Each year, I seem to travel a little less. Some is attributed to getting older. But I am convinced it is our little Labradoodle, Lexi, who keeps me home more. And we will try to travel (road trips) more with her, as she is a good traveler, and seems to enjoy the places we visit. I am also taking classes at the local college.
That said, I do have a few nice trips planned, and, I am certain, a few that are unplanned. The biggest was a return to SE Asia in October, a VIA Canadian Railway trip, and a long anticipated trip to the famous 4th of July concert with the Boston Pops.
A little local travel, and one that I missed this past year, is the opportunity to see my alma mater, the California Golden Bears play basketball in Berkeley, this time against the mighty Bruins of UCLA. It is also the chance to see many friends, and visit my friend Peter’s new jazz club in downtown Walnut Creek, called The Impulse Room. Going back to the U.C. Berkeley campus is always a great experience, even when we lose!
Why not start the year off with another Amtrak trip? First, I flew to San Diego, spent the night, and embarked on the Coaster up to Los Angeles Union Station. From there, I hopped on the Coast Starlight for the trek up the California coast overnight, through Oregon, and debarked in Seattle. After another night and full day in Seattle, I winged it back home. This was my seventh long distance Amtrak trip, and perhaps my last.
I am taking several adult education classes at Fresno State through Osher Lifelong Learning, as well as a regular class at Clovis Community College. I decided to take Cultural Anthropology, which has been quite enlightening. The classes have stifled some travel and work opportunities, but well worth it.
I never turn down the opportunity to see my Golden State Warriors (The Dubs) play at the Oakland Coliseum (aka Roaracle), this time against the great Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Have you ever been to OK City? I once spent two days there, but it felt like a week!! Not something I am proud of. But it was by far, their best game of the season! I do miss the Dubs and Giants games, now so far away, no longer just a BART ride away.
With Lexi enjoying car travel, we drove down to Sedona and Scottsdale, via an overnight in Las Vegas. This was her longest car trip, so far, though we brought her home from Portland, OR when we adopted her in September of 2016. In Vegas, we just spent the night before heading to AZ. I was going to attend either the Pac 12 or Mountain West basketball tournaments (I did not). After a solid dose of vortexes and red rocks (and some rain), in Sedona, we drove down to Scottsdale for some Spring Training baseball with my Giants, and a couple good meals at Portillo’s, now an Arizona branch, and our favorite southwest Mex, Los Sombreros. On the way back, a stop in Palm Springs, just to break up the long drive, and let Lexi see some movie stars and cactus? Total was 1600 miles!
Maybe a surprise trip, to a surprise destination? In reality, the surprise location was the U.C. Davis Veterinary School clinic for Lexi. We wanted to have her urinary system evaluated properly. Maybe just a day trip, maybe an overnighter. While she was being tested, we had a wonderful lunch at Bistro 33 in downtown Davis, and a short shopping trek out to the Vacaville factory outlets. Then later in the month, our cycling group decided to spend the day tasting and riding in Lodi, instead of Napa Valley. We never felt “Stuck in Lodi, Again”, though Napa is still primo.
May was going to be rather quiet. But I finally found a relatively inexpensive rail trip across Canada, something I have wanted to do for about ten years now. I flew to Toronto, and boarded the VIA Rail Canada for a 4 night, 3 day trip across most of western Canada to Vancouver. Perhaps it was on my “Water Pail” list? The trip ended up over 30 hours late upon arrival in Vancouver. The two highlights of the trip: seeing my dear friend, Aram in Toronto, and having champagne and oysters in Vancouver.
Then on Memorial weekend, we drove up to the Bay Area with Lexi. First, a Paul Simon concert, which was his farewell concert. He is simply a great singer and song writer, playing some of his really old songs that I do not remember. Second, a chance to visit with some dear friends, with a pizza party in our room, so that we could include Lexi in the party.
Not sure if I will enroll in summer school or not. But June is a great month with our Anniversary, as always, in Seattle. We enjoy the vibe, the food, and our friends there. Seattle is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is generally easy to find some music or theater in the evening here. We opted for a performance at Benaroya Hall for a “Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel” concert by the Seattle Symphony.
But there is always time for a cycling race and overnight stay in Cayucos, on the central coast of California, about a 2.5 hour drive away. Some excellent beer (Firestone Brewery) and wine tasting was followed by rather marginal seafood the night before. The bike along the ocean was refreshing, even windswept on the return south.
As if taking the train across Canada was not lesson enough, I took Amtrak to San Francisco for a Giants game with an old golf buddy, who recently lost his mother. Then I decided to stay overnight at the old Sir Francis Drake Hotel and have dinner with another long time friend and fellow writer. I discovered some new places, and returned to Sears, a breakfast place I have been frequenting since 1961. What a treat!
I have wanted to attend the big 4th of July Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade in Boston. So, I decided this was the year. The performance is held on both the nights of the 3rd and 4th, and I went BOTH nights. In the heat and humidity, along with several hundred thousand others. I added in a little business, meeting with Partners in Health, to find out what I can do for them on a volunteer basis. And why not take the famous Peter Pan bus to old Cape Cod (Hyannis) for a big dose of Maine lobster at Spanky’s Clam Shack? I also had some other great meals, including the Boston version of Eataly, and my favorite Boston restaurant, the Union Oyster House, for an even better lobster roll.
Then, just for kicks, or bats, my brother came up with four primo tickets to the Giants game, against the south siders from Chicago, the Cubs. We chaperoned his two grandsons, and slumbered overnight.
To beat the heat, we headed out to the great Central Coast, on a road trip with Lexi, to Pismo Beach. She loves to dig in the sand on the beach, and we love the cooler weather, wineries, and seafood. I also took two nice, cool bike rides along the coast. And we dined al fresco at one of our favorite restaurants, Ember, in Arroyo Grande.
How about a quick flight to San Diego to see a couple Giants games at Petco Park? As much to get out of the summer heat, I love San Diego, and going to a Giants games at Petco, especially after we swept both games in extra innings. The weather was perfect, and San Diego is a great American city. But my dear friend Julie, and her husband, Jim were out of town. Alas, a few other friends were there to keep me company.
Another Giants game in San Francisco with my brother not only gets us out of the heat, we really enjoy our brotherhood. He is the best brother I could have.
I also signed up for the Tour of Napa Valley, a 36 mile bicycle ride through the Napa Valley. We did a little wine tasting the day before. And the ride itself was done on a nice, cool, foggy morning in the Napa Valley, starting in Calistoga, and heading up to St. Helena, and along the famous Silverado Trail.
Basically, this was a quiet month for travel. But I did start another semester at Clovis Community College with a Geography class.
College and NFL football begins this month, so maybe a road trip to see our local Bulldogs, or my Cal Bears play somewhere? Or, how about taking Lexi to Monterey and Carmel, before heading up to the Bay Area to visit old friends? She has not yet romped on Carmel Beach, or been on famous Seventeen Mile Drive. She loves the sandy beaches!! Then, we headed up to the Bay Area to see Sheri’s cooking show friends. Most of you probably did not know that she was part of the crew on a public access TV show, called Short Cut Cook. We had dinner with the group on Saturday night. Lexi had a great time!!!
If it is October, it must be time for a long trip, this time back to SE Asia, with multiple stops. First stop, as always, Bangkok, to see our friend Danny, who just treats me like a king! And a must stop at famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can literally buy almost anything. We also spent the day in Chinatown, looking for abalone. From there, we took a short flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to see a dear friend, Angela. She will babysit me, Mike, and his son, Matt for a few days. We got a real treat, as we headed out to a small country farm, Uncle Ranni’s Organic Chicken Farm (and cafe) for some chicken that really tastes like chicken. And the next night, Angela took us for an outstanding seafood dinner in KL.
Then, another short flight to Penang, home to the world’s best food. And to see dear friends, Jason and Chun, who now own a successful coffee shop, in Batu Ferringhi. This is my third or fourth trip to this fantastic island. They have their own cafe now, no longer teach, and really know food. We went to a huge hawker stall the first night, each of us ordering what we wanted. We ended up with about ten dishes on the table, with bottomless Tiger beer. Then, unexpectedly, Mike and Matt wanted to stay at the beach, so guess what? We headed to one of my favorite resorts in the world, the famous Rasa Sayang in Batu Ferringhi. Then another great seafood dinner at a bigger stall just off the road.
Never resting, we took another flight to Cambodia, to visit friends in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat and the other Angkor complexes. We have know Roath for over ten years, she is now married with two children. We will stay in the most popular hotel booked on Trip Advisor, a place called Viroth’s Hotel. It is a small, classy, boutique hotel with impeccable service and amenities. And walking distance to the central business areas, including Pub Street and the three night markets. Matt and I had to visit Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm again!!! They drove us to the airport in a vintage Rolls Royce!
No moss shall grow under our feet, as we returned to Hanoi, our third visit. With a hotel in the middle of the Old Quarter, all of Hanoi’s food and cultural scene were within easy reach, on foot. Of course, if you have never taken a “moto” bike ride here, hang on to your hat, and be prepared for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride on a small motorbike. We took a culture and foodie tour on the back of three motos, through the depths of the city’s old town. The alley ways were so narrow, I thought I would lose an arm or a leg along the way!!!!
But I am glad to be home now!
Well, it is a month for feasting, with Thanksgiving, football season, and a definite change in the weather. Nothing kicks of the Fall better than a bike ride, the Tour de Vino in Lodi. Though I am still a little tired from my SE Asia, trip, a good bicycle ride and wine tasting is just what I need. And some wine tasting at Michael David Winery and their famous Inkblot label.
Lexi wanted to go somewhere new, for her. So, we packed her up and took her up to Yosemite National Park. This was her first time at Yosemite, so it was interesting to see how see interacted with nature. She made so many new friends at the famous lookout. And it was a magnificent day in Yosemite, with skies so blue, I thought I was in the middle of the ocean!!!
In years past, we always met my Mom in Las Vegas for her birthday, and a small family reunion. Now that she is gone, we turned our attention elsewhere. But we have dear friends there, Ken and Debbie, who we have not seen now in two years. It’s about time!
Maybe a dream come true? What if my Cal Golden Bears play the local boys, the Fresno State Bulldogs in a bowl game? It is possible the two teams could meet in either Vegas or Phoenix. Both teams have been or are currently coached by the Dogs own Jeff Tedford. So, the hometown Bulldogs are playing in the Las Vegas Bowl (they defeated Arizona State), and my Golden Bear are in Phoenix at the Cheez-It Bowl (haha).
So, we drove over for the game. Then after my brother and wife drove back, I stayed with dear friends in the Vegas suburb of Summerlin for a few days. It was nonstop fun, cards, happy hours, and games. And I got a bonus! I got to have dim sum with dear friends, Kevin and Patty from the Bay Area!!!! Double bonus.
2018 was a decent travel year. One trip overseas (SE Asia), and a short jaunt to Canada for the VIA Canadian Rail from Toronto to Vancouver. You will notice we had more road trips, since we can include Lexi. We even bought her a new car!!!
I plan to hit Europe again in 2019, perhaps for the last time. I want to see an old friend in Bucharest, Romania. And my long awaited venture into Turkey, if the politics calm down and terror threat stays low. Oh, and maybe a cycling trip to Bordeaux sandwiched in there somewhere? How about you?