Wow! It's been a month since I blogged. Whaattt? It's Friday and I arrived home Tuesday from a most wonderful road trip. Jeff and I flew to San Diego to visit his Grandpa Vern. He's getting "on in years" as they say, and, at 91, can't get around as he used to. Jeff wanted to visit and help clean up the yard - basically do some of the chores that Grandpa once spent his days doing. We stayed in Grandpa's house and it was a lovely, no-stress, peaceful and quiet visit. We started our mornings early with breakfast of toast, tea and cereal, then Jeff would head out to do yard work or garage work while I "entertained" Grandpa (rather, he entertained me with all of his stories). Lunch was sandwiches, chips and fruit, and was a leisurely hour long. More work for Jeff in the afternoon while I did dishes and cleaned up and some more visiting. Then, an early dinner - once at Coco's, once at home, once we had no dinner because we had a late lunch.
Grandpa's house is like a museum. Not only is it filled with antiques and curiosities, but the stories that go along with them. Grandpa marveled at the fact that I could use my phone to look up the value of an ancient Bible, or the history of a certain item. I took pictures of everything - the house, Grandpa, even the bluebird he feeds daily and talks to. The weather was perfect and the sound of the birds every morning was uplifting. We also got to visit with Jeff's mom and stepdad, having lunch one day and a few games of Mexican Train dominoes. Jeff and I combed through a carport full of "treasures" slated for a garage sale, and found many keepsakes to bring home. Grandpa unloaded many tools and items from his garage and gifted them to Jeff to work on his truck. There was a lot of quality time spent, stories shared, relaxing. It was sad to leave, but after three days, we headed out on a long, long road trip in a 2000 Honda Accord that we took off Grandpa's hands.
Our first stop was Oceanside to see Jeff's grandma Jo. Oceanside is a beautiful town and I fell in love with the 1940's rental bungalows just across the street from the beach. I want to stay there one day! What a lovely vacation spot. We had brunch at a nice restaurant and visited, while Grandma Jo outlined a route for us to take up the coast. After stopping at a Mexican store for some authentic carne asada burrito tortillas, we dropped Grandma Jo off at her apartment and took some pictures. Then, we headed back on the open road.
I spotted a sign for San Juan Capistrano, and, having heard the stories of the swallows that return there every spring, I wanted to check it out. It was spectacular! A beautiful setting with a tragic story - the mission was built over nine years, stood for six, then collapsed during an earthquake, killing 40 parishioners. There is a new church behind the old mission, but the ruins remain for tourists. The flowers were amazing and the hummingbirds were everywhere! We spent about an hour exploring then hit the road again.
We headed up I-5 towards Los Angeles. We skirted the city, getting a glimpse of it's smoggy grayness, and a hazy view of the Hollywood sign, before detouring onto US 101 and then US 1 for a trip along the coast. The coast was beautiful, and we enjoyed miles and miles of ocean views and small towns before stopping once again near San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. I took pictures of the castle from the car, and we pulled over at the Elephant seal viewing area. The seals were really entertaining - for one thing, I had no idea the sounds they made. And another - watching them flop along the beach is so funny! The sun was setting so it provided a nice backdrop for the seals. My camera battery ran out right when I was taking sunset pics so I resorted to using my cell phone. It was cold and windy as we piled back in the car to return to the road.
We stopped in Salinas, CA where my former brother-in-law Robert and his two kids Kennedy and Johnathon, live. It was late, and I was worried they might not be able to see us since it was a school/work night, but they came out to meet us at a McDonald's off the highway. While we were waiting we ordered some food, and a homeless man asked us to buy him a sundae. We bought him a full meal and a sundae and he was on his way. We then went to In N Out Burger for shakes and Robert and the kids took us on a driving tour of the town in the dark, pointing out their house, the high school, etc. One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the building that used to be a brothel, featured in the book "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck (who hails from Salinas). By the time we were done visiting, it was nearly midnight and we opted to just stay at a Best Western across the street.
The next morning we had our free hotel breakfast (lame) and headed to Vacaville to visit my niece Justine and her family. The trip took about two hours inland and we arrived around lunchtime. Justine was sick, but we had a nice visit and I got to see my adorable nephew Kemer, who was just delightful! Such a friendly and snuggly boy. He showed us his water balloons and climbed into my lap for a story. I could have visited with him all day, not just the two hours we were there. Back on the road again, this time heading up I-5. The scenery was beautiful and we reached Mt. Shasta near sunset. In Roseburg, OR, we stopped at Abby's Pizza for a late dinner. We decided to drive as far as Eugene so the next day's drive would be a bit shorter.
We stayed in a Best Western again, this time in a huge room. We slept in a big the next day, then, after breakfast, headed to Portland (Beaverton) to visit Jeff's great aunt. Sadly, she was not at home, but we left a note and decided to go into Portland on a whim. We had visited there a couple summers ago and didn't get to a few things on our list of "to do". So, this time we went first to Muchas Gracias for a carne asade burrito for lunch, then to Voodoo Donuts, then to Powell's City of Books. That took up most of the afternoon and we didn't get on the road again till 4 ish. The rest of the drive was fairly quick up I-5 to Seattle, where we arrived home around 7:30 p.m. The car ran great, the gas mileage couldn't be beat, and we brought home a treasure trove of things from Grandpa's to love and admire and use.
The very best part of the trip, though, was that it was just Jeff and I and the open road. Plenty of time to talk, laugh, see the countryside and just be together. Often we just rode in silence and that was just fine. Other times we listened to old cassette tapes and relived our youth through the songs (we knew the car would likely have a cassette player rather than a cd player so we planned ahead). As it turned out, there WAS a cd player in the car - mounted in the trunk! Remember those days? LOL! Jeff drove the entire distance and I only napped once (anyone who knows me knows that I usually fall asleep within an hour of any road trip and spend most of my time "napping" during the ride - AND, I hate to drive long distances). Jeff even bought me a plush purple blanket and two pillow pets for the ride home. We didn't pack snacks - just a few water bottles and sodas - and we just stopped whenever we wanted to, ate when we felt like it, and had no real agenda or time frame (save for the three days we allotted for the trip). It was heaven! There was nothing stressful about the trip, no arguments ensued. It was just a genuinely good time with my best friend in the whole world. We realized we are happy to "just be" with each other and that is a very good place to be.
It was a great vacation. I can't wait to do it again! :)