West Coast to East Coast and Back

Published: August 22nd 2010
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East to West

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1: Playing Bass Guitar 50 secs

Santa Barbara II

We flew back to LA from KC and stayed with Mark's friend Donnie and Jenn in Manhattan Beach. We spent a nice evening with them and tasted the local fair near the beach. The next day, we went to the Getty Museum which is an incredible free collection of artwork, buildings and gardens. If you're ever visiting LA, be sure to see this 110 acre museum perched in the mountains above Santa Monica. The architect Richard Meier created this state-of-the-art museum with modern architecture and incredible gardens. They built the main structures out of 16,000 tons (1.2 million square feet) of white travertine stone that was imported from Italy. The art collection is world class and they rotate shows all of time. They're open some weekend evenings as well to see the sun set over LA.

Find out more here: http://www.getty.edu/visit/.

We proceeded up to Santa Barbara in the afternoon to stay with the Mirbods. I used to work with Farhad who was in my rotator class at Hughes Aircraft's Santa Barbara Research Center that I talked about on this post: http://www.travelblog.org/North-America/United-States/California/Santa-Barbara/blog-489022.html

We arrived on Friday night and Farhad's wife Wendy cooked us an excellent chicken pot pie that we ate on their back patio. It was great staying with the Mirbodsin their home and we got to know their three children Emily, Ethan and Evan. On Saturday, we hiked up Sycamore canyon above Westmont College in Montecito. Their youngest Evan is only 4 and he still hiked at least a few miles up the steep canyons of Los Padres National Forest. We explored some caves and Emily lead us through some sing-a-long Girl Scout songs as we hiked down the trails.

In the afternoon, Farhad and I made a return to the disc golf course that I talked about in the previous earlier blog as well. Most of the underbrush was dead this time of year, so the course was much browner and easier this time. After golf, we went on a picnic in the cliffs abover the ocean with the whole family and my other friends George, Lisa and their sons. It was an action packed day in Santa Barbara.

On Sunday, we drove down to San Diego where I had a meeting all week. We ate some great food and made it to a couple of beaches. On Friday, we drove up to Arcadia, CA for a night with Grace's grade school friend Phyllis. Arcadia and the surrounding area of LA is full of Taiwanese and Chinese. Many people that move there do not even learn English because there isn't a need for it. They can get anything they need by going to the right place that speaks Chinese. We went to an American Indian-themed bar filled with young Taiwanese girls seving us drinks in skin-tight, squaw outfits. I think I was the only white guy in the place and the Chinese people drank lots of beer and ate Taiwanese bar food. We went back to their home afterwards and sipped some Johnny Walker Blue label and Grace got to practice her Chinese while I went to bed.

To the East

On Saturday morning, we flew from Burbank airport to Baltimore where I had another week of meetings. We got to walk around Baltimore's inner harbor on Sunday which is rather nice. We beat the heat of Baltimore by sleeping in the afternooon and watching a movie. We'd been on the road for 4 weeks already and it was nice to relax before I had to work for the week. It was crab season so we loaded up on boiled crabs that were dipped in Old Bay seasoning. We ate crabs with a college student we had met in Italy who is doing her intern in Baltimore and loving it.

We went to another free museum in Baltimore that had a great collection and sculpture garden before driving to Philadelphia to see our friends Gregory and Donna. We got there about 8:30 when Donna was just getting out of dog school. She's showing her Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in various dog shows and has won a few awards already. Bosco is on his way to being a champion and becoming a stud - literally.

We had become friends with Gregory and Donna while we were living in KC and they left KC a few months before we began our RV journey. Gregory worked for Interstate Bakeries Corp (IBC) in KC and he is the food scientist for their hostess line of snack cakes. He's been modifying the recipes for the staple foods of twinkies, ding dongs and honey buns to remove transfat and other harmful chemicals. When IBC left bankruptcy and became Hostess Brands in 2009, the company moved Gregory to Philly.

Hostess also owns Wonder bread and Drake's snack cakes from Seinfeld fame. Hostess is the largest bakery in the world and Gregory works in the $600,000,000 snack cake division - Twinkies are big business. Gregory's been flying to different Hostess bakeries to release a new coffee cake that he is in charge of making. The new coffee cake is Gregory's creation and it has several grams of fiber in it. While we were having a drink at a local Philly bar, Gregory told me quite a bit about the benefits of fiber and how it cleans you out while making your body work to process it. Fiber is also makes you feel full so that you don't want to eat as much. He is almost a scholar on fiber right now because he wrote a 10-page paper about fiber for his online Masters degree in Food Science from K-State.

