Home Is Where I Want To Be

“Gee, but it’s great to be back home
Home is where I want to be.
I’ve been on the road so long, my friend,
And if you came along
I know you couldn’t disagree…”

If you haven’t figured out by now, our vacation is over and we’re back home. So this is the last vacation report. We started the day in Fresno, where we met up with my Cousin Renie. We did some more thrift store shopping in Clovis, where Erin really scored some great vintage dresses. After that, we got on the road again.

I’ve written before about the change in character of Route 99. In the past, it was mostly expressway with some freeway portions. You could easily take the business route, and when you did, you could count upon seeing that hallmark of old US highways (for Route 99 used to be US 99): the highway arch as you entered the city. This has all changed.

Today, Route 99 between Fresno and Los Angeles is completely freeway. As you go down the road, you see the old highway periodically, with dead motels and dead small gas stations. The classic roadside businesses have been replaced with the automobile service malls: large gas stations with convenience stores designed for the trucker, chain restaurants, the occasional big box malls or outlet malls. There are large roadside signs advertising those businesses. Even more disturbing are the housing developments: in the middle of the farming of the central valley are these clusters of little boxes made of ticky-tacky, in groups of 50 or 100… some of them, for no earthly explanations… as condos. Are there jobs there to support them? No. They appear vacant, as ghost towns, a monument to the exploded housing bubble.

And what of the highway arch? In the freeway world, it is long gone (plus Caltrans probably wouldn’t go for any arch over a freeway). Instead, the small cities seem to complete for squarish banner signs, fancily made of stonework, announcing their city as you enter. Unlike the arches (which, being on both ends of the highway permitted it), these cities never wish you “good bye.” It is a new world for the freeway era.

We ended our journey coming into the valley over surface streets, as naturalment, we hit a traffic jam coming into Santa Clarita and Los Angeles proper. This permitted us to take “The Old Road”, and see the construction and widening that is taking place on I-5 (presumably to support the addition of the HOV lane). We then came down Balboa, stopped at Trader Joes, and home we are.

Tommorow will be spent at home, catching up on mail. Perhaps I’ll post some pictures.


Penultimate Summer 2009 Vacation Update

We are in Fresno. When I say “we”, I mean Karen and I — Erin is in Tollhouse. Perhaps I should back up.

The day started in Sacramento. We went down to the Fox and Goose Public House in downtown Sacramento for lunch (we were slow getting out of the hotel). Yummy. Had a Welsh Rarebit Omlette. After that, we visited Rumplestiltskin and the Tea Cozy. We then got on the road heading south on Route 99.

Route 99 has changed. What was once small towns with clearly marked business routes has turned into highway malls, housing developments, and no clear markings that take you through the center of town (except Lodi). ’tis a pity. We took a couple of business routes, but it was mostly just driving. I did finally see the palm and the pine (more detailed explanation here): this is a point south of Madera that symbolically marks the divide between Southern and Northern California. We got to Fresno about 4:30p. That wasn’t the ultimate destination, although it is where my wife and I are spending the night.

After Fresno, we went N on Route 168 all the way up to the community of Tollhouse. This is where my cousin is now living, and Erin is spending the night there with her other cousins. Renie was delighted to see her, and we were delighted to see Renie’s house in the boonies of the Sierra foothills (it really is in the boonies: the road there isn’t even paved with more than gravel!). We ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, after which we returned to Fresno, whlist Erin returned to Tollhouse.

Tomorrow is our last day (although I’ll be home Friday to catch up on stuff). After meeting Renie in Clovis and doing some shopping, we hope to get Basque Food in Bakersfield (and we may hit the outlet malls in Tulare). From there, it is S on Route 99 and I-5 back to the lovely San Fernando Valley and home.


A Quick Update: San Francisco to Davis to Sacramento

Just a quick update on the day, as it is late and I should be getting to bed. We got out of San Francisco just fine, and made it up to Davis for lunch. We hit the SPCA Thriftshop, but walking back Karen tripped on some rough concrete and fell. Her nose is swollen a bit, but I got the staff from the car and it helped a bit. We’ll see how things look in the morning. We did meet up with whalejudge and groblek for lunch at the Gluten-Free restaurant — which was delightful. We wish we had as good a restaurant down in LA (and we talked to the owner a bit). After that, we went over to Christine’s and Dennis’ house and spent some time with Dennis and ellipticcurve‘s neice and nephew, who are indeed as cute as they say.

After that, we went to Sacramento. I dropped Erin off at her D&D game (she had fun), and got Karen settled in the hotel room. I then went off for a bit of gaming with klellingson. Got in games of Vegas Showdown, 10 Days in Asia, and Metro. After that, I picked up Erin, and it is back to the hotel room we are.

More tomorrow morning, before we pack and head off for a nice lunch, and then down to Fresno. We’re almost home!


Observations on The City

As we get ready to depart San Francisco for the center spine of the state, I’ve been thinking about San Francisco, especially in contrast to Los Angeles.

I’ve always made the distinction between “East Coast” and “West Coast” cities. New York is the model East Coast city; Los Angeles is the model West Coast city. In this scheme, St. Louis and San Francisco are East Coast; Kansas City is West Coast. I’m sure you can add to the list. What makes the difference is manyfold, but includes things like urban density, formality, whether people actually live in the heart of the city (few folks live in downtown Los Angeles, although there are efforts to change that).

SF is a much more populated city core. People live here; visitors visit here. There are actually things to do in the core of the city (as opposed to downtown LA, although they are trying to change that with LA Live). I like the populated core, although it makes the parking a pain. Parking is one thing I do not like about San Francisco.

