Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Still in California

Ahh, I see you are wondering what has happened to the three Santucci's. Well, I won't tell you just yet. For now, let's get back to business.
We left Coronado and San Diego on August 10th. Some stress had begun to build up since Las Vegas. Did I mention how civilization slapped us in the face like a rude SOB? The traffic, the pollution, the crowds. The natural world is EASY to get used to. A week away from all the chaos of city life had me hooked. Even though I've always considered myself a city girl. Which makes me wonder, how long would I actually last if I changed things up and became a woodswoman? The point is, driving into Vegas there was a lot of construction, it was late, it was dark, I was tired. We were all tired. And from there we went to San Diego. Paradise, sure, but not exactly relaxing enough. Now, from San Diego our trek was to take us up the coast to Oakland, where we'd stay with Mummy's friend Jenny. We had to pass by Los Angeles and Mummy thought she'd like to stop in for a short visit with some of her friends from the firm she used to work for. They have a showroom in Santa Monica, I think. Well, it was Friday and I don't think it even matters what time we left because it seems that rush hour lasts just about all day between San Diego and L.A., especially on a Friday! So what SHOULD take 3 hours ended up taking 7!!!! I had definitely noticed the increased number of tourists in Coronado when I was there, and I certainly don't remember this kind of traffic 13 years ago. But that said, we did not make it in time for Mummy to visit her friends at the showroom. And she was audibly upset about it. By that I mean I got the silent treatment from her and I could hear the serated edge of the knife cutting through the tension in the air. And once again we found ourselves driving late into the night, tired, no room at the inns we first sought out, necessary to go another 30 mintues north and keep our fingers crossed. We stayed just north of Magic Mountain and headed to Jenny's the next day. And this is what I first noticed in Jenny's guest room, where I went directly for a nap after the delicious luncheon she prepared for our arrival:

Okay, I think George Clooney is absolutely gorgeous. But that's not why I picked up the magazine and took it to show Mummy. The reason is because George Clooney has an uncanny resemblance to my grandmother. Hey, don't get the wrong idea! My grandmother was a beautiful woman. Seriously, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL woman in her hometown in Italy. And everybody knew it. Just imagine George in a feminine way. Cross him with Salma Hayek and you'll get the picture. So, I show my mom that a sign from Nonna was waiting in the guest room at Jenny's and she reminds me that the day before, August 10th, was the 2 year anniversary of Nonna's death. AND I HAD FORGOTTEN! And THAT was what was REALLY bothering Mummy all day. I felt soo bad. But she said she didn't want to mention it because it was better not to get sad. We think of her all the time, everyday, when we aren't on vacation. She knows we love her and miss her. See, I'm getting sad anyway. So.....
Jenny's granddaughters were performing that night in an obon festival. It was serendipitous.

The 13th through 16th of August is called obon in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist event and is one of the most important traditions for Japanese people. It is the period of praying for the repose of the souls of one's ancestors. People believe that their ancestors' spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during obon.
People clean their houses and offer a variety of food such as vegetables and fruits to the spirits of ancestors in front of butsudan (Buddhist families altar). Butsudan is decorated with flower and chouchin (paper lanterns). On the 13th, chouchin are lit inside houses, and people go to their family's graves to call their ancestors' spirits back home. It's called mukaebon. In some regions, fires called mukaebi are lit at the entrances to homes to guide the ancestor's spirits.
Hey, is that the Karate Kid or Matt Lu?

Here are Jenny's beautiful granddaughters:

