Homeward Bound

Our final day of vacation was mostly traveling.  We started the day early as usual around 7am and packed up and headed out.  The first stop was to a grocery store to get some sourdough bread everyone knows that fresh sourdough that has been made near the ocean is the best every.  After the store we went to a Black Bear Diner for breakfast.  We have a Black Bear in Reno and it’s always been good, the one in Monterey was just as good.  When breakfast was over we hit the road.

My mom wanted to stop in Vacaville to check out the outlet stores that they have.  We stopped in at the Lancome store, Crocs store, Claires, and the Jelly Belly Outlet.  I don’t think the prices were really that outlet-like but it was fun to shop a bit.  At the Jelly Belly Factory we we’re like kinds in a candy store (haha) because they had so much Jelly Belly merchandise.  I’m not a huge jelly bean fan but it was fun to buy gifts for our friends and it was just a fun store.

Lunch on the drive home was In N Out and there’s really nothing you can complain about there.  After lunch we drove on towards Rocklin, CA.  We stopped in Rocklin because we wanted to give my mom’s Uncle Lenny and Aunt Patti the souvenir we bought them.  We didn’t stay very long but it was good to see Uncle Lenny.

More driving…

We stopped in Grass Valley at my grandpas house because my mom left here electric cigarette charger there.  We ran in an grabbed a few things and got back on the road.  We usually drive highway 20 home from my grandpas house and while we were on it we got stuck in a downpour of rain, the first bad weather on the trip.

We finally hit Reno around 6:30pm and stopped and grabbed some dinner and brought it back to my house. We ate, we relaxed, and them mom and Alicia went home and our vacation was over.

This trip was so much fun.  I’m very glad we did it. There was a lot of driving and a lot of picture taking.  We made the unanimous decision that we have to travel more.


I don’t think I’ve taken enough pictures

Our morning started out rough. We were all exhausted from our busy week and my bad ankle was swelling for all our walking around. We weren’t able to make it to Hearst Castle so we decided to get an early start to Monterey. Before leaving we had breakfast at the hotel, nothing fancy, eggs and bacon for mom and I and French toast for Alicia.  We showered and packed and were on the road by 9:30am.

Highway 1 is the road that goes along the Pacific Ocean all the way up the coast. I guess it’s pretty rare for Highway 1 to be completely open but we were lucky today as the only closure in our way had opened up this past week.  We didn’t have to be in Monterey until 4pm so we made a few stops along the way. We had read at the hotel that Elephant Seals come to San Simian beaches often but according to the calendar the hotel had they were gone till July. Even though we knew this we stopped at the spot to take some scenic pictures and we lucked out with a bunch of Elephant Seals hanging out during their molting. I took a ton of pictures of them. Actually, I took a ton of pictures of everything today.

As we drove up Hwy 1 it was easy to see why it closed to often. It is a very winding road and their are mountains on one side and ocean on the other. We could see the spots where landslides have occurred and there was a lot of construction work being done on it. Some of it seemed to be for repairs from previous slides and some for prevention.  We made several stops along Hwy 1 and I took all these great pictures.

When we pulled into Big Sur everything was beautiful! No ocean view but lots of greenery. We decided to fill up on gas and stopped at a “Mini Chevron”. This place was adorable and frightening at the same time…

Super cute right?

The price of cuteness is about $5 a gallon

But Big Sur sure is pretty

By the time we reached Monterey is was about 12:30pm, we called the hotel to see if we could get an early check in to drop off our things and luckily our room was ready. There was nothing fancy about the room, it was nice but not outstanding. The view from the room however, A-freaking-mazing!


