Monday, December 26, 2016

Asia Cruise 2017

Happy New Year, let's go on a cruise.

Three weeks ago, I learned that my dad won a cruise in Asia. Now, you may be thinking, How does one win a cruise to Asia? By entering for one of course. When I got this news, and the invitation to accompany him, I thought, "Wow! Asia! I haven't been anywhere near there yet!" And then a second later, "Oh. Work. Right." But by some strange figurings of the universe which is a long story itself, I was allowed to get the time off to go on this cruise.

Just a heads up, I'll have very little access to wifi along the way, my blogging app keeps glitching, and it doesn't catch spelling errors, so I apologize in advance. I didn't want to bring any more electronics with me than my phone, so I'll be thumb typing everything. And the pictures I upload may be unusually placed within my posts.

Right now I'm on the airport shuttle leaving Bellingham, heading to SeaTac for my flight which leaves about eight hours from now. We are driving through snowy pine forests, but the sky is clear. It's only 30 out with a lovely biting wind. It feels like winter.

Arrival at SeaTac. Way way too early the checkin gate isn't even open yet. So I hunker down, tap into the wifi, and watch Netflix for a few hours.


As I'm waiting by my gate, I people watch. Spotted:

Two men and two women (in their 70s maybe) get wheelchaired to the boarding area. As they all arrive in a cluster and transfer to the seats, they start to laugh at the spectacle they're making. I make eye contact with one of the women and she smiles back at me. They're entertaining to watch, and I'm a few seats away. As I read, I keep hearing them say funny things. At first I didn't think they knew each other, but now I think they do. There was a whole five minutes where they kept goofing off and saying "thank you Dear" "can you grab that for me, Dear?" "Here's some food, Dear." Even the men to each other. It was like a comedy act. And eventually one of the woman has a water bottle in her hand and pauses in the middle of a drink, "well look at us like birds on a wire, first showing up in our circle of wheelchairs, now all ready to take our meds at the same time."

I don't know why, but these vibrant older people just made my day.

~ three hours into the plane ride:

I have a window seat, someone stuck their foot right along my window armrest and shoved their knees in my back. I was so astonished I didn't say anything, but it was a passive aggressive back and forth throughout my next sixish hours of sleep.


As I wait here in Taipei, I feel like such a foreigner. I forget what a luxury and comfort it is to be constantly surrounded by people who look similar to you...until you're suddenly not. This gives me another perspective which I don't think about too much. Side note, apparently I look Chinese enough for the flight attendent to start speaking Mandrin to me.

Welcome to Singapore, Singapore.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Day Three: Reedsport, OR to Mill Creek, WA

Greetings, here's another car-window picture of green trees. It's starting to get colder and more wet and also dark earlier in the day. I love it. No super exciting things today besides Powells, that really took over my brainspace today.

We waited till the sun actually rose today, but there was lots of fog still. Thankfully it didn't impair any driving.

More green stuff.

(And Whomping Willow cousins.)

Welcome to Portland, Oregon! Home of Powells Books! (There are probably other things to do, but I haven't bothered to look them up yet.)

We had only a couple hours to kill, and I made it out under my five-book limit (and somehow convinced my mom to buy five as well) and as I checked out I remembered no sales tax in Oregon. Bazinga! (So technically my calculations were wrong and I could have bought another book within my allowed budget. Next time...)

(See, stack of five books, and only four of them were for me. Totally proud of my restraint.)

We headed out of Portland toward Seattle; we still had a long way to go for the day. It's a Saturday so traffic wasn't too bad, but we got a small taste. And despite the clear skies today Mt. Rainier was not visible.

As we drove into Seattle, they had some pretty subtle signs about the speed.

And somehow we arrived in Seattle on the only sunny day of the year. Proof.

Tonight we are staying with a friend in Mill Creek, Washington. She has a dog that I will probably steal because he is so sweet and cuddly.

Milage today: 380

Miles to go, 69.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Day Three: Willits, CA to Reedsport, OR

Good evening friends. I've come to realize writing on a road trip is a different experience than other trips I've been on. For one, lots of the pictures are taken out of car windows so sorry in advance. And also, I can't write any during the day as we drive along, because there's been lots of curly roads and that equals queasy stomach if I stop looking out of the window. This means I have to write everything after a very long day (...of sitting) and the lazy factor goes up a little, so I'll rely on pictures more than my words to show our progress. That's just the way it is.

After a night in Willits, California we set off early for day three of the trip. And look, we even beat the sun. And, well, everyone else in the city. When I took this picture we had made it through the small town and back onto the 101, and it's about 7:30am. It was steadily raining and very dark still, and it stayed about this dark for another hour. The low clouds made it darker for longer since we went through some mountainous regions, which was kind of cool for my Arizona point of view. I was just happy to be cold and wet on the walk to the car from the hotel room.

See, about 8:30am.

Our breakfast stop was about an hour out: Garberville! All right, not the most exciting and cool sounding name, but it did have one of the best cafes I've ever eaten at.

A fantastic array of organic yummy homemade everything: Because California.
We were full till dinnertime.

It looks like a normal fruit dish, but it was so much more. (blackberries=best I've tasted)

Wow the pictures make it look small. It was not small.

