Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From LA to San Francisco

Day 12 - Californication

1:06PM. Chilled in last night with our hosts, ordered tasty Chinese food from Chef Ming’s on Olympic. We’re now at a very nice Beverly Hills park right down the street. Picnic time! And with some chilled wine to keep us cool on a sunny day.

1:34. A bird poops on Rachel’s leg!!! An awesome thing when it happens to someone else. “They say it’s good luck,” I remark.

“No it’s not,” she fires back, “that’s just what they say to make people feel better about being pooped on.”

We meet Allison at 5:14PM for manicures and pedicures at Eden Spa and Nails on Beverly Drive. Yup.

About halfway into the awesomeness that is the “mani-pedi,” Rachel tells me I can turn on the massage chair I had no idea I was sitting in. Next level of awesomeness ensues.

7:53. On our way to dinner, we begin discussing the idea of a ski trip in Tahoe.

“I haven’t been skiing since I was little - had a bad experience,” says Rachel.

“See, I like the bad experiences. That’s why I keep going back,” answers Charlie Russo, in classic Russo fashion. We’ve missed our friend.

9:46, after a fantastic Italian dinner at Pan e Vino on Beverly Blvd, we sit there discussing whether the man at the bar is Clarence Williams, the actor who played the villainous Sampson Simpson in one of our favorite movies, “Half Baked.” We’ve actually been talking about it throughout the meal, so we decide to find out for sure.

Yup, it’s Sampson Simpson! And he’s very nice in agreeing to take a picture with us. An excellent story for the last place we visit before we get to San Francisco.

Gridlock traffic and now a celebrity pic - thanks, Los Angeles!

Day 13 - California dreamin’

We hit the road at 8:08AM on the last day of our trip. One of the things we’re really looking forward to is getting the kitties a permanent home. Can’t imagine what they’ve been thinking this whole time. They’ll likely pee on something of ours as retribution. Wouldn’t blame them.

12:03PM. “Oh God, BUGS!” Rachel says, accompanied by a pitter-patter of little things against our windshield. Yellowish gray smudges appear everywhere. Looks like we just raced through 100s of bees, and many of them didn’t survive the encounter with our big yellow truck.

12:12PM. 158 miles to San Francisco. This is all getting very real.

It’s 2:28 and we’re in Oakland. Wow.

Just pulled up to a toll outside of San Fran at 2:38PM. The toll officer, out of nowhere, asks if we had gotten married and insisted that we do so this year.

“If you marry this year, everything you touch will turn to gold, and your first child will be a boy,” he says in a boisterous Caribbean-sounding accent.

Well, ok then.

2:42PM. Just got a shot of San Francisco city limits sign. Our road trippin’ skills, at this point, are off the charts.

3:02. Blocks away. Giddy with anticipation. City is gorgeous.

And farewell....

It’s been an awesome trip, going from place to place, seeing the country as we move from New York to San Francisco. Just an amazing time. Thanks for following along, as it made us feel that all of our friends and family were there somehow sharing in the experience with us, which made it all the better as we traveled on.

A special thanks to everyone we saw along the way - to the Alexander sisters, their mom, Monica and her hubby, Sacco in Chicago. To cousin Nick and his wonderful family. To Regan and Shannon for having us in Denver. To Aunt Marty and Uncle David in La Veta and Uncle Ted and Aunt Peggy in Taos. To the waters that forged the awesomeness that is the Grand Canyon. To our friends Charlie and Allison in Beverly Hills. To Jesse and Lindsey for making our move to the new city that much easier.

And to the kitty cats, for taking it all in stride.

Approximately 3,531 miles later and we’re finally home!

Rachel and Brian

Friday, March 19, 2010

From La Veta, CO to Beverly Hills, 90212

Days 9, 10 and 11 - keep on truckin’

1:31PM. We’re in New Mexico! And yet again we’ve missed the opportunity to take a picture of the “Welcome to...” sign.


We get to Taos, New Mexico - home of Rachel’s Uncle Ted and his wife Peggy.

A “DO NOT PASS” sign has been altered to read “DO ASS.” Made us both laugh. On the flip side, we’re told that both Julia Roberts and Donald Rumsfeld have homes in the area. Very fancy.

