Vallejo, California

November 12, 2002

Our seventh week on the road! What are we thinking? This was only supposed to be a six-week road trip! We’d better start wrapping things up before the money runs out.

This week we woke in Portland to the smell of pancakes wafting from the kitchen. Aaron was hard at work preparing a wonderful breakfast. After getting completely stuffed, we then began the obligatory game marathon. First it was Jenga on the kitchen table and soon we migrated to Trivial Pursuit in the living room. We all agreed that this game is seriously dated in its questions, so we couldn’t beat ourselves up too bad for not knowing who was the host of some obscure 1933 TV game show that we’d never heard of. We went to Aaron’s parent’s house to pick up their copy of Mind Trap to see if it’s as good as we all remember. In the evening we sat before a toasty fire and vegged out in front of the TV.

On Monday, after sleeping in wonderfully, we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and headed downtown. Tiffany had found the location of the local Tiffany & Co. store just in case we felt the urge to buy an engagement ring. We walked in, and ten minutes later we were taking pictures out front with ring in hand! It’s a simple platinum band with diamond chip inset and looks beautiful on Tiffany’s hand. After lunch it was off to the world famous Powell’s City of Books for hours of browsing.

In the evening we scooted over to the East Side for some Argentine tango lessons at the Viscount Ballroom. Tiffany’s Uncle Billy is a tango instructor and invited us over for some sultry sounds and smooth sailing around the room. We came with preconceptions firmly in hand and over the course of the evening gently set them aside. There were no roses in the teeth, no jerky head movements. Argentine tango is a gently flowing stream of a dance that has more in common with quiet jazz in front of a cozy fire. After a short introductory class we were moving around the floor with the pros. The ballroom began to fill up and it wasn’t long before the floor was full of couples swaying and gliding to the sounds of foreign voices. We were warned by many of the regulars that this form of dance is highly addictive, and after this wonderful introduction we just might have caught the bug. Now if only we had some sort of occasion coming up that would motivate us to learn a few moves. Hmmm. =)

The next morning we thought it best to avoid a hormonally-irritable-pregnant-Lisa and packed up our stuff into the car. We left Aaron and Lisa’s place to explore more of the city on our own and to run some errands. As is to be expected we ended up hanging out in yet another bookstore (we just can’t get enough). After this we met up with Tiffany’s Uncle Billy again who showed us around the Nike campus, where he works. He’s worked for the company for a few years now, and we were most impressed with the vast and peaceful Mecca to the shoe. Each building is named after a famous athlete — the Tiger Woods Theater, Michael Jordan Center. These buildings are practically monuments to these people. Alex’s favorite was the Lance Armstrong building which houses one of the two gyms on campus, complete with rock climbing wall and Olympic-size swimming pool. It is pretty funny to watch guys peddle away on stationary bikes going nowhere under a floor-to-ceiling photograph of Lance looming over them.

Billy was nice enough to let us spend the night at his place, and he shared his expertise of fine Belgian beers with us. The evening was spent sipping Chimay out of beer goblets; mugs are oh so gauche.

Wednesday morning we got up way too early and met Aaron and Lisa once again for some breakfast at Fat City. We did get to see the sunrise, which was beautiful. The eastern sky lit up bright orange, while in the west a double rainbow arched overhead. After we were completely stuffed with Fat City Sizzle, we said our good-byes and found I-5 South.

This was our longest day of driving yet on this trip. We covered almost 1000 miles, swooping out of the Trinity Alps into California and passing a snow-less Mt. Shasta. At a rest stop we let the dry California air blow through the car, sagebrush and pine, the smell of home. After a full day on the road we pulled into Bolinas on the coast north of San Francisco. We stumbled into Walter and Aggie Murch’s farmhouse to meet Tiffany’s aunt Bunny who works there. We were met with a very welcoming English greeting of hot tea - brewed in a pot, not the mug =) Aggie even made us hot water bottles to warm our bed at night.

On Thursday morning, Bunny had made a dentist appointment for Tiffany, so off we went. After Tiffany cracked a tooth all the way back in Boston, we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of the local Bolinas dentist. Bunny and Alex sat in the waiting room eaves dropping on the prognosis being handed out to poor Tiff in the chair. 45 minutes later and a couple hundred bucks poorer, we left having seen one of Tiff’s wisdom teeth off to the great mouth in the sky. Bunny drove us through town (which took all of 32 seconds) and there at the end of the road was the turbulent ocean. The wild and gray Pacific was beating itself against a breakwater, surging into the lagoon that surrounds the town. Now we could say we’ve finally made it across the country. We were officially on the West Coast.

With one more hole in Tiff’s head we returned to the farmhouse to spend the rest of the day before the fire as rain fell outside.

