Adios America!

Trip Start Jul 03, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, July 23, 2009

It strikes me that we've done a number of things on this trip that violates some time-honored advice that mothers around the world give their children, our mothers included. Things like, "if Mike jumped off the side of a cliff, would you?" (When Mike is our paragliding instructor, I suppose the answer is, “yes.”) Minor things, like “Don’t eat all that right before bed.” (Try 4 jalapeņos each…stuffed with cheese). Things that common sense would dictate that one wouldn’t ever need to caution against (“Don’t go dangling yourself 120 feet in the air tethered to what looks to be a piece of floss.” And “Don’t go flying through the air while standing only in a wicker basket.”) And, on money matters, “If you have to ask the price, don’t buy it.” (This trip in its entirety).

So it is today—our last full day on the trip in America—that it seems fitting that we have sped past two more motherly warning signs. First, don’t go playing in the mud, and, second, if a stranger asks to see your privates, you’ve got stranger danger. Today we paid for the privilege to ignore both of these pearls of wisdom, which is how I came to find myself naked, in a tub, up to my neck in 140-degree mud, and attempting to relax at the Indian Hot Springs Spa. Standing off to my side is Cesar, who minutes before, asked me to disrobe and lie on top of the muddy mess while he artfully dusted my junk first with a fine covering of pumice and then with globs of the hot pudding-like mixture. Cesar and I got closer as he led me through my rinse shower (“You missed a spot on your inner thigh.” “Um, thanks for being so diligent Cesar?”), water bath, scalding-hot eucalyptus steam, and finally 10-minute resting. While resting, it struck me that what I went through was remarkably close to some salmon recipes I’ve seen.

While I braced myself for a potential filleting, Maribeth was with her attendant, a woman old enough to have given the Virgin Mary mud treatments had she lived in wine country (but then again, how much room does that leave for water-to-wine miracles?). As Maribeth lay back, she heard a whispering from behind. Turns out the attendant was praying, normally a lovely gesture. However, given Maribeth’s Spanish education extends only un poco past tacos and guacamole, it was unclear whether the mutterings of trabajo were “help me with my work today…I don’t want to lose another one” or “Dear God, this is my first day of work, and I don’t want to kill anyone,” or even “why do I have to work while this lazy chica in front of me gets to lounge in the mud.”

In all reality, it was a very unique and mostly enjoyable experience. Parts were relaxing, and parts bracing, but, as we sat around the steaming mineral springs “Buddha pond” at the end of our treatments, we agreed on two things. First, since they change the mud but once each day, we were glad to have the first treatment session. And second, since I wasn’t sharing my bath experience with any other guests—especially not a loud, talkative, and opinionated flock of Long Islanders, I got the better end of the relaxation bargain.

After dropping more than we anticipated for lunch at Taylor’s Refresher, a high-end burger joint serving only grass-fed, antibiotic-free, locally sourced beef (for New Yorkers, think Shake Shack), we declared victory on Napa and headed for what turns out to be one of the circles of hell (albeit a high one) in Fairfield CA: the Jelly Belly Factory Tour.

This particular recipe for disaster involves the following ingredients:

Two relaxed but somewhat, at times, slightly judgmental travelers (particularly when it comes to parenting techniques, which of course, being currently childless, they have no business being judgmental).

Hundreds of children, overstimulated by a bevy of primary colors, damage-your-eardrums loud music, readily available ice cream, jelly beans, jelly pops, candy corn, edible necklaces, and god knows what else.

Praise for the world’s greatest president ever who also happened to love jelly beans, Ronald Regan.

Dozens of parents, thrilled at the prospect of allowing their children to run wild in a Willy-Wonka-esque orgy, since it takes the burden of parenting off them for a moment and foists it on the—and I’m not kidding here—graduates of Jelly Belly University.

Mix well, and force to stand in line for over an hour. Finally, divide the mixture of people into large tour groups and thoroughly indoctrinate them into the mythos of your candy operation. Finish by sprinkling the group with a final coating of free jelly beans.  And allow me to escape.

We headed for Millbrae, a town just south of San Francisco, to check into our better-than-Albequerque’s-Hotel-Blue-but-that’s-really-the-best-I can-say-about-it Millwood Inn and Suites (Let’s just say none of the words in the name of the place accurately describe it.) We were there only shortly, as our friends Rachel Egenhoffer and her boyfriend Kyle invited us to their lovely, highly-secure apartment in a modern high-rise just south of downtown Oakland. It was a wonderful California-fresh vegetarian feast that Rachel prepared, and we had a great time catching up with Rachel and Kyle. (Thanks so much for dinner, guys!)  Full, and over the sugar-trauma of the afternoon, we headed home.

Tomorrow: Asian Adventures Begin!
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