Friday, December 31, 2010

Arches and Canyonlands

The B at the B&B was great – pancakes filled with cream cheese blended with strawberry juice and topped with strawberries. Between that and a chatty owner, I didn’t get an early start, but that’s part of the charm of staying in B&Bs.

And then it was on to Arches National Park! This is a great National Park – five stars! I drove a lot of it, stopping at several overlooks. The arches form when softer rock erodes more quickly than harder rock – and for whatever reason, there are a lot of them here! And other interesting formations. I took a hike to Delicate Arch, the symbol of the park and indeed of the National Park system. It was about an hour up and half an hour down (plus time spent at the top); slightly slippery where the sun hadn’t hit yet, but other than that, the weather was crisp but not too cold. I did a short hike by the Windows, and then decided I should see some of Canyonlands National Park as well.

Canyonlands has a totally different feel, so I’m glad I went to see it (not to mention getting another passport stamp…). This one has dramatic canyon vistas. From road level, one can look down at mesas and then see canyons where the rivers eroded everything even deeper. I drove to several places and looked at the vast distances, but there weren’t any hikes to be had. So I decided I had a feel for it and I went back to Arches, where the formations were right in front of you and you could hike closer to or even through them.

I went back to the Windows section for a hike to the Double Arch, and then I drove to the farthest point of the park. At this point it was getting a little dark, so no more hikes, but I covered quite a bit in less than a day. Put 150 miles on the car, too!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Park City to Moab

I have good friends in Park City, but it really has been a while – I was there in 2002 for the Olympics, but my friends left town for it. I’ve seen them in Illinois; I know I haven’t skied since my accident but have I also not visited them in Park City since then? If so, that’s way too long – must return soon!

I’m mentally ready to ski again, and to ski out west again, but I didn’t have the right clothes, and with just one day, I didn’t want to go through the production. Another reason to return soon! It was more important to spend time with friends anyway. Catherine made French toast and then she, Don and I went for a walk in the snow; there’s a walking trail (with sculpture) near their house. It was good to get some exercise after sitting in the room and sitting in the car! We looked at videos and pictures and home renovations and caught up in general. Going zero miles made up for 650 the day before!

Don and I went downtown while his son had a class; we went to a coffee shop and played one of my life’s more memorable games of Scrabble (I also played Scrabble with him in Central Park this past summer, though I didn’t note it in my New York Stories). Back at their home, we had a wonderful dinner and played more Scrabble.

Since I thought I would get here mid-day on Tuesday and didn’t, I thought I would stay through mid-day Thursday and get the full amount of planned time. What a nice visit! Too short, though (as I said, a recurring theme). In the morning, we had time for one more game of Scrabble. Then I went to Park City’s Main Street for lunch with Katie, the RPCV from the year ahead of me who was in Timhadite and whom I saw a lot of in my first year in Morocco. She’s doing great! I wondered if I would be that removed and yet still attached in a year (answer – my feelings are skewed by additional feelings for the Philippines!).

And then it was back on the road. I passed the area used for the biathlon in 2002 – the surprise fun event of the Olympics for Beth and me. From throwaway ticket in our package to drama and joy! 250 miles later, I was in Moab. I’ve been wanting to go to Bryce and Zion for a long time now – but those are far away. Arches and Canyonlands, on the other hand, were more or less on the way. Not on I-80, mind you, but I was planning to dip down to I-70 to visit friends in Boulder anyway, and that made Moab kind of on the way. It was a beautiful drive! For the first half, there was snow all around (to the point where all I saw was the black road and white everything else – no land, no sky), and then I went over a pass and there was no snow.

I had a nice conversation with the owner of the B&B where I stayed; this one too is one of the legacies of the trip. He told me that he and his wife used to come down to Moab and they just knew that was where they wanted to be. I told him I have never felt that way about a place, and I’ve been waiting for a place to say this is it. He said, “maybe you’re just meant to be a nomad.” Hm – he might be right. And my other line that came out of this – “ epiphanies don’t happen on demand.”

