a tour of the city which included the"Presidio" and "Golden Gate Bridge." I have never seen so manydifferent cultures of people in one place. We ran across Korean, Japanese, Chinese,Russian, Czech, British, French, Chileans, Mexican, etc. It really was a potpourriof people. The lack of space really bothered us. They don't have civilian cemeteriesbecause 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 MuirWoods - redwood forest. It is a must-see. It is the most peaceful place on Earth. Thetrees are enormous. There was one tree that we could not see the top of! We took a threemile 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 thegrapevines growing right up to the roads. I thought that it would be hilly and lush. Whatwe saw was wineries located on a 4-lane highway that was very commercial. It wasdisappointing. I guess that I thought that it would be a quaint town. The bikers wereriding 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 BerringerBrothers. The best was at the Coppola winery. He also had a museum of his Hollywood awardsand props - the desk from the Godfather movie and the car from Tucker. The BerringerBrothers was the most visually pleasant - it looked like a real winery that you thinkof. After tasting some 18 wines, I decided that I just don't like wine at all. I did makeone purchase of a special "director's series" that was the best and that Iconsidered tolerable. That evening we stayed at a fabulous bed & breakfast inCalistoga Foothill House. You must stay at this B&B if you are ever in the area. Westayed in the Evergreen Room and it was so wonderful. It had a private patio with a gardenand waterfall just for us. Some of the other rooms were wonderful too. One had a waterfalloutside that looked like it fell right in to your bathtub inside. It was a big tub for twowith the waterfall outside a full window. The owners were interesting. Doris went to theAmerican Culinary School and is a fabulous cook. Gus is retired from Toyota and is a verygracious host. Every evening they host a gathering with appetizers and wine tasting. Itwent well into the night when we were there. I think that Doris had a bit much. We didn'tsee her the next day. They really did a lot of extra-special things. They put fresh-bakedcookies in the room with a stuffed animal. They put sherry by the bed for a nighttimetoddy. 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 Airportat 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 hopefullyeveryone has fond memories of his visit. We couldn't wait to see him till Sunday. Wecrashed Laverne's hotel room at midnight when we returned to Nashville, so we could bewith 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. Wehad some friends help us with our plans and they did a fabulous job of telling us theimportant things and the ones to avoid. I know that I would have done the one hour driveto the famous geyser in Calistoga, but a friend of Rex's saved us. She said it was like anold 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 outsideMorro Bay. It is an inn with theme rooms. The decorations are like nothing that you haveever seen before. It is like Elvis and Phyllis Diller decorated the place. It is sointeresting. The men's bathroom is a cave. The urinal is a waterfall!! Each room isunique. Some have 7 foot stone tubs or special stone beds. It is truly weird. You shouldsee this if you get a chance.

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


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