Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Northern Ontario and Home Again, Home Again!

A very welcome sight!
Finally crossing the border and seeing the 'Welcome to Ontario' sign evoked some happy feelings. We were finally in our home province! If you don't know Canadian geography, Ontario is big and there's a lot of water. It is impossible to drive in a straight line through Northern Ontario because of all the small bodies of water (and no so small body of water, Lake Superior) Rocks, water, and trees would be a good summery of Northern Ontario. We hadn't seen very many police cars on our trip until we crossed the border. O.P.P were out in full force.

We stopped in a few small towns along the way, but nothing really exciting. After looking at a map in Thunder Bay, we decided to just get home as quickly as possible. We looked at even more rocks and water on the way to Saulte Saint Marie (on the Canadian side). After that we drove to Sudbury, but agreed that we should just push on to Barry for the night. We saw the giant nickle on the way out so we can say we saw a Canadian landmark.


We had planned to go to Fly Monkey Brewery in Barry, but they had closed before we even got into town. There was another brewery in the city that we when to, Barn Stormer. Good times were had as we talked to the bar tender all night who turned out to be a high school teacher who really just wanted to work for a brewery. The pizza there was really good. They knew our favourite bar in Toronto because they were trying to get their beer sold there (it was on tap a few weeks later) Everyone there was friendly and the owner even offered to drive us back to the hotel at the end of the night since Cam had driven us there. We declined the offer and went back early enough to enjoy the salt-water pool at the hotel.

The next day was our final day! It was less than an hour into Toronto, but I think we spent more time trying to get off the Allen than driving in. Victory drinks were had at Bar Hop and my mother even stopped by for a drink. After that we unloaded the car and crashed for the rest of the day. We did it!







24 days and 7123km of adventures completed!








Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is Canada's flattest province and not the most interesting. We decided to just drive straight from Medicine Hat (where I saw no medicine nor hats) to Winnipeg. 1001km worth of driving in one day. We only stopped in Regina briefly to replace the windscreen wiper that bailed on us a minute before we hit our first patch of rain. Naturally the rain had passed when we managed to pull onto the highway again. We turned the music up load and just sped through.

"...is this it?"



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Little Australia

Sea-to-Sky highway
From Vancouver we decided to travel to Little Australia aka Whistler for the night. It was an easy drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway. Driving through the mountains was great fun and almost everywhere you looked provided a beautiful view. We stopped along the side of the highway just to stand on top of a boulder to see the landscape and enjoy the cooler air. Wombie was on a constant look out for bears.



It was a fairly short trip to Whistler. It was in between ski and summer up there so you could see people wearing shorts and other people obviously just came off the mountain. The village is fairly small with Olympic structures scattered around. We had dinner at a restaurant that I remember from my childhood that was mostly the same as it was a decade ago. We didn't do much in Whistler, but me made sure to get sausage roll and a meat pie from one of the cafes on the way out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Drive-thru Trees and The Forest Moon of Endor

I've been having back problems recently and the bed at the hotel destroyed any progress I had towards recovery. Waking up already unable to move put me in a not so great mood. Luckily there was a coffee shop across the road and right beside where we had parked our car. Their signature iced coffee was overly sweet in attempt to mask their low grade coffee. Cam's latte was too bitter to stand. The only decent thing to come out of there was the too greasy soaked ham and cheese. 

It was a quick trip out of town. Nothing exciting about the drive down the highway. We stopped at one point to take a break from the heat and have a snack at a McDonald's off the highway. What surprised me was the lack of water that was available. The cashier told me the light lemonade tap was water, but it was just as it was labelled. We did get a bag of ice to fill the cooler. The rest of the ice was used to cool the water bottle and my feet as we drove through the heat of the afternoon.

 We made a stop at a Walmart to get some aloe for me and a new laptop charger to replace the one forgotten in Santa Rosa. Made the mistake of letting Cam look the toy section. He insisted we get Star Wars Lego (for Wombie).

Not far down the highway we saw a sign for a chance to drive through a living tree. Naturally we decided to explore the opportunity. It was hard to get a good photo with all the other tourists walking around. We picked up a few postcards from the tourist shop and continued on.


Ewokin' around
Further down the road we stopped to walk around Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park aka the forest moon of Endor. It is really hard to show just how big the trees are. A few of them had fallen over recently, leaving huge holes where the roots had been pulled from the ground. The best part of the walk was that it was significantly cooler in the forest than it was on the road.

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

San Fran > Santa Rosa


Early - ish start to day 9. If you're ever offered a bagel and cream cheese for a hotel, just say no. It is not worth it and you can get two better bagels for the same price of one. We dropped our bags off at the front desk of the hotel so we could walk around, get the car, and return.
First stop was at the ferry terminal for coffee. The coffee place tried to know their coffee, but the major strike against them was calling a cappuccino a flat white. Rude. One is full of foam and the other is a national treasure. Rude rude rude.
Trying to put the coffee place's major faux pa out of mind, we wondered down the market towards the bakery. We pick up a baguette for our planned picnic further down the main road. Nothing too special, just something to hold the cheese. Speaking of which, there's a whole cheese shop in the market. The person working there was trying to push their own brand of cheese too hard and missed the mark completely on what we were looking for. Disappointing experience, but we found some decent cheese for our picnic. A cheapish bottle wine from a nearby store and we were almost ready for the day. Except we didn't have a cutting board or knife. Luckily there was a kitchen shop a few feet away. Not the best selection, but we found what we wanted.
I was dreading paying almost $30/day for parking downturn San Francisco, but the total was only $89 for around 5 days of secure parking. We did have to have the attendant free our car by moving a van from Maryland, but that took very little time. We parked in front of the hotel to load up the car and we are soon on our way.
Cam had planned to see the very, very squiggly road on the way out of town. Unfortunately he hadn't gone over those plans with his navigator so I was trying to accommodate the changes on the fly. We saw the very bottom of Russian hill and then turned around. Too many tourists blocked the way and Russian hill traffic went west instead of East. Great fun was had travelling back to the main road along very hilly streets of San Francisco.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't anything special. Tourists lined both sides of the bridge. Our camera showed a blurry image through the view finder, but it was fine after taking a photo. I spent most the trip across the bridge trying to decide if my photos world turn out. There were many photo opportunities on the north side of the bridge. We managed to find parking after three turn offs and stopped for a bit too take pictures. Many more scenic outlooks lined the road further south and we only stopped at one more of them.





Not too down the road we came across decommissioned bunkers on the side of the road. Most of them were boarded up and all of them seemed abandoned. Took a few photos and continued on North. We stopped for a picnic along the very scenic drive. I was very burnt by the time we arrived in Santa Rosa.

We had been asking people for recommendations for beer and everyone in San Francisco mentioned Russian River. While we were sitting waiting for our beer, a man came up to us and asked if we were in Mikkeller bar two days before. We were indeed!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

San Francisco ! Day 2

We got a fairly early start on Saturday. It helped that there was hot coffee and tea waiting for us just out side our door in the morning. We stopped at one of the local cafes to get a bagel and another coffee. The bagel was alright, but the coffee was unsurprisingly bad and quickly pitched. There was a camera shop along the way so our GoPro now has a suction cup base.

We went back to Uniqlo since we didn't have the energy the day before to even make an attempt at the women's section. I managed to find clothes that I liked even though I don't think Uniqlo understand how to make shorts that actually fit anybody. Their under shirts and underwear are rather comfortable though. Cam found a few more pieces of clothing which is good because we didn't pack a lot of clothing for this trip.

It was early enough in the day that the ramen place I wanted to go to the night before was empty
enough for lunch. I don't think it was worth the line up it had, but it was decent enough to satisfy us for a bit.

After dropping off our new purchases, we ahead back out to get a drink (surprise surprise). One of the better brewers in the world, Mikkeller, has a bar in the city. It had a great selection of Mikkeller beers, some of which were only available at that bar. One of the great things about being in California is that brewers here are going through a sour phase so my favourite kind of beer is available everywhere. We asked for recommendations on where to stop on our trip, but we got the same ones as before. While I was in the bathroom, Cam recommended the sour beer that I had to a guy who had just sat down at the bar. It was a good pick! We got talking to him and his friend about how he wants to move to Toronto and beer in general. Turns out it was Rachel Maddow's brother. Cam didn't know who that was, but I did! They left before they could finish one beer, but we had a good chat.

 We didn't go far for dinner. The restaurant was fairly busy so we elected to sit outside under the heat lamps. It was still a bit chilly, but it was nice enough to sit for a bit. We did have a heat conversation about health care Australia vs. Canada. In the end we agreed that both systems were way better than the American system. After dinner we decided to go to one of the bottle shops that apparently had a good selection of beer. They did indeed have a good selection of beer so we picked up a few. Cam also picked up a t-shirt that has a platypus holding a drink on the front. Snagged a cab back to the hotel and had a great chat with the cab driver about the city and beer.

I didn't stay up too late. I don't think I made it past 9:30pm, but Cam stayed up to try to turn the GoPro time-lapse photos into a video. One of us was more awake the next day. 


San Francisco!

One of the many driving photos we took
Not wanting to have a long drive into San Francisco and have to navigate the city tired, we made sure to spend the night fairly close to the city. It was about a two hour drive down the coastal highway. Highway 1 brewery is right off the highway which I found to be a strange location for a brewery. Lunch was nothing special, but the beer that I did have was pretty good.

Early afternoon was a good time to arrive. Traffic was light and we didn't have too much trouble find a secure parking lot near the hotel. Parking is very expensive in San Francisco and the cheapest we found was $29 each day. Better than the $52/night for valet parking with the hotel. The hotel was kind enough to upgrade us to a better room on the top floor. It even has a partial view of the bay!
After doing all the driving and not having to drive again for another few days, Cam declared it was beer time. We found a good bar down one of the alleys. They weren't open yet, but the bartender was more than happy to serve and talk to us while she got the bar ready for the evening. We got many recommendations on where to stop along our road trip. The bartender was great and was more than happy to let us sample all the beers on draught. It got harder to talk to her since the bar got busy fairly quickly so we didn't stay too long. 

Cam has been looking forward to San Francisco, partly because they have the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo.We had some shopping at the store in Tokyo, but the sizing was completely different. Luckily the Sand Fran one was a lot better for shopping and Cam managed to find many things to wear. They didn't have any flannel shirts that he likes to wear (and I like to steal and wear), but their stuff is fairly comfortable.

I had seen a ramen restaurant on the walk between the hotel and Union Square that looked good for dinner, but everyone else in the city seemed to have the same idea. Not wanting to spend too much energy on trying to find a place to eat, we settled on a restaurant two doors down. It did give us a good view of people trying to stay warm while they waited for ramen. Dinner was overpriced for what it was, but we were just glad to have food. 

Oh, Wombie
While we were out, someone had placed champagne and strawberries on the dresser and a rose on the bed. We had left Wombie sitting on the impractical pillows that they took off the bed and he was still on the bed when we returned. A good night was had drinking champagne and enjoying the fact we didn't have to drive anywhere the next day.




Friday, May 9, 2014

Castle

The previous night's victory was definitely felt this morning. We managed to get showered and packed in time to have breakfast at the hotel. They even had the option to make your own waffles in a fool proof process. Nearly fool proof. 


Highway 1
Highway 1 gets interesting around Morro Bay so it was well worth the extra time to take it towards Monterey. The scenery seemed to change every 20 minutes as we drove up the coast. The hills no longer had the sun drenched look they had in San Diego and there were a lot more trees. We didn't encounter too many cars heading north which made it easier to stop on the side of the highway every once in a while to enjoy the view.



Dreams of being the king of this castle
  Not far into the drive we came across Hearst Castle. It seems all the cars were in the parking lot which would explain why the highway so quiet. We didn't know exactly what it was, but we decided to find out. Turns out it is a mansion on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. We had to take a bus up a winding road while listening to a commentary narrated by Alex Trebec. We did the upstairs guided tour. A lot fewer people, but probably not as interesting as the main floor tour. There was a chance to walk around the grounds after, but we didn't hang around for too long. There was a constant feeling of a security guard looming over your shoulder where ever we went. Wombie had a good time. He keeps going on about how his castle will be better. Many people during our stop commented on Wombie. No one knew that he was a wombat, but not many people know what a wombat actually is.
Wombie has a hard life



After a quick stop for an over priced cheeseburger we continued on towards Monterey down the winding coastal road. Our adventures on the hill had set us back about 2 hours, but we still managed to pull into the hotel early in the evening. The hotel was a bit out of the way of everything, but we weren't there long enough to care. It was a 15 minute walk to a small mexican restaurant that served decent food and had mexican beer. Both of us devoured more of the hot corn chips than our actual meals. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful since we were both exhausted. We did have a good laugh over the absurd commercials that play on American TV.




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Santa Monica > Morro Bay, Bingo!




Creeping on the beach babes
We are up and out the door at a reasonable time which was a good thing since the day would be a long one. Our hotel was right near the beach and a short walk from the Santa Monica pier. The amusement park wasn't open yet, but we did see them run a few rides for the first time that day. After picking up a few postcards at the end of the pier, we headed in the opposite direction towards Venice beach. A fair few people were out enjoying the lovely day. We stopped for a disappointingly bad cup of coffee along the way and a beer just as we reached Venice beach.
It was almost two years to the day since we were last in Venice beach and not much seems to have changed since then. Beach shops, tourists, and lots of homeless. We only made it halfway before we decided we had had enough and turned around.





A hungry Erica was hungry while Cam took this picture.
 It took us until day 3 before we finally managed to eat at In n Out. We stopped at the one in Beverly Hills on our way out to Morro Bay. If I was honest with myself, I was disappointed.


Not wanting to deal with the stop and start driving we dealt with the day before, we decided to take the more direct route. We made a few stops along the way to escape the heat of the car and fuel up. The aircon doesn't work well in the car and it's really loud. Most of the trip was spent trying to find a balance between noise, music, and heat. 


We made the trip to Morro Bay in about 4 hours or so. There was a brief and uneventful stop in Santa Barbara. We went to the wrong hotel because the destination was incorrectly input into my phone. Finding the right hotel was a relief because I didn't want to be as far out of town as the first hotel was. The correct hotel gave us an upgrade because we told them it was our honeymoon (which it is and always will be!) The room had a balcony that had a view of the ocean and we could hear the seals calling out to each other. Arf! Arf!


Wombie and his new friend, Tatey
We went out to dinner at a local pub. I had chosen the pub for their selection of beer and the proximity to the hotel. Very glad we ended up there because it was bingo night! Every drink you bought got you a bingo card, but the cards were only good for a round. I managed to win the final one, the blackout round, by filling my bingo card. Instead of going for the prize we originally chose, we opted to take the secret bar prize. It was a potato. We've since named it Tatey and now it travels with us. The host dropped off our first choice after.

Very long day, but a very good day.

Shopping and our first drive!

Day three and we're finally getting out of San Diego, starting the "Road" part of this trip.

But not before some shopping!

We drove in and found the first parking lot we could find  in downtown San Diego, surprised to find it was Valeted. Valet services are everywhere here. That was a bit weird.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

little-bloggin'

Going to try and keep up my posts by including a bunch of little "So this was a thing" blog posts... I find when I wait until I have lots to say I tend to get lazy and not say it at all (and I forget little details!)


Stone Brewing Liberty Station for dinner last night was fantastic. The Bacon and Brussel Sprouts were indulgent. The steak was honestly pretty bland, particularly when paired with such a massive selection of world-class beers. We picked up a growler of their triple IPA that is unbelievable and I got a t-shirt!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Oh! I forgot the best thing that happened at the zoo!


San Diego Zoo!

What a great day! We woke up pretty early thanks to the time difference and headed to San Diego Zoo. Firstly, this was my first time driving in the US and the first time I've driven for quite a while. It felt pretty natural though and I got right in to the swing of it (Only left the handbrake on by accident for a second or two before I realised what was wrong).



The Car

This is our home for the next however long. This little Saab 9000 has battled it's way all the way from Toronto to San Diego, now it's heading back!

Hello San Diego!

We arrived!

So! After spending a bit too much time drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity with my cousin, we headed to the Airport hotel at about 11.30. By the time we'd checked in and gotten settled for bed, it was 12.30. Setting the alarm for 4.30am kindly pointed out that we have 4 hours before we had to get up and check in to our flight. Super glad we decided to cough up the extra and stayed at the airport!

The flight was uneventful, which is always good! We had a stopover at Minneapolis, kinda cool airport. Wombie enjoyed his 9am-ish craft beer!