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 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………..

 

Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (Maryland)

The time has come for me to begin chronicling my adventures from July 1st through July 10th. In this chapter, we will discuss the beginnings of my glorious vacation.

After breaking free of the confines of work and responsibility on the 1st (marked by paying my last installment of insanely high DC rent), I ferried myself out to Rockville for a chill evening. The next morning, we rose at around 7:30 to get on our way to my grandparent’s summer place.

I’ll get this out of the way up front, so that I can spend the rest of this post doing damage control: My grandfather bought a small island in the Chesapeake sometime after WWII. Believe me when I say that it’s not because we’re ballers. I don’t think it cost any more than a regular plot of land, he built the house himself, and he was responsible for laying all electrical cables and plumbing to the place. So essentially, it was like owning a normal house, but much more involved.

Sup Grampa?

After spending nearly ever summer weekend there as a child, I’ve found it much more difficult to find the time to visit as I’ve progressed through high school, college, and into the working world. This is obviously a shame, since my grandparents aren’t getting any younger and it’s a splendid place to visit. My grandma is the ultimate host (perhaps a little too much so) and puts out massive spreads for every meal. The only downside is that I have a reputation as an eater and regularly face tremendous pressure to polish everything off.

Awww mannnn...

Furthermore, I greatly enjoy the multitude of projects that constantly need tending to down there. If you are anything like all of the males in my family, you will understand the unique sort of pleasure that is derived from identifying, evaluating, and solving a problem through a combination of careful planning and brute force. Not a weekend goes by that something on the house doesn’t break, whether it’s a pipe, a downspout, or a boat, and I always enjoy being there to fix them.

On this weekend in particular, a tree had fallen across a path. Sensing a chance to relieve some stress, I enthusiastically grabbed an axe to chop it into tiny pieces. I’ll admit, it was worth every second of effort too. Unfortunately, I forgot to wear gloves, so both hands turned into bloody little blisters afterwards, but that’s the price you pay for being a badass.

When not chopping and fixing things, we spent Saturday and Sunday morning taking some boat rides, eating a lot, watching the requisite movie with my grandparents at night, and going out to dinner in an effort to save my grandmother the effort of cooking another enormous meal. After lunch on Sunday, Jenny and I headed back to DC to prepare for our flight to California at 6 AM on the 4th.

Man, I’m long winded this week. I tried (and failed) to actually get to the California part of the trip for the second day in a row. Anyway, I got home late from work today and the microwave is beeping the termination of some dessicated meatballs, so I’ll put off writing about the important parts of the trip again.

Also, have you ever used a fork whilst preparing dinner and then tossed it in the dish washer, only to realize that you need a !%@#ing fork to eat the meal you just finished cooking? Yeah, that just happened.

 

 

 

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!