So we drooled over the view for a bit and then decided it was time for lunch. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf and looked around a bit. The Wharf was pretty cool. All kinds of things to do. We stopped at a shop and bought some souvenirs. I found a restaurant online called “The Fisherman’s Grotto” that claimed to have the best clam chowder in the world so we decided to try it.
The clam chowder was pretty damn good and so was the bread basket they give to every table. People have told me that sourdough bread is better by the coast and I didn’t think anything of it until tonight but wow- it’s pretty amazing. We also has some roasted garlic to put on bread and since I’m a huge garlic fan that was great. I ordered a cold crab sandwich that consisted of a huge pile of fresh crab meat on sourdough bread with just a little mayo. It was awesome! The best crab I’ve ever had! It was so fresh tasting. My mom ordered lobster which was way bigger than anything you could get at home for the same price. Alicia had a burger that looked pretty good too.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Shops at the Wharf

 After our big lunch we made our way back to the car and decided to take the “17 Mile Drive”.  17 Mile Drive is basically a stretch of toll road that goes on for 17 miles. When you go in the gate you get a map that tells you about points of interest on the drive. It’s pretty nice because each of the points is pointed out with signs. I took a ton of pictures as usual!

The drive took a little over an hour then we headed back to our hotel. We basically stared at the gorgeous  sunset and relaxed with some pizza from the hotel.

We plan on going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium tomorrow morning and then to head in the direction of home. Mom wants to stop at the Vacaville outlet stores and then maybe stay in Grass Valley for the night before heading home. I’ll let you know!
Now, I am going to bed to the sound of the waves crashing outside my window. Goodnight!

I think I just saw Spongebob

Most of today was spent traveling since we were leaving Solvang and heading up to San Simien, CA to tour Hearst Castle.  The tour isn’t until tomorrow so we took our time driving up the coast.  The morning started with the same American style breakfast at our hotel in Solvang, scrambled eggs, bacon, country potatoes, Danish, fruit, and oatmeal.  And lots and lots of orange juice.

Breakfast was a little tense because for some reason we were all very tired so we went back to the room and relaxed a bit before packing and heading out.  We all took short naps and then were packed and out of the room by 10:30.  We wanted to get one last look at Solvang so the first thing we did was head to a shop called “The Book Loft” where my dad said he had a cousin working there.  We stopped in and asked for the girls my dad mentioned but they had no idea who we were.  It was cute shop and nice to meet the gal but a bit embarrassing lol.  I didn’t have the phone number my dad gave me for his Aunt with me so I couldn’t call her.  Maybe we will catch them another time.

We drove around town a little bit and took in the views.  It really is a gorgeous town.  So sad to say goodbye!  Mom’s only regret when leaving Solvang was that she did more wine gulping than wine tasting. 😉

We got on the road again and began the long drive.  We made a stop in Santa Maria, CA for a few reasons.  Alicia wanted to stop at Walmart to get new nose rings as she dropped all of hers down the sink in the last hotel.  Mom and I came to the conclusion that everything in California is prettier.  Even the shopping cart return at Walmart!

Seriously?  Such a fancy shopping cart return!

After stoping at Walmart we went to Kohls because I had a coupon that was about to expire.  It was a great coupon!  It was for $10 off and I got a super cute headband and didn’t have to pay a penny for it!  I’m kind of a crazy couponer now. From Kohls we headed to Carl’s Jr. to grab some lunch because we’ve been spending so much money on meals this trip we wanted something cheap.  It was pretty good.

The drive continued on for another hour or so and finally we reached Hwy 1 where we got to drive along the Pacific coast.  It was beautiful.

Once we hit San Simian we drove past our hotel to make sure we knew the way to Hearst Castle because our tour is at 8am.  Driving back to the hotel we stopped at one of the Vista Points to take some pictures of the great view.  I took a million pictures and at some point I will upload all the pictures I took somewhere so everyone can see but here are just a few…

Can you see Spongebob or Patrick out there?

While we were at the Vista Point there was a squirrel running around.  Only Alicia could get a squirrel to eat out of her hand.  I’ve never seen anything like it!

Alicia is feeding this guy one of the cookies I bought in a Solvang bakery,

Alicia said that this guys name is Eric.

The hotel here is nice.  It’s another Best Western and since our first room was a Best Western mom was a bit worried it would be terrible.  It’s not as fancy as the place in Solvang but it’s not bad at all.  They even have a mini bar.  I’ve never stayed anywhere with a mini bar.  Not that I’ll use it, but it’s still cool.

Lots of pillows!

