Posts Tagged With: California

On The Road Again…

We head out today.  Once again on the road.  Am excited.  I almost feel like I’m relocating.  The car is packed and I compartmentalized everything knowing full well that along the way the interior will turn into a chaotic mess where I will not be able to find the most essential necessities.  But I’m okay with that.

It’s early in the morning and we have about 8 hours, 545 miles to reach Redding where we are staying on our way to Seattle.   Never been past San Francisco so I am all revved up to go and explore.  As usual, I only know what Daisy, my GPS, chooses to share with me.  Though I have sort of mapped out through http://www.roadtrippers.com our route, I basically am ignorant of what terrain we are crossing -something that later on in the trip I will learn to regret.

So far, the 5 North has proven itself to be exactly what I thought it would be.  Lots of traffic and with stretches which are absolutely, hypnotically boring. But I like driving and it doesn’t phase me.  There is good music on the stereo and I can go on forever. When I was in OZ and NZ my guy did all the driving.  I was not to keen (an Aussie expression) on driving on the wrong side of the road or, as in New Zealand, having the stick shift on the left.  Too much to concentrate on!  So while he was in the West Coast I was intent on doing all the driving.  Good intentions.  Not so good on the execution of it.

About 4 hours in more or less, we pass Gustine, CA.  Actually, we don’t pass it since I see a big sign that says Andersen’s Pea Soup Company 20121227_120207 and Baby Blue (aka: my Prius) perks up and suggests that my Aussie passenger should experience a bit of Americana. Now in its 75th year of existence it is more an experience than excellent dining. Baby Blue goes in.  I have pea soup and chicken salad.  Pea SoupAussie has steak and eggs. Both on the mediocre side but heck, we are experiencing part of American history!

And the trip continues with not much more excitement.   We use airbnb often when we travel.  Staying in a local person’s home who guide you as to where to go and what to do is so much more welcoming and holds more warmth than staying at a hotel and usually paying more.  It also comes with some perks.  Our hosts in Redding, where we arrive 4 hours after our coma-inducing ingestion of food, have a Miniature Australian Shepherd puppy (Is there an Aussie theme here?) of about 3 months that is so fun to play with!  She is the size of a chihuahua for now and will grow to only about 10 pounds.   Jamma (which I am sure is spelled wrong) was such a happy little girl that she would not stay still for a photo.

Morning wakes us up to a dreary rainy, cold day (34º F).  But off we go!  On our way to Portland, where we have decided to head straight for.   The drizzle is constant but I am unconcerned.  But less than an hour in we are heading up and it’s starting to get colder and now the raindrops have turned into snowflakes and they are swirling on my windshield. We are about 3,000 ft up the mountain. I’m not liking that this is combined with mountains and curves.  Oh my!  Then the windshield wipers aren’t wiping as well and I’m noticing Baby Blue’s windshield is icing up.  My legs start trembling.  Remembering my friend Dani Kehm who has a blog about panic attacks. (I’ve linked her name to her blog.) Haven’t had one in eons but my heart is beating way too fast… Dean asks me if I’ve driven in snow before.  The answer is no.  Do you want me to drive? Yes. Yes. Yes. Please! I am surprised as to how scared I am. Feeling like a wus but that doesn’t stop my legs from shaking.  So I pulled into Dunsmuir.  A lovely town.  If I weren’t so nervous I’d notice how the area is so incredibly beautiful under snow.  The exit ramp is icy and snowed in.

It looks so peaceful... though still shaking I take out my camera and take this photo.

It looks so peaceful… though still shaking I take out my camera and take this photo.

Dean is guiding me as to what to do.  We pull at a gas station and I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for not being alone.  We still have 5 hours to Portland.   He drives for a few hours while it’s still snowing and icy and yucky.  Eventually we go down the mountain and it stops snowing.

The HouseWe arrive in Portland mercifully after rush hour.  It’s about 8:30.  The city surprises me as to how huge it is.  It’s a maze of intersecting freeways.  I’m at the wheel now, tired, cranky, and missing most of my turns and exits (which is not that unusual with me).   We once again have booked through airbnb.  This time I had communication with the host on the road.  We arrive at a charming craftsman-style house.  It’s chilly and it’s still drizzling but as soon as we come in we are greeted by the most welcoming human host and two of the sweetest and cutest cats ever.

These photos were taken in the morning.

PiperPiper, a gray beauty that I knicknamed “burpee” ’cause she loves to be held and patted like when you burp a newborn.

Ready for a petting session.

Ready for a petting session.

P1140223   Her tags match the season. :)

Her tags match the season. 🙂

P1140216

Phineas, her brother, a shiny black cat that wears a bow tie with grace and pride.  The house is warm, our room is perfect and I am extremely content to be here.

He's totally owning that couch!

He’s totally owning that couch!

A side “bow tie” view.P1140219

A front bowtie view.

A front bow tie view.

Our bed is super comfy and it doesn’t take long to be in the arms of Morpheus.  I dream of flat terrain and no snow and a day when I can transport myself with no other means of transportation than my mind.

