Week 1: Fun with Friends!

The first week was mainly about hanging out with friends, which is a nice way to ease into this travel experience.

We started with one night in Yountville to decompress from the mayhem of moving. Wine tasting at Maisonry and dinner at Bouchon was a great reward for all the work leading up to our departure.

The next night was the aforementioned kitsch-fest that is the Madonna Inn, and then it was off to LA!

My former Apple colleague, Gavin, is a huge theme park enthusiast and coaster fanatic, so we had to make a stop at Magic Mountain. (Pro Tip: buy tickets online at least 5 days in advance to save $25) Between the mid-week timing and the mediocre weather, we really didn’t have to wait for any rides at all!

We managed to ride the front car of 3 different coasters in our first hour of being there! This initally seemed amazing but after the third one, we all admitted we didn’t feel so well and needed to slow down. 🙂

The most interesting ride was The New Revolution – a “VR coaster”. Essentially, they strap a Samsung phone to your face and then put you on a real coaster.

The VR scene is a scifi battle – it appears like you’re flying a jet and battling aliens. While we all agreed there was a lot of opportunity for improvement, it was also incredibly exciting. You had no idea which direction you’d be headed since the VR environment doesn’t show any indication of a coaster track. Freaky! We couldn’t stop talking about it.

After riding all the coasters we could stomach, it was lovely to have a chill night with Mary at her house, playing silly games:

Barney – Mary’s non-exploding kitten.  He’s just big-boned.

Then the final part of the week was spent in Las Vegas. Tim had been there for work, so he stayed to play with us. SOTB was supposed to come meet us, but after 5 hours of flight delays, his flight was ultimately cancelled and I can only assume he stromed out of the airport with a series of obscenities so vehement that he’s prevented from returning to SFO anytime soon.

Thanks to Tim’s excellent coaching, I managed to walk away from the blackjack tables $300 up! The German got his fill of poker, and we had an amazing dinner experience at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. in the Cosmopolitan – not only was the food amazing, but they had singers and dancers performing throughout the space. I highly recommend it!


The bartender at Red Square seemed to take a liking to us…

Next up: Nature!

Too much kitsch?

Part of the goal of this road trip was to show The German more of America. He had fantasies of charming roadside diners and other such things that he’d only ever seen on tv when he was growing up in Germany.

So I thought it would be a great idea to stop at The Madonna Inn for a night on our way to LA. If you haven’t heard of it, it was constructed in the 1950s, in the side of a mountain:

Each room has a unique theme. I chose one of the “rock” ones. This is all genuine rock – Graceland’s carpeted ceilings really have nothing on this place:

The bathroom featured a sink where the water cascaded down and made a small waterfall into the basin. Charming, though somewhat impractical:

And much to our surprise, even the shower included a waterfall. Which was less charming after to made the entire bathroom floor a slippery hazard.

We had dinner in their steakhouse, which is pretty much the pinkest place ever created:

While the steak was good, the rest was all a bit weird. Though we certainly didn’t complain about the Matt Bellassi-sized pours of wine:


After dinner, he finally proclaimed that this was all just “too much”. So it’s possible that I out-kitsched him on night #2 – which means I need a new goal since we have several weeks of road trip left… Any suggestions?

Recommendations & Reviews

People regularly ask me for hotel, restaurant or activity recommendations. Here’s where you can find them:

I’ve used Trip Advisor for years for hotel reviews and any particularly great tourist activities.

For restaurants, bars, and random other services like nail salons, I use Yelp.

My go-to travel agent for animal-related vacations (like safaris) is Natural World Safaris. I can’t say enough great things about these folks – they are eco-friendly animal experts who always support the local economy.

While I haven’t actually used this service yet, Trusted Housesitters looks very promising – it connects people who need pet sitters with people who need a place to stay (worldwide).

Dear SF

Dear SF,

We’ve been together almost 20 years now… We’ve had some really incredible times, but I think its time for me to see other cities.

