Monday March 9
My flight to LAX would have been really crappy, if it weren't for the great music Allan put on my phone and the really good book I started reading. I managed to put myself in a bubble and de-stress.
AWE picked me up and we hugged and screamed, so happy to be going away together. She's been working 80-hour weeks for a month straight, and really needs this trip. First stop, In-N-Out! You may recall, I had my first In-N-Out experience the last time I saw AWE, in 2007. I don't know why I had been in California so many times and never knew about this, but you can be sure it won't happen again.
AWE drove the whole way up, which was great, as I was zonked. We took Route 5, the faster, inland route. It was so good to see mountains and farmland, so refreshing.
I spotted a dog on a highway median, and we drove back to see if we could get him. It was complicated - we had to drive far in the wrong direction, then find a way to pull over safely, AWE driving in reverse on the shoulder.
Fortunately the road is only two lanes in each direction at that point, and there were sizeable breaks in the traffic. The next time we saw the dog, he was off the median and on the other side of the highway.
We finally pulled up near enough to him, with a leash and some biscuits - it pays to travel with a dog person! - but he trotted quickly away from us. We think he must have been looking for a break in the fence between the highway shoulder and the farmland the highway cuts through. We finally had to concede defeat and continue driving north. He looked well fed and wasn't limping or obviously hurt, and we told ourselves he'd find his way home.
So we drove and talked and talked and drove, and by the time it was dark we were in Oakland. We stopped for coffee and got directions to E's house in Berkeley. When we got there, my nephew J and my niece E were waiting for us with local wine and cheese, and we all stayed up late talking. I was completely wired from jet lag, caffeine and alcohol, then threw in a few more drugs so I could sleep. Hey, what are vacations for.
Tuesday March 10
E lives in a lovely little house that she shares with two other women. The house is full of art and light, the home of people who are creative, spiritual, involved in healthy living and healing practices.
Yesterday E had to work, but J had arranged a day off for us, which was so nice of him. He's a graduate student and has a lot going on, so this was an unexpected treat. AWE, J, J's partner C and I had breakfast at one of their favourite Berkeley spots, the best huevos rancheros I've ever had.
We stopped by J & C's home, a beautiful ground-floor apartment with a lush garden, and hung out briefly before C had to leave for work. They are recently engaged and very happy. Both my niece E and my niece-in-law C are artists, and their spaces are so warm and filled with beauty.
J drove us up to Petaluma, where he lived for several years. It was sunny and warm - big surprise - and the drive as beautiful. On the Richmond Bridge, you can briefly see San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge across the way. There's a special place in my heart for San Francisco and its wonderful bridge. Just seeing it from a distance is a joy.
We walked around Petaluma, a lovely town full of restored historic buildings. During the 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Fransisco and many smaller towns around it, Petaluma was untouched, so its buildings dating back to the 1850s and 1870s are very unusual for this part of the state. C's mom owns an art gallery there. We stopped in and had a little tour, saw some amazing glass works and some cool paintings. It was nice to meet C's mom and stepdad, too, as we are extended family.
On the drive up, J surprised us with an offer from C to come to the day spa where she works at a big discount. AWE has been chained to her computer for months, and has back issues anyway, so when she heard the word massage, there was no turning back. J and AWE had massages, and I had a facial. I could say relaxing and refreshing but that wouldn't come close to how good it felt. Ahhhh.
From there we drove to the town of Sonoma, another historic California town, then off for some wine tasting. We visited two wineries, both very friendly and low-key. J knows a fair bit about wine, and AWE is interested as a new Californian. I just like to drink wine. I'm happy to listen to the patter about why this wine tastes like this and that wine tastes like that, I'm not put off or intimidated by it, but to be honest, it's not just an area of interest for me. But I enjoyed listening to the wine talk, and mostly enjoyed drinking the wine and looking at the scenery.
After that, we headed back to Berkeley, met up with E and went out to a spectacular dinner. We've been talking non-stop, having a lot of fun together. How wonderfully gratifying for me, one of my oldest, dearest friends, and two family members who are also dear friends, and me, all totally appreciating and enjoying each other's company.
Today J is working but E is off. We're going to take a hike, see some scenery, and who knows what.