Road Trip Part 9: A Month in San Diego, Including a Trip to Joshua Tree

By the time we hit California, we were pretty sure we were going to stay in San Diego for a month and regroup.  We were fat, out of shape, and needed some semblance of normal life.  Since San Diego was at the end of the potential cities loop (minus Austin) and is known for its great weather, it seemed liked the perfect place to settle down for a bit.

I spent quite a bit of time looking for places to stay - Airbnb, Craigslist, Property Management companies, etc.  Airbnbs lack privacy for the most part, and the ones I contacted all told me the price on Airbnb for a month was wrong; Craigslist is mostly scams (I had one guy asking me to wire money; it looked legit, was a property management company, etc., but the apartment number didn't exist in the building); and property management companies were a bit expensive.  We ended up using a property management company - we needed fully furnished and short term, which aren't the easiest things to find.  We were able to meet with the broker on the Sunday we got into town, see a few places, and "move-in" that afternoon.  The location was right downtown in the Gaslamp District - if it was summertime, we were right near Petco and would've gone to plenty of Padres games; instead, I watched the ALCS and World Series on television, which, quite frankly, was amazing since everything is three hours earlier.  East coasters missed a hell of a World Series because the games didn't end until 1:00am.

Across the street from our apartment - we were right in the heart of downtown.

It was really nice to have a home and some space.  Our building had underground parking, a fitness center, and a grill, all of which were used frequently.  Our balcony was right on a busy street (6th Floor), which was pretty loud, but it was nice to be in a city, and we were right near the waterfront and amazing views.  The only things we really needed to buy were a good chef's knife and a grill basket; all other kitchen and cooking items were in the kitchen.  Adam got really good at grilling, and I just need to say that the maintenance and cleaning people in the building cleaned the hell out of that grill weekly - it was so clean!

Dia de los muertos in Old Town.  Adam was excited to see that the holiday is catching on in the USA!

San Diego

Sunsets here were pretty incredible.

View from our balcony

ALMOST reminiscent of sunsets in San Juan del Sur.  Almost.

Downtown skyline from the Coronado ferry. 
Adam rented a bike and did a 21 mile loop on Coronado and back over the land bridge - so proud of him for doing that!

Since we were paying for the month, we didn't really want to spend any nights away - if we did, we probably would've gotten to Death Valley or the Grand Canyon.  Instead, the only day trip we really took was to Joshua Tree National Park on a day that the building had the water turned off for pipe repairs.  It was about a three hour drive, so we packed lunches and water and headed out, entering the park in the southern part/Colorado Desert and exiting at the western part/Mojave Desert.  It's pretty cool to see the change from the Colorado to the Mojave, with different plants and trees growing in each.

Joshua Tree National Park

Colorado Desert

Cholla Cactus Garden

Cacti as far as the eye can see

Cholla cactus

The sky in Joshua Tree National Park is SO blue.

A Joshua Tree!  They don't really appear until White Tank.

Skull Rock.  Very crowded and not very exciting.

Keys View

Coachella Valley behind me

Coachella Valley

Yep, it's beautiful.  The high season for Joshua Tree starts in October and lasts until May - the summer months are too hot.

On our way back, we stopped in Palm Springs for dinner.   It was only the second meal we'd had out since we'd started our diet/exercise regimen, and frankly, it wasn't worth it.  It was a barbecue restaurant, and it was meh.  But, we made better choices (salad for me, no mac and cheese side for Adam), and it was important for me to be able to eat out and not go crazy.

Palm Springs

Most of the rest of our time in San Diego was spent exploring neighborhoods, exercising, cooking, doing work stuff, and updating this blog.  I was determined to be completely caught up by the time we left, and dammit, I did it!  The more recent posts may be a bit less in-depth than Adam's posts and my earlier posts from Jamaica, but I'm pretty proud that I got caught up.  Now the trick is to stay current for the last month or so of our trip!