Moab has a nice tourist infrastructure, and I ate at a great pasta place recommended by the B&B owner. It would be interesting to come back in the summer and perhaps go rafting! Don and Catherine have often mentioned how nice Park City is in the summer, too. But the National Parks near Moab are beautiful in the winter too, and much less crowded.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Basin and Range - Nevada to Utah

The sun came out, the roads were reported clear, and off I went. Back across the Nevada border, past the CalNeva hotel, and then down, out of the Sierras I wound, out of John McPhee’s Assembling California and into Basin and Range. Out of the snow and into the dry rain shadow behind the mountains.

On my planning day I decided that I would shoot to make it all the way to Park City that night – a long day of driving, 650 miles, eleven hours. It’s possible I’ve never driven that far in one day. The ranch/B&B was more a place to break up the trip than a stop I really wanted to make. So it was okay to miss it. It was also okay to miss I-80 – I saw a dotted line on the map and followed some advice to take I-50, which is supposed to be a more scenic way across the state. It’s also nicknamed “the loneliest road in America.” My mantra was “Basin and Range, Basin and Range, Basin…….and Range” – I was so excited about it that I wrote a fan letter to John McPhee. And got an answer once I got to Chicago! He noted that it came from off I-80 – oops. But it did come from Basin and Range!

There was some snow on the mountaintops and occasionally a dusting on the ground. The road was smooth, the land I was going through unpopulated. I stopped at a park to see some petroglyphs – so someone used to live here. They just don’t now. There was an occasional ranch and an occasional small town – but thrilled with going through basin and range, I never felt overwhelmed or isolated. I’d go through a basin, then I’d cut through a range. This is a part of the continent that is young, with mountains coming up, and ranges spreading out between them.

I made good time, but it was still a long day, and it was late afternoon when I headed north and rejoined I-80. And around Ely, which is the nearest city to the B&B/ranch where I would have stayed, I got pulled over for speeding. I hadn’t been gunning it; was it a speed trap? It doesn’t matter. I suspect that every cross-country trip includes a speeding ticket, breakdown or the like – this was my ticket of the trip. I determined not to get another. I decided not to stop in Ely though – no dinner break. So on my longest day of driving I snacked in the car instead. Well, another element of a cross-country road trip, right? I was glad I planned to stop driving before dark for the other days, and that I had destinations and friends a day apart for the rest of the way. I still don’t regret the snow day in Lake Tahoe – it was a peaceful day, and I hadn’t seen snow like that in a while!

It was dark when I got to Winnemucca, on the border with Utah – and another place with the incongruous sight of border casinos and big hotels. Not much more to the town! What would Nevada be without casino gambling? Or if casino gambling were as readily available in every state? Las Vegas by now is probably enough of an entertainment, warm-weather and dining attraction that tourists would still come, and maybe they would go to Reno too, if only to go to Lake Tahoe, but Winnemucca wouldn’t be much if Utah had casinos. Then again, Utah is unlikely to get casinos.

Welcome to Mountain Time! I still had several hours of driving to go. I don’t feel I missed out on that much by skipping the B&B/ranch, but I did miss something that I would have loved to have seen in the light of day – the Bonneville Salt Flats. I went right by them, in the dark. They’re just far enough away from my friends in Park City that unless I do this drive again I’m unlikely to get back there to see them. But you never know. I picture the ultimate in flatness and a brilliant white. I don’t know that I would have tried for any speed records, though…. I also might have stopped to see the Great Salt Lake. I have to check my journals – I feel I have seen it, but maybe I just think I’ve seen it. It’s not that close to Salt Lake City, and it’s in the other direction from the mountains where I usually go when I visit. It’s a good thing I keep my calendars and take so many pictures – and have a good memory. But things do sometimes run together, and impressions can be blurry. So I’m not sure if I’ve seen it; I know I would have stopped this time. Well, maybe I just have to build the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats into the next Utah trip and remove all doubt!