The absolutely best part of this hotel though?  The incredible view…

Once we were settled in the room we headed to the hotel restaurant.  We tried the Crab Cakes and they weren’t bad.  Mom and I are always thinking that Crab Cakes will be delicious but we never like them.  This time they weren’t bad.  They weren’t magical, but they weren’t bad.  We tried the Clam Chowder which was amazing.  I don’t really like Clam Chowder but this stuff was unbelievable.    Alicia had spaghetti and meatballs that she said was really good.  Mom and I had the same entrée called the “Mixed Grill” which consisted of chicken breast, a sausage, and jumbo prawns wrapped in bacon, and this was all covered in a butter sauce.  Bacon. Wrapped. Prawns.  A-freakin-mazing! It was realllllly good.

Now we are hanging out in the room since we have an early day tomorrow.  Today was pretty uneventful but since it was a beautiful day it was a great drive, except my right arm got a bad sunburn from hanging out the window. :-p  Here is where I’ve posted a bunch of pictures of the trip! 


Our first full day in Solvang started at the very late hour of 7:30am. Okay it’s not late by normal standards but by Mom’s we might as well have slept till noon.

We headed to the free “American” style breakfast our hotel offered at 8ish. It was pretty good. Scrambled eggs, bacon, country style potatoes, fruit, oatmeal, and the best Danishes ever. I shouldn’t have been so surprised at how good they were, we are in a Danish town.

Before we could head out for the day, Mom made us go back to the room and clean up before the maid came. Once the room was presentable we started our adventure.

The first stop was one of the many famous Solvang bakeries. This place was a dream.  They had pastries and candy and bread and every tasty treat you can imagine. Everything was amazing and beautiful.

Chocolate Meringue

Solvang Delight – The best tasting thing we found

Next door to the bakery was a cute little shop the sold souvenirs and other random things. We saw some shot glasses to add to my collection but decided to wait and check out some other stores before making a purchase.
The morning had started out a bit couldy but by the time we left the shop it was bright and sunny again. There was a nice breeze which made the temperature perfect.

We had no destination in mind, we just walked around and looked in the shops. We looked in another bakery and gained about 10lbs just smelling the pastries. Then we found a great “Clock and Music Box” shop that had a lot of cute collectables. Mom bought me a Tinkerbell statue and Alicia got a musical doll and mom bought a friend a souvenir and got a cool light up box thing with a Tinkerbell scene inside.

Alicia sitting outside the “Clock and Music Box” Shop.

There was a nice outdoor cafe we found around lunch time and stopped to eat. I had a French Dip which was considerably better than the one I had at the Musterdseed Restaurant. Mom had a hot pastrami sandwich and Alicia had a burger. The fresh lemonade I had was great also!
We ended up back at the first souvenir shop to buy our stuff because we didn’t find anywhere else with shot glasses for my collection.
Since we are amazing world travelers our next stop will amaze you. We drove out of Solvang into the nearby town of Buellton and got the car washed because the windshield was covered in the guts of thousands of dead bugs. Then we went to CVS/pharmacy. New and exotic locales, that’s how we roll.
While at CVS we rented “Just Go With It” from Red Box because out hotel room has a DVD player.

Before watching the movie we went to the hotel restaurant to have our complimentary wine and Brie again. From the restaurant we headed to the pool and hot tub where mom stood witness to my baby sister trying to drown me. No biggie.
Back in the room we showered and prepared to go out to dinner.  We found a little Italian place called “Cafe Angelica” where I had my favorite Chicken Piccatta, mom had a pasta dish with steak in it, and Alicia had a chicken and pasta dish. The food was okay, the service was slow, and the prices were high. It was a bit of a disappointment but it was a nice atmosphere.
Back in the room we watched the movie we rented. Alicia and I really enjoyed it but mom must have been bored because she fell asleep about 30 minutes into it. After the movie we just relaxed in the room and eventually went to bed. Our first day in Solvang was a success and we all agree that we’d love to come back.

On the road again…

After a terrible nights sleep due to tossing, turning, and general “this isn’t my bed” annoyance, I woke up a little after 5am. Of course my mom was already up so we chatted a bit and then pulled my sister out of bed. Our hotel in San Jose offered a free continental breakfast so we headed down the hall and I made myself a waffle and had some OJ.