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Categories: Alberta Arts District, California, Dunsmuir, Gustine, Oregon, Portland, Redding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Xin Chao

I wake to an almost eerie sunrise, tinting the haze in an orange-red color becoming a grainy photograph in my mind and on my lens.  Laos has been special.  Unexpectedly so, beautifully so, and my heart sinks a little as I put my bag out the door for it to be picked up.  But I am missing my name written on my ID tag in Vietnamese and Cambodian, so the journey continues.  Besides, in Vietnam I have a familiar face of a friend waiting.  It will be nice to catch up and hear about his life as a local.

We will experience flying a new airline for us: Vietnam Airlines.       Just right to get us in the Vietnam mood.  Somehow, Robin William’s voice as he says “Good-morning Vietnaaaaam” doesn’t seem to get out of my head.  Our flight is delayed an hour which allows me some time for coffee which comes in a heart-shaped cup. I add the local paper and some Thai music on my headphones.  I close my eyes for a moment and think of how enriched I am by all the experiences I’ve had so far.   The silly grin surfaces on my face once again.

 As we arrive, it surprises me that the airport is not very congested.  Sufficient immigration officials for all of us so we spread out, almost one to a line.  “Paraguay?” mine asks inquisitively.  “Yes”, I smile.  I am used to this interaction.  Happens in every country.  Sometimes they chat about it, sometimes they have to look it up on their list to actually confirm that such country exists.  Here I get a scowl.  Alone?  No, with tour.  Where?  To Myanmar, Thailand…  NO!  Where tour?  Oh, they cleared immigration already.  I get a shrug from him.  From?  Laos   Another shrug.  Ticket?  Uh, which ticket?  Next to??  Oh, here’s my itinerary.  By bus to Cambodia next.  I’ll make it short for you guys… In total I got (in about 10 minutes) around 7 shrugs, numerous scowls, a request to produce my alien card from the US, and when he ran out of questions and reasons to question my visa he just stared at me scowling and I at him, still smiling.  He still has my passport.  My mind was wondering what next and my heart at this point was racing, racing to nowhere but exerting itself nonetheless.  GO!, he says and I enter Vietnam as I see my guide coming back for me.   Turns out that all the nastiness could have been avoided had I slipped a few bucks.  Or then again, I could have ended up in jail trying to bribe a public official.  I wasn’t going to take any chances.

It’s mid-afternoon on a Saturday in Ho Chi Minh.   The city seems to be on speed. The sounds of motorbike engines punctuated by horns, people talking loudly and my gasps, as I see more than one unsafe driving condition and near    miss, are not melding together well at all.       

It’s Bangkok craziness times three.   We are instructed that when we get off the bus, if we cross the street we should not stop in the middle, not walk back, not run.   Supposedly they will skirt us if we just walk calmly. If I raise my hand, as in Bangkok, will they stop?  Giggle.  Nope, but you can raise both arms in signal of defeat says my guide.  Ay, ay, ay!

We go to the Ming Phuong lacquer factory.  They give us a fan upon arrival that I will use throughout the rest of the trip.  The process of lacquering is so time consuming and involves so many steps that I now understand why it is so expensive. So much patience involved.  This woman is breaking the duck eggs to apply on one of the steps.  These men are varnishing, seemingly unaffected by the fumes that emanate from the pool.  And, yes, two of them are smoking away as they work.  The result is astounding on some of the pieces.  

I buy two small items.   Little old me, who never buys anything on vacation, must have had a crash course ‘cause my suitcase is getting mighty heavy!

Next we head towards the Notre-Dame Basilica in the center of the city.  For the record, I don’t think I’m in France, there happens to be one in Saigon that was built in 1877.  It is pretty though not that impressive when compared to the European cathedrals.     

We turn around I see a vendor.  Like the colors.  Snap a photo.  

Remember April 29, 1975?  On April 30 Saigon fell and the reunification of Vietnam into a Communist state began.  This marked the end of the Vietnam War.  On April 29 the CIA personnel was evacuated from the top of the CIA building.  A famous photo by Hilbert Van Es captures the moment for posterity.   We are staring at that building now.  The actual building will be demolished in a week’s time to give way to a new development.        

We have to cross the street to the Central Post Office.  We live to tell the tale. The building is beautiful. Inside as well.

Guess whose portrait overlooks it all?  

On the side are phone booths with world city clocks on top.  

I immediately spot California. 

As we again cross the street to the bus (and survive) I hear that Amarjit has had her camera stolen in less than a few seconds.  We are all heartbroken.  She had all the photos of the trip in the one SD card that was in it.

We go to the hotel.  The group will have dinner there.  I was going to call my friend but no need.  His girlfriend and he are in the lobby waiting for my arrival.  I take a quick shower and go to dinner with them.  I leave my camera or I would share photos.  Tried a soda, lime and sugar concoction that I loved and my first Vietnamese-style soup, which was great.  We eat outdoors.  It’s really crowded and I am reminded that it’s a Saturday night.  The evening is still young and we (actually they) decide that we should go dancing at The Sheraton where there is a live band.  Haven’t danced in years and made up for it tonight!  Haven’t gone to bed this late in a long time either.  The cab tries to charge me much more than what he told them he would.  Hey, I’m good at this by now and give him only what was arranged and open the door to the lobby at 2:00 am.

Feeling young all over again.  Let’s see if I still feel like that tomorrow.

Hello! (Xin Chao) I have my name in Vietnamese now.  Does that make me a local?  

Categories: Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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