From Greenville to San Francisco

Greenville to San Francisco

Taking off from Chicago Midway

Saturday July 26, 2014

It was time for another epic road trip. Laura had finished her summer research with her students and I had finished…well, whatever it is I was doing during retirement. We had planned this trip since the beginning of summer, and with my Mom’s passing last week, the need to get away and see different scenery was even more imperative.

The plan was to fly into San Francisco and rent a car. We would spend a couple of days in the San Jose area visiting Laura’s cousins, then drive north along the coast. Eventually we would reach Coos Bay, Oregon, and spend a couple of days with Laura’s Aunt Ellen. We would continue along the coast and up Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, finally reaching Laura’s mom’s place on Samish Island, north of Seattle. We would spend several days there taking care of things around her place, then would fly back from Seattle. The 1200 mile trip would take two weeks.

Pacific Northwest Road Trip

Far too early on a Saturday morning we packed up our things, said goodbye to the cats, and headed to GSP. Our Southwest Airlines flight would have the briefest stopover in Chicago Midway, and would get us into SFO at about 11:00 am local time. I was loaded down more than usual this time. I had almost all of my camera gear and lenses, including the big 500mm lens, packed into a large carry-on suitcase. I planned to take LOTS of photos.

The flight itself was uneventful. As we flew into Chicago I kicked myself for not having a camera readily available. The lighting on the clouds was spectacular. I wanted to get a shot of one of the puffy cumulus clouds and Photoshop™ mountain climbers onto them. We had a great view of the city itself, with the Sears (aka Willis) Tower and other large buildings. As we flew over the Chicago rail yards, I was thinking that it would have a been a perfect opportunity for some tilt-shift treatment. When we took off, I made sure I had a camera handy, but the angle was too steep and it just didn’t have the same effect.

Greenville to San Francisco

The flight from Midway to SFO was longer, but just as uneventful as the previous stretch. We had one of those flight attendants that thinks he is a comedian, so the safety procedures talk was jazzed up a bit. The skies were clear so I didn’t even get to take my cloud climbers photos. However, I always admire the changing landscape as we fly across country – from the flat lands of the plains to the mountainous Rockies.

There was one incident on this stretch, though. This flight offered WiFi, which was mainly just a way for them to sell movies and Internet access. There were some cool free items, though, such as a flight status map. When I went to connect to their WiFi I saw one other active SSID – “Toms_GoPro”!! I was horrified – anyone in the plan that tried to attached to the Southwest WiFi was going to see my camera. Even though I’d turned off the camera, the WiFi connection stays on. I should have completely removed the battery. Now it was buried somewhere in my luggage where I couldn’t reach it. Fortunately, WiFi is a drain on the battery. I connected through the GoPro app on my phone and turned on the camera and started it recording the dark interior of my suitcase, and it finally shut itself down when the battery ran out. All the while I was expecting black-suited FFA thugs to appear out of nowhere to arrest me.

Flying into SFO is always spooky. The airport is right on the bay, and right up until the last second it seems that you’re about to hit water, and then the runway magically appears. Crowds were crazy, but we managed to get our luggage without incident, then headed to the rental car counter.

We had a Mustang convertible reserved with Thrifty. If this was going to be an epic road trip, then we were going to do it right. Unfortunately, Thrifty was not very swifty. We waited nearly an hour in a fairly short line. In that time we watched the line for the Enterprise counter clear out many times over. We were tempted to jump ship…until we remembered how expensive Enterprise was compared to our choice. Picking up a car, keeping it for a couple of weeks, and returning it to a different airport was going to be expensive enough as it was. Upgrading from a compact car to a convertible was a tiny incremental increase in comparison with the rest of the fees – no brainer there.

Rental Mustang

Eventually, though, we got our car – a solid black, very cool looking Mustang. Took us a minute to figure out how to put the roof back, but then we were off. We were following the GPS to Laura’s cousins’ place, but along the way we needed food. We’d had breakfast on east coast time, and it was already past lunch time west coast time. We stopped in Redwood City along a nice little main street that was lined with cafes and eateries for a sandwich and some time sitting still.

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From there we headed on out to San Jose…and, yes, we do know the way. We pulled into Bill and Linda’s yard mid afternoon, and spent a good bit of time catching up with them.

Dinner was nearby in the little town of Saratoga. Bill took us to a wonderful Italian place called Bella Saratoga. There was a martini on the menu called the “Accidental Tourist” and I had to give it a try. It had “Aviation” gin, a bit of grapefruit juice, a shot of lime juice with a twist of lime. It was tasty, and I may have to try to replicate that recipe.

Bella Saratoga
Accidental Tourist Martini
Tom and Laura

Linda and Laura ordered the chicken piccata, and Bill and I got a halibut dish on risotto that was light and absolutely fantastic. As we ate a classical guitarist entertained.

Halibut at Bella Saratoga

Here’s a shot of Linda and Bill…

Bill and Linda

As we were searching for a parking space I’d notice a couple of exotic cars parked on the street, so after dinner I wanted to check them out. It turns out that there were not one, but three McLarens. A lowly Porsche 911 was keeping them company.

McLarens in Saratogo-001
McLarens in Saratogo-003
McLarens in Saratogo-004

The local McLaren Owners Club was having dinner at one of the restaurants. The place is a bit more upscale than our hometown.

…and speaking of upscale, after dinner Bill took us on a tour of the tech giants. We first drove through the campus of Apple’s headquarters at 1 Infinity Loop in Cupertino.

Apple Headquarters in Cupertino-001
Apple Headquarters in Cupertino

Bill showed us where Apple is building their new “flying saucer” headquarters. The huge tract of land had been the headquarters of Hewlett Packard. Now the land was razed and there was just a massive green fence blocking off any view of the construction.

New Apple Headquarters behind fence

This is what it will look like when complete…

This thing is just a mile or so from Bill and Linda’s house. There has been a massive amount of ancillary construction of housing, etc. Bill said their modest home’s appraisal has gone through the roof as a result.

Since we had visited Apple we had to see the competition. Bill drove us on up to Mountain View and we drove through the Google campus.

Google Headquarters
Google Headquarters-001
Android Playground

It’s weird, because I’ve seen these places in Google Earth. However, there are lots more trees and nice landscaping than I remember from those views. It also looked like lots of shopping and restaurants had popped up on the periphery just to support the Google employees.

Bill pointed out bicycles all of the campus. These were painted in the Google colors, and any employee could pick one up and ride it anywhere else on campus and drop it off.

Google Bikes

From Mountain View we headed on back to Bill and Linda’s place. It had been a great meal and a nice tour of Silicon Valley, but our jet-lagged bodies were about to give out. The next day would be spent relaxing with family and seeing other cousins while getting shifted over to this time zone. Then we would head north on our journey.

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