It was easy enough to get our things packed up and loaded in the car so we were on the road headed to Solvang, CA by 7:30am. I was passed out in the front seat by 8am. I was out for quite awhile because when I came to we were parked on the side of the freeway so my mom could take a brake from driving and have Alicia do it. This was at about 10:30am.

The drive was absolutely beautiful. Even the rest stop we pulled into was gorgeous. Driving through wine country on a beautiful summer day wasn’t bad at all. Along the way we stopped at the Madonna Inn. My mom had heard about this place from friends and had seen it on the travel channel. They have a cafe and gift shop so we decided to stop and look around. The buildings were really cool, I wish I had thought to take pictures outside. The inside was insane! I’ve never seen so much pink and sparkles in my life. As gaudy as the place was, it was beautiful at the same time. I added yet another shot glass to my collection, Alicia bought some really tasty caramels, and mom bought a magnet.

One of the dining rooms at the Madonna Inn

Continuing the drive down highway 101 was beautiful. It was exciting to see the Pacific ocean and Pismo Beach. We didn’t stop but I took some drive by pics. We will be going to the beach later in our trip so don’t worry!

The Pacific Ocean Dude

Finally we rolled into Solvang at about 1pm. The weather is fantastic here and everything is beautiful. The town is adorable and everything pretty much stays within the Danish theme. We were early for check in so parked and walked around a bit. We grabbed lunch on the patio of a place called The Mustardseed Restaurant. We had their “Beef Dip” sandwiches and unfortunately they were a bit disappointing but sitting on the patio during such a beautiful day made up for it.

Next door to the restaurant was “The Olive Shop” and we browsed a bit and I bought some really tasty garlic and pepper-jack cheese stuffed olives and Alicia got some artichoke and tomato bruscheta.

Check in time rolled around and we headed there. This hotel is 10 times better than the last one. I want to live here! We got settled in and then went to the restaurant in the hotel because the offer free wine and cheese for the guests every day. My wine was good and they had some tasty Brie and crackers included with the drinks.

Super comfortable beds

Free booze!

Very awesome lights in the hotel restaurant

We decided to have dinner at a steakhouse called “The Hitching Post II”. The food was incredible but a little pricy. Mom and I had steak which was very flavorful and tender and Alicia had the juciest chicken I’ve ever tasted. We also ordered a Grilled Artichoke which was amazing! I love artichokes already but this was just brilliant!

So after eating way too much we went back to our room. Mom went to bed and Alicia and I decided to checkout the pool/hottub which was really nice.

As far as I can remember, that sums up the second full day of our trip. Tomorrow I’ll have lots of photos because we will be wandering Solvang for the day.

The Winchester Door to Nowhere

This is my first real vacation as an adult with my family, (probably my first real vacation with my family- period) so I want to document everything, including the silly little details so this post is going to be more detailed than anyone really cares to read.  Enjoy. 🙂

Last night we arrived in grass valley, CA at my grandpa’s home. We were kind of worried because a neighbor in Grass Valley has told us she saw men and trucks at the house and assumed it was us. It wasn’t. We thought for sure that thieves would have emptied the house when we got there. We were relived and disappointed that everything was still in place when we opened the door. Relieved for obvious reasons but oddly disappointed (just a tiny bit) because, as much as we treasure everything in the house, it is nearly unbearable to pack things and remove them. If they had been stolen at least we wouldn’t have to worry about it. But seriously, we are very glad the place wasn’t ransacked.

Our regular thing when we stay in the house is to rent a Redbox DVD to occupy some of the evening since the cable has been disconnected already. We watched Disney’s “Tangled” and “Life As We Know It”. I thought “Tangled” was pretty good. Mandy Moore has the perfect Disney speaking and singing voice. I hope this is the beginning of many more Disney films for her. “Life As We Know It” was cute. I thought it jumped around to important stuff too quickly but that’s expected with this kind of movie. It was a feel-good romantic comedy and I’d watch it again of it came on tv.

