PreambleEver since our first trip out of the Eastern time zone in 1986, Sarah and I had wanted to go back to California and we were kind of surprised that business and/or pleasure had never taken us there since then. Dave was very psyched to do it as well and see what all the fuss was about. Sarah and I had a bit of perspective but many people who don’t live there (especially young ones) tend to see California as a “garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or to see,” to quote Woody Guthrie, and not to understand why everyone doesn’t move there if it’s so damned wonderful. The positive image of California is tempered by the realization that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and countered directly by warnings that in reality life sucks everywhere, as highlighted by the rest of Guthrie’s famous song, by Kate Wolf’s iconic song (“Here In California”), Dave Alvin’s “California Snow,” and countless movies and books like “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” and “East of Eden.”
And what does the fact that there are so many works of fiction and nonfiction about California tell us? Perhaps it indicates that people still have to make up their minds about it … and that’s what we were going to attempt.
Our hard requirements were to try hard to avoid crowds and craziness, to see Yosemite, to have a long drive along the California coast, to see Point Reyes National Seashore (NS), and along the way to have the time to stop and see as many beautiful things as we could. The city we flew in to didn’t matter as long as it was somewhere along a reasonable route. At first we hoped to do a Northern California circuit including Lake Tahoe, Lassen Volcanic National Park (NP), and Redwoods NP but reality intruded and we realized that snow-closed roads would stop us from doing that, given that the first requirement above indicated that we had to go before school vacation. So we aimed for a more Southern route; San Francisco International was the cheapest destination and we started our circle route there and planned an itinerary of Yosemite, Kings Canyon/Sequoia NP, the coast, California state parks, and Point Reyes, with some wiggle room in it.
We spent an inordinate amount of time filling in the details on that itinerary, which was many, many times harder than it had been for our recent Colorado/Wyoming trip or when going to other places. There were so many choices, and almost everywhere we looked at considered themselves to be a precious destination (which may have been right) and in the case of hotels, to expect you to pay for the preciousness. We had a chance to book two nights in a lodge in Sequoia NP at a not-totally-outrageous price and so grabbed that, and we honed in on some reference sources that seemed trustworthy: on hikes in Kings Canyon/Sequoia by Laurel Scheidt, hikes along the coast (“California’s Coastal Parks” by John McKinney), and websites such as Yosemite Hikes and of course the National Parks Service sites.
We also wanted to see our old friend, Tony, in Santa Cruz and some work/Twitter friends of Sarah’s in Sacramento. But what we really wanted to do was to see Phil Lesh and Friends at Phil’s recently opened club in San Rafael near the Grateful Dead’s old studio. He did not schedule anything for that date for weeks and weeks, so we slowly booked flights, car, and hotels and penciled in the hikes we wanted to take, leaving a free night on Saturday the 19th. Finally he scheduled a show for that night, and offered tickets online! I booked them the very minute they were available, we filled in the itinerary at last and we were all set.
Saturday, May 12Dave had arrived back from college the night before, and on Saturday we had time to do some last-minute shopping for him (hiking boots and jeans) and to pack carefully. Matt arrived at 4:35 to drive us to the airport and it was a pretty uneventful trip to Logan, where we checked in, did the security thing, and then waited at gate 30 for jetBlue flight 637, leaving at 7:26ET. We forgot the sandwiches we’d made, the first of several small things that didn’t go perfectly about the trip.
The 7th game of the Rangers-Capitals series was on (Rangers won), as well as the first game of the Celtics-Philadelphia series (Celtics won), and then the 7th game of the Lakers-Denver series (Lakers won). When that was over we still had a few hours left, but finally made it to San Francisco International Airport. We grabbed our bags and were waiting for the courtesy bus to the Vagabond Inn in Burlingame by 11:30PT. The bus came for the short trip to the hotel and we checked into room 217, overlooking a low tide in San Francisco Bay at 12:13PT … 2:13 by our clocks. Soon to bed you might guess!