Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (California Part 4)

Alright, I decided to fold and write this final post today. The corresponding titles just looked too perfect when properly aligned in the “All posts” page. So….

We left the last day of our trip to Cali pretty open. Since we had made a habit of traveling and hiking a lot (and sleeping a little), the final day was modeled after a more traditional vacation. We woke up at a more reasonable time, had a little breakfast, and went over to the local mall complex with Jenny’s parents.

California, being California, seems to insist on doing everything a bit differently, including their malls. Although I don’t always prefer the way things are out there, the mall we went to was outdoors, promoted walking, and was really enjoyable in the warm, dry weather.

After doing a bit of shopping around at the mall, which concluded with Jenny receiving new running shoes and clothing and a new button-up for me (fancy), we went to grab some lunch at In-N-Out. I’ve eaten many a burger in my day. As far as fast food burgers go, that place has got it right. The prices are cheap, the food is fast, and damn is it good. Their food far better than a lot of restaurant burgers I’ve had, actually.

PUMP THIS INTO MY VEINS TOO.

We’ve gone there once on each of my 3 visits to California and now I’m proud to say that I have a “regular” order. Having been told to try ordering off-menu, I decided to try (and have now settled on) getting a Double-Double Animal Style. Two burgers, grilled onions, extra sauce…mmmmmmm. I’m extremely hungry now. It’s a good thing that everyone at work is going to a huge buffett for lunch today.

After eating, we went and got massages (again, fancy). I had personally never had one before, and although it was excruciatingly painful at some points, I was so relaxed afterwards that I walked around with a stupid grin for a while. Immediately following the massage, we went next door for some more KBBQ. Like many of the places we ate on the trip, this place had a special style. The waitress would come around with massive heaps of veggies and meat to add to the grill. Then, a broth was poured over the whole thing to marinade the heaving mound. Not only did it yield a delightfully succulent product, but the broth was excellent over rice as well.

After dinner, we went back home to pack, do laundry, and chill in preparation for our (very) early morning the next day. Jenny’s brother came over for a bit and we discussed our shockingly similar ideas for starting businesses. Finally, after a few final snacks, we went to sleep and prepared to wake up around 4 the following morning.

The flights home went quickly. On the way, we finished the Bourne Identity. We got back, metroed back to our respective homes, and lamented the end of living the high life.

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Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (California Part 3)

On Thursday morning, we woke up around 6 to prepare for the drive to Yosemite National Park. To be honest, I had no idea that Yosemite was in California. As someone who is outdoorsy and prefers to know as much about everything as possible, I was embarrassed by this. Regardless, we took off bright and early, with many a Korean pastry and snack in tow.

After several hours of driving, we were out nicely into the desert, with nary a soul to be seen. We stopped quickly at McDonalds for some lunch and grabbed some gas, and hit the road again. A few hours later, we finally arrived at the place where we would be staying. It reminded me quite a bit of summer camp, with hordes of cabins scattered across the slope of a chunk of mountain. At the bottom of the slope, very near where we stayed, there was a large, pleasant lake.

The view from our humble abode.

The cabin was pretty awesome. I wouldn’t mind owning one like it someday. It was two stories, with a bedroom downstairs and a kitchen/living room upstairs with a deck, Over the kitchen was a loft, accessible by ladder. In essence, a perfect mountain getaway.

Once we were unpacked and our food was refrigerated, we took the 20 minute drive to Yosemite. One ignored phone call from my boss later, we were cruising up, down, and around the mountains of the park. Along the way, we made three stops. First, we stopped to take a short walk up to a huge waterfall. Then, we took a stroll across a river and through a meadow to get a nice view of another waterfall. Finally, we took a hike through the woods that led to…a waterfall. The good news is that waterfalls are really, really cool, and I don’t get sick of them.

N33D MOAR F4LLZ

It was during this stroll through the woods that I got my initial, overwhelming desire to find an identical location (sans tourists) to build myself a cabin. I can literally think of no place better than amongst the tall pine trees, with a river running by the window, and a waterfall just visible over the tree line.

Not that I've got a location picked out already or anything...

I would even be willing to build it by hand, chopping down the trees myself. In fact, I think I would prefer it that way. If only I could have that and a beach house at the Jersey Shore, my life would be complete. Also some watermelon, tomato juice, and tacos.

That evening, Jenny’s mom made the best KBBQ pork I’ve ever had, which we ate over the little coffee table in the cabin. After a shared bottle of champagne, we all retired for another busy day in Yosemite. The following morning, we ate a quick breakfast of toast and packed up the car. We took a spectacular (really, really spectacular) tour of the giant Sequoias in the park and then went to a very popular waterfall hike.