You might think that the guy in charge of Twinkies would be overweight and unhealthy like Homer Simpson, but Gregory is rather fit and doesn't eat much processed food - especially his products. He gave me quite a bit of trouble about drinking sugared water (Coca Cola) while we were out. I have cut back since the prodding and after reading that the average American drinks 1000 calories worth of sodas per week. He told me how me manages to eat healthy on the road by bringing food with him and buying healthy food when he travels. It can be difficult to eat well on the road, but with some effort it can be done.

Gregory and Donna are foodies and they took us to some of Philly's best restaurants. We went to several excellent restaurants and ate and drank very well during our visit. Gregory and Donna are great hosts and took us to two museums as well.

First we went to Philadelphia's Magic Garden that was created by Isaiah Zagar. Isaiah builds mosaics out of ceramics and trash and his work all over the city. The mosaics are built into the sides of buildings around town and the museum is a compilation of his works throughout multiple rooms and outdoor garden on South Street. The mosaics have recurring themes of multi-armed Hindu sculptures, exaggerated phallus and philosophical writings. Zagar teaches weekend long classes where you go to a building and create a mosaic for some hands on experience. See more of his work here: http://www.philadelphiasmagicgardens.org/

The second museum we went to was the soon to be closed Barnes Foundation. Grace and I found out about the museum when we saw the movie "The Art of the Steal". The movie documents how the city of Philadelphia confiscated the multi-billion dollar art collection and is moving it to a new museum in downtown Philly. Albert C. Barnes was a self-made millionaire who originally hired artists in France to go and buy artwork for him. He later bought the artwork himself and he saw the beaty in impressionistic artists like Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Seurat before their art became popular. He bought the art for a pittance and his vast collection of early Renoir work is unmatched with over 100 pieces.

Barnes arranged all of the pieces himself and began teaching artists on the 11 acre campus by having them study the work that he collected. He had a superb eye for art and has hundreds of pieces worth tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars - basically priceless. Barnes didn't have any heirs and wrote his will to specifically forbid the art from leaving the premises of his estate. The movie does an excellent job of showing how the collection was stolen and I highly recommend seeing the movie and visiting his collection - even after it is removed from the estate.

Find out more here: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/

Back to the RV

We flew back to Burbank on Sunday and got delayed and didn't make it to close to the RV until dark. We decided to spend another night in a hotel and grab a nice steak dinner at the Hitching Post. The Hitching Post is famous for being in the movie Sideways and Leonardo DiCaprio is known to visit this place for a nice steak. The next morning, we picked up the RV and went back to our favorite campground in Port San Luis. After 5 weeks of being on the road away from the RV it was nice to be back in our own bed. To top it off, we got our favorite spot back - right next to the ocean.

That was when we decided to throw a going away party for ourselves to share the view with our friends. Shawn and Kurt got the band to come over for a jam session and this time we even got the lead singer to bring his wife and two kids to join in.

I went to warn one of our neighbors about the band and they said no problem as long as they can dance to the music. The Portuguese couples, Franky and Theresa, turned out to be from the town that we were going to next - Hollister. They offered me a cup of fish soup, so I accepted and then Theresa poured some of Franky's home-made wine into the cup of soup - it was a great combination. Then she poured me a cup of wine and all of the sudden I had wine and soup in my right hand and a cup of wine in my left. We became quick friends and I'll tell you more about them in my next blog.

After saying our goodbyes to everyone on the Central Coast, we drove up to my friends country home near Hollister. I barely knew Janet and Dave from KC, but they offered to let us keep our RV on their ranch. We took them up on the offer (Note: watch what you offer me because I just might accept). We arrived Saturday afternoon and fell right into the middle of a party. Dave's sister Vivian lives down the street and her husband Oscar was having his 63rd birthday party. Dave's from a large hispanic family and we showed up to eat some of the roasted pig that Oscar had cooked in the ground and some of Dave's smoked ribs. Tequilla was being passed around and everyone had plenty to eat and drink.

The party really started going about 11pm when we gathered in the kitchen. Oscar started doing the out of water fish dance on the floor and I started playing air guitar as you can see in the video. We became immediate friends and knew we'd have to stay longer. I was exhausted by 1am and went home and fell into a deep sleep because I had to catch a flight to Chicago in the morning.

But Chicago is a story for next time.

I'm exhausted just writing about all that Grace and I've done in the last few weeks. Next time, I'll tell you about Baby Benito and Lady GaGa! Stay tuned.


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Don't judge me untilyou've walked a mile in these shoes.

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