Pacific Trek...travels thus far

Trip Start Jan 12, 2009
Trip End Apr 26, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Almost a month into my travels and I'm finally starting a is a brief recap of my west coast travels so far.

On January 12th my travels began when my parents dropped me off at the Amtrak station in St. Paul. It was about 29 below! and so I was not terribly sad to leave. It was so cold outside that the baggage car was frozen shut and the train was delayed about a half an hour while they carried all of the baggage in through a different car. 40 hours of mostly sleeping and some beautiful scenery later, I arrived in Seattle. I had a bit of a scare when my pack did not show up with the rest of the baggage :( I was filling out the missing luggage form and on the verge of tears (the lady helping me, and it seems most Amtrak employees, was not very pleasant) when someone came in and told me they had found my bag! whew.

While in Seattle I stayed with my good friends Holly and Kat, who I met while studying abroad. They have a cute little apartment on Capitol Hill and showed me a really good time during my stay. I felt like I was just another roommate and got to meet a lot of their good friends through the different activities that they had planned for me. There was even a good amount of sunshine while I was there, which is apparently very rare in Seattle during the winter. One of my favorite days in Seattle was when we took the ferry out to Widby island and then later explored the famous Pike's Place market. I stayed for about a week with Holly and Kat and then hopped on a train once more to head to Oregon...

In Portland I rented a car (the dodge calibur...aka the car with the worst visibility ever!!) and made my way out to the Oregon coast to meet up with my brother Matt. He had been at the Sitka Center for the Arts and Ecology since October on an artist residency there. I arrived late that night and awoke to the gorgeous coast! just a five minute walk from Matt's studio and apartment. It is truly a stunning location with all sorts of critters running about as well...we saw a porcupine waddling up the road, lots of lazy seals lounging on the beach, and there's even a herd of wild elk (about 50 or so) that come hang out on the front lawn of the Sitka Center! Matt took me on a bunch of cool hikes around the area and brought me to his favorite place to eat....the Otis Cafe, which shamelessly served up huge servings heaping with cheesy buttery goodness. Of the clam chowders I tested on the coast...the Otis Cafe had the best hands down. I was also fortunate enough to see Matt's show that he and the other residents put on in a local gallery in Lincoln City. I'm really happy that I could make it to the show and to see the environment that inspired his work there. I wouldn't do it justice to merely talk about his work, so I'll make sure to post the pictures I took and the video of the gallery. My farewell to the coast was quite memorable. I walked down to the river for one last was a bit rainy and cloudy at first, but then suddenly the rain lifted and there was a slice of blue sky that created a rainbow framing the coastal rocks...a blue heron swooped across the river landing on a bank nearby, and two seals went splashing by as well...quite lovely.

At the end of our trip together I dropped Matt off at the Portland airport to return to Alaska, from where I went to hang out with my friends Zach and Jonah. I really liked Portland a lot...there are lots of neat shops and cafes to explore, and a ginormously huge book store, called Powells, that is an entire city block! On thursday Zach took me out to the Multinomah Falls, a gorgeous park just outside of Portland. We managed to hike all the way to the top of the falls even though we both decided that we are horribly out of shape. On my last night in Portland, they took me out for a nice dinner at a place called the Screen Door, which serves southern style comfort food...we were all barely able to move after all the hush puppies and fried chicken and pretty much waddled home.

After Portland, I actually ended up going back to Seattle. It was the weekend of Holly's big Vegas themed (she's originally from Las Vegas) and Kat and I thought it would be fun if I came back and surprised Holly for her bday. I ended up finding a good rideshare back up there for super cheap and was sitting casually on their couch when Holly came home from work :) The party was a lot of fun and craziness. Since it was Vegas themed, we had a boxing ring in the corner (with Wii boxing), a blackjack table with lots of monopoly money to gamble, and even a small wedding chaple where people could get hitched with mad libbed wedding vows. Since I'm traveling, I didn't exactly have a good costume on hand, nor wanted to spend a lot of money on one, but Kat and I managed to find a bright pink 5 dollar dress at a thrift shop...a string of xmas lights and a lot of body glitter to transform me into one of Vegas' flashy neon lights! Unfortunately the lights didn't have a battery pack attached, and so I would sporadically plug myself in in various places around the room :) It was such a good time and I'm so glad that I got to see the girls again before I went south to California.

