Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 6 (Wednesday) in California

This was another relatively lazy day for the both of us. We talked over possible house bids. That's about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 5 (Tuesday) in California

Tuesday was not a very exciting day for me (Amber), but for my dad and Florin, it proved to be quite fun. I did a ton of laundry, watched the movie, 27 Dresses, with my mom, and wrapped Xmas presents for friends and family. Florin went fishing with my dad. Florin can tell the story of fishing, but from what I understood he caught twice as many as my dad (that would be 2 fish), and my dad caught a 68.5" endangered Green Sturgeon. So, even though our men caught fish, it was a catch-and-release kind of day. Upon their arrival back home, I made fantastic gourmet sandwiches and my mom made tomato garlic soup. Fantastic as always!

Florin and I then headed into town to meet up with my friends at The Madison Bear Garden to have a few drinks. Berta and her man, Dustin, Jon, and Rob were able to join us. We had curly fries, garlic fries, and beers all-around. It was great to kick back and shoot-the-shit with them. I'm amazed that no matter how much time goes by between visits, whenever I'm back with them I feel like it's the good ol' times. I have to say that I really do miss my Chico friends and California (in general). If only it wasn't so expensive and time-consuming to fly there!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 4 (Monday) in California

I went siteseeing in Chico with Florin. We were on a mission to complete our Xmas shopping (we succeeded). I noted the new businesses (Kohls) and lamented the loss of old ones (Kramore Inn). I took Florin with me to Spiteri's Deli (northside of Chico) and we split a delicious Garlic and Rosemary turkey sandwich on Dutch Crunch bread. After finishing the late lunch, he understood why I like it so much. I then took him to Donut Nook, only to discover that they were closed. :( That's okay ... it'll be something to look forward to next time we visit Chico! We then went to Trader Joe's for Florin's first time. I think he liked it--he said it reminded him of European stores. I was so glad to be back at a Trader Joe's. We bought artisan bread, Trader Joe's O's, sausage, fresh sage and parsley, two-buck chuck, and a variety of goodies from my favorite aisle. After that, we headed to Home Depot to check out potential Xmas gifts (for Florin) and then it was time to head home to a delicous dinner of richly marinated tri-tip and homemade french garlic bread. Yum!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 3 (Sunday) in California

After a few days at Yosemite and hanging out with Diana and Chad, it was time to reunite with the rest of the Gustafson clan. Leaving on time for a change, we rolled into the Chico's Chili's and waited for Mom and Dad to meet up with us. The food and company was good. Diana and I also decided that the margaritas were also pretty good! With full bellies, we headed over to visit with Grandma and Grandad. I haven't seen them since September and I cannot say that they are doing all that well. Grandma looks very tired and Grandad has lost 30 or more lbs; they both are beginning to wear their age. It breaks my heart to see them like this, but there is nothing I can do. There is nothing that any of us can do. It's the unfortunate end of the lifecycle ... it may be inevitable, but I don't have to like it. In any case, my Grandma is beginning to show serious signs of dementia or althemier's--I don't know which it is. She mostly keep mum during our visit to her house, but a few times she mentioned that we'd better lower our voices for fear of being asked to leave [the restaurant] and at the end of the visit she suggested (more than once) that perhaps it was time for her and Grandad "to go home." It's really tough to hear that and try to decide whether or not you want to mention that she's already at home. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not even be aware of whether or not you are at home. How lost must a person feel if they are unable to discern where home is? I have to admit, I'm just trying not to even think about it.

On an even darker, more sinister scale, we learned that my [formerly?] drug-addicted cousin and her recently-paroled husband were to be moving into Grandma and Grandad's house that very same afternoon. They were supposed to arrive by 2pm, but even by 5:30 they had not made an appearance. Apparently they are moving in to assist Grandma and Grandad. I'll reserve my true feelings about the matter, but I can say that everyone in attendence was not favorable to the idea, including my own Grandmother. I just (naively) hope that nothing bad arises out of that situation.