As anyone who has taken my picture knows: big trees are hard to photograph.

The trail for the hike wasn’t that long, but it was steep and rather treacherous, so Jenny and I parted ways with her parents to complete the hike. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, temperatures in California fluctuate nicely based on elevation and time of day, mainly due to the lack of humidity. It was for this reason that we were half frozen about halfway up the mist trail. Completely drenched in cold mist from the waterfall and on the shady side of the mountain, things got chilly quickly. Thankfully, the trail ended at a sunny stretch of rocks beside the top of the waterfall; the perfect place to lay down, warm up, and dry out.

This isn't the waterfall we hiked too...that one was too close/wet to take pictures of. I'd like to hike this one next time though!

Since we had a very long drive back home ahead of us, we hiked back down quickly, changed in the car, and made our way towards the exit of the park. Not wanting to miss any parts of the park, we elected to leave on the opposite side of the mountains. This gave us the chance to drive up along the crest and down the other side.

Throughout the drive, we made a number of stops to take in the awe inspiring views from the mountain. We came across a wide lookout, where you could see Half-Dome in the distance.

That little blob is famous.

We stumbled upon another big lake, hidden between two mountains and a swatch of trees.

 

We drove through places that still had some healthy mounds of snow.

Pengy likes this.

We wrote paragraphs that were hard to follow because too many pictures we inserted. Finally, we exited the park and began the drive back through the desert.

Of all the places I’ve been in the US, and the world for that matter, Yosemite is definitely one of, if not the most beautiful.  The shear diversity of the park is just amazing. Even throughout the small portions of two days that we spent there, we passed through wide meadows with deer running in them, over insanely huge stony mountains, amongst the world’s largest trees, past magnificent lakes in the middle of forests, and saw an astounding number of waterfalls. As much as I love the Adirondacks (especially because the lakes and mountains make me think of Hogwarts), I think Yosemite is the superior wilderness, if not on scale alone.

 

After dinner at the world’s most standard American restaurant, I took over driving for the remaining 4 hours. Jenny and her parent’s slept on and off throughout the drive. For the last hour of so, Jenny’s dad and I discussed businesses. The conversation managed to bolster my already monumental desire to start a business.

It was quite late by the time we got back, so we all just showered and passed out. It was important for us to get plenty of rest, because the next day would be our last day in Cali. Although it would be our least eventful day, I will save a description for the finale. This post is way too long. Have a good weekend! (Yeah, I wrote this on Friday, but didn’t have time to add pictures until today. We’ll all get over it together).

Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (California Part 1)

The time has finally come for me to begin the rundown of the splendid trip that I took over the week of the 4th of July. I already wrote half of this post once, but in an effort to get out of work, I shutdown my computer before saving it. It even asked if I was sure that I didn’t want to save…AND I SAID YES.

So, sure enough, I am starting over. After returning to DC from my grandparent’s place, Jenny and I packed and chilled a bit. Around 3:30 the next morning, we woke and hitched a ride to Reagan with my roommate. The flight from DC to Houston was a bleary blur. Despite my usual inability to sleep at the most opportune times, I surprisingly managed to doze off for most of the flight; however, I did wake for one glorious moment. When the stewardesses were making their rounds, I woke up to get some tomato juice. I’m not even the type to order tomato juice usually, but in my daze I had a real hankerin’ for it. Let me tell you, if you ever fly Continental, get the spicy tomato juice. It’s awesome. FASCINATING.

After a brief layover in Houston, where there was a brief cancellation scare (apparently the only scary part was how bad Continental is at updating their flight statuses), we were on our way to Ontario. Knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on consecutive flights (because no one is that lucky), Jenny and I started watching The Bourne Identity. It’s one of those films that I’ve always meant to watch, but never really got around to doing. It was pretty damn good too. Not tomato juice good, but you know, nice. That made the flight go by pretty quickly.

The best part about those early morning east-to-west coast flights is that they get you to your destination bright and early. After leaving DC at 6 AM, we were on the ground and on our way to lunch with Jenny’s parents by 11 AM. We stopped for a brief lunch of jajamyun and fried chicken, followed shortly by some bubble teas, and took the short drive to their home. Flying into Ontario was absolutely the best bet; 15 minutes to the house rather than 1+ hour if we had done LAX.