SF has districts; LA has communities which are much more like individual cities. The SF districts are colorful and vibrant. Some LA communities/cities are the same (WeHo, Fairfax, Melrose, NoHo, Hollywood), but many are just more residential. There are some similarities, but each are distinct. I did enjoy the Haight; the Mission District along Valencia was OK; but along Mission it reminded me of downtown LA. But some SF areas (such as Nob Hill, where we were staying) are quite distinct. Pacific Heights reminded us of Toluca Lake or Larchmont.

The street layout can be a pain in SF, but I do like the street names in concrete at the corners. The LA urban core is much easier to navigate, and parking is much easier. You may not believe me, but drivers are saner in the core of Los Angeles than the core of San Francisco.

I do believe prices for restaurant meals are lower in Los Angeles. However, San Francisco has a greater density and quality in the urban core. LA’s good restaurants are more spread out.

Going to San Francisco has made me realize what Los Angeles’ problem is. LA never embraces itself — it always feels the #2 spot. It tries to be New York or San Francisco or Chicago. It never just accepts itself as uniquely Los Angeles: a collection of suburbs and communities that pulls together as a city when necessary.

That said: I’m a LA-boy. I’m native LA, lived all my life in LA. I’ve enjoyed this visit to San Francisco, but I think I’m ready to get on the road again, and start working my way south.


Wandering The City

Today was a day for wandering the city. Mostly good, with a few not so good things. In the latter camp is the headache I woke up with: by mid-morning it was gone, but came back in the afternoon stronger, and I finally broke down and took meds after dinner (so I’m an hour in after meds, when it gets worse for a bit). I was really hoping they would lighten up this vacation, but they’ve still been a bit more frequent than I like.

Anyway, back to wandering the city. After breakfast, we drove up to Pacific Heights to see Elaine Magnin, a needlepoint store. Karen got a few canvases there. Then we drove over to the Haight. While Karen and Erin trolled the thrift stores (there are quite a lot of them in the area, including Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, Aardvarks, and Crossroads Trading, I went over to Amoeba Music and trolled the used CDs. There was one casualty in the Haight: somewhere the book I was reading (“Good Omens”) fell out of my pocket. It left me in a bad mood as I wasn’t done reading it…

After the Haight, we went over to the Mission District. After hitting Out of the Closet on Church St, we walked over to 15th and Valencia (I also lost my scribbled map, so I was going by memory). Karen and Erin had lunch at a Yucitan restaurant, while I walked back to Church to repark the car. After I returned, we walked a few blocks on Valencia hitting a few more thrift shops, including Clothes Contact (Vintage by the Pound) and others. By then we were getting tired, so we drove down to 20th St, where Karen had coffee, and I replaced my missing book at Borderland Books. I then walked down with Erin to near 24th, where she hit her last thrift store.

We then returned back to the hotel, but along the way, I stopped by the Chevron station on Van Ness… which is still signed as Standard to preserve Standard Oil of California’s rights. Reaching the hotel, Erin went back to the room while Karen and I went next door to Sushi Toni for an anniversary dinner. Karen had yummy sushi, I had yumnmy Udon and sushi.

Tomorrow it is “on the road again”. I’m guessing we’ll be in the Davis area by 12:30p-12:45p, and we’ll meet whomever shows up for lunch with us at The Farmer’s Kitchen at 624 4th Street. If you want to try to coordinate, you can call us at eight hundred and eighteen, four hundred and thirty eight, five thousand seven hundred eighty one.


Planning for Tuesday: Davis/Sacramento

Here’s the tentative plan for tomorrow. Times may be off a bit:

  • ~10a. Leave hotel in San Francisco
  • ~12:30p-1p. Arrive in Davis. Lunch at The Farmers Kitchen, where the family can get gluten-free goodies. If we arrive early, we’ll wander around downtown Davis. NB: If Davis-locals want to join us, please comment on this post/note, and we’ll set up a more specific time. We can also call cell-phones if that flexibility works for you.
  • ~2p. Stop by briefly at groblek and kay_gmd‘s new house. From there, go over to Christine and Dennis’ house (ellipticcurve‘s sister) to see the cute neice and nephew.
  • ~5p. Head into Sacramento to check into our hotel / find dinner. We’re staying at the Hawthorn Suites, near I-5 and Richards.
  • ~6:30p. While Karen rests at the hotel, I’m going to go gaming with klellingson, while Erin plays D&D with a group that klellingson coordinated.

For the more-Sacramento, less-Davis folks: We may do breakfast or lunch at the Fox and Goose on Wednesday morning on our way out of town — we really enjoyed our meal there last time, and it would permit Karen to visit Rumpelstiltskin and for me to visit a tea shoppe. NB: As above, if you want to join us, please comment and we’ll coordinate more specific times.


A Visiting Day: Visiting Friends in San Jose/Mountain View

Today’s vacation day was for visiting friends. We started by travelling down to San Jose to visit with our friends Mike and Carol G. Erin cooked lunch, which made her feel much better, and we ate her excellent lunch, which made us feel much better :-). After chatting away the afternoon, we went up to Mountain View to visit with the Biggar clan (which has grown, both in number and much taller, at least for the kids). Although we had seen some recently and others more recently, it was nice seeing the ones we hadn’t seen in a long time as well (I think it has been at least five years since we’ve seen the Walls … and Larry appreciated when I told him that Erin referred to me as the Godfather of Perl, I instantly got images of putting dead pythons on people’s beds).

After dinner, we went out to Palo Alto for Tinyard Hill… but you already knew that, didn’t you.