Salt Lake City was the biggest city in a while – I suppose the biggest since leaving the Bay Area, so the biggest in days – and approaching at night meant lots of lights, which felt welcoming. Also welcoming was the stretch from the city to Park City – it’s been a while, but I’ve been there several times, and it felt familiar. I’ve not done a whole lot of mountain driving, but I have driven that stretch, and I’ve driven it at night – with snow on the mountains and enough moonglow (or city-light glow), seeing the shapes of the mountains as you wind through them is quite romantic. And arriving at the home of friends meant I was energized, not tired – we talked until late!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lake Tahoe and... Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is another place that had been on my list for a while. I don’t think I appreciated how close it is to the Bay Area – hm, if I lived in the area I could get to a ski area pretty easily. My inn was on the north shore of the lake, on the California side, and the next day I circumnavigated the lake! It’s about 72 miles around, with beautiful views from many vista points, though many of them are summer-only. I stopped at a couple of parks, including one with an old Swiss chalet on its own little island in a pocket of the lake. I stopped at Heavenly, a ski resort on the south side. The top of the gondola there was also in a cloud, but this time I didn’t go up; I just walked around the shopping area.

You can tell where the Nevada border is – there are casinos right across the line. South Lake Tahoe seemed unattractive, with large tourist hotels, chain restaurants and no real charm. Onward! Somehow the undeveloped Nevada side seemed different too – maybe there were more parks and open space on the California side? I raced (at the speed limit, that is) on up the Nevada side, whereas I had meandered down the California side.

With fewer stops than I expected, I had time to go over the mountains and down into Carson City, Nevada – and see another State Capitol! There I took a self-guided tour; it hadn’t occurred to me before then that the Silver State is right next to the Golden State. Carson City is an Old West town, with long blocks and low buildings – and more casinos. A quiet town, too. The state line on the north side of the lake was more interesting – only a few hotel/casinos, and they looked to be of Frank Sinatra vintage (in fact, I think one of them may have been owned by him). Kind of a Palm-Springs-in-the-Pine-Trees vibe. One hotel, the CalNeva. straddled the border – the casino was on the Nevada side of the building and the rest of the facilities were on the California side. Pretty cool! I put a quarter in a slot machine, but didn’t win enough to offset any trip expenses. I thought about cross-country skiing, but didn’t really have the right clothes for it. With my side trip, the total for the day was 110 miles.

That night it snowed – it seemed charming and picturesque– and by the next day about eight inches were on the ground. Great if you are in a ski area and can get to the slopes. Not so good if you don’t have chains (you need them on both sides of Lake Tahoe). Not only that, but I realized that when you rent a car in Southern California, they don’t put a snow brush in the car! Who needs one in Southern California? Fortunately, the inn manager lent me his – which was fine in Lake Tahoe, but how likely was it that I wouldn’t encounter snow for the rest of the trip?

I had a couple of days of leeway in my schedule, but I did have a plan to stay in a ranch in Nevada that night – I had to call them and tell them I wasn’t coming. And then I spent the day inside my room, catching up on email and researching the next legs of the trip. Nothing else I could do about it! Zero miles. What made the travel in Thailand and Indonesia work was that about once a week I took a day to catch up and plan ahead. I did a lot of planning at Martha’s, but I hadn’t scheduled more planning days. This was an enforced one! I also worked on a Morocco slide show to show along the route, and I read some of Annals of the Former World. Good thing I had those new boots – I went for a little walk in the fresh, deep snow – it gave the lake a sapphire-blue color. I went to a laundromat and washed a small load. I even had another job interview! Kind of. Anyway, the sky cleared, and at night I was treated to the sight of the full moon over the lake.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Right Turn onto I-80 - Sacramento and Lake Tahoe

First stop – Sacramento. Another short day – 130 miles. I had been told to look out for the wetlands along the way, and I passed agricultural fields associated with UC Davis. My friend Terry once spent a vacation in Sacramento and Gold Country, and ever since she told me about it, I wanted to see it for myself. Not to mention that I was going to another state capital. I want to see every state and every major league baseball stadium and after that - ? I don’t want to have a particular quest, though when I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll see a state capital, and I’m always up for a National Parks passport stamp (I wrote those sentences before deciding to write up all of my post-Amtrak 2010 doings first – at least I’m consistent, with baseball stadia, state capitals and NPS passport stamps all in the mix!).