With a full day still ahead of us, we went with Jenny’s dad to the local mountains for a hike. Despite the blazing sun, I had to admire California’s complete lack of humidity. As soon as you entered the shade, and even moreso when we had reached a sufficient elevation, the temperatures dropped to fall-like levels (aka the temperature at which I thrive). The hike itself was beautiful too. Nice and steep at parts, with a stream popping in and out of few for the duration, and terrain varying from southern California shrubbery to nice, tall evergreens. It was the perfect way to unload the day’s meals and welcome ourselves to the west coast.

The following morning, we all woke bright and early to drive to Newport beach. Once there, we hopped on the ferry to Catalina Island for a nice little boat trip and a day of fun in the sun. Jenny, who is no one’s sailor, went 2 for 2 for getting seasick on boats (although there was no puke this time).

Catalina Island itself was magnificent. Only an hour’s trip off the coast, it provided a nice sense of isolation, with just a few roads and a tiny resort town nestled between its mountains. We took a little semi-submarine tour out to see some fish before lunch, where we ate at a little hut serving the world’s saltiest (although pretty good tasting) food. The grilled ham and cheese would have been divine with a tad less sodium chloride.

After lunch, Jenny and I tried our hand at paddleboarding around the marina, where we both had some issues to overcome. As a seasoned kayaker, I felt at home navigating the board around the inlet’s many zipping skiffs; however, as a seasoned oaf, I had to take enormous care to avoid losing balance and tumbling into the frigid water. Jenny, on the other hand, effortlessly stayed upright while navigating her board into a number of anchored boats. Thankfully, by the end of our hour, we had both improved upon our faults and decided that we quite liked the activity.

It's like a multi-million dollar obstacle course.

From there, I bought and devoured an exceptional caramel apple with nuts (the only way to eat them) and we caught the ferry back to Newport. Terrified that we may have made some sort of fitness gains by walking and paddleboarding, we bought a frozen banana in Newport Beach to increase our caloric totals for the day and to entertain my infatuation with Arrested Development.

Because there's always money in the banana stand.

Finally, we stopped by a Korean restaurant on the way back, where I pounded some kimchi and dol sot bimbimbap. We finished driving back, cleaned ourselves up, chilled a bit, and got to bed in order to prepare ourselves for………..

 

Stuff That I Like: Vacations

Well, well, well internet…we meet again. As you all probably know, I just returned from my little midsummer’s vacation yesterday evening. I’m not organized enough to have prepared posts in advance for the trip, so this dried up completely for the past 10 days. Fear not procrastinators and victims of boredom; I have returned.

In general, I’m not much of a vacation guy. There are three reasons for this: I’m cheap, I like spending time in NJ, and I’ve rarely had the chance. The cheap part pretty much explains itself. Once you pass the age of 20 or so, parents tend to stop including you on their trips. It’s not always intentional either; as life gets more hectic, it’s unlikely that an entire family’s schedules will match up. It is at this point in life, when you are responsible for paying for your own trips, that you realize how much they cost. Of course taking free week long trips to Disney World is awesome. That’s the type of thing that you win in contests.

Pictured: My childhood.

Do you know what is less fun? Forking over $2,000 of your own money for the same trip. That’s not to say that there still isn’t fun to be had. Last year, I took a trip with a few of my dearest friends to Disney. We did it over 3 days, got every discount possible, and illegally split a 2-bed hotel room between 6 people. It was great fun, but even that is too pricey to do with the frequency of family vacations.

The second and third reasons that I rarely vacation are a bit intertwined. Since I’ve reached an age where vacationing on my own is a possibility, it has been rather hard to find time to vacation. At first, I was in college. As an attendance stickler, I wasn’t one to miss classes to duck out for a vacation. Furthermore, I used the various breaks as opportunities to hang out with my family and high school friends. This pretty much blacked out all of my free days that could be used for vacations. I was also broke, which was a bit prohibitive.

Pictured: post-childhood life.

Finally, I graduated college and got a job. I was still pretty broke, but I also didn’t have many vacation days. Since I started working in June, I only had about half a year’s vacation days to work with; days that I preferred to put towards taking a winter break and extending a few long weekends. Pretty much no dice on the vacation front (except for the trip to Disney/WWoHP…which was JAWESOME).

Pictured: My first independently funded vacation.

(On a side note, a friend of mine tried to steal the term ‘jawesome’, claiming that he invented it and that it stood for ‘just awesome’. The Street Sharks were pissssssed.)

