July 29, 2009

California Dreamin'

Over the July 4th holiday, we took a wonderful trip to (sort of) sunny California. It turns out, there is a thing called "June Gloom" that no one seems to mention til you get there, but it involves mostly cloudy, cold, dreary weather along the coast during June and the first part of July. Once you go inland a little bit, it clears up. Apparently it has to do with the cold Pacific air meeting up with the hot inland air. Despite this, we had an AMAZING trip and created a lot of great memories of quality time with the fam.

My mom and I flew into San Jose, where we rented a convertible and took the quick trip south to beautiful Carmel Valley, CA. Aunt Sandy, Uncle Chris and my cousin Kyle live there, and I had never had the chance to visit their hometown before. They were wonderful tour guides and hosts (thanks guys!) It is gorgeous there ... we visited Monterrey Bay, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, and more. Some of my favorite experiences were seeing seals and otters in Monterrey Bay, eating Clam Chowder on Fisherman's Wharf, visiting Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch in Carmel, taking the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach and seeing the golf course there, and the yummy fireside dinner we had at the local Fish House in Carmel Valley.

Can you spot the seals all lined up in the middle of this ^ picture?! They look like rocks!

After Carmel, we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur (breathtaking!) to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. A very cool experience all around.

As my mom and I were driving from San Simeon down to LA, we realized we were going to drive RIGHT BY Michale Jackson's Neverland Ranch - 5 days after his surprising death. So, we googled the exact location and plugged it into the GPS ... sure enough, it would be about 10 minutes off the highway as we passed through Los Olivos, CA. So, being spontaneous and curious voyeurs on vacation, we naturally took the detour :) Wow - totally worth it. The small farm road was packed with satelite trucks broadcasting around the world, reporters were primping and finding their best angles for the camera, and many fans (or just curious observers of pop culture, like us). We saw the front gates of the ranch and the large memorial with flowers, notes, posters, etc that had been created. It was a *unique* experience, and I'm glad we were able to see that, especially at such a memorable time.

We got to LA around sunset, and heading right to our hotel on the beach in Santa Monica - we were staying one night at the newly renovated ShangriLa Hotel - it was gorgeous, and the people couldn't have been nicer. Totally different than my other experiences in LA. After a yummy steak dinner down the street at BOA, we settled in for the night. The next day, we had a goal of seeing all the typical LA things - Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Hills, a couple famous peoples' houses, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame ... turns out, there was a bus tour that went to exactly the places we wanted to go! It was perfect ... navigating to all the "must see" spots around LA without having to find our own way and read about the stuff in guide books.

Then we drove down to San Diego to meet up with Jeff, my Dad, Uncle Randy, Colin and Patrick. The rest of the weekend, we explored around San Diego and Camp Pendleton and spent some good quality time as a family all together. We had fun dinners out, went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park (like an African Safari in SoCal), and saw the Cobras Colin flies up close and personal. Man, those are some mean machines!

This may be the last time we all get to be together before Colin deploys for Afghanistan in October, so it was a really special visit I will always cherish.

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