I arrived just before dark – even though I was no longer in Morocco and could travel at night, it’s always nice to arrive in a new place before dark. I had time to see the State Capitol. This one had dioramas from each of California’s counties, and I took a picture of the door to Governor Schwartzenegger’s office. The capitol grounds also had a tree tour and some peaceful gardens. I went to my inn; there was a nice place to eat nearby, and then I reorganized and repacked my stuff. With a chill in the air, and winter destinations to come, it was time to take out some of the winter clothes, time to start wearing a coat.

Sacramento is a historic town as well – this is where the four railroad barons (Crocker, Stanford, Hopkins and Huntington) got together. The next morning, I went to the Crocker Art Museum – a nice little collection in a fine old mansion, including portraits of the barons and other historical context, and also a special exhibit of Buddhas to bring me back to the Southeast Asia part of the trip. Down by the river there’s old Sacramento, with a mini-Golden Gate bridge (this one is painted gold!), a railroad museum and a historic park (both are now on a list for another time… I had time for one thing, and it was the art museum). There was also an Indonesian restaurant there (who could have guessed?) and I had some nasi goreng – had only a month gone by since I had Indonesian food in Indonesia? It seemed longer ago.

On to Lake Tahoe! When I had lunch with Paul in Oakland he asked me if I had chains for my tires – I didn’t realize people still use chains! Or snow tires! I thought everyone had all-season radials. I’ve driven in the mountains in the snow before, but on interstates that were plowed. So it was with some trepidation that I approached. It turns out that when chains are called for, there are people who will put chains on for you and take them off for you. There was snow on the ground, but no call for chains. Whew! I stopped at the Donner Pass, where there was a statue of the Donner party at the height where the snow was the winter they tried to cross, and a rest stop with more information. Beautiful mountains, those Sierras.

I stopped at Squaw Valley. My sister had sent me winter Merrells in Morocco, one shoe at a time. I guess I hadn’t worn them much, or I wouldn’t have sent them back (again, one shoe at a time). They were a tad tight! So at a swanky shop at the base of the ski lift, I bought some boots. Fortunately, ski areas sell boots! I took the gondola up into a cloud; so I missed the spectacular view, but at the top there was an exhibit about the 1960 Olympics (a far cry from 2002 at Salt Lake) and a skating rink (not the 1960 skating rink, but I didn’t find that out until later). I rented some skates, but the rink was a bit too choppy for me – still, it was nice to be on an outdoor rink part of the way up a mountain, with snow falling. On to the town of Tahoe City, where I found yet more Mexican food (interestingly, I have had it perhaps once since the Philippines…) and my inn for the night. 115 miles this day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cambria to the Bay Area

The next day I had to rush past such a beautiful stretch of coastline that it made me wish I had decided to spend another night – but it’s a Drive Across America, not a drive up the California coast. I did make a couple of stops, first at a beach known for elephant seals. I don’t remember this from my 1982 drive down the coast – I guess it was the wrong season. Well, this was the right season and elephant seals are amazing creatures! They’re big and they’re called that because of the noise they make, and they sure are noisy! Mostly they were lying on the beach, but occasionally they would bark, and even more occasionally they would move.

Time for San Simeon? I had been there in 1982. No, no time, though I did go to the visitor center. I stopped at an all-yurt resort that the Cambria B&B proprietor had told me about. Cool to think about sleeping in a yurt (and, just to give you a preview of what is coming, I did have my chance, in the post-Philippines pre-Amtrak Across America drive up the coast).

And then up the Big Sur-proper coast – not realizing how long it would take! I stopped for some vistas, especially at the famed Bixby Bridge (always a student of my favorite civil engineering professor, David Billington, at heart) and at Julia Pfeffer Burns State Park, but at this point I was hustling (within the speed limit on the twisty-turny roads, of course) to get to the Monterey Peninsula for lunch with my friend Jeff.

Jeff lives in Pacific Grove, a very nice place to live. He grew up there and knows everyone. We went to a coffee shop down the street from where he lives, and he knew everyone. Good old American fare. Welcome back! Pacific Grove is known as a resting stop for migrating monarch butterflies, and I had never visited him in the right season – until now! We walked over to the grove, where the trees had lots of butterflies on them. I will admit I expected more – he’s sent me pictures of more – but it was still an impressive sight to see and more impressive to think about how far these butterflies have come and how they know to come back to these very trees. Not sure how well they photographed….

