Rest Day: Tuesday 6/13
After our return from Kings Canyon National Park, we had a day to kill (Tuesday) before our ultimate departure to the coast (Wednesday). The day consisted of a well-earned sleep-in, followed by a leisurely breakfast and some shopping. After lunch, Aunt Kim and I hit the tennis court in force. After four hours of play and practice, there was some improvement. I am planning on continuing my foray into the sport with my friend Matthew, but as of now I am unsure of my long-term dedication. With a nice home-cooked meal under our belts, we hit the sack early, in preparation for our next day.
Grand Tour of California by Car Wednesday 6/14 / Thursday 6/15
With our typical 9:30 departure and hard-sought Starbucks stop, the Acura left a cloud of dust in the mundane city of Fresno. We were headed for the coast baby! The plan was to first head West to the coastal city of Carmel for some slough kayaking, followed by a nice dinner at Passionfish, the restaurant that catered my Aunt’s wedding ten years ago. After the hotel check-in and lovely seafood (as the name entails) dinner, Aunt Kim had a revelation. She realized that she knew an old business friend of her’s from back in the day. Aunt Kim proposed that we try and find her, and that she knew roughly where her friend lived. Not wanting to disappoint, I followed along. An adventure, I thought as us two, thick as thieves hatched a plan over dinner to track down her friend. After dinner, we conducted a brief Google search of this person and happily found the address. We were able to find the house. We exited the vehicle only to be alerted with the sound of a barking dog and some yapping. Suddenly, two deer raced around a road intersection, feet from our car. It is safe to say that Aunt Kim and I were sufficiently flustered at this point. Then we saw a large pit bull sprint out of the corner. The aggressive dog looked like it was heading straight for us, but in fact it was going for the deer behind. As the pit bull approached them, all three animals froze, stuck in time. As Aunt Kim screamed, “GET IN THE CAR“ animals reanimated, and the chase was on again. While we were in the car catching our breath, Aunt Kim related to me a story of a dog chase when she was living in San Fran. She said that it was a loud but small dog, but it was always approaching whenever she would pass it on her way home from work. She always carried pepper spray in that city, and for good reason. One day the dog was being more pugnacious then usual and darted right for her. Pepper spray at the ready, she unleashed a torrent of capscacin into the wind, but it backfired on her. Her screaming dissuaded the dog, but she had to run home nearly blind the last few blocks to her house to flood here eyeballs with hose water. After we recuperated from our dog encounter, we again exited the car to knock on the door. A minute later my ears were assailed with the merry shouts of two women that had not seen each other in a long, long time.
Last Leg of the Journey: After Carmel, we drove the last leg of the journey to the Bay Area. After a scenic but exhausting four hour drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, we plunked into our hotel beds, both exuberantly exclaiming in a most Davis manner, “it’s so good to sit down”. After a small rest, we rallied our spirits and headed off to dinner. I suggested that we Uber, as parking would be a hassle in the downtown strip of Pleasant Hill where we were staying. Aunt Kim agreed, but noted skeptically that she had never used the service. I tried my best to allay her concerns, reassuring her that I was an Uber pro! After our night on the town and two Uber trips later, Aunt Kim was a convert. We took an early night back at the hotel in preparation for Friday, the penultimate day of the journey. As I was laying under the covers, thoughts flickered across my mind about the trip. Flashbacks to Vegas and mountain-biking, solitary days in the apartment, cappuccinos in Yosemite... the memories were innumerable. I was confounded that the trip was ending so soon, but conversely I was somewhat ready to return to Cleveland.
True Tales of San Francisco: The last full day in San Francisco, we crammed it all in. We started the day with a BART ride into downtown San Francisco. The first agenda item was to walk through China Town. After my purchase at a sketchy street store of a steamed pork bun, we continued our hunt for the “hanging ducks”. After the ducks were seen, we continued to Little Italy. Aunt Kim took a fancy to one of the pastry stores and after a brief spectating period, purchased a biscotti. As she was wrapping it up and putting it in her purse, I noticed from the corner of my eye that the old Italian gentleman that was serving us was scooping ice cream. He brought the large silver spoon up to his mouth and lazily licked it before returning it to the public ice cream vat to finish reorganizing the ice cream. After he completed his task, he AGAIN licked the spoon as he took it to the sink. After we exited the storefront I said something to Aunt Kim. Now she is a very hygienic person, my hunch is that it follows the “clean eating” mentality naturally. As I told her in between giggles, she was disgusted, promptly discarding of the conceivably tainted biscotti. What an interesting experience! We continued on our way to the ferry building, or as Aunt Kim referred to it, “YUPPIE central”. After grabbing a bite to eat, and undoubtably my $5 artisanally roasted virgin espresso local organic whole milk coffee concoction, we were off to the ferry. Aunt Kim was right, it really was a fantastic way to experience the bay as well as seeing the city from afar, not to forget passing by Alcatraz. I stood at the front of the ship embracing the cold gusts of wind rolling in off of the Pacific. This was the life! Upon returning to the ferry building, we hussled over to the BART station. Jogging through the hotel lobby, I slammed on the elevator button. I looked at my watch. We did not have a lot of time. I cut right to business at the hotel room, practically throwing myself through the shower. I donned my nicest clothing, gelled my hair, took a deep breath, and walked out the door. You see, Aunt Kim and I were heading for the experience that marked the incipience of our discussions of the trip just over a month ago. We were headed to... McDonald’s. Wait wait wait, just kidding. I meant to say, Chez Panisse, the iconic Alice Waters restaurant on our doorstep.