I do still love that every day you see someone in a costume, that it’s hard to find a bad meal here, and pretty much every restaurant has multiple options for vegetarians. I still think you can be a gorgeous city with your brightly coloured Victorians, beautiful bridges, and the fog nestled at the base of Sutro Tower. And I will certainly miss all of my amazing friends and the passionate community of weirdos that live here.

Though there are many things that I still love about you, I’m no longer in love with you… I’m tired of being labelled the evil techie who is “ruining the city” again (once during the dot com boom, and now). I’m tired of the 3-4 hour daily commute – anyone who says those buses are a luxury obviously hasn’t ridden on them day after day. (You really have to want to live in SF badly in order to do that commute five times a week.) I hate seeing the homeless problem growing, not knowing how to help, and feeling like the city just doesn’t care. And I’m saddened that the Castro is turning into a dirty strip of empty storefronts and broken car windows, while my already ridiculously expensive rent continues to increase every year.

I’d like to fall back in love with you, SF, so I think we need some time apart. And I hope that when I return I’ll have the energy to enjoy all the wacky events, tiny street fairs, museums, and shows that are always happening. But for now, it’s time for me to hit the road…


Sell All The Things!

After talking to several people who had their stuff damaged while in storage, I’ve decided to get rid of as much as possible. I’m leaving a few things with friends, have converted old photos and videos to digital, and am otherwise selling or donating as much as possible.

I’ve been working on this since February… If you’re planning something similar, I recommend starting early so it doesn’t turn into an overwhelming panic at the end.

Here’s what worked best:

Facebook: There are a ton of specialty groups on Facebook these days. It was fastest and easiest to make an album of photos of stuff for sale with prices and descriptions and cross-post to various groups. This worked out especially well for bellydance costuming, Fluevog shoes, and jewelry. And my friends wound up buying a lot of stuff, too.

eBay: While this gets you the largest audience, shipping is tough to estimate and both eBay and PayPal will be taking a percentage of what you earn. This worked best for vinyl and some random designer stuff like eyeglasses, purses, etc. You earn more than used clothing stores, but it takes a lot more work (especially the shipping part).

Crossroads Trading: The good news is you can now drop your stuff off and come back 24 hours later to see the results. This means you don’t have to watch the staff make insulting faces as they go through your clothes. 🙂 You only get 35% cash value, but I live next door to one so it was the most convenient way to get rid of a large volume of clothing.

SF Provident: will buy fine jewelry. This was a great tip from a friend – its an incredibly classy & secure place in downtown SF where they evaluate the stones and metal and offer you cash for it.

Next Door: This is a smaller community, so you’re not as likely to be successful but its a lot less crazy and you know the people live closeby. I used this for furniture and computers.

Craig’s List: If you like haggling & scammers, this is the place for you! You can sell things quickly, but people are constantly flaking out, trying to negotiate you down to nothing, or in the case of electronics, attempting all sorts of crazy scams. This is pretty much my last resort – its effective, but can drive you crazy.

Goodwill: And when all else fails, I drop stuff at Goodwill and take the receipt for tax deductions. The drop-off point at Mission & Van Ness is particularly easy – just drive up and they help you unload your car. And I really like that this organization is more than just recycling stuff – they create a lot of jobs and training for people who have a tough time finding employment.




The Plan

Everyone keeps asking if I’m going to blog about my adventures, so I figure this is a good time to start…Here’s a rough plan of where we are headed, though I expect most of this will change:

Empty the apartment, figure out how to get a year’s worth of clothing into a bag I can carry without a fork lift, panic.

Road trip the southern US before I sell my car: Rachel & Stefan’s Epic Road Trip on Roadtrippers

June & July
Europe! Plans include Copenhagen, Paris, Duisburg, London.. will you be in Europe this summer? Let’s meet up!

July 28-Aug 8
Back to SF for a friend’s wedding (not mine, everyone, calm down) and to prep for…

August & September
…Africa! It starts with a gorilla trek in Rwanda, followed by Tanzania for a game safari, then we’ll figure out the rest. I’m currently thinking Zanzibar, Mozanbique, Botswana, and South Africa.

Dubai & Singapore?

Southeast Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Phillippines, Vietnam?


New Zealand

India & Sri Lanka

Japan for cherry blossoms!