Reporting from Berkeley, California

Hello from sunny and cool, California, east of the bay. I can’t say we planned to be in California for this long but due to a series of unfortunate events, we are in the fortunate home of UC-Berkeley. Little did I know that this town is not just a college town, but an art, culture, and food Mecca.

Here is a list of our destinations so far.

  • Biloxi, MS – Gambled for the first time
  • New Orleans – Stayed with Stephen and Naan. Explored the French Quarter, Tulane, and discovered other areas, enjoyed po’boys and French beignets. I especially loved the architecture and the local quirky people full of friendliness and enthusiasm for their town.
  • San Antonio (gave a ride for Cesar from Lafayette, LA to Houston) – Stayed with Dan. Enjoyed Tex Mex, visited Missions, a Japanese tea garden, a random Korean pavilion, and had some delicious margaritas with some pretty incredible people
  • Austin – Stayed with Michelle and laughed all night on her balcony. Had breakfast with Jeff and Renee, went kayaking, and picked up Jenn for our next adventure!
  • Marfa, TX – A random small artsy town in the middle of nowhere Texas. The ride there was the beginning of the scenic roads we were about to encounter with tan desserts, cacti, and burning sunshine. We encountered a random outdoor western film showing in Marfa with what seemed like the whole town enjoying it at 10pm. We then looked at the infamous Marfa lights – these random blinking lights into the distance late at night were never explained by scientists since the 1800s. We also stared at the bright stars. We were far away from big cities so the view was spectacular. I never felt so small.
  • Las Cruces, NM – Stayed with Daryl’s cousin in a mansion in the dry desert of New Mexico. I slept in one of several fully furnished guest rooms and she treated us to a fancy breakfast at a country club with a view of Las Cruces.
  • Truth or Consequences, NM – We went just to go. What a funky town.
  • Albuquerque – Stayed with Monet and her fun roommates. We ate cheese and crackers while sipping on beers and a mystery drink. We met some interesting people, had a dance party, watched the sun set on the roof, and enjoyed a refreshing mist machine. We explored UNM the next afternoon after eating a hearty southwestern breakfast burrito and a  buttery scone. We dropped Jenn of at the train station and sadly said our goodbyes
  • Flagstaff, AZ – We picked up our next travel buddies, Jason and Carly, two young backpackers from Australia. We stuffed my car to the brim and headed to a campsite half way to the Grand Canyon. It was Flinestones themed which made it even more appealing. The next morning we had the best breakfast sandwich on Earth with a few cups of coffee at 5 cents a cup.
  • Grand Canyon – North Rim. The ride was quite the scenic one. We found a free camping site a few miles from the entrance and stayed cold all night. We hiked down to the bottom of the Canyon and then excruciatingly climbed back up for a total of 10 hours. We ran out of food but two angels of a couple gave us granola bars and chocolate. They met us at the end and treated us for ice cream. Angels, I tell you.
  • Zion National Park, UT – We found another free camping ground. We hiked the to the upper Emerald pools and climbed huge rocks while looking down at the colorful water. We did the famous Narrows Trail where we walked through a cold but refreshing river with strong currents. There were times when our feet could not hit the bottom of the river and we let the current take us. It was scary at times but it was the most exhilarating experience thus far. Zion takes the cake.
  • Bryce Canyon, UT – It happened to be Astronomy week. We learned about cosmology and then went into a big dark parking lot filled with curious people and scientists with gigantic telescopes. We got glimpses of other galaxies and got a clear look at Saturn through a telescope! I have never seen so many stars in my life.
  • Las Vegas – We stayed 3 nights in a cheap motel off the strip. Vegas was a strange experience full of people watching. It was a bit depressing to me but there was a lot of interesting things to look at and freebies to be had. My favorite part was the Pinball Hall of Fame – a random abandoned-looking building far from the touristy area was packed with dozens of old and modern pinball machines – one dated back to the 1920s!
  • Visalia, CA – Really nothing to say about it! Really.
  • Sequoia National Park – Saw the biggest tree by volume in America, the General Sherman, almost ran out of gas but AAA saved us, climbed the big Beetle rock to see a good view of the mountains, and camped in Potwisha. The park ranger gave us a lesson on the history of the Potwisha and Sequoia in general.
