California On My Mind

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July 15th 2020
Published: July 21st 2020
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It was the strangest trip I have ever taken. Coronavirus was and still is a dangerous threat in the country. My girlfriend Chloe and I constantly looked at the news to see if we would be allowed into California and let back into North Carolina. We had to check different locations to see what was open to explore and eat. We had direct flights that was switched last minute to one stop. We were originally scheduled to fly into Houston then San Francisco however we changed it due to Coronavirus explosion in Houston compared to Dulles (Washington DC). We got to the airport and was told by United that middle seats was starting to get booked and people would sit near each other. This concerned Chloe and I very much, however a lot of people thankfully changed flights so it wasn't as full of a flight. United was a great airline and provided wipes for us for the seats to wipe down. In addition, they constantly reminded everyone about leaving the masks on.

Our first flight from Raleigh to Dulles was delayed 20 minutes, but thankfully got in only 3 minutes later. This helped as there was only an hour layover. The flight was a bit bumpy. The plane deboard in groups in rows, which I had thought was great compared to other airlines, however 1 or 2 people didn't care and cut ahead of us. The coolest feature was getting a text message with a map upon arrival of each flight that showed us our gate and the next gate we had to go to in distance and time. Dulles airport was the most unappealing airport I have ever flown into. On the second flight we got a bag with water, stroepwaffle and pretzels. In addition, there was a juice cart that came around afterwards. It was a bit surprise that on a long flight from DC to San Francisco that a prepared meal wasn't offered, but what can you do. It was definitely difficult flying with masks on for many hours except for taking it off for foods and drinks. United changed our seating arrangement on the 2nd flight where my girlfriend and I was separated. My girlfriend sat near a gentleman who know her sister from work and also was separated from his family that sat in front of me. It made no sense at all.

As we approached San Francisco, you see mountains and colorful landscape. It was so beautiful and scenic. It was very orderly getting off the plane. The airport was a lot nicer than Dulles though many stores was closed since it was later at night. We had to take a shuttle to get to the rental car. It took a little bit of time and there was some confusion at Budget Rental car. The woman at the register wasn't the most helpful answering my girlfriend's questions and wanted to move her away so she could attend to the other customers on line. The Oakland city skyline and water could be seen on the way to my girlfriend's brother Ezra apartment. We crossed over a long bridge to get into Oakland and many crazy speedy drivers passed all around us. I had never seen such crazy drivers over a bridge and that's coming from a New Yorker. Oakland had a lot of hills and tight parking. We got to Ezra's apartment and had some food and then passed out as it had been a long day of traveling.

We walked down Piedmont Avenue the next morning and got Peet's coffee. Piedmont Avenue had a lot of eclectic vibe to it. It had a lot of different stores and restaurants. There was a decent amount of homeless embankments around Oakland and that was sad to see. There was a lot of houses on the hills and intrigued me how the city was built. We got back to Ezra's house and relaxed. We went on Graham Trail in Oakland Hills East Bay Regional Park. We walked through so many sequoias and red woods. The leaves and flowers was pretty on trees. The trail offered many dogs, joggers and families with some areas of shade to provide relief along the walk. It was a 2 hour walk as we got a little bit lost. On the beginning of the walk you could see the city of Oakland. We called into Zoom for Chloe's friend Ryan who has stage 4 cancer. The connection wasn't the best on trail so we got cut in and out.

We placed an order to go of Ethiopian food. It was a cuisine I hadn't tried, but my girlfriend who had mentioned countless times to me to try. We got different food from two restaurants Cafe Colucci and Barcote. We had delicious coffee, doro tibs, veggie combo, buticha and honeywine. Lunch offered interesting flavors with different tastes of spices. I enjoyed it a lot and would definitely try it and recommend. We took showers before meetings with Chloe's friends Patrick and Diana in Berkeley. They had a beautiful home and very green backyard with a lot of flowers. We had a little snack and dessert. It was a great time meeting them. We drove to Grato Rock to climb and saw beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge in San Francisco. We went to Indian Rock and climbed to see some other excellent views of the bridge. On the road, we passed by 2 deer. We drove around UC Berkeley and saw fraternity row. I was impressed with how big and beautiful the homes was and going down the hill there was fireworks with moon so low. It was a great 4th of July experience.