At 2:29PM we attempt to get our big yellow truck up the driveway, which is both uphill and a bit treacherous with ice and mud at parts.

“Good lord, we’re off-roading it!!!” Rachel yells while laughing.

We never made it up that hill, though we do credit Uncle Ted with the optimism and enthusiasm to go for it.

5:00PM. Margaritas at the Taos

Inn bar. Very good! And saw Kit

Carson's grave.

11:12AM. After a great night of dinner (buffalo meat tacos!) with relatives, we’re on the

road again...and promptly stop at Black Mesa Winery along Highway 68 in Velarde, NM.

“Mikey from New Mexico,” as he likes to be

known, is our great host. They have this wine, Black Beauty, which is made with a dark chocolate after-taste. We grabbed a bottle...and another bottle....

And 5.5% alcohol chocolate sauce. YUM!

3:54PM. We get our 1st shot of a US State’s sign.

Thanks, Arizona!!!

We both vow to get the California sign. “I’ll turn around if we miss it,” Rachel offers. As you can see, even without jobs we still have some pretty serious stuff to deal with.

4:31. Arizona looks dangerous and uninviting. But pretty spectacular views.

We stop at a very wacky place at 4:40PM in order to glimpse ostriches. The place is Stewart’s Petrified Wood, and it’s almost indescribable. Something out of a Pee Wee Herman movie. The pictures speak for themselves.

4:54PM. Damn, it’s HOT in Arizona.

There are towns named “Two Guns” and “Twin Arrows.” Cowboys and Indians!

8:09PM. It occurs to us, as we glimpse snow all over the ground on the drive up to the Grand Canyon, why it was so easy to reserve a campsite just 24 hours in advance. Also, the drive at night is terrifying. 1-lane roads, no lights or anything human for miles in any direction. Darkness everywhere. One of us needed to be brave so we could both deal...and Rachel fit the role perfectly. The city boy in me was terrified.

“Slow down, please. These roads are all twisty, it’s pitch black out.”

“I’m going the speed limit, Brian.”

“Please go slower. I can’t see anything. Remember when our parents tell us to be safe on the trip? They’re talking about times like these.”


“Should we stay at a hotel instead of camping?”


This was an actual conversation.

After a hard, cold, sleepless night in the back of our big yellow truck, we’re up and at the edge of the Grand Canyon by 8:35AM. Literally breathtaking. And by far the coolest thing we’ve seen on the trip. Just amazing.

9:05AM. Wow, a coyote just jumped out in front of the car ahead of us.

Anyway, the drive between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon is actually very nice during the day and not at all terrifying.

We see our 1st sign for In N’ Out Burger at 12:47PM! We’re excited to be Californians.

Funny, we were listening to “Big Poppa” by Biggie when it happened. Sort of as a reminder from whence we came. Brooklyn, what.

1:24. Palm trees!!!


And we have our shot of the “Welcome to California” sign! Quite an achievement for us.

2:29. Uh, just had a State of California agricultural inspection. A little touch and go there for a bit...

3:03PM. “Don’t they look like they’re floating?” Rachel asks of the Cali mountains ahead of us.

We were talking about how beautiful this country is while looking at the Grand Canyon. The drive through some of these states has been wonderful in terms of scenic views and landscapes. Our new home is no exception.

Just passed into LA County at 5:12PM. Place reeks of Tupac.

We finally get to Charlie and Allison’s in Beverly Hills at 7:40PM! Just took us about an hour and a half to go 9 miles on a freeway here in Los Angeles, so at least we got to witness the legendary traffic.

The cats go nuts as soon as they’re out of the truck. And they're at it all night. Apparently, they don’t like being cooped up.

Monday, March 15, 2010

From Iowa to Colorado

Days 5 and 6 (And on we go...)

1:05PM. Rachel. Truckers hat. Barking out orders at me and swear words at other drivers. Definite turn on.

Think I just discovered something very uncomfortable about myself.

4:00PM. So yeah, we’re in Iowa.

5:55. Fun fact for everyone - De Soto, Iowa is the birthplace of John Wayne!

9:30PM. After some fine dining at Cracker Barrel, we decide to crash in Omaha, Nebraska for the night. Problem is the hotel is non-pet friendly. Good thing our ninja skills see us through this dilemma, as we sneak our kitties in...