That brings us to this past week. As a full-year, full-time employee, I finally have some vacation days to burn. Furthermore, Jenny’s parents were kind enough to act as benefactors for our trip out to the West Coast. The trip was one of the most excellent of my life. I daresay that it may have turned me into a vacationer. Unfortunately, this post was originally supposed to detail the first half of the last 10 days; however, readers hate reading long posts, and bloggers hate wasting perfectly good posts by compounding them with impromptu rambles. Full trip rundown to come over the next several days.

Stuff That I Like: People who know how to use smartphones

From time to time, the “rigid” categorization format that I’ve tried to stick with for this blog fails. Case in point: Despite having a category specifically for things that I like, I have not left myself a venue for discussing things that I can’t stand. Meanwhile, I feel that it would be superfluous to add a “Stuff That I Don’t Like” category. Therefore, I will use a loophole in my imaginary system. I’ll just claim to like the polar opposite of whatever it is that I happen to be hating on. So, without further adieu…

Smartphones are spectacular inventions. I’ll be the first to admit that I was quite anti-smartphone for a very long time; however, a year’s worth of daily 3-hour commutes on public transit has brought me around to the idea. Last November, I finally bit the bullet and bought my beloved Droid X. The ability to check e-mail and, more importantly, browse the web has done as much as anything could to make up for the hours of my life that I lose each day to commuting.

Even for people without hellish commutes, I understand that smartphones can still be important. Most people are far more social than I am, so the ability to Tweet, check Facebook, and e-mail without a computer is, I imagine, infinitely helpful. I’m laying all of this out now to make it clear that I don’t hate all smartphone users. But let me tell you what I do hate.

The vast majority of the smartphone owning population seem to have forgotten humanity’s most basic courtesies and survival mechanisms at the hands of their phones. As much as I use my phone, there are two times when I most certainly do not use it: while walking on a crowded sidewalk and while crossing the street (especially when a massive “Don’t walk sign” is flashing).

"Yep, looks like a 'Continue walking and looking down' sign to me."

These habits are particularly irksome because I bike around the city a lot. It’s a sad truth that without the immediate danger of death that a speeding car presents, most people don’t bother to pay attention to what they’re doing.

Now, I’ll admit that a lot of bikers are extremely self-righteous. Believe me, I get just as pissed when a biker going 10 mph sits in the middle of a one lane road. Furthermore, it annoys me when bikers jump from street to sidewalk needlessly, acting like they deserve the right-of-way on both. Nonetheless, I’m driven nearly mad by the daily occurrence of 20 government staffers staring at their phones and stepping directly in front of me while I’m cruising at full speed. It’s not like I don’t obey stop signs and stop lights; people just seem to use their heightened other senses (since they are essentially blind aside from their tiny screen’s electronic glow) to detect the absence of cars, and proceed to jaywalk as they please.

As much as I resent having to swerve around people constantly for their own good, what really ruffles my feathers is people’s reactions. Despite, you know, clearly disobeying the law and foolishly walking around without looking where they are going, everyone still seems to have the audacity to glare at me like I’ve nearly killed them, thusly:

One time morning at 6:00 AM, I had to go onto the sidewalk to bypass a little section of road at the Senate Offices. There was literally only one woman on the sidewalk, who was at least 10 feet away, who suddenly looked up from her phone and promptly yelled “You fucking bastard, get off the sidewalk”. Pretty harsh words, considering that I wasn’t in a part of the city where sidewalk riding is prohibited. Sigh. It’s people like this who really make me want to intentionally crash into the clueless, enraged pedestrians who are too transfixed with their smartphones to watch where they’re going.

Anyway, I just had to vent. Please, please, please try not to be one of these people. I get it, Angry Birds is fun. Play it while you’re sitting on a bench, or the toilet, or anywhere else where you aren’t walking in public. At the very least, don’t mean mug people who almost bump into you while you carve a drunkenly weaving path across the asphalt.

Aside from all this hubbub, I’m pretty excited today. It was my last day of work until the 11th! Not only that, but on the 16th, my bossman is going abroad for 3-4 weeks. Life is good. Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving bright and early to visit my dad and grandparents at their summer house near Chesapeake City. We’ll come back sometime Sunday in order to get ready for a 6:00 AM flight on the 4th to Cali. I’m pretty stoked for K-food galore and some time away from real life. I just hope that I manage to get some good workouts it; I’ve been good for the past 3 weeks or so, getting in 2-3 solid 6-mile runs a week. Gotta prepare for the 4th of Julio holiday weight, you know? I’m not sure how much this will get updated in the interim, but have a splendid long weekend!