Cocktail after we were 3/4 of the way done with it. 
Liquid nitrogen in the base to keep it cold.

We did splurge on one meal - we were so good all month and decided to go to Juniper & Ivy (from Richard Blais of Top Chef fame) the last Saturday night we were in San Diego.  It was wonderful, but our stomachs had shrunk so much that we took half of the main course to go and didn't get dessert.  Adam struggled more than me, and while it sucked, it was a good thing that we're definitely eating less and stopping when we're full.

Uni roll and yellowtail tostada

Pork belly with a mango miso and radishes.  This was my favorite dish.

Short rib with a lobster raviolo.  Delicious.

So we head out this morning (Tuesday) for Austin, Texas, with a stop in New Mexico (we'll be getting breakfast burritos on our way out of San Diego).  It's going to be two long days of driving to get there (and losing an hour each day en route to the Central Time Zone).  After Austin, we'll go to Augusta, Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with Lauren - it'll be the first time since early college that Adam will be spending Thanksgiving with a member of his family!  Right now the plan is to be back in NJ in time for Christmas - we'll see where the roads take us.

Road Trip Part 8: California! San Francisco, Sequoia, and Los Angeles

We headed out the next morning for the Bay Area.  Both of us have spent time out there over the years, and it's not someplace we're looking to move to, but Adam has a good friend out there and I love San Francisco.  Mat was in the process of moving, so we stayed at an Airbnb in Oakland and explored the East Bay area the days we were there.  Oakland and Berkeley were great, with the exception of crappy (and non-existent at some places) wi-fi.  I did get to eat a Mission Burrito, the food for California and something I had never had in all my visits to see Pam and Brian when they lived out there.  It was...a burrito.  It was great to see Mat and meet (me)/see again (Adam) his girlfriend Tori and to be in a city that was familiar enough to not have to play tourist while we were there.

Mission District


Poboy and torta lunch at an Oakland food hall.

In-n-Out Burgers

When we drove through Yellowstone, we decided to buy the annual National Park pass for $80 instead of the Yellowstone one for $30, figuring we'd hit a couple more and make it worth the purchase.  So, on our drive south, we drove a bit east and went to Sequoia National Park for the day, and it was awesome.  I'd been there with my family when I was a kid - we took a vacation when I was 12 that started at the Grand Canyon, then went to Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Sequoia, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego - but Adam had never been there.  The trees were so cool!  We spent a few hours driving through the park, walking around, and enjoying the day.  When I had told my parents and sister where we were going, there reactions were:

Dad: Nice, I remember going there.  They were huge.  And I think it was really curvy on the roads there.
Mom: We went there?  I don't remember that.
Pam: I got carsick on the drive in there, it was VERY curvy.
Mom: I remember Pam getting sick somewhere on that trip.

I meant to put my motion sickness patch on the night before the drive and completely forgot.  I ended up driving the whole time and STILL felt queasy because there were so many twists and turns and curves.

Sequoias are REALLY tall.

Perfect day for exploring.

Sequoia selfie

Standing inside a sequoia that's cracked

Look!  I'm driving through a tree!


Walked this, and so glad we did. 
Adam always points out to me that El Chiflon in Chiapas looked SO high (it was!) and I climbed that - he's right.

View from the top

View from the top

Sunset on our drive out

We spent the night in Bakersfield before heading to Los Angeles early the next day.  We had an awesome lunch at a Taiwanese restaurant, Pine & Crane, then spent the day wandering around LA and Venice Beach before heading to our Airbnb in Redondo Beach.  Friday was spent exploring Redondo Beach and watching both my Yankees and my Clemson Tigers lose.  We headed up to Venice again on Saturday morning so that Adam could go to Eggslut, a place he'd heard a lot about, for a breakfast sandwich - it was good, but Southside Coffee, a local place near our old place in Brooklyn, was better.  We walked around Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach for the day before heading up to North Hollywood to see an aunt of mine and her boyfriend for dinner.  It had been 10+ years since I had seen Livia, and it was SO good to see her and meet Costin.  We had such a nice evening just catching up and visiting, AND the ride back at 11:00pm was the only time in LA that we experienced no traffic.