Also no I'm not apologizing to be one of those people who takes pictures of their food! :) Helps me remember their taste.

After this fulfilling breakfast, we continued down the 101 a few miles and reached the turn off 30 mile long side road of the Avenue of the Giants. I felt very fantasy-book like every time I spotted that sign.

(Also, Eureka! Unfortunately it wasn't like the TV show, or maybe they just hid the cool scientific experiments way too well.)

As we drove down the road, the trees started to get bigger.......or perhaps we started to get smaller....

Yep, I definitely shrunk down to hobbit-sized.

Looking up, I couldn't see the sky or sun, just more tree trunk! (This may be turning into a tall tale.) (Unnecessary puns, but couldn't help it.)

A giant walked by and stepped on this one, thankfully I ran out of the way fast enough to avoid getting squashed. Otherwise this picture would look very different.

I found an opening to the Upside Down but thankfully I didn't hear any voices, and managed to stay on this side. The doorway was pretty big though, probably about 10 feet high. Monsters could have come right out of there at any moment.

This natural shape looks rather face-like. In a few different points of view.

There's some perspective finally, with the biggest ones we pulled over for. Good thing I wore a colorful jacket.

If you zoom, you can see this tree has been around since about 900AD. 

And that's it. This took a couple hours since we stopped a lot to get out and look around and hug trees, but we planned to do just that and timed accordingly. I wouldn't mind going back to camp there.

Now we approached Eureka and Arcata, California. This are also large trees, but I think they're to help break tsunamis. Still impressive.

We shopped at two bookstores in town. One was called Northern Books and it was pretty cool, but new books only so it lacked that musty smell I seek out. Thankfully we found this one across the street.

The perfect musty silent messy multi storied used bookstore. My find: A hardcover copy of The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. He's on the bestseller right now for his second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, which I hope to read soon.

We continued along the 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) for the remainder of the day. We've been lucky to miss the rest of the rain for the day, which allowed us beautiful views like this along the drive, for hours on end.

Made it to Oregon! One more state to go....

We stopped for the night in Reedsport, Oregon. I think with tomorrow's questionable weather and routing we will have to turn inland toward Portland and then Seattle. Goodbye coast, hello again big cities.

Per tradition though, here's our scrumptious food for dinner at Harbor Lights. It was recommended to us by the hotel as 'the' place to go and they were completely right. 

In fact, everyone in town seemed to be eating in the small diner. Therefore, no more empty tables. The waitress asked a couple seated at a bigger table if they didn't mind sharing with us road-wary newcomers. Thankfully they said of course, and we sat down next to them. This turned into a delightful evening of politicking and bookstore-story sharing and I hope we have the pleasure of running into them again sometime. (Guys, I'll be at Village books next time you venture up from San Francisco!)

Miles today: 378 (fewer because of slower roads but cooler views)


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Day Two: Bakersfield to Willits

As the sun rises (somewhere, but not here) and the clouds remain low, day two arrives on our journey. In the terribly beautiful area of Bakersfield, California we set out to continue along the I5, northbound. You may notice we parked at our hotel in the...wait I'll zoom in:

There it is:
area. Yes, we parked there. For a couple reasons. One, this $*%hole decided to park directly into two spaces right in front of the hotel and not leave his car info when he checked in, in order to remain an anonymous $*%hole to the annoyed security guard out front. Because of this, and our rather conspicuous loaded vehicle, he urged us to park in the safely-lit-and-guarded front porch overnight.

And on that happy note...the next morning we started driving on the most spectacular roadway in all of the US.

With views to fight over.

And really exciting landmarks to visit that definitely don't result in you pretending to be at the helm of a starship.

After about a bazillion hours of the amazing part of our trip, we made it to the dull, green, vine-filled Napa Valley, California. Bear with me while I try to make this sound more interesting than that unbeatable I5 stretch.

Wine train! Oh it's now full on raining by the way.

My mom: "Those look like they're from Lord of the Rings." But personally my first thought was more along the lines of "Cousin of Whomping Willow."

As we pulled into the Caymus Vineyards (owned by a friend of a friend or something) the courtesy valet dudes warily eyed our car and asked haltingly, "You don't, um, happen to have a...reservation?" Hm, think those 'poor student' hangers in the back window hinted that, or was it the funny looking rooftop carrier? Or possibly my under-$100,000-car?

Thankfully we didn't need a reservation to just snoop around, so we did just that. It felt very hoity-toity to me in my purple sneakers and flowery skirt and bright teal purse. They could have smelled the upper atmosphere with those noses. (I exaggerate: they were nice, but they could also definitely tell we were not belonging.)

We browsed, but when no price tags were visible, quickly changed our tactic to chat with the cashier and then leave before they realized we awkwardly came in and didn't leave with a bottle (or six) of wine.

I said the magic word and gates opened to let us leave.

And on our way to St Helena's, this monstrosity appeared on the side of the road. I'm still processing.

My turn for the flattering food photo. Although it also goes well with my photo-series Pictures of Leah Mid-Eating Things. This was at a delicious cafe in Ukiah.

Then we reached the edge of the world.

And around 6pm we decided to stop in Willits for the night.

about 450 miles I think.