For many years I had no desire to visit California or Florida, but the other 48 states are on my short list to visit and see the beauty of those states. Well that all changed two years ago. Laurel and I were in New Orleans for her annual veterinary dental forum and in the back of the forum catalog listed the upcoming conferences. The 2014 conference was to be in Atlanta Georgia and the following year it was going to be in Monterey California. That is when I made the decision to go to California. In the begining, planning was slow but as the date got closer the choices of places to visit started to take shape.
I first had to clear the vacation time with my employer. With me working in retail, we are in the fourth quarter and also the Christmas season. When I first asked my manager he said I could have two days plus the weekend and I was hoping for more. Laurel said when the conference starts I could go home or I would be running around the area seeing the beauty without her. I made a counter offer to my manager for three days off and the weekend and he agreed. I filled out my paper work and started the planning for our trip.
The plan was to fly out of Minneapolis as early as possible on Saturday so we could start our adventure in the early afternoon in California. I was able to find a flight into Monterey so it would save us precious hours on our return trip home. The two other airports in the region were San Francisco and San Jose. With the traffic in California, the time saving of flying in and out of Monterey it was worth the extra cost. Our flight took us thru Phoenix with a lay over of less than a hour before we caught our flight to Monterey. We awoke at 4 am and headed to Minneapolis to catch our flight. We got there in plenty of time and had a few extra minutes to get a quick breakfast before boarding our plane. The flight to Phoenix was a smooth 3 hour flight. The Phoenix area looked amazing as we were landing. I see in three years this forum will be in Phoenix. Should I start saving my pennies and planing? We boarded our plane for Monterey and enjoyed another smooth flight into Monterey. It was noon in Monterery when the plane landed and the sun was high in the sky with a very comfortable temperature. No Wisconsin clothing will be needed for several days.
We made a smooth landing and exited the plane. Monterey airport is small. How small, I think there were 5 gates and when you exit the plane you walk onto the tarmac. When I flew out on Wednesday I had to wait for the TSA to reopen their check point. No need to be at the airport two hours before your flight. On our to way to claim our luggage we stopped at the car rental desk and picked up our car. A few minutes later we gathered up our luggage and made our way out to our car. First stop, something to eat. We needed a little lunch. We ate breakfast at 6 am CDT and now it was 1 pm PDT. we were running on 9 hours since breakfast. We grabbed a fast food lunch and started our tavels to our first sight to visit.
Our hotel was booked in Vallejo California giving us a great base camp for Sunday’s day trip. Before we headed to to Vallejo we made our way to Big Basin Redwood State Park. I told Laurel we could make a 1-1/2 to 2 hour stop and still make our hotel in plenty of time. Being it was Saturday the traffic was light by California standards. Big Basin Redwoods State Park features the Coast Redwoods. These are the tallest of the Redwoods. These trees can reach heights of over 300 feet with a life span of over 1000 years. We enjoyed a short nature trail near the park headquarters. The Redwoods were very impressive. Tall and strait and branches high off the ground. It was very easy to see around the forest floor and enjoy a small creek weaving it way thru the park, but there was still enough small plant life to block other visitor in the area. After several photos and a stop in the gift store/ small park store we grabbed an ice cream cone and head back to the car for our trip to Vallejo.
Now a note on the road leading into the park and heading out of the park. You can bring your big SUV for the trip, but a sports car…this is where car makers film the preformace handling of their cars. Laurel reminded me several times to keep my eyes on the road and stop enjoying the scenery. Several times I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a BMW or a Mercedes looking for me to use the turn outs. I did use a few after I heard them honk their horn. I guess if I can’t drive with the performance dogs I should get off the road.
After the park we headed to San Jose and made our way to the hotel in Vallejo via the east side of the bay. We found our hotel and checked in and ask the desk clerk for any recommendation on were to eat. She said most of the restaurants in the area were chains but they were within walking distance. So we looked for a restaurant we wouldn’t find back home. When in Vallejo….eat local! So our choice was Chevy’s a Mexican style restaurant. The restaurant was filled so we had to wait a few minutes. Laurel and I went to the bar and ordered drinks and enjoyed chips and salsa. Local restaurants in Wisconsin don’t serve salsa as good as Chevy’s. After 10 minutes, our table was ready and we were seated. We each ordered sampler style platers so we could try the the different flavors of Cal-Mex cooking. The meal was very good and a nice way to wrap up a long day of travels. We walked back to the hotel and got a good nights sleep so we would be ready for another big day on Sunday. Sunday’s plan was a day trip thru the central valley and the Napa Valley area.
To be continued….