On, on up the coast to the East Bay, where I went to the office of my friend David. I watched him in action for a few minutes, and then we drove to his car and then I followed him to his home. His wife had just gotten a new job and I was there for the celebration. They are both up on the hot issues of the day and both very policy-oriented, so an evening with them is both interesting and educational. And they have a nice family with nice family dinners – I feel warm and fuzzy and full of love after being in their home, which is so full of love. Actually, this could be said for many of my friends, which makes it great to be a friend and house guest. The wine from Solvang was a big hit, too. Drove 230 miles this day.

I could have spent days in Big Sur, and I could have spent days in the Bay Area – but this wasn’t the Drive in California – this was the Drive Across America! The next morning, I went to my friend Leesy’s house for coffee – she always has words of wisdom, combined with a wonderful dose of spirituality. Then I had lunch in Oakland with my friend Paul and learned about some interesting things he is working on. How good to be with old friends! And then it was time to head east. I-80!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa Barbara to Cambria

I stopped for lunch in Solvang, a town made famous by the movie “Sideways.” It’s known for its wines, especially its Pinot Noir. I saw a couple of locations I remembered from the movie, most notably a restaurant with a yellow sign in the front. Before the wines put it on the map, it was known for being a little slice of Denmark, complete with Danish bakeries and a windmill. The town had the signs of a bad economy though – stores shuttered and not a lot of tourists. Maybe “Sideways” generated some overbuilding? Or was this just the beginning and I would see the effects of the recession everywhere I went? I had planned to eat lunch in one of the bakeries, thinking that they might serve lunch and then I would get something sweet as a treat. Turned out all that they served were sweets – so I had some florentine cookies for lunch. Wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last – though I did want something more fortifying. I walked around for a bit and thought what the heck, when in Rome – so I went into one of the tasting rooms and tried some of the wines. To cleanse the palate between wines, the tasting room offered some crackers – the combination of wine and crackers balanced out the sweet lunch. I had less than a glass total and more than enough crackers and water to feel not the least bit impaired, but for good measure I walked around a bit more before getting back in the car – after all, I don’t drink a lot, had not had a lot to drink in Morocco, and hadn’t driven a car in two years! I also bought wine to deliver to everyone I was going to stay with until I got to Chicago and would turn in the car. On the way out of town, I drove past vineyards far and wide.

Time to move on! I stopped at Pismo Beach, which is one of the few (if not the only) spots on the California coast where you can drive on the beach. I expected Bugs Bunny to climb out of a hole with a carrot, but didn’t see him. I stopped in San Luis Obispo for a little walk/drive around the historic area. I went past Morro Bay and was drawn to Morro Rock, a volcanic cone that reminded me of the little mountain on the way to Timhadite. It’s probably more closely related to the outcroppings at Cannon Beach, Oregon, but it’s all by itself here in the middle of the California coast. It would be fun to walk out to the rock…sometime when there’s more time? The destination for the evening, on Martha’s recommendation, was Cambria, a little seaside artist’s colony south of Big Sur. There, I had booked a lovely B&B that was connected to a store selling Shaker furniture, and I decided that if there’s room for it in my future home, I’d like a Shaker dining set. I spent a good portion of my Morocco years sitting at a plastic dining table in a plastic chair – it actually wasn’t that bad, but these Shaker ones were beautiful.