After saying farewell and in a shower of hugs and kisses, Florin and I rode in the dusty-blue minivan back to my parent's house. The house hasn't changed one bit in these past few years, but the landscaping has really come along. The southside is nearly completed with brick walkways and built-up sections. The northside has really flourished in it's "natural parklike setting" of redwoods, fruit-bearing trees and figs, and with a three-year old wysteria overtaking the rustic decaying boomtruck. Apparently, the grounds are slated to be included in the Spring Garden Tour of 2010.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 2 (Saturday) in California

Since Diana and Chad had DSL, Florin and I figured a good Xmas gift for them would be a wireless router. Little did we know that they already had a a DSL modem with wireless built-in, but not yet configured. Once we learned that, Florin was able to set them up with wireless access which in turn enabled us all to have wireless access to the Internet. (Yay!)

I'm not sure what else we did today, but it was relaxing overall.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 1 (Friday) in California

The day started with Amber taking Diana to work while Chad (Diana's husband) and I griped to eachother about how much graduate school sucks and how we would never do it again knowing what we know now. The only comforting thing is that it appears that no matter what field you are in or which university you go to, the life of a grad student is always the same.

After Amber came back, we borrowed Diana's car and went to get an oil change. While the folks at the shop changed the oil, we strolled to a Taqueria nearby for lunch. The weather in California was, as always, nice and we were marveling at how fabulous it is to be able to come from a snowy November day on the East Coast to a sunny shorts-and-t shirt day in California simply by hopping on a flight. Lunch was a delicious foot-long burrito that we shared. Mexican food is so much better here than anywhere else.

After lunch and the oil change we got on the road for the 4 hour trip to Yosemite National Park. The drive took us south through the central valley then east on a back roads through the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas all the way to the mountains. We stopped at an information booth about an hour out from the national park and were recommended a hotel in a nearby gold rush town for only $59/night. More on that later.

We went ahead and booked the hotel room site unseen because we wanted to make it to the national park and catch the views at sunset. This was a great idea as we rolled into the Yosemite valley just as the sun was setting. We pulled over here and there to allow me to take some pictures and by the time we made it to the village, it was dark. We turned around and went back to the hotel. Although the scenery was stunningly beautiful (as seen above), the most amazing thing we saw were two bear cubs playing near the road. Of course, there was a dumb tourist nearby trying to take a picture of the cubs dangerously close to the them. It all happened so quickly we didn't have a chance to stop and take a picture, but the image is firmly etched in our memory. We also saw a coyote cross the road right in front of our car and several deer who did what deer do and froze when hit by the beams of our headlights. But Amber did a great job driving and we did not hit a single critter.

We drove back to the hotel and when we arrived to Jamestown, we were greeted by a quaint little wild west town. It is as if we went back in time. We checked into the hotel and were informed that it would be wise to go out and get dinner before taking all our stuff to the room because everything "closes early in this town". It was 7:15PM. We took the advice and found a very nice restaurant at the National Hotel just down the road. This was a more upscale hotel with a saloon and a gourmet restaurant. All the decorations were typical for the time period around 100-150 years ago and the food was absolutely delicious. I treated Amber to dinner to celebrate her victory over the preliminary exam. After dinner we retired to our room and promptly fell asleep as we were exhausted and slightly jet lagged.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving trip to California

Amber just passed her preliminary exam and is one hoop away from having her Ph.D. and I have been working hard to finish up my research so that I can graduate by March and move to Peoria to start my new job with Caterpillar. So after the semester from hell, Amber and I finally were able to get away on a real vacation. We're spending thanksgiving in California with Amber's family.

We flew out on US Airways from Charlotte and quickly realized how spoiled we are since we've almost always flown with United. US Airways is TERRIBLE! Here's why:

1. Charge for checked luggage, which in turn forces everyone to carry on all their crap. Thus, boarding takes 30 minutes instead of 10 because everyone is trying to cram all their stuff in the overhead bin.
2. They charge for any type of refreshments including water. Now this wouldn't be a big deal on a 2 hour flight, but on a 4 hour flight across the US, it's an issue. Some would say unhealthy. So the solution is to just bring your own beverage; oh wait, you're not allowed to bring any liquids... I can't believe nobody has sued the airports and airlines for monopolizing the food and beverage market in airports. $8 for a sandwich in the airport. $5 for a water bottle. Incredible!

So we finally arrived in Sacramento without incident and were met by Diana, Amber's sister who graciously let us stay at her place overnight. While we were hanging out at the airport waiting for our bag, I took this picture in the baggage hall at Sacramento airport. Pretty appropriate decoration if you ask me.