Taiwanese lunch

Venice Beach canals

Eggslut.  I can't do runny or soft eggs, so I had a biscuit.

One more note about LA.  I consider myself a good driver.  I'm aware, aggressive, safe, etc.  I can handle most situations without a problem - I have driven in NYC regularly, drove in Israel where apparently people think the drivers are crazy (not so bad), in South Africa (on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car, and a stick shift), and, most recently, in Mexico.  I like to drive.  I have never felt like a worse driver or more out of my comfort zone than driving in LA.  I actually really liked LA - but would not want to live there because of the traffic and the drivers.

The Pacific

And on that note, we headed out of LA on Sunday morning, ready to spend a month in San Diego.

Road Trip Part 7: Portland, Bend, Salt Lake City & Reno

We got to Portland in time for dinner, which was really the most important thing.  We stayed in the Kenton neighborhood for the first night, then switched to an Airbnb near Rose City for the next three nights.  The roads in Portland, while the traffic wasn't bad, were awful.  Downtown Portland had lanes that would just end, one way streets that you couldn't drive on, etc.  It was horrible.  Can't emphasize enough how bad it was.

Portland was nowhere near as crunchy and weird as I was expecting.  Blame the show Portlandia, I suppose, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Portland itself was pretty nice.  A lot of people seem very proud of the fact that they have very few chains, but to be honest, I think San Diego has even fewer.  There was an abundance of Asian food, Thai in particular (the original Pok Pok restaurant is there, and there was quite a line when we walked by it.  Since we'd been to the one in Brooklyn several times, we did not wait this time).  One very cool thing about Portland is that they have a few different areas with food stands - more like food trucks, but they're permanent.  We discovered them downtown the first day, then in several other neighborhoods throughout the weekend.

Food carts

Food from a food cart - waffle sandwich

Out of all the places we've been, the friendliest people have been in Portland.  No matter where we went, people we were sitting next to at restaurants and bars (and servers and bartenders) would start up conversations and give advice.  Like I said earlier, I was expecting the strangest people - and was caught off-guard by the genuineness of the residents.  One couple we were sitting next to at Ataula (a very, very good tapas restaurant) gave us a donut from their dessert because we were talking about that dessert and how we had ordered two different ones.  I realize that sounds strange, but it was oddly not.

One other thing about Portland: while we really liked it, it's not a very "pretty" city like everywhere else we were, and we took VERY few pictures.  We realized it while we were there, but it was even more apparent as I'm writing this blog and have pretty much no pictures from our time there.  Great city, great people, great weather, great time, not photogenic or pretty.  There's just nothing particularly striking about the city looks wise.

Having been on the road for a month already, I was getting pretty antsy about needing some downtime.  So, at Adam's suggestion, we rented an Airbnb in Bend, Oregon for three nights.  It was incredibly cozy and nice and just what I needed.  Adam went out exploring and hiking, while I stayed in and vegged and had me time.  Even Adam came out of that stay rejuvenated and agreed it was really nice to have some alone time away from each other - after 4 months of being around each other 24/7, it was nice to have even just a few hours alone.

Beautiful scenery in Bend

One funny story from Bend - one that my lovely parents were dying laughing at when I told them and wished they had witnessed.  I had some errands to run while we were there - namely, I needed to get the oil changed on my car, get a car wash, and fill the gas tank.  I make an appointment to get the oil change for Wednesday morning - it was great.  They were reasonable, friendly, and just awesome, and I spent a good part of my time waiting on the phone with my dad talking about the Yankees wild card win over the Twins.  After the oil change, I decide to go get a car wash.  There's a place with really good reviews on my way back to the Airbnb, so I stop there.  I drive up, tell the guy I want the premium wash, pay, and drive into the car wash.  They are pre-washing the giant Suburban in front of me; they finish, he goes in, I drive up and they pre-wash my Civic.  I go into the car wash, with the left wheels on the track and car in neutral, just like I'm told.  About halfway through, the Suburban kinda just stops and keeps jerking forward and back, hitting my car repeatedly.  The guys stop the wash, get the Suburban back on the track, and it goes on its way.  My car keeps going, but doesn't get washed anymore or rinsed, so I drive back around and they're like, oh yeah, you need to get a redo.  I roll down my window to ask a question, the guy gets the hose, and proceeds to start pre-washing my car, spraying me right in the face.  I could've killed him.