Cambria has some very cute gift shops, and after I got settled in my room, I took a walk. I passed a rock/crystal store and did a double-take – in the window there was a large black-and-white fossil of the kind found in Erfoud, the orthoceras. I walked in and asked where it was from and then said, “don’t tell me, I’ll tell you – Erfoud, Morocco; right?” I asked her if she had any bowls. Martha and Susan had bought a bowl in the Azrou Artisana and put it in the box that has yet to arrive. All right, it is never going to arrive. I had bought them a couple of things to replace what was never going to arrive, and if I could get them an Erfoud bowl….then they’d have one! I bought it and had it sent! Turns out my brother-in-law has some of those fossils too, out here in Southampton. I think they are beautiful. As to whether I should have gotten more in Morocco – well, now I know they can be found here too. I went to the beach for sunset and then out to dinner. So far, two days, about 150 miles each – not a lot of driving, but the days were full!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Driving up California - LAX to Santa Barbara

On Tuesday, the Drive Across America began! Martha dropped me off at the Budget Rental Car near the airport. I think the first car they gave me did not have room in the trunk for the big green suitcase – or was it one of those cars without a real trunk? Either way, I requested a different one, and eventually I was on my way! Not on my way across, though – up instead, seeing some of California on the way to I-80.

First stop – Channel Islands National Park. I love islands and have suggested this as a destination for years. It’s not that close to Los Angeles though – to get out to the islands, you really have to get to Ventura the night before. Or you have to leave early in the morning. Neither of which I did, of course. There’s a visitor center on the mainland, so I did get a National Parks Passport stamp. And I saw the exhibits about the formation of the islands and the unique wildlife there. There was also a movie – next best thing to seeing it for myself. There was an observation deck upstairs with a good view of the islands; I went up there. I’d still like to take a day trip out there (not only do I love islands, but I love boat rides), but for now, the visitor center alone was worth the trip.

On to Santa Barbara! Martha and I had come this way many moons ago, and it too was a place I’d wanted to go back to. I’d arranged for a night in a little inn; when I told the proprietor where I’d been and what might be next, she said there were several non-profits in Santa Barbara that could use my help – and then said I probably wanted a place with more problems. Actually, Santa Barbara might be kind of nice! I’m still looking – I should check into it. I went to the Mission – I’ve been to a few of the old Spanish missions now, and each one is a little different; this one was small, with a little museum and a garden and that was about it. Then it was up into the mountains to see some cave paintings - this is what you see if you look through a locked gate; it’s too bad, but at least vandals can’t get to it that way. The drive into the mountains was nice, at any rate, with a view from there of Santa Barbara, the ocean, and the Channel Islands beyond. I went downtown to the main shopping/restaurant district and walked around. It was still a little bit of culture shock – I certainly wasn’t ready to buy anything – but it was a pleasant place to window-shop. I was tired – glad I didn’t plan to get any farther on my first day.

This is one of the stories from the Drive that I have told the most often. In the morning, I was parking the car, and I lightly touched the car behind me. That’s what bumpers are for, right? You know when you’ve gotten too close… (no, I don’t touch the car behind me every time I park, and it was pointed out to me that many cars don’t have bumpers any more). Then someone came up to me and screamed, “do you know you just hit my car?” Stunned, I think I said that I just tapped it. He said, “this isn’t France; that’s not all right.” I meekly apologized, but I had two other responses in my head – 1) “I haven’t driven in two years; give me a break” didn’t seem like a winner. And 2) “You live in Santa Barbara; why aren’t you happy?” I walked along the beach, which was quite peaceful, with a great view of the mountains I had been up in the day before. Then I went to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a landmark of mission-style architecture. It had a great self-guided tour, and must-see views from its tower.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Southern California Fun

The next day, Amanda and I walked around Encinitas in the morning while Youssef worked. We met up with Orianna, who was one of the first in my stage to ET (early termination) following a family tragedy. We walked past and into cute shops, had muffins at a cute bakery, saw the ocean from a pretty garden. I had also had a tour of Amanda’s garden – she was resourceful in Morocco because she had been so before, and this was an illustration – lots of food plants, egg-laying chickens, rabbits for meat. Another way of life! But Youssef was always resourceful too, and they make a good pair. We watched the inauguration speech, which Amanda had recorded – again, it seemed so important at the time.

He was off buying ingredients, but he and I had alone-time for an ice cream and a sunset walk on the beach, and then he made a delicious pastilla dinner for me – and also Martha and Susan, who came down. They had seen Youssef and met Amanda following Youssef’s arrival in the U.S. (they also helped with the almost-surprise by having Martha’s nephew pick him up at the airport and deliver him to Amanda…but she was so confused and distraught about getting the complete information that I had to spill the beans), but hadn’t seen him in about a year. It was a joyous reunion of those who traveled the north of Morocco, and the pastilla was better than I can ever make it! I went home with Martha and Susan.

