Saturday, July 12, 2008


Oakland is a really special place for us. It's where we got our first place together, and it was home to Rob for the whole 5 years that he lived in the Bay Area.

Here's another photo swiped without permission from some random website. Despite the misconceptions, Oakland has many awesome neighborhoods in addition to its notorious ghettos. It's much like living in Berkeley, with plenty of good restaurants, shopping and parks, but for less money and with more parking.

It was super-nice to take a stroll through our old neighborhood...

...where we checked out a playground we'd never visited before...

...and took Kina to her favorite off-leash dog park!

Four years ago when we lived in this neighborhood, Kina came here every day to run around and chase squirrels. It must have been a little confusing for her to come back here again after so long, and for just 1 day.

We all had a nice relaxing time strolling through the shady grove of huge pines and redwood trees.

After a nice afternoon of visiting some of our old favorite haunts and doing some strolling and shopping around Oakland, we met up for dinner at the yummy Cambodian restaurant Phnom Penh with one of Rob's very long-time friends, Sue, and her boyfriend Lu.

Big thanks to them for putting us up for the night in their guest bedroom up in the Oakland hills!

Their neighborhood is absolutely gorgeous! When the fog clears, you can see out over the city and the entire Bay Area (much like in the photo at the top of this page).

Just a 5-minute walk to the crest of the hill and we were hiking in a huge wooded park that lets you totally forget that you're on the edge of a giant metropolitan area. We would be in so much better shape if we lived here again!

Sue and Lu's roommate Drew outfits Segue scooters for off-road use, and it was fun getting a lesson from him on how to ride it.

It's all in your body posture - if you want to go forward, just lean forward, and if you want to slow down or stop, lean back.

Yeeeehaw!! Thanks for the good times guys!

After a yummy breakfast at the epic Full House Cafe in Oakland's Laurel District, it was time to head across the bridge for a Saturday in San Francisco!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008


San Jose

San Jose is the heart of Silicon Valley, and for Rob it invariably brings back memories of the technology job he left behind almost 4 years ago. Usually we would've skipped right past the South Bay, but...

...we wanted to visit with our friends Mikey and Laurel and meet their little boy Quinn, who was born exactly one day before Rowan! Carley and Laurel talked a lot during their pregnancies, and Rowan has Laurel to thank for his mutilation-free birth day since she was the first one to turn Carley on to the growing movement against circumcision.

With temperatures in the high 90s, a dip in the shaded kiddie pool was a treat.

After a few hours, Laurel and Mikey had to head off to the airport for a wedding in Washington, and we headed on up Highway 17, winding up out of San Jose and over the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and down to the huge redwood groves.

Bonny Doon

In Bonny Doon, there is no town. It's an unincorporated community up in the redwoods a few miles northwest of Santa Cruz, and being there is like entering another world.

Here we set up camp for the our friend Jimmy's backyard!

Jimmy's got an awesome place for camping out, with a little meadow and some redwood trees...

...and a hot tub! We didn't actually use the hot tub on this visit.

Also a garden, where Jimmy picked the lettuce to be used for our salad that night!

Our friends Marco and Beatriz came over for a BBQ and got to meet Rowan. It was great to just hang out, cook some food, and catch up with what everybody's up to these days. Big thanks to Jimmy for hosting and grilling!

The next morning we drove out of the redwoods, down the hill into Santa Cruz - about 10 miles, about 2000 feet down in elevation, and a temperature drop of 24 degrees! (from 88 in Bonny Doon to 64 in Santa Cruz) That's what the chilly Pacific will do.

In Santa Cruz we stopped for some breakfast at the renowned Walnut Avenue Cafe.

From there it was on up the scenic Highway 1 another hour.


Just southwest of San Francisco is the oceanside community of Pacifica, a small laid-back city of about 40,000 with miles of beach and several trails up into the mountains just outside of town.

Since we didn't do the helicopter tour, we snatched the aerial view photo without permission from this webpage about erosion.

Big thanks to Lexy (and her sweet pup Tank) for giving up her bed for the night so that we could all stay at her place! Long-time readers will recall that Lexy was one of only 2 of our friends adventurous enough to come visit us in Guatemala - and what a time that was!

After a romp in a great little dog-friendly playground/park near Lexy's house, we headed out to a cute beachside Mexican restaurant that oddly had no beachview, but after one of their maragaritas, it didn't really matter. Rowan wooed a group of ladies out for a bachelorette party, and the bachelorette didn't seem to mind Rowan's fascination with her, ahem, "spongy" boobs.

One of the perks of staying with friends during the trip was grown-up time after Rowan went to sleep. This night we had a great time catching up with Lexy and hanging out with her very cool housemate Dylan.

After another enjoyable visit, it was finally time to get a glimpse of San Francisco...but, only to pass through on our way to Oakland.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Santa Barbara

Located on the "American Riviera", Santa Barbara is a tourist-friendly mid-size city with plenty of beaches, restaurants and Central Coast culture. In the past we probably would have passed right by, but now Carley's Aunt Annette and Uncle George live there.

This photo was taken without permission from Santa Barbara's Wikipedia page, since it was too foggy when we were there to get any photos like this.

Annette met us at the Beach Grill at Padaro, an inviting restaurant with good seafood lunches, plenty of outdoor seating, and a sandbox play area that Rowan enjoyed digging into.