We went to Philz coffee the next morning on College Avenue. I got a good coffee and delicious cinnamon raisin roll. We tried to meet up with Chloe's friend Stella in Alameda, but unfortunately she wasn't feeling great. She lived right near the Oakland Yacht Club so we walked along the dock. It offered so many huge boats and great views of Oakland. We went to Alameda beach and saw great views of San Francisco. We drove through Chinatown and as you walked past shops whole ducks stood in the window. We went to Tao yen pastries. We got dim sum to go and it smelled amazing. There wasn't a long line to take it to go. It was a decent lunch though the shrimp roll was the best of the bunch that we took out. We stopped to pick up some groceries at Trader Joe's. We went back to Ezra's to relax after a busy morning.

We checked out a Russian market on Piedmont Avenue. It was cool to see all the wild variety of food and drinks in the store. We went to Morcom Rose Garden. There was wild mother and baby turkeys in the park and beautiful multicolored roses. We hung out in the back with Chloe's friend Windsor and his girlfriend Josie. They were a nice couple to talk with. We ordered in from Zachary's pizza. They have stuffed pizza similar to Chicago style. We got a 1/2 chicken special and 1/2 chorizo green Chile. We rested the remainder of the evening.

We went to an old house of Chloe's the next morning and I got to see a lot of different places where Chloe went to school and different stores that was opened. It was an eye opening experience and there was a lot of interesting graffiti on the wall for Black Lives Matter. We got Philz coffee and went to 4th Street Berkeley Market Hall. It had a lot of unique food items with various cheese, homemade pasta and sauces. It was a charming area. We left for Healdsburg in Napa region. We stopped at Genova deli. I got a sandwich though the bread wasn't the greatest, but the remainder of the sandwich was tasty. It was a cool drive through Napa seeing wineries, mountains and trees all over. It was a very windy road up and then down the hill. We stayed at the Hotel Trio. It was a pretty nice comfortably hotel and very clean. We went to Alexander Valley Vineyards. We had to make an appointment ahead of time because of COVID. We wore a mask during the times that we didn't drink. We also brought some cheese that we purchased earlier in the day. We back to the hotel to relax before dinner. We had El Farolito for dinner in downtown Healdsburg. I had a surf and turf burrito. It was chorizo with grilled shrimp. The proportion of the burrito was off with more shrimp and chorizo on one side of the burrito, but otherwise was good. I got a delicious basil lemonade. We went to Wicked Slush ices and ice cream. I got a vanilla ice cream and skittles ice with peanut butter drizzle. It was a fun place with a slush garden area to hang with games. You could have played cornhole but needed to wear gloves. The workers was attentive to clean the chairs once guests got up. We went back to the hotel to relax.

We walked to Plank coffee across the street. It was a decent cup of coffee. At the hotel it was to go options of breakfast sandwiches to heat up, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cereal and juice machine. We checked out John's Market across from the hotel. It was a cute market with a good mix produce and cheeses. We rented a bicycle from the hotel. It was a beach cruiser. We did a nice casual 1.75 mile ride downtown on a trail. We changed and got to dip our feet in the pool, but the water wasn't the cleanest, plus there was a little kid in the pool and we had to maintain our social distance. We talked to him and his father and had to wear our masks around the pool. It felt somewhat normal to go into the pool. We checked out and went to Flying Goat Coffee. We drove through redwoods on the way to Fort Bragg. We stopped to take photos at Phillips Family grove. The road offered so many great views of the coast with fresh cool air. We stopped at Port Cabrillo lighthouse. We walked down the path to see ocean water crashing against the rocks and the lighthouse. The path that we went off a little and we had to be wary of poison ivy on the side and not to get close to high grass because of the chance of ticks. It was amazing to see high grass on one side and birds in the distance.

We stayed at Ocean View Lodge in Fort Bragg. The room was dated but offered an amazing deck to see the ocean, jacuzzi and fireplace. You had to stay on the second floor to get all of the amenities. Before dinner, we walked to the beach from the room down the rocks to the ocean. It was so clear and picturesque. We changed and went to Mendocino for dinner. There was shops and restaurants in the small little town. We made a reservation at restaurant Luna Trattoria and it was good we did because it was crowded to get in. I had linguine vongole and we split polenta with mushrooms and bread. It was a good experience though it was cold outside and the service was slow. There was no heaters outside so definitely need to dress warm if you eat there. We drove to the coast to see the sunset. It was very pretty to look and we just made it in time to see it. The room was very hot when we got back. We tried to call the emergency number but a lot of Northern California doesn't have AC, so we had the door open to get the ocean breeze. It was very nice and cooled the room over night as the temperatures outside dipped to the 50's.