Another interesting thing from our time in Bend was we saw someone get refused service at a bar because she was too drunk.  She got mad, stumbled out, and the staff had to follow her to make sure she didn't get into a car.  The restaurant handled the situation very, very well - I was impressed.

Salt Lake City wasn't on our list of cities to check out, but we had several people in Portland tell us to check it out, as it's very up-and-coming, so we decided to head there after Bend, with a stop in Boise for lunch.  Boise was really nice based on our 1-2 hour stop, and after a long day of driving, we got to Salt Lake City around 10pm.  Our Airbnb there was the weirdest place we've stayed at in the 5 months we've been on the road - the house almost seemed haunted, the people were a bit strange, and we could not for the life of us figure out who lived there, who were guests, and what everyone's relationship was.

Salt Lake City, though, was great.  The city is beautiful, with amazing roads and infrastructure - there's just not quite enough there for us yet.  In ten years, it's going to be amazing - it has the space to grow, has good public transportation, and, with a law that is up for renewal next year and will hopefully be repealed, will be able to build high-rise buildings soon.  Everything is there - it's coming.  Skiing in Park City is just like 45 minutes away.  The airport is about 5 minutes from downtown.  The scenery is beautiful - it's in the middle of all these mountains - and we were fortunate to be there during beautiful weather.  I did have major concerns that their snow season is from November 5-April 15 - that's a bit too long for me.

Temple - it's fenced around and you aren't allowed near it unless you're Mormon.

We spent most of our time in SLC wandering around and exploring.  There was a definite lack of coffee shops that are in abundance everywhere else, but we still liked it.  I was able to find a bar that opened at 10am on Saturday to watch the Clemson game, and we stayed there all day.

We drove out to Great Salt Lake on Friday afternoon, and it did not disappoint.  Antelope Island was beautiful, clean, and had great views of the lake.  We hiked up to a viewpoint, where I lost cell service and was unable to keep up with Game 2 of the Yankees-Indians series (this was the game they were leading 8-3 and lost in extra innings.  I got to a bar just in time for the 11th inning).

Great Salt Lake was absolutely breathtaking.

While Salt Lake City probably isn't someplace we'd choose to live right now, I'm really glad we detoured there for a few days before heading to California.

The drive from Bend to Salt Lake City was about 10-11 hrs and kicked our asses, even with no traffic.  So because of that, we decided to split the equally long drive from SLC to San Francisco into two days, with a stop in Reno about 2/3 of the way through to break it up.  The directions from SLC to Reno were, in a nutshell, get onto I-80 in SLC, drive 515 miles on I-80, exiting in Reno.  It was NOT exciting, but it was a really easy driving day.

Drive from SLC to Reno

I found a really cheap deal online for Circus, Circus, so that's where we stopped.  Adam decided to just veg out and play his Nintendo Switch for a few hours while I went exploring in the casinos (there were three that were attached).  Reno is...sad.  It was a perfect place for a quick stop for us, but it's not really our type of place as neither of us gamble (I played $5 on a slot and won nothing).  We got sushi in one of those casinos for dinner and it was fine, but our server was clueless.  Adam ordered a martini; when the server came back with the drink in the shaker and poured it into a martini glass, he didn't use a strainer so there was a ton of ice, and when I questioned it, he said that's the way martinis are done.  No, but thanks.

Bright lights of Reno