May 9, 2013

California Tour of 2013

The California Tour of 2013 started with the 200-mile Ragnar Relay Race.  But that was documented in the previous blog (and if you haven’t already read it, then what’s wrong with you?).  This is the remaining seven days of the trip.

The Ragnar Relay Race finished on the water of San Diego and there was only one thing on our mind:  celebration.  Two local friends who are well-versed in the San Diego bar scene were in charge of the post-race activities and they led us to Bub’s Dive Bar.  I needed beer and greasy food stat.  And this bar had grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots... which had me at hello.  As a grilled cheese sandwich connoisseur, #1 would be Paradise Park Cafe in Nashville, #2 is Sonic, and Bub’s Dive Bar in San Diego has now earned the #3 spot on my list.  Now, one of the girls was not as pleased with the menu as she told me she wanted a grilled chicken sandwich with pineapple and honey mustard sauce -- don’t get too specific there, Britt.  

After inhaling my dinner and a few beers, it was getting late (and by late, I mean 9pm).  After being in a van for 36 hours, all I wanted was a real bed and real sleep.  So Britt and I called it a night and decided to go get our 12-passenger van from the Ragnar finish line and head to the hotel.  You would think this would be a simple task since the hotel was only a whopping mile away.  First of all, the iPhone map app gave us incorrect directions to our hotel.  We could see our hotel, but with all the one way and dead-end streets, we drove around for almost 30 minutes before we were finally able to find the hotel parking garage entrance.  Pulling into the garage, we immediately realized the entry to the first level was crazy narrow as we could both reach our hands out the windows and touch the wall.  There was a series of “Oh my gods” the entire way up this alley ramp and you could hear a sigh of relief from our van when we made it unscathed.  But crap, there weren’t any open parking spaces on the first level.  Here is the abbreviated conversation that ensued as we tried to get up the ramp to level two:

Britt (the driver):  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me (the navigator):  you are good, you are good.  wait, back up a little.
Britt:  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me:  ok, now cut it a little to the right.  
Britt:  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me:  ok, you’re good.  go forward just a little more.
Britt:  oh my god
Me:  you got it, you are totally fine on my side (CRUNCH -- she hit the wall ON MY SIDE... apparently she wasn’t as fine as I thought)

At this point, we were stuck in the garage.  It was too narrow to go up a level, and it was too narrow to go down.  So we just put the van in park in the middle of the garage and waited on the rest of our friends to arrive and remedy the situation because it was obvious that Britt and I were no longer responsible enough to handle a 12-passenger van in a narrow parking garage.  Please let it be documented that this disastrous situation could have been avoided.  We not only had one 12-passenger van... we actually had two.  And one of the girls in the other van told me post-dent that they also received minor damage to their van in the garage earlier that day... ummmmm... why didn’t you tell us this BEFORE we tried to squeeze another elephant-sized van through the narrow halls of this damn parking garage.  And I wanted to scream when the hotel manager told us, “This happens all the time!”  Then why don’t you have a HUGE sign out front that says:  "WARNING: THIS IS THE NARROWEST PARKING GARAGE EVER AND YOU WILL NOT FIT UNLESS YOU ARE DRIVING A FIAT OR SMART CAR."  Or maybe a sign that says:  "OH, YOU ARE DRIVING A 12-PASSENGER VAN?  THEN FORGET ABOUT IT."

I did add some comic relief later that night after I had a shower.  I was moisturizing my body post-shower as I normally do with Aveda Replenishing Body Moisturizer.  At least that is what I thought I was using.  I realized after I had rubbed this all over my body that I was using Aveda Curl Enhancer for my hair.  Attention Aveda people:  please color code your bottles so that deliriously tired users like myself do not make this mistake again.  No, I did not retake a shower.  I was too tired.  But I did notice that my skin was very moisturized the next day... maybe I’m on to something?

I slept for 12 hours that night and it was magical not waking up until noon.  We had brunch at a fancy fabulous restaurant that had a bloody mary bar and a menu where we were batting 0.500 on identifying the foreign ingredients.  But it was oh so good.  We then started to bar hop and ended the night at a great piano bar where Adam Levine was filling in on piano.  Ok, so it wasn’t really Adam, but this guy looked just like him... meaning that he was so damn hot.  They even had a Ragnar contest for free drinks where BJ (from our team) raced some random guy from another team around the block while Adam was playing Chariots of Fire.  Poor BJ was in flip-flops... and the other guy was like really really fast.  At least our team had prettier girls.

We said good-bye to San Diego and most of our Ragnar team the next morning.  But first we spent almost thirty minutes safely navigating our two vans out of the garage.  It was a team effort, with one of the boys at the wheel and the other boys navigating outside the vans... while the girls stood on the sideline as cheerleaders.  With the vans safely on the road, only five of us girls were advancing to the next round of the trip.  We drove back up to Los Angeles and checked-in to Le Montrose, our cute little boutique hotel in West Hollywood.  This is where we saw our only celebrity of the day.  I use the term celebrity loosely here.  He was more like a C-list celebrity (probably D-list, but since he was even hotter in real life than on TV, I will reward him with C-list status).  You’re dying with curiosity now, aren’t you?  It was Eric Neis of MTV’s The Real World Season 1.  I was so dumbfounded by him that I literally could not stop staring... this man was beautiful in his button down shirt and linen pants.  He was having credit card problems checking-in, so of course I was staring even harder as I tried to listen to