As I start 2019, I realize my travel days are numbered. My trip to SE Asia in October, 2018 provided an insight into my future travels. Three weeks is a long travel time, now that I am older. And the heat and humidity are too much now. I also ended up with a minor injury from walking and hiking too much. And three weeks in Europe was also a challenge. I injured my knee, either cycling or walking. And over a week later, I still have some jet lag!
So, does that mean I am retiring from travel? NO!!! But I will try to pick and choose my spots a little more carefully, and not try to pack so much into a trip, as I did in SE Asia and Europe. Perhaps more domestic trips, more car trips, fewer really long overseas trips.
A pattern of travel has emerged lately, as most of my trips are solo. While I may visit or meet people on these trips, it starts as a solo trip. I am so thankful for many of you who have befriended me along the way. You know who you are: Roath, Angela, Cesar, Itsuyo, Danny, Dirty Pat, KenBob, Michael, Raj, Corinne, Rey, Leicey, many more I may have missed.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love our road trips with Lexi tagging along. And perhaps taking a class or two at the local college has created greater interest for me. And there is always the fact that home is the best place!!!
So, with that in mind, let’s review 2019:
I like to stay home in January, because of the weather, and football playoffs. Despite the beach calling us, we decided to stay home. Lexi loves the white sand beach, and we enjoy the vibe, as well as food, shopping, and maybe a few friends. Never mind, the rain was too heavy, so we skipped it for now.
We go to Hawaii every other year now. We always invite my dear brother and his lovely wife to Maui, for a week at our Marriott timeshare. We always upgrade to an ocean view two bedroom suite at the Marriott Ocean Club, which is just over the top, in my opinion. But before joining them, we first visited dear friends in Honolulu, with two babies in their lives now. We met Ben and Leicey in Seattle many years ago, and now they live in their home state, where they got married, and now with two young girls.
But after Oahu, we headed over to Kauai for a few days to see dear friends, Corinne and Rey. We also love several of the local restaurants in the area, like Hamura Saimin, and Kintaro, probably the best sushi outside of Tokyo.
Then, it was Maui for a week, at our Marriott timeshare. We enjoyed many fine meals. But the best was inviting my cousins, and their friend Sharyn for a barbecue dinner. We made a trek to Costco for wine, rib eyes and ahi. We also bought fruit, and salad. My cousins brought fried rice, and ice cream for dessert. We had the best time of the entire trip! And the whales were out in force, with one that we spotted not more than 75 yards off the beach!!!!
My annual visit to see the World Champion Warriors in Oakland on March 8. First the game, actually saw my sister at the game. Then off to Napa for some champagne tasting at Domaine Carneros, with dear friends, Paul, Chris, and Christine. What a great time, we met some real characters!!! We planned some future cycling trips together!
Baseball season started early this year, in March rather than April. Why not start in San Diego, where the hometown Giants start the season against the Padres and Manny? I love going to games there, the weather is great, and the downtown area of San Diego offers plenty to see and do. I went to three games, and stayed in a Courtyard Hotel that was once a bank. The vault in the basement was large enough to hold a bus. And they had a firing range on the 14th floor!
I felt like a college kid again, as spring break arrived, and I decided I needed to do my own version of spring break. So, I headed to Moab, Utah, via Salt Lake City. Two of my favorite national parks are here: Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks, along with Monument Valley, just south of Moab. I also made it to Dead Horse State Park, and to numerous watering holes, such as the Moab Brewery. Plenty of time for some cycling, exploring, photographing, and jetboating.
This was the BIG trip for the year. First, a few days in Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities in the world. I love the van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and the famous Concertgebouw. Also made it over to the Anne Frank House, rather sad.
From there, I headed with a cycling friend to Bordeaux, France for a week of cycling. And wine tasting! Many of you are dumbfounded, knowing that France is not once of my favorite places. But we hit several famous wine regions, with Saint Emilion and Pomerol emerging as favorites. Thanks to Susan for joining me.
A surprise destination is next, Bucharest, Romania. Why? My old buddy, Dirty Pat, is there for a year, teaching law under a Fulbright Scholarship. He and his wife, Renee’ have graciously invited me to stay for a few days. Maybe we will find Count Dracula?? A side trip to the German mountain town of Brasov (home of Dracula’s Castle) in Transylvania was a highlight, along with the friendly city of Bucharest with a charming Old Town. Romania is not on most traveler’s radar, but it should be!
From there, I went to a destination I have been trying to reach now for several years. Finally, I visited Istanbul, Turkey and surrounding areas. You may remember, in 2017, that I was issued one of the LAST visas issued to an American by Turkey. I was in the vicinity, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria, when I received a call from the State Department!!! They strongly suggested that I do NOT visit!!! But this time, I went and enjoyed it thoroughly. What an amazing country, with friendly people, tasty food, gorgeous views of the Bosporus, and many famous historic sites. I would go back anytime!
Our anniversary was June 11, so we headed to our favorite American City, Seattle. We were joined by old friends from Montana, Becky and Larry. This city remains one of our favorite cities in the world, though the city has been transformed by Amazon, Google, and other high tech companies, making it highly unaffordable and sterile. The homeless problem is HUGE here!
I received a big shock on June 13. One of my best and long time friends passed away suddenly. He was a mentor, role model, encouraged me to go to grad school, to volunteer, and to adopt our daughters from Asia. I will miss him!
So, a couple of small trips, taking Lexi to the beach at Pismo. Beach time, along with some wine tasting, and some light cycling should fill the days and evenings. We had dinner with a dear friend at Ember, our fav restaurant down there in Arroyo Grande. We also did some wine tasting at Laetitia, took Lexi to the beach, and got our fill of seafood at several nice places. Then an overnight with my brother to a Giants game in San Francisco. One of his high school classmates gave us her season ticket seats!!!!