The festival was so neat, I couldn't stop taking pictures. The traditional dresses were so colorful and the dancers ranged in age probably from 2 to 85.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner with Jenny, her son, and his girlfriend.
One thing we really hadn't had a lot of on the road was good food. Between Pittsburgh and San Diego the best thing we ate was bought from the grocery store in Colorado at a Safeway. We bought hard rolls, turkey and the BEST EVER salami from the deli and had picnic sandwiches with mayonnaise. I'm tellin' you, the BEST EVER salami! In San Diego, Mycol and I had a great breakfast downtown around the corner from the hotel. He had a sausage omelet and I had one with mushrooms and squash blossoms. Both were served with a side of refried black beans in a corn tortilla shell. Mummy missed out on that one, but we brought her some leftovers. So Jenny's luncheon was the first excellent home-cooked meal we had. She served soup with fish and shrimp, and a lentil salad. And a nice red wine from Trader Joe's that I should remember the name of, oh wait, she called it something like "ol' Chuck" as a joke. So eating out after the festival at a chinese restaurant was our second good meal in 48 hours after searching the expanse of the country for something good to eat in a restaurant. (Oh, shit, I'm lying! The lunch I had at the Highway Restaurant in Albia, Illinois was pretty good. Standard BLT and a cup of excellent soup of the day, something with beef and cabbage in it. And of course, we avoided fine dining across the country to save money). When Jenny took us into Berkeley the next day to have my oil changed, shop at REI, and eat lunch at ANOTHER good place to eat, it almost overwhelmed us. We started to remember the good things about city life all over again. We had lunch at an Indian restaurant and filled up on curry, nan, saag, etc.

That's Jenny with Mycol and me. The name of the restaurant reminded me of my friend Raj. His little girl's name is Priya.

At REI I bought a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag for Mycol. I wanted our next night in the elements to be WARMER. Jenny knows all about that, she camps a lot! We had a great time at her place, very comfortable. It was fantastic to stay with a friend for the first time in a week. Life on the road can be tough. But we had to move on. Stay tuned for our next stop. Northern California, here we come!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The following post comes to you from in front of my tepee on the Continental Divide! We are in Glen, Montana tonight and ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT!!!!
(Pictures to follow)

For those of you who don't know or remember, once upon a time I lived in Coronado, which is an island across the bay from downtown San Diego. I was stationed at North Island, a Naval station on Coronado. That's where I fixed the electrical components of helicopters and aircraft attached to the base. Mycol was born in Balboa Naval Hospital and our first home was on Coronado. Coronado is an upscale community and we lived in a duplex behind one of the bigger houses on H Street. Mycol hasn't been back to see his origins since he was 2 years old, so it was great to show him around.
Here's Mummy's new car:

This is the surf shop we used to go to. I bought Mycol some new gear in there, plus a shirt for me and one for Stephanie.

Here's the front entrance to our old place. I knocked on the door because it seemed like someone was home, but nobody answered. I really wanted to go in and show Mycol the apartment.

Here's our upstairs neighbor, Connie! I was so glad to see that she's still there. Her and her daughter, Kirsten, who was 12 at the time, used to babysit Mycol for me sometimes. Kirsten made a cross-stitch for Mycol with his name on it that he still has in his bedroom!

We had to walk up between the houses to the street side to get our mail. Our address was 829 1/2 H Street.

This is across the street from us. Our neighborhood, where I used to walk Mycol up and down in the stroller.

Here's the liquor store my ex-husband financed.

The Hotel Del Coronado was right down the street from our apartment. We used to walk to the beach.

And here is where you can STILL get a GREAT carne asado!! We loved it!

Stay stop, Oakland, CA.

The West Coast

The west coast occupied the majority of our travels. It's the only part of the trip where we stopped to stay and visit with friends, which is how it took up 17 days (I think). Both my brain and the internet are working slow this morning, so I'll see what I can do. We are in Wallace, Idaho, which is an historical silver mining town. We stopped here last night by chance. The original plan was to camp last night, but the weather was inclimate, to say the least. The rain was real bad, but more importantly, it's been as cold as October or November since Seattle. I'm going to start calling this first leg of the return trip "In Search of Summer". I saw a girl in Moses Lake wearing a WINTER coat. And she looked SMART! It's AUGUST, PEOPLE!!!!! What the?!?! When Mummy and I went to Roslyn, we thought we'd just freeze to death. And I kept remembering how the thought had crossed my mind back in Pittsburgh to pack my down vest because it wouldn't take up too much space. But then I thought, "Who needs a down vest in AUGUST?" So, here goes, let's get to some very cool (but warm!) stuff in California!
Hey Fish Market Westin's the Westin Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. That's where we stayed!