...and out at 9:30AM the next morning. Rachel tells me she was paranoid about cops busting in our room all night. She was particularly worried about us getting raided and our kitties seized by authorities. Is it any wonder why I love her so?

9:45AM. Remember how we remarked that the good weather is following us cross-country? Apparently Iowa and Nebraska didn’t get the damn memo, because it’s in the 30s, grey skies and blah weather. We’re hoping Denver treats us better.

(Rachel here) Ever wonder where your beef comes from??? Yup, it is the state of Nebraska. All that we can see for miles are vast flat lands and cow pastures (if that is what you want to call them - more like muddy pits with cows sprinkled around them). Anyways, since all Brian has been eating lately is steak - he claims that it is vacation meat - I try to convince him that these are all slaughterhouses. Needless to say it doesn’t scare him. Not even the smell of death and poo that lingers in the air for miles changes his mind about eating this so called “vacation meat.”

....And back to Brian....

On the road again at 3:15PM after a stop at Wal-Mart. Went in for a bed set (“it’ll be cheaper here in Nebraska than in San Francisco,” Rachel tells me. Makes sense).

So here we are with some nice glass jars, a toaster, a blender, some towels and a huge mirror. No bed set.

3:57PM. About to start “Half Baked” on the laptop. Rachel’s idea. Yup, we’re perfect for each other.

The DVD started skipping around 4:04PM, so we put in another - the South Park movie. Which is magnificent timing, since the show takes place in the state we just entered - helloooo, Colorado!!!

4:15: Uh, Colorado so far is pretty eerie. Beautiful landscape, though there’s literally NOTHING around that we can see. Kinda uncomfortable for a city guy. So obviously I start to freak out a little bit...

Me: How much gas do we have?

Rachel: We’re good. Half a tank.

Me: We should pull over at the next gas station and refill.

Rachel: No, we’re ok.

Me: Seriously, I don’t want to get stranded out here. Please pull over at the next gas station.

Rachel: Brian, calm down.

We had this conversation approximately 7 times in the next hour.

7:11. First glimpse of Rockies in the distance. Whoa. The ride into Denver is pretty nice.

9:30PM. We’ve settled in at Shannon and Regan’s sweet apartment, and then we’re off to Lohi Steakbar right on the corner of their block on 32nd Ave in the Highlands. Margaritas, great food.

“It feels like it’s at least 11 o’clock,” Regan says. We all agree, and mind you, it’s a Saturday night. We’re not kids anymore.

Day 7!

Up and out to the Red Rocks theater at 11:15AM. It’s freezing, but we’re bundled up. Just started snowing. And there’s a group of scantily clad exercise crazies there working out - running up and down the amphitheater steps, doing pushups, generally having a “good” time. Regan challenges us all to a race. We decline.

11:17. The place is very beautiful, especially with the

snow - but it’s pretty cold out. Still, it takes Regan about 10 minutes to take 3 pictures of us. His camera-work, much like his speech pattern, is very deliberate.

“He likes to think through completely whatever he’s about to say,” explains Shannon with a smile. Haha!

To Morrison’s Inn at 11:45AM for awesome mexican food. Margarita, please!

4:16PM. Sure, it’s been snowing and raining all day, but we four are pretending it’s 55 degrees and sunny out, like those lying bastard weather people said it would be. Hence the bike rides we’ve just taken around Regan and Shannon's neighborhood.

The result is us now being soaked with smiles on our faces as we order hot toddies and hot cocoas (with Bailey’s!) at a local spot, Root Down (very cool, at 33rd Ave and Osage).

It should be noted that Regan never wavered in his bike-riding plans, despite the non-bike-riding weather. And we all had a great time. Kudos, friend.

We return home at 6:10PM, and everyone immediately dons sweatpants and other comfy clothes for a movie. At Regan’s insistence, we put on “Inglorious Basterds.” He’s asleep 4 minutes later.

Grill some pizzas and have 3 bottles of wine...Denver has been good to us.

Day 8 - the journey continues...

We’re up and on the road at 10:57AM.

Ever gracious and kind, Shannon thanks us for staying with them during our trip. We assure her we’ll be doing them the same favor sometime soon.