To get to Berkeley, my next destination to visit my cousin Andi, I was lucky enough to find another rideshare for about half the price it would've cost me to take the train. I was even more surprised when my ride was in a Porsche! SUV!! It turns out the guy I was riding with invented internet dating!! His classmates at Stanford were the Google and the Yahoo guys!! craziness eh? He had to be a multimillionaire, but was still this really laid back, easy to talk, non pretentious guy who simply needed some help driving to CA. Meeting such interesting, random people is one of my favorite things about traveling.

About 13 hours after leaving Seattle, I arrived at Andi's house in Berkeley. One of the first things that I noticed about Berkeley, or it might've just been the street that Andi lived on, was that it smelled like flowers everywhere!! It was also really nice to finally be in some warmer weather....still a little bit chilly, but definitely a world of difference from the 29 below that I left behind in MN. Andi still had to work while I was there, but that gave me a good chance to do a bit of exploring on my own and tie up some loose ends with Americorps jobs that I have been applying to and to finalize my travel plans with Ines!! I was online in a coffee shop downtown and was lucky enough to find Ines online as well...a few hours and a bit of a trek to find a travel agent later I bought plane tickets to Thailand (march 5th-april 2nd) and then back to Germany with Ines (april 2nd-april 26th) and then finally home on April 26th. Our trip came together so quickly that sometimes it still doesn't feel like it's actually going to happen. It all just seemed to work just perfectly though and I am so excited to explore Thailand with Ines and then be able to visit my german family, the Bachors, as well!! It's been about 4 years now since I've been able to see them. Upon my return home, I'll be in MN again for a couple weeks and then am returning to Alaska to work at Mckinley Creekside Cabins again :) A lot of the people I met last year are also returning and so I'm looking forward to that as well (not to mention the fact that I am going to be completely broke! after this trip..and so it's nice to know that I have a job lined up for the summer).

It was so good to be able to spend some time with Andi in Berkeley. My brother Matt, Andi, and I grew up being able to see each other pretty frequently, but now that we're all grown up it's not that often that we have time to simply hang out together. It was also neat to get to know Andi's housemates. There are 5 of them living in a relatively small space, and so it was really kind of them to let me crash on the couch for awhile. We made it out to Fremont to visit our cousin Jenny and her husband Joe who very recently had a baby... we felt very fortunate to be the first relatives on the Bower side to see little Mack Racklin. It was decided that he doesn't have the famous chubby bower baby cheeks, but is still pretty darn cute :) On saturday, Andi and I had the day, and some beautiful weather, to explore San Francisco. He took me to the mission district to his favorite restaurant called Mariachis...which had unbelievably delicious burritos and quesadillas! We walked off our lunch exploring  some of the different neighborhoods in the area, found a nice park with a view, rode the trolley, and made it down to see the famous Golden Gate bridge. After a busy afternoon running about the city, we were lucky enough to be in town the same day as the Chinese New Year parade (the year of the Ox, which is also my year!) There were lots of flying dragons, cute little kids in costumes, and tons of really loud firecrackers. We made our way up to China town after the parade was finishing (about 3 hours later!) which was also delightfully chaotic.

I took the train to San Diego and ended up staying in a hostel there. After about a month of constantly being someone's guest, it was nice to just have some time to myself. I was almost blown away, literally, my first day exploring San Diego. What started as a slight drizzle as I was leaving the hostel, turned into a downpour with horizontal winds! My umbrella turned inside out numerous times and I had to fight my way across the street. I was completely soaked and had to wait out the storm in a nearby cafe. Although it wasn't a very pleasant introduction to San Diego, the proceding days had plentiful sunshine and warm weather. I spent all of tuesday on the beach, which was wonderful, but I felt a bit out of place in my flourescent white skin surrounded by extremely fit bronze surfer dude bodies. Yesterday I had a chance to meet up with some friends who were also in town. Kebra, who I worked with in Alaska this summer, took me out for my very first In-and-Out burger...which is a fast food burger joint only in CA and was quite delicious. We got a chance to catch up and are both excited to be heading back to AK this summer. Later on, I got to meet up with Taylor, a friend that I studied abroad with and that is from San Diego. Even though I hadn't seen him in about two years, it was so nice to just sit down and catch up. He is currently very busy creating an action adventure television network with a few buddies of his.

My next stop is Ensenada Mexico...
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