After lunch, we got a tour of Annette and George's beautiful new house, complete with a vegetable garden. Those tomatoes and squash look much better then the ones in our garden in Mississippi!

"This is much better than my toy piano!"

Unfortunately we didn't get to see George, since he was playing in a golf tournament. After a few hours in Santa Barbara, it was time to roll on up the coast to...

Pismo Beach

So the sun was nowhere to be seen while we were in Pismo, thanks to the marine layer fog that is common along the Pacific coast. If it hadn't been for the fog, it certainly would have looked more like this photo we took from some random website about Pismo Beach:

Big thanks to our friend Mike Gruver for offering up his pad. It was great to go out for some good sushi, hear each other's Jazzfest stories (Mike's got some great ones), and enjoy some premium Grateful Dead concert footage (View from the Vault III: Shoreline 6/16/90 - with possibly the most epic Terrapin ever) on the sweet home theatre system.

Once again we forgot to take any photos, so this one is a blast from the past: Mike at our San Francisco wedding party, two-and-a-half years ago, with Craig (left) and Bridget. (And there are lots more of those photos at that link.)

It being a weekday, Mike had to go be at work early for the city of Pismo Beach, so we made our way on up the coast and into the south end of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Next stops: San Jose and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The photo above was taken without permission from the Los Angeles page on Wikipedia, since it was too smoggy when we passed through to get such a clear photo.

We never stopped in Los Angeles proper. Instead we headed directly to Santa Monica, the cool and trendy beach town just west L.A.

We stayed in Santa Monica with Rob's long-time buddy Mike Hillson, who we stay with just about every time we're in the L.A. area. Mike's an upstate New York native currently writing for a retail website and living the good SoCal lifestyle, and it was good to catch up with him and his latest adventures.

Santa Monica is also home to Carley's grad-school friend Heather and her husband Lane who's from Australia. Heather is Client Services Director for CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), and Lane runs the music department at a local college.

Their 2-year-old daughter Evangeline is just adorable!

After lunch we enjoyed a stroll through downtown Santa Monica... the beach playground at the Santa Monica Pier.

In Santa Monica we were also able to meet up with Carley's Peace Corps buddy Jason, who is currently attending UC Santa Barbara in pursuit of yet another degree. (And yes, that is a McDonald's directly behind us, but no, we did not eat their food. The Falafel King next door turned out to be solid choice.)

After lunch with Jason, we rolled on up the Pacific Coast Highway about 20 miles, past Malibu, to Leo Carrillo State Beach.

Yet another opportunity for Rowan to go for a dip! This was a lot different than swimming in the pool, though. Rowan hadn't been in anything like an ocean in more than a year, since we vacationed last summer with Carley's parents in Destin, Florida. (Click the link for a reminder of what Rowan looked like a year ago with almost no hair or teeth!)

Here we met up with our friends Ellis (above) and Kristen (below)...

...and we finally got to meet their daughter Maya (3) and their son Noah (5).

Rowan immediately took a liking to Maya, and became interested in whatever she was doing.

Big thanks to Kristen and Ellis for putting us all up in their house (much to the dismay of their cat), and to Noah for giving up his bedroom for a night so we'd have a place to sleep!

At this point of the trip, our drives from one stop to the next were much shorter, and we only had a 45-minute drive from Kristen and Ellis's house in Moorpark (near Simi Valley, northwest of L.A.) to our next stop in Santa Barbara.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


It takes about 10 hours to drive from Tucson to L.A., and we're pretty sure that's more than Rowan can handle in the carseat for one day. With that in mind, we stopped off for another night of camping, this time amid the haunting desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.

When we first entered the park from the southeast, the landscape was mostly rocks and small grassy shrubs. Eventually we encountered a grove of chollas (above), which are a type of cactus that drops spiny balls onto the ground that can easily become attached to pants, shoes and dogs. Watch your step around here!

Finally we reached the western part of the park, where joshua trees (like in the photo above) and awesome boulder formations abound. The area has some very scenic campsites, and we had a lot more privacy than at the last campsite in Texas.

After 7 hours in the car, Rowan had too much energy to stay in the stroller and decided to take over!

Our stay in Joshua Tree was not free of hassles. Of all the bugs to look out for on a camping trip, we never would have guessed that the most problematic bugs would be bees! We learned the hard way, though, since we didn't read the warning sign at the entrance to the campground advising us not to set out Kina's water dish. Within 20 minutes, the water dish was swarmed with what looked like about 50 bees. Forced to eat our dinner in the car due to this un-nerving situation, we made things even worse by running the air conditioner, which created a puddle on the ground under the car. When we emerged from eating dinner, at least a couple hundred bees were swarming around our car and piling on top of each other to get in the puddle and into Kina's water dish.

Fortunately, sunset brought a silent respite from the endless buzzing swarm. (By this time, Kina's water dish was bone-dry, thanks to the bees.)

Night-time in the desert was a beautiful thing, with the eery moonlit landscape and the cool refreshing breeze. However, at the break of dawn, the buzzing swarm returned in search of more water, and Rob and Rowan both got stung while we broke down camp and loaded everything up. We were happy to be on the road before 6:30 in the morning!

Soon we were careening down steep mountains out of the Mojave Desert and through forests of windmills near Palm Springs, about to emerge into the giant metropolis of Los Angeles.

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