  • Yosemite National Park – Much too crowded and touristy but I can understand why. It is breath taking! The waterfalls are endless and the mist cools you down. We stopped at a picnic table within the park and made our dinner of rice and potatoes there with a waterfall in view.
  • Monterey, CA – We reached the Pacific Ocean. We discovered this small town and walked around the downtown and the pier. It was cute but COLD! I also will never eat clam chowder again – people stand outside of the restaurants and offer too many samples of their chowder, trying to lure in new customers.
  • Santa Cruz – NO!!!!!!! We were sitting in California traffic when we suddenly got rear ended. The woman came running out with an unlit cigarette in her mouth and her insurance information. She was in a rush and it appeared that she was looking for a lighter when she hit us. We are alive but Jason and Daryl suffered from whiplash and back pain. The trunk of the car full of our belongings did not shut. We tied it down and drove to San Francisco.
  • San Francisco – The characteristic fog was present throughout our stay in the city. I wore layers and was uncomfortably cold in the middle of July! First we went to a place called the Brain Wash to do laundry and figure things out about the car. It was not an ordinary laundromat but a cafe and venue. We enjoyed a cheap beer during Happy Hour and free wifi while our clothes were getting purified. We walked around the Mission and looked at the art and ate some mediocre Thai food. We stayed with Kevin that night in southern SF. We stayed there for a few days exploring different neighborhoods, tasting scrumptious food, jogging along the beach, and taking a stroll through the Golden Gate Park. I did not enjoy the city to the fullest potential because I was dealing with communicating with insurance companies and the mechanic regarding my car but I still loved the progressive and diverse city nonetheless. I tried food from El Salvador – you all must try the cheesy pupusas!
  • Redwood National Park – We camped two nights and took a “scenic” drive through the forest. We were pretty pooped out and instead of doing the planned hiking, we drank boxed wine and played card games all night.
  • Roseburg, OR – Nothing there.
  • Portland, OR – LOVED IT! We stayed with Frances, Becca, and Emily in the northwest area of University of Portland. We walked around all day exploring different neighborhoods and eating quick and cheap food from the ubiquitous food carts. I became such a foodie on this trip. Not only was the food delicious, but the coffee was dark and strong just the way I like it and we tried some brews from a microbrewery. We got out of the downtown area into the International Rose Garden before getting rained on. We also ate some crazy looking doughnuts at Voodoo. I love how trees are omnipresent and keeping things local is the norm.
  • Berkeley, CA. Here we are. This is our fourth day or so here but it has gone by quickly. The insurance company still does not have a decision on my car and the mechanic cannot begin working on it yet. Yes, it is frustrating but I am glad that I am in Berkeley rather than in the middle of nowhere! We are staying with Tom who is down to earth and an overall great person. I am thankful that he is letting us stay while we figure out our next steps. We explored the beautiful campus of UC-Berkeley and I talked to some people regarding the school psychology program, a prospective graduate school for me! We explored the city by foot and kept discovering more and more great things about this town. The food is just amazing here. Cafe Intermezzo stands out – we split a “veggie delight” salad full of fresh greens, sprouts, croutons, garbanzo and kidney beans, an egg, avocado, herbal vinaigrette, and a thick slice of  freshly made honey wheat bread. Not only was the salad scrumptious, it was GIGANTIC. It might be impossible to eat one by yourself so it is fortunate for my budget-minded self. All of the food here is local and fresh. Besides eating the delicious food and being around tons of Korean people (a strange experience for me in America), we went to San Mateo and Half Moon Bay for beautiful views of the Pacific. I especially enjoyed Pebble Beach. It is exactly how it sounds – there is sand instead of pebbles. It was great because instead of leaving uncomfortable sand all over your body, you get nothing! We hopped around on the big rocks and saw birds, crabs, snails, urchins, and even seals.
We dropped off our Aussie friends in San Francisco on Saturday. It has been odd to be without them by our sides or in the back seat with their big backpacks in between them and their bag full of free condiments. We’ll miss their presence but I plan on visiting Melbourne now that they talked it up so much!
That’s it for now. I left out quite a bit but this is enough updating for me right now. Stay tuned.
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