We got up next morning to see Glass Beach. There was some pieces of glass but it wasn't as colorful as expected. It was cool to see how the rocks had formed over time due to the crashing of the waves. We went to Headlands Coffee. I had a delicious waffle and coffee was decent. We left and drove through Willets. It was a cute town, but to get there was a decent amount of windy roads and redwoods, though it differed from the prior day drive without any beach coast. We saw Chloe friend's wife Andrea for a little then we met her friend Jonathan in a town called Ukiah. The town was a lot busier than Willets. We stopped in Healdsburg and had Willis Seafood Shack. It was a tapas style restaurant. We got fish tacos and a raspberry fizzy. It was ok, though not a lot of quantity, spicy and a bit pricey. We had Noble folk ice cream and pie for dessert. I had a delicious Mississippi mud pie s'mores pie. We got back to Ezra's place and ate High Peaks kitchen for dinner. We had a wide variety of vegan dishes with some that I hadn't ever tried. I was impressed how good the dishes was without meat.

I got Philz iced coffee early in the morning on Chloe's birthday. We went to Stinson beach as part of a tradition that Chloe has been doing for years. We stopped at Whole Foods before to get cheese, bread and snacks. On the drive to the beach, it went up a windy up and down mountain with the coast on the side. We got parking at the beach and stayed on the dog friendly side. The beach was busy for a weekday, but the water was so clear. There was stunning views as far as the eye could see. It is amazing how different the beach was from the East Coast beaches. We had a nice time with Chloe's brother and three of her friends. We left the beach after 3 hours and went to Mill Valley for coffee. We relaxed in the park and had a nice conversation. We went to Robata for sushi for dinner. We enjoyed it on the pier with the beautiful sunshine over us. We rested for the remainder of the evening.

We woke up and took Alameda Oakland Ferry to San Francisco. We went underneath the bridge, San Francisco skyline and Alcatraz. I had Blue Bottle iced New Orleans style coffee and thoroughly enjoyed it. We walked to Pier 39 and sadly no sea lions was present which was a big surprise. There was a sign that said the sea lions are not there May 25th until July 20th. It was a strange vibe with not as crowded walking around the city. We went to the North beach area. We saw Washington Square Park with social distant circles on the grass and each group can sit at least 6 feet from another group. We ended up eventually eating our lunch back at the park. We got a glimpse of Chinatown and stopped at Z Ciccolato for delicious caramel popcorn and fudge. We got lunch at Molinari Deli. Chloe and I split a renzo sandwich on dutch crunch bread. It was an old school Italian deli with meats and handmade pasta all around the store.

We got driven by Jonathan to Filbert Street to climb up to the base of Coit tower. There was beautiful flowers and views of San Francisco along the climb. We drove through Chinatown and Union Square Mission. We had Papalote Mexican Grill for lunch. I had a chicken mole burrito with Jarritos mandarin soda. It was a tasty lunch. We ate at Dolores Park. There was some traffic leaving the city. We had to get dropped off at Ezra's for our car since Jonathan had to drop off his rental car. There was some issues with our flight going home and Chloe had to spend 30 minutes on the phone to get it straightened out. We relaxed at the house for the remainder of the day. We departed the next morning for the airport. We ate in the airport and the long flight to Dulles we had economy plus on United. There was a lot more space and the boarding was organizing. Our seats had personalized Ipad to watch movies and tv shows. As you take off you see the city of San Francisco and fly over water. It was a bumpy flight. We had Potbelly meatball sub and milkshake in Dulles airport. It was a tasty meal. The last flight from Dulles to Raleigh a slight delayed occurred with bags not transferred from another flight. It was about a 30 minute delay. A few guys didn't wear masks on the plane and my girlfriend had to notify them to put their masks on which they did comply. It was a surprise that the flight attendants didn't notice it on the plane. We got home and in reflection of the trip it was an amazing time. There was such night and day differences between the East and West Coast. It was great to get away during a crazy time ongoing in the world and wouldn't trade it for anything.


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