On Friday morning we had meant to be on our way, but Tiff was still feeling yucky from the tooth situation from the day before. So she crashed on the couch and Alex read his book for most of the day. More rain fell outside.

In the afternoon we did finally pull ourselves together and left the coast. We drove over to Sacramento to spend the night with another friend, Ty and his son Chase. In the morning Ty’s wife Janine arrived from doing business in San Francisco, and they cooked a big breakfast for us all. With all these big breakfasts it’s no wonder the car is feeling a little cramped. Janine is five months pregnant so we heard her perspective on the whole life-changing event that she’s looking forward to. There must be something in the water, first Lisa in Portland is pregnant, now Janine has a bun in the oven.

We said our good-byes and drove by Tiffany’s old house and school before leaving Sacramento. On our way out of town we stopped off at a few stores that just happened to be selling fall decorations, now on sale. Hmmmm, these would be perfect for an October wedding. Now our car is even more laden down, and the spending for the Big Day has begun!

We drove back over to the Bay Area to Bunny’s house in Vallejo. We walked in to a place full of boxes. Bunny is in the process of sorting through tons of old books and stuff that’s on its way to the recycling center. We looked around and decided that her furniture was entirely in the wrong places. We took the opportunity to completely rearrange her front room. The piano needed to go in that corner, the couch against this wall, and those two chairs belong over there. We rescued the stereo from a neglected corner and got all her records out of the boxes they’ve been in for the past five years. When the dust finally settled we let her see what we’d done to her place. She wasn’t exactly overjoyed with the improvements we’d made, perhaps a little in shock. We’ll give her time for the genius of our ways to sink in. Personally, we both think it’s a vast improvement over her previously chi-starved living space. Now things flow and there’s room to breath. Of course, we did leave a pile of left over stuff that no longer fits, so the real work begins with what to throw away. She did love the placement of the piano, though.

On Sunday morning, the beginning of week eight, we drove south to Campbell to see Alex’s brother Rich and his wife Kim. Alex’s nieces were standing on the front stoop all smiles as we pulled up. We spent the afternoon performing our uncle and aunt duties by being human jungle gyms and building complicated contraptions out of Tinker Toys. It can be exhausting being around so much youth. These last couple of weeks of our trip have turned into a plunge into the world of pregnancy and early child rearing. We’re hearing earfuls of opinions and witnessing examples from across the spectrum. We both agree that our encounters with the mothers-to-be and families with younguns is wonderful material for a documentary film.

Continuing this pregnancy/infant/toddler theme, on Monday we visited Tiffany’s friend Natalie, whose baby is four weeks old. Along with her husband Rick, we all sat around into the evening talking about, what else, the trials and tribulations of childbirth.

Tuesday seemed to have broken the trend as there was not one baby or pregnant woman in sight. We visited another life-long friend of Tiffany’s, Cindy in Petaluma. Along with her boyfriend Bobby and we had a wonderful lunch while the girls reminisced about old times. After lunch we were once again on our own, the long train of visits seems to have ended.

We went south toward San Francisco, and caught the amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge as we came out of the tunnels above Sausalito. Crossing this bridge is as magnificent a view as any we’ve had on our travels, with the city spread out to our left and the expanse of the Pacific to our right. We made our way to Pier 39 for a taste of the old haunts, but found it a bit deserted and touristy on this drizzly Tuesday evening. We then headed over to Ghirardelli Square where the chocolate is always a treat. We settled into what may be the last bookstore of our trip, this one featuring architecture. Tiffany, tooth still hurting, grabbed some home decorating books & sat down, while Alex gravitated towards the section on sustainable living and energy efficient homes. Look out Melissa, we’ve got some radical ideas up our sleeves for your home when we arrive tomorrow night! After a relaxing dinner of clam chowder in bread bowls it was back to Bunny’s for an early evening.

So here we are on the eve of the last day of this Grand Adventure. It’s Wednesday the 12th of November. We left our tiny apartment almost eight weeks ago, a continent away. What a long strange trip it’s been. After 17 states, 2 provinces, 4 time zones and all imaginable weather, we’re finally in the home stretch. Now all we have to do is point the car south and ride the cruise control through the Central Valley. After that one last climb over the Grapevine we’ll see the lights and smog of Los Angeles spread out before us. We left LA a year and a half ago, and have now come full circle. We’ve grown up a lot in the last 18 months, and are pulling trunk-loads of memories along with us, and more life-changing experiences than we can shake a stick at. We are returning hopefully a little wiser, definitely more seasoned and it is with wider eyes that we see this place that we know so well for the first time.

To the friends that we’ve been away from, we look forward to being back in your presence, and to the ones we’ve seen on our travels, thanks again for the roof over our heads and know that you now have a welcome home in Southern California.


Alex and Tiffany



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