It was luxurious. A welcome break from camping and motel-ing. Another thing my mom does everywhere she goes is recognize fabrics from her company. They had some of the best accounts in the corporate interior design business. She planned on visiting her friends at the showroom in L.A., but Friday rush hour traffic prevented us from getting there in time. The point is, she knew the wallpapers used in our room at the Westin. I loved the bathroom and would like one just like it at home!
I'm still trying to gather photographs of things everywhere that remind me of people. Of course, there are some that were missed because I was driving and no one was able to grab the camera quickly enough. Like for the sign that said "Standish Hickey". That would have been for my sister-in-law. She used to be a Hickey. Right, Love?
So, I know I already got Aaron twice, but things just kept popping up. Mycol and I were strolling in downtown San Diego looking for a place to get some breakfast. I saw this place and asked him if he'd like to have his fortune told. Then I saw the address.

Here's a shot of downtown that I like:

It was taken on our second day. The night before, when we were coming back to the hotel from Coronado, this street was bustling with nightlife. There were lots of pretty, pretty girls. Mycol said, "Man, I wish I was 25 right now." He says that San Diego has more "hot" women than Pittsburgh has average AND above-average women. He said he's seen at least 6 or 7 boob jobs, he THINKS. Clearly, Mycol has girls on the brain.

Note that those are the only mountains we were able to find in the area.
Time on the road must be well organized. I was too tired last night to blog anything. After we ate at the 1313 Club in Wallace we returned to our room at the Stardust Motel. (Photo to follow). It's a real '50's joint. Anyhow, I was content to trim and file my nails, which had been growing since we left the 'Burgh, while watching "History Detectives" on, you guessed it, PBS! So this morning I got up early and was able to put this short intro to our trek up the west coast for you. Hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more.......

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hey, wait a minute.....

I haven't mentioned the wildlife yet. For a long time on the road I was wondering whether or not any wildlife existed anymore. I finally came upon a smattering of it in Utah.
Here's what really made my heart smile at Zion! (Sorry for all you people who know it's wrong and want to argue with me about how it's wrong. I know it's wrong. But tell me, how can something that is wrong feel soooo right?) I fed a wild animal right out of my hand!! Just like my childhood hero, Grizzly Adams, I felt a true connection with the beast. Like our souls were on the same level, when no one else on earth has been able to fully understand me. It wasn't easy, we both had to work through our issues with distrust. And now, I'll never forget my little buddy. I miss him already.

We met while we were at a designated picnic area in the park. Word spread and then this guy came over with some friends.

These little monkeys were so cute (that's right, I said monkeys), I decided to bring them home with me. They fit nicely in the car and they are behaved enough, they don't distract me too much while I'm driving.

And last, but certainly not least, the beast that used to rule the grasslands. The beast whose numbers were decimated down to a mere 200 head in just 15 years time. This beauty of a beast.

He's real cool. They call him "wild", but he's fenced into a pasture and he rolls right up to the fence line to get his water while 30 humans gawk. Then he turns to stroll back to his herd real stately like. But I feel like he's saying something smart-ass under his breath as he goes. Don't you?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 6...continued

We left Bryce Canyon and moved on towards Zion National Park, which is virtually around the bend. Just when you think you've really seen the most beautiful thing, Utah gives you Zion and you can't decide which is better. Bryce is delicate and more detailed, like lace. Zion is bigger, the palette is softer, and the rock formations look like tufts of flakey pastries, while Bryce's "hoodoos" are more like a million red-orange candles dripping with wax. These pictures don't really show what I'm talking about. You could see all the thin layers of rock formed one on top of the other, like a phylo dough.

Here's the tunnel we drove through on the way in:

So, guess where I am? You'll never guess. Not ever. I was in Moses Lake, Washington yesterday, which is in central Washington. That's where we went from Seattle to see the rodeo. That is the little town where Mycol's great grandfather lives and hosts a family reunion every year in conjunction with the local fair and "Rodeo Round-up". I am still, obviously, trying to catch up on my blog. Dammit. I think today is Sunday, right? And we had planned on being in Montana tonight. But for reasons that I will not get into just yet my mother and I left Moses Lake and headed BACK WEST again!!!! An hour and a half WEST, AGAIN. For Mycol, so that he could spend an extra day with his dad and his aunt. She and her husband and mother-in-law have a "cabin" near Roslyn, Washington. Get out your maps and figure it out. It's right off of I-90, the highway that runs from one end of Washington to the other through the middle. I'll posts pictures and stories later, but for now let's talk about what came after Zion.
From Pittsburgh to Zion was a wonderfully paced trip. Beautiful country. Lots of fun. After Zion, well, things changed. It didn't happen all at once. First, we had to travel through miles and miles and miles of this:

It wasn't the first time I'd thought it (I thought it back in Nebraska), but I thought, "What if we were space travelers, and this car was our space exploring vehicle, and this planet was unknown prior to our exploration, and this is what we'd see and report on." The desert is one of several places that make you notice that the earth is a planet. Catch my drift?
And then, suddenly, the space explorers come upon a crossroads where there is still nothing for miles and miles other than the three buildings on three of the four corners of the crossroads. Two gas stations, one bigger than the other, each with a gift shop and port-o-johns, and some other building. You'd think we'd find out what the other building was, but we were taken aback by the aliens. This one rolled up on us out of nowhere and started trying to mate. He said he was from Illinois where he grows corn and soy and he pulled this tiny alien over to show us and called it his "boy" and said he was looking for a new mommy and maybe a new baby brother soon after. He asked us if we was "Latino" and said he's got a BRICK house back home with plenty of room for us and if'n we'd like to come for a visit just give him a holler and he'll send a plane ticket promptly. He was the spittin' image of my hen-pecked uncle Chuck, so we figured we'd better report on him. 'Specially when he give us his business card and it read Charles Hunt. Coincidence? I think not.

We parted ways with Charles and headed for Vegas. Here is a sign that Las Vegas lies ahead:

Those things are used to power these things:

And here's my lucky lady trying her hand with lady luck:

She couldn't resist, but she didn't win anything other than 3 extra plays, or something like that. She still finds money on the ground everywhere we go, though.
Stay tuned

Day 6

Just to let you know, I am posting this post from Seattle. Here I sit in Erica's back yard on an early (not so early) Seattle Saturday morning. She has a lovely place to stay here and Mummy and I are very comfortable. The house she is sitting looks so much like something out of Domino magazine I had to take pictures of every square foot of it. I'll use the pictures to inspire my own remodeling project back east.
Day 6 on the road.....well, my notebook is in the car, but that was the day we visited the national parks in Utah. Bryce and Zion. On the way there, we stopped at Big Rock Candy Mountain, which I'm sure was one of the songs from O Brother, Where Art Thou, and we stopped to purchase some things. Now, when my brother Rock, and his wife Luvy, went on his honeymoon in California he made friends with some bears. He's so good at making friends. When I saw this bear at Big Rock Candy Mountain, I asked him if he knew my brother. He said he'd heard of him and asked if he could have his picture taken with me so that he could say he'd met Rock's sister. How could I say no?

So, let me tell you, Great Sand Dunes seemed like a protected jewel. There were hardly any other cars on the road to the entrance of that park and when we got there, although there were other people, tourists and campers, comparatively there were very few.
As you approach Bryce and Zion the fanfare surrounding them was a bit unsettling. I wondered if I was entering an amusement park rather than a national park. Billboards advertising gift shops, museums, trail-riding horse camps, RV camp sites, hotels and motels and resorts, ATV adventure companies, etc., lined the entrance road to Bryce. We drove on in, parked in the lot for Sunrise Point, and walked out a short distance through the pines to the ridge. And then.......and then........and then tears came to my eyes as this emerged before me

Words can't describe it.
On the other hand, there ARE words to describe people who walk around with bright yellow plastic bags on their heads.

Remember that bold little birdie that tried to beat my car across the road? Well, at a gas station before Bryce while checking my oil I noticed that it's carcass had fallen from the place where it was wedged below my hood down into a space in front of the radiator. I was concerned that it's body would rot there, creating an odor that would be somewhat unpleasant. So I wanted it out of my car. So in the lot at Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon, I decided we'd better find a good stick to knock the dead birdie out of there. Mummy said, "I'm your man." And she was.

Well, folks. That's it for now. Stay tuned for a continuation of Day 6 on the road with "The Three Santooches".