12:17PM. While driving through the town of Pueblo, Rachel screams “OOOHH, CAN WE GO TO CHILI’S FOR LUNCH???” Why sure we can.

4:03. The drive into La Veta is breathtaking. Snow-capped mountains everywhere. As we drive into town (population: 900), we see a man doing yard work. He’s dressed in a red shirt, with a full white bushy beard and hair. He also has a Frosty the Snowman “Merry Christmas” sign in his front March. Rachel blurts out “so this is where Santa Claus lives during the offseason.”

8:17PM. After a terrific dinner with our hosts - Rachel’s aunt Marty and uncle David - we retire to our very nice garage apartment to have a beer and look at mountain-view stars while sitting next to our outdoor fire.

Oh, and we forgot to mention that they own 3 dogs, 4 cats...and 13 alpacas and llamas.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Days 3 and 4 - Chicago

Day 3

12:11PM. After waking up late and having some breakfast in the Alexanders’ kitchen - a family that Rachel grew up with - we’re on the Argyle train platform waiting to go to the Chicago Art Institute.

12:16PM. You can use your cell phones on the subway here! Upside is that you can always fill the boredom of a long ride. Downside is listening to people talk on the phone...loudly.

12:58PM. The Art Institute is amazing. Masterpieces everywhere you look. Makes for a fun time.

Van Gogh!



Rachel teaches me about the concept of ‘time’ in Cezanne’s “Basket of Apples.” We’re having a lovely time. It’s 1:11PM.

2:15PM. Meet Emily Alexander for lunch at Thai Spoon on Harrison and South Wabash. Order pints of Singha beer, very refreshing.

3:51PM. We remark that the good weather is following us. NYC was hit by blizzards shortly before we left. Cleveland was gorgeous, despite the lake still being frozen. And according to all accounts Chicago is experiencing its 1st warm sunny day of the year.

On our walk from Grant Park to Milennium Park, it strikes us that we’re seeing our 2nd Great Lake in as many days (Erie, Michigan). Sweet.

4:17PM. Joined by Eve Alexander in the park at a very large reflective sculpture called “Cloud Gate.” Hilarity ensues. Seeing yourself dance around in the Giant Bean (it’s preferred name) causes excitement. Pictures are taken. Dancing is done.

The park itself is very very pretty and has a lot of cool stuff peppered throughout. Mayor Daley wanted to promote beautification of the city with modern art. Well done, sir!

We’ve come to the conclusion that Chi-town is much like a jigsaw puzzle, with seemingly random pieces fitting together quite nicely. Just makes you think “classic.”.

While waiting in a parking garage for Emily’s car at 5:06, Rachel rejects my advances to make out. I respond by giving her the silent treatment.

5:25PM. In the car on the way home, I give Rachel a wet willy, then ask her with a smile “ you ok?”

“Oh, so you’re talking to me now? Rachel asks.

“No.” Though we both know silent time is over.

7:30PM. On our way to dinner, we stop by Rachel’s childhood home. As soon as we turn down the street, she and the Alexander sisters - Eve and Emily - are talking excitedly about old times at the place. Big house, porch. “We used to ride mattresses down the front stairs,” Rachel blurts out as we all laugh. You can imagine that they had lots of fun here as kids.

“Sad,” Rachel finally says before we pull away.

Polish Buffet Dinner!!! We arrive at “the Red Apple” on Milwaukee Ave around 7:54PM, a place we highly recommend. The great thing about buffets, of course, is that you don’t have to wait for service and you can indulge in just about any food you want. The bad being that dinner is over in about 9 minutes and you’re sitting in full recline with pants undone.

After a quick nap, we head out to the Green Mill for drinks and jazz at 10PM. All of its original decor still intact, it’s the oldest jazz bar in the country and was a speakeasy hangout for Al Capone himself. We have a reserved table, courtesy of Eve’s bartender

boyfriend, Mark - it’s nice to have friends in high places.

The band was awesome, particularly the lead guitarist, whose hands did amazingly fast things, and the bassist, who could be heard singing the notes as he played them. “Baaah, booom, boom-boom, ba-BOOM!” Terrific.