With two movies, I didn’t get to bed until after 12am which wouldn’t be such a big deal except we were up to get on the road at 4:30am. Despite the early hour and lack of sleep I was in a decent mood. We got on the road at about 5:15am and stopped for Starbucks between Grass Valley and Auburn and then made the trek to San Jose. It was a beautiful drive as we watched the sun come up and drove through the foothills. Listened to some John Mayer and Jeff Foxworthy to pass the time.

We made it to San Jose, CA about an hour before our tour was to start at the Winchester Mystery House so we had some breakfast across the street at a cafe called Flames which has been I business for 20+ years and is housed in a retro building that had once been a Bobs Big Boy. The food was good and service wasn’t bad.

We headed across the street after breakfast and finally 9:30am rolled around and our tour began.  The Winchester Mystery House was pretty damn amazing. I had no idea it was so huge! We took the simple mansion tour, which lasted a little over an hour. It was neat seeing the doors to nowhere and the staircase leading into the ceiling. They’ve done a good job training the tour guides to make things fun and interesting.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful! I do have to say that I don’t think the tour is for everyone. It’s cool and all but it really is a lot of the same thing. Walking around empty rooms that are half finished and getting pretty much the same explanation for everything (“we don’t know why she put a window into the closet”-“we don’t know why she built a staircase into the ceiling”) don’t get me wrong, it really was cool, and I would totally see it again, I just don’t think everyone would love it.

Me standing in front of the Winchester Mystery House while my sister takes a picture without my consent.

One of the many cool stained glass windows in the house.  Unfortunately they don’t allow photography in the house so this one was stealthily taken by my sister.

After the tour we had to kill some time until we could check-in at our hotel so we drove around where my Mom went to high school and lived. It was interesting to see my grandparents’ old house and her high school. The high school had freaking carports for the entire parking lot! That is crazy! They barely get snow here! A high school that assumes the weather is good enough to have 6 outdoor tennis courts and a giant outdoor swimming pool but there is too much bad weather to park in the open? Are you kidding me!?

Okay. Rant over. Moving on.

Since my mom loved revisiting her old stomping ground we drove up and down one street a few times and we noticed several different “Foot Spas”. Now I’ve ever heard of a foot spa but the concept appealed to us so we pulled in at one. At first I was a bit concerned because the employees couldn’t quite explain what a foot spa was since they didn’t speak English but after a minute of gesture we were given a menu. For $20 (and a $10 tip I happily provided) I got an hour-long massage of my arms, hands, and feet! It was great! Do they have these in Reno? I’ve never noticed one but I sure hope I find one.

It was still early when we were done with our massages but luckily our hotel was willing to let us check in early. Unfortunately the Best Western we stayed in wasn’t in the best part of town so the room was subpar and we had a dumpster outside our window. We pulled in about 4pm and decided to relax the rest of the day since we’d been up early. Mom and Alicia headed out to grab some Chinese food while I jumped in the shower and then started on my homework. They showed up with the Worst. Chinese. Food. Ever! It was so sad! We were starving and it was inedible. I don’t even know why it was so bad, it just was. We decided to order a small pizza from California Pizza Kitchen since the Chinese food was a bust and I’ve heard good things about CPK.  Maybe it was the bad neighborhood, maybe it was just an off night, but oh man, the pizza was bad. Luckily bad pizza is still better than bad Chinese food.

As lame as it sounds we had a really good time staying in. We didn’t bother turning on the TV, we just talked, played silly games (tossing balls of paper into the trash, a vicious pillow fight between my sister and I), and my sister and I did my math homework.

That was amazing! I had no idea she was so good at math. I mean, she didn’t know everything but I was learning it and teaching it to her as I figured it out and we worked together to get the answers. It seems insane but I am terrible at math so it was a big deal. I think having to help her learn as well helped me absorb the information better.

As day one has come to a close I am looking forward to the rest of our trip. Tomorrow we are heading down to Solvang, CA, which is a Danish town, and we will be staying at a Spa!

Oh yeah and today I also decided to change my major from finance to Computer Information Technology with Web Development Emphasis.