Conversations at Chez Panisse: A Tableside Reflection
My visit to Chez Panisse was a truly remarkable experience. Yes, the food and service was excellent, but for me, the more noteworthy substance was the conversation. Aunt Kim and I had a large range of discussions, ranging from time on the trip to her childhood and own experiences, as well as mine. We talked about how this trip all started about a month ago when she told me she would book reservations at either the French Laundry or Chez Panisse if I came to visit. And so I did. And there I was, and all was well.
After a 2.5 hour delayed arrival due to the blatant failings of the so called “Allegiant Air”, I was raring for some activity after the humdrum monotony that is Macaroon International Airport. Uncle Gary and I went to “practice” tennis which consisted primarily of me learning how to hold the racquet and throw a tennis ball straight up in the air (more difficult than one would think!) Aunt Kim splurged on the dinner that night: cheesy lasagna. Her and her husband Gary are VERY healthy eaters. My stay is causing me to reconsider or at least think more candidly about my diet, especially when I am older. Everyone was early to bed that night, as Aunt Kim and I were making our pilgrimage to Yosemite the next morning, a relaxed 2.5 hour drive from the house. The next morning, after honoring the habitual Starbucks stop off, excitement was high as we climbed higher and higher into the California mountains. As we crossed into Yosemite Park, I was absolutely staggered by the sheer rock faces. I had never seen rock quite so large. After settling into our lodging in the valley, we ventured out for the afternoon hike to see the famous Yosemite Falls. Aunt Kim likened the hiking to the “Stairmaster+”. After going strong for a few hours, Aunt Kim had had her fill. I decided to forge on ahead, telling her in passing that I would turn around in 20 minutes. After about 15 more minutes of hiking, I was greeted with a most majestic sight: the Yosemite Falls
After returning to our previously agreed meeting place, much to my chagrin Aunt Kim was nowhere to be found! After waiting for about 20 minutes, I made the executive decision to continue down the mountain, reasoning that it would get dark if I did not break my stasis. I found Aunt Kim about 1/2 an hour later. She exclaimed defensively that she thought I said 20 minutes round trip. After that small slip-up the rest of the evening went smoothly. The next day was fine too, and we went to the Grand Majestic Bar (AKA the Awahnee) for dinner. We had plans the next morning for an early hike before departing back for Fresno and catching brunch at Erna’s Blackberry House in Oakhurst. Aunt Kim and I had previously schemed that we would smuggle ourselves into the Tenaya Lodge (high-end hotel) and clean up in their spa / shower facilities. She had stayed there several times in the past, and knew the lay of the land well. We breezed right past the front desk and in no time I was enjoying the spa for all it was worth: first a shower, then the steam room, and finally the sauna. Unfortunately we were just a few minutes late for the brunch reservation due to my reluctance to evacuate the luxury that was the Tenaya Lodge Spa. We made it home in plenty of time to spare for entertaining my uncle’s sister and husband. This morning I had a bit of a sleep-in because I stayed up too late watching the brilliant movie Hot Fuzz last night (side note: not one that mom would enjoy). Again we climbed, climbed, and climbed some more to get to Kings Canyon where we could spectate the Sequoias. They were YUUUUUUUGE!!!
Finally we returned to Fresno, passing by the Cat Haven on our way back. After resting for a few hours at the homestead, we went to got watch Aunt Kim’s tennis match. With the sounds of balls richocheting against racquets, I watched the amber sun slowly dip behind the horizon. I exhaled, and thought, this is a good place to be! More images below
Enjoy this video check-in of me hiking on the Yosemite Falls trail. Expect a more in-depth written piece soon. So psyched to be here!!!
Enjoy a video check-in of mountain biking in Blue Diamond, NV.