The next day, they slept in and I read some guidebooks – all set for the California portion of the trip. We went to Marina del Rey and took a walk by the ocean, leaving sailing for another time. We ordered to-go food at a bar on Venice Beach, and I saw some of the Super Bowl pregame. The Super Bowl – it was 27 months without football, too! Then, joined by a friend of Susan’s, we went to LACMA – an impressive museum! We concentrated on modern/contemporary, which had lots of iconic paintings and many that I had never seen. There’s so much more to see there – another trip is warranted!

On Monday, I finalized my arrangements for the following ten days or so, printed out confirmations and directions, and sketched out a plan for the Chicago-and-east portion of the Drive. I made the chocolate bread pudding, took a walk and shopped for dinner-at-home ingredients. We had a quiet night at home and I got ready for the next stage of the adventure. For those keeping track – I arrived on the mainland on the night of Wednesday, January 21. LA, LA, LA, OR, OR, OR, LA, LA, SF, SD, LA, and Monday was February 2.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

San Clemente, San Francisco, San Diego

On Thursday, Martha had business in Orange County and asked if I wanted to do anything in particular there. My stock answer is always Disneyland (as if I had just won the Super Bowl), but I looked at her tour book and chose the Nixon Presidential Home and Library. As I went to Laos and Cambodia, I said them to myself in a Nixon voice…”Laos and Cambodia.” I remember him giving a speech about the bombing there, but not much else, and I wanted to see how the museum told the story. Plus, after seeing Obama’s boyhood homes, why not see Nixon’s?

It’s in Yorba Linda, but if I said that in the title of this post, it wouldn’t be as alliterative. The home was modest, reflecting his Quaker upbringing. I learned about his early career in California politics and watched a speech he gave that, given the timing of it, had to be the Checkers speech, but wasn’t referred to as that. The Vietnam war was given its due (complete with map showing Laos and Cambodia), and a room was devoted to his foreign policy achievements, including the opening of China and d├ętente with the Soviet Union. Those were different times…. Perhaps more remarkable was a room devoted to his domestic achievements – such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Would a Republican administration of today have enacted those? Sadly, the Watergate exhibit was under construction, so I didn’t get to test my memories against the way they chose to depict it. Outside was the helicopter that Nixon boarded as he left the White House for the final time – I got goosebumps thinking back on that day. They did have exhibits showing his years of disgrace and his eventual return to elder statesmanship – all in all, it was a good visit and I am glad I went.

And the next day I went to San Francisco, where I had an interview! Martha had a business trip in the Bay Area, so I scheduled it for the same day so that we could fly together. The interview had been set up starting with a contact in Thailand and continuing with a conversation in Indonesia. It was with an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer - a network I need to tap more! Met her through an RPCV who I met through an RPCV who worked in the Morocco Peace Corps office), working for Junior Achievement in Thailand. My Junior Achievement days, back in Pottstown, were long ago! When we first talked, I wondered if another RPCV, who I had met in Chiang Mai (through a fellow PCV), might be good for the job – and she got the job! But the Junior Achievement person and I had already talked about meeting in California when she was there, so we did that; she had some good ideas and it was good to meet face-to-face anyway. And it was kind of fun to go to San Francisco just for a day. We had lunch at a Thai restaurant (which seemed fitting) on the Embarcadero and I had a little time to feel the San Francisco vibe.

And then I flew to San Diego afterwards, where Youssef picked me up! I hadn’t seen him since he left Morocco over a year prior, and hadn’t seen Amanda in even longer. He took me to their home in Encinitas, a little apartment on the property of her parents. I had met her mother in Morocco but now I met her father as well. They cooked a marvelous chicken tortilla soup dinner and we talked and talked – just like we used to in Morocco, except that we had all the comforts of home. It was nice to see Moroccan rugs and pottery incorporated into their home – I’ve seen more since, and I hope that when I finally get my chance, I can make it work!