Day 4

Good news! We get a call from Rachel’s cousin, Nick, and he’s taken the rest of the day off so we can drive out and meet his family. They live in Woodstock - an hour or so outside of Chicago. Where “Groundhog Day” was filmed! Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania is apparently Woodstock Illinois. A geographical phenomenon.

One of the coolest and nicest families of all time we think. We go to dinner at a charming french restaurant, Le Petite Creperie. The 8-year-old twins, Jess and Justin, create friends out of their dad’s discarded shells - aptly

named Russell the Mussel and Sammy the Clammy. The older girls - Sarah and Noelle - try in vain to avoid our new seashell companions. Fun family times!

We’re dropped off at 8:30PM, joined by the Alexanders, their mom Monica and her husband, Sacco. One bottle of wine turns into two...

Chicago was a terrific time, particularly since Rachel’s been dying to see her hometown again. A great place for family and friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 2 - From Cleveland to Chicago

EL DIA DOS (Day Two)

9:30AM. Wake up in the hotel room and continue the excitement for a new day. No frantic pace to anything we do, but trying to enjoy everything about everything. At 11:30 we park across the street from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and look for something to eat.

Cleveland is a very quiet and very clean city, or at least from what we’ve seen.

“Like a movie set,” remarks Rachel.

12:45PM. Walk up to the entrance of the Rock Museum. Pretty awesome. They’re blaring “Money” by Pink Floyd on the outside loudspeakers!

The place itself is pretty cool, though they didn’t allow photography. Great seeing things like the guitars of Jerry Garcia (who had about 7 there, all with Grateful Dead insignias on them), Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, etc. And the outfits! Pretty interesting when viewing everything from that close. Looks very human now, though they always used to appear as the garb and tools of Gods.

2PM. Leave museum and walk to take a look at Lake Erie. Boats frozen in water, birds walking and cavorting on top of the ice.

Rachel does some yoga poses to help stretch out her lower back in preparation for the coming drive to Chicago. On the pier. Yet it all seems very proper and natural to do so.

3:42PM. Let’s not forget what an adventure this is for the kitties as well! They probably thought that hotel room was their new home. Haha! They literally have no idea. Stupid cats.

4:51PM. The kitties are meowing like crazy. Time for some tryptophan?

4:54PM. OK, soaked some treats with the drug and fed to the kitty cats.

5:14PM. They’re out completely (and what turns out to be for the rest of the drive). Yup, crackheads.

5:25PM. 196 miles from Chicago!

Completely forgot to mention the fact that we have our 1st San Francisco apartment!!! Excellent. Everything we were

looking for and more. Visitors are welcome...and expected! Our new address is 3 blocks from Alamo Square Park.

Just discussed how at the end of this 2-week Vacation Across America we won’t be going “back” home. Instead we’ll be moving into a great new place close to our dear friends, Jesse and Lindsey.

Sure, we all knew these things were happening at the onset. But there is a bit of an emotional delay in dealing with

everything, since it’s a whirlwind of events for us. No jobs. Everything we own in the back of a large yellow truck. Our kitties are drug addicts.

Pardon us for taking the time to process it all.

5:39PM. Just crossed the Ohio-Indiana border. Tried to take a picture of “Welcome to Indiana” sign, but it just ended up Rachel yelling “INDIANA! INDIANA! TAKE IT! TAKE IT!” while I panic, fumble for the camera and snap a shot of some blurry

trees and road. What a team!

6:05PM. We get bored. Rachel tries sticking gummy candy to her lips while I watch and take pictures.

8:30PM. We’ve entered Chi-Town! Rolling onto the Chicago Skyway as Rachel squeals in delight.

10:30PM. (Rachel here) We were so great with remembering to find all the truck routes in NYC, however, I can’t say the same for Chicago. After figuring out that trucks are not allowed on Lake Shore Drive we ventured through the southeast

side of Chicago while trying to figure out how to get to the northwest side. Needless to say, due to my awesome driving skills and sense of direction, I got us here to the ALEXANDERS’!!!

11:00PM. Brian went to sleep (he is old), I went out for a drink at Hopleaf. If you’re ever in Chicago and enjoy drinking good beer, I really suggest this place on Foster and Winona. Over 40 beers on tap and over 250 in bottles - YUM! How much I’ve missed my hometown.