California: Tuesday - Sunday

I have no idea how long this post is going to get but I'm going to try to be brief with our adventures. And put the pictures up separately later. And then if I want to trail off on one of our adventures, I'll do it in a different post. I aim to keep your attention! *wink wink*

I left off on Monday with our wine touring.
Tuesday we checked out 1 more and then headed to Oakland. We dropped Bob off at the airport and much to our dismay, Alyssa's flight was cancelled (Alyssa is my niece). Oh nuts! Mom and I needed a down day so we grabbed a hotel in Oakland and got some work done.

Wednesday morning you know I found somewhere amazing to run while mom continued to get some work done. 4 miles fast and hard in the marshes of Oakland, California.
We snatched up Alyssa from the airport and headed directly to San Francisco. Instead of trying to fight traffic, we parked at our hotel for the night (side note for the hotel...  totally sketchy in not the loveliest neighborhood and had the SCARIEST elevator in history. For real!! A box. Maybe the size of a refrigerator. No windows or mirrors or comfy soft music. It was metal. Maybe concrete. And had a prison feel. Holy shit, 'we are going to die in this elevator' kind of elevator)...
We walked to the Cable Car pick-up (where we met another guy that just finished Vineman 70.3 and guess what, I may have a new Ironman athlete; score!) and waited our turn for the famous ride.

You know how you think the roads are super steep in San Francisco? They're actually MUCH steeper! Standing on the edge of an open car is kind of scary when you're traveling 20mph on a 90 degree angle! Whoa! With an amusing conductor, we rode the cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf.
First things first, lunch! Seafood! Then we checked out the Mucee Mecanique where we lost our fortune and watched an execution. We wandered on down to Pier 39 for some live Sea Lion action only to find one lonesome dude amongst what is usually hundreds of Sea Lions. Dang it if they're not all off breeding right now. Damn Sea Lions and their procreation!

We moved onward and upward to China Town. So many trinkets and hand purses, cheap rings, t-shirts, souvenirs, and STUFF. We stopped for a leaf tea tasting (um yuck! The packaged stuff is so much tastier) and explored the many shops of foreign ingredients and questionables.
Walking on...
What was so amazing about walking through San Francisco is the 'from one to the next'. One block we're in financial square among suits, ties, and high heels, money to market square to union square. Then the next blocks we are in the hood amongst meth heads and hoodrats hanging out in front of shop fronts. And then the next block we are in Vietnamese central where cats are asleep on top of fresh produce... Combine each of these neighborhoods or blocks with a variety of people from rich and famous to meth heads to transgender street fighting, it's quite the circus! If you're a people watcher, just have a seat on any San Francisco corner. We ended Wednesday with a hole in the wall Thai dinner ~fresh rolls, pad thai, and cashew chicken warmed our bellies.

Thursday. Determined to keep up with my training, I wanted to swim in the Aquatic Park (45,000 square feet of water to play in). COLD water. Even with the wetsuit on, I was purple. Quick. And boy is that water dark! Not to mention my friend put sharks in my head so my swim was less than desirable. No worries, we're headed to bike... We rented mountain bikes and cycled to the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved every second of it. I'm so impressed by the GGB. That's actually going to have to be a whole separate post...
We cycled on into Sausalito and had lunch. With 16 miles in (Alyssa doesn't cycle so that's a lot), we opted for the ferry ride back. Plus I wanted to get close to Alcatraz (tickets are sold out til mid-August). Alcatraz might have to be a separate post too because I'm just SO intrigued by it. Rushed to get back to see a friend from the Army, we raced back to the car only to find ourselves jam packed in traffic. I finally swapped seats with my mom and ran the last few blocks to connect with him before he had class. Oh Jessie, I'm so proud of the man you've become!! Around the corner came the girls and I jumped in the car to head up to Lombard Street. The crooked street! Why someone would even construct something so ridiculous is beyond me! We also had to drive by and photograph the Full House house. The new owners have grown a tree up in front of it and gated off their front porch. I mean, I don't blame them! But it made for a horrible non-photo op. Disappointing!

Next up (and down) was Sand Ladder. Also recommended by a friend, I needed a good physical challenge. It's exactly what it sounds like, a sand ladder/steps. Straight down to the water. So straight back up! My heart rate went up for sure. It gave me the workout rush I needed. I nearly killed Alyssa. And mom said, "I've done worse." Shaking my head... Time to drive the coast...

Friday was spent driving from San Francisco to Big Sur with DOZENS of stops. We couldn't get enough of the coastal beauty. Our big stop was, as mentioned, Big Sur. We hiked a few miles up the mountain to Valley View and to a waterfall and back down. I was overly impressed by the Redwood Trees. My goodness, these are some massive trees. We decided that the largest one we saw, probably 20 people would have to hold hands around it to make it all the way around. Impressive!! I'm super proud of Alyssa for leaving her comfort zone multiple times during this hike.

The pictures will have to show the magic of all our stops.
Side story to come - 5 month old Sophia the German Shepherd 

Saturday morning I was up early to run the beach. About 1 mile down I started seeing dolphins playing in the waves. I called mom and said get Alyssa out here NOW! When they arrived, mom pointed out a whale in the distance breaking the water. WOW!! We saw him break a few more times and dozens more dolphins. We also found sand dollars. I've never found a real life sand dollar!! I was so excited and collected a few for my travel collection. We continued our drive down the coast stopping at the Santa Barbara mission and the Santa Monica Hindu Temple ~side story! We attempted to get some beach time in Santa Monica and explore the pier but we were met by a storm and they closed both.

So instead we drove through Malibu and with umbrella's out, checked out the walk of fame and had dinner on Hollywood Blvd, followed by a late night stroll on Sunset Blvd. The best part of all that was the people. From hoity toity to crazies. Prada and heels to fatigue's and duct taped sandals. I love them all! I met a man who was carded to drink and exclaimed, "my BEARD alone is old enough to drink!" More Asians than you can shake a stick at. And French. There are a lot of French people here!

Sunday morning I was up a little late, but the goal was to run the stars before the crowds. We made it to the walk of fame by 7:30ish. 4 miles of star finding and easy jogging. Mom got in a great recovery run. With that complete, we headed out with lots to want to see and do. Mom wanted to see Michael Jackson's grave but we were too early to get a site map and we couldn't find the grave. Fail. We don't mope, we forged onward to the Griffith Observatory (of course this was after screaming at mom for not having a map/route/drive plan. ha ha! Sorry mom!! I need a plan!!). We made it though and drove to the top and then climbed even higher to the Hollywood sign. It looks so far away in the photos, but it was actually closer in person. There were SO many hiking trails in this area. I don't feel a need to come back but if I do, I'll spend an entire day running/hiking ~maybe even horseback riding!!

With Hollywood satisfaction, we continued down to Beverly Hills to gape at the million dollar + mansions. Green with envy. We stopped for some shopping on Rodeo Drive. And by shopping, I mean WINDOW shopping. I can barely afford to shop at Ross, let alone Rodeo Drive! I did try on a fabulous $600 dress. I was a star for about 5 minutes in that. We finished up with a Mediterranean lunch (salmon greek salad - YUM!). We shot back down to Santa Monica for some beach time. Mom and Alyssa played in the surf while I caught some rays. Within an hour, bad weather came in, FAST! We rushed to the pier to get our carousel ride and ice cream in. We made it just in time!
Getting back to our hotel was a nightmare. Traffic is a BITCH here. We all decided we never want to live in LA and don't see any reason to come back...
A light dinner and it's bedtime. Tomorrow we do Disney!