So, in the middle of the summer heat, why not head back down to San Diego, for great weather and some baseball? This is always one of my favorite trips, though I no longer drive there. I hate driving through LA, did I say hate?? But the venue was great, the weather even better, and I enjoyed their craft beer night at the ballpark. My G-men won two of three! I was able to visit the Little Italy Saturday farmer’s market, and attend the Friday night craft beer fest. I even saw two friends from back home (Clovis and Bay Area). And the weather was perfect!!!
We took a quick overnighter to the Bay Area, just to visit a friend. Along the way, we paid our respects to Sheri’s parents in an Oakland cemetery. A bittersweet visit, but always want to remember our parents.
How about getting out of the heat? So, we headed to Lexi’s home state of Oregon, for a week in Bandon, Oregon, along the coast. Though I no longer play golf, Bandon Dunes Resort has some of the best golf courses I have ever played. In addition, on the coast, the cool breezes, and fresh seafood were most welcome after a long, hot summer here in the Valley. We saw some friends from back home as well, and had a nice barbecue down at Gold Beach. And some wine tasting near Jacksonville, seafood in Bandon, and some cycling along the coast.
I found the cutest little wine tasting place in downtown Bandon, called Bread and Wine. Nancy, the owner, is quite the wine expert, and sells many nice Oregon wines and bread! But after giving my credit card for some wine purchases, she frantically called the next morning. My card had been hacked at a local gas station, and was cancelled after the perpetrator tried to use the card in Washington!
We decided to drive up to Truckee (Tahoe) for the weekend, with a stop in Auburn’s Lake of the Pines. We visited my old high school buddy, the Vet to the stars, Dr. Jack and his wife. Great time, then headed to Truckee for cycling, and a few lobster rolls at Morgan’s Lobster Shack. We got out of there just in time, as it snowed the next day at Squaw.
A quick overnight to Carmel was in the cards, mostly to shop, perhaps see a friend, and let Lexi run on the beach. I miss our trips there, as they have definitely become rather infrequent. But the weather was great, Seventeen Mile Drive was spectacular, and we hit a few of our favorite places!!!!
At the end of the month, I headed back east, for a destination wedding in North Carolina in early October. I decided to go a few days early, to visit old friends (the former Surgeon General), and just look around the Washington, DC area and visit the museums. I also visited one of my alma maters, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, also known as Basketball U. I hoped to have a meal with a dear friend and former grad school classmate, who is now the Chancellor for Health at Duke University in Durham. Then drive down to Highlands, NC for the wedding, via Asheville.
A side trip to Asheville proved rather interesting. It is a cute little town, lots of restaurants and retail. It was another 2 hours drive to Highlands, which was a very pleasant surprise. Check out Old Edwards Inn on google, quite a story and setup.
My nephew, Spencer (my sister, Carolyn’s only son), was married in Highlands, NC on October 5. It was the first wedding of the fourth generation of the Kataoka clan. The rest either eloped, or ?? After the wedding, I spent a few days in Hotlanta, visiting some old friends there as well. I have always wanted to visit the Jimmy Carter Library and the Martin Luther King Center. I have not been there since the 80’s. I loved the MLK Center, and could feel the spirit of the great man. It was a memorable experience. Regarding the old friend, KenBob, turns out he was in Europe and returned my call just last week.
Having been inspired by my trip to Moab, I decided to head to one of my favorite national parks, Bryce Canyon N.P. in Utah. I take the road slowly traveled, with stops in Las Vegas, and St. George. And a revisit to Zion National Park as well. Why not? Aside from taking photos, I cycled, visited dear friends in Vegas, and enjoyed the great views. And may I repeat, Bryce is my favorite national park in the entire universe.
None other than Dirty Pat would entice us to drive down to the Los Angeles area for a visit. He and Mrs. Dirty Pat are in LA for their Ravens game against the LA Chargers. So, we will meet up in Santa Monica, enjoy the beach scene, and head back home. Of course, we last saw each other in Romania, Bucharest to be exact, when he was on his Fulbright Scholarship. (I had to cancel due to the unexpected death of a co worker)
With the vagaries of sports, whoda thought I would go back to the DC area so soon. The Niners are doing well, and they playrd my buddy, Dirty Pat’s Ravens on Dec. 1 in Baltimore. Dirty Pat invited me to join him, and his buddy Mark for another Niner-Raven clash, reminiscent of the Super Bowl in Nawlins, when we all met for the first time. I stayed in DC for a few days, saw more sights, visited friends, before returning home.
Then, I was thrilled to find a dear old friend, Ken Bob in Atlanta. I tried to find him when I visited in Atlanta in October to visit the M. L. King Center. Turns out he was in Europe at the time. We dined at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, suffered through a Hawks and Warriors NBA game. And you will never believe why we stayed in downtown Atlanta instead of his home out in the suburbs. That’s right, he and his wife are following the Miss Universe contest!!!!
Without a December trip to Vegas, and a fairly full work schedule, the travel year ends on a whimper.
So, this ends a relatively quiet travel year for me. I had to pass on a few trips due to some dental work (expensive). I also love to be home, here in the Valley, during the Fall.
Hint to the wise: Buy your Senior National Park Pass now before they stop selling them!!!! It is the bargain of the century.
Let me know where you have been, where you are going, or perhaps give me a few hints on where I should go next. What do I see in my 2020 vision? Perhaps Argentina, Greece, cycling in Croatia, and a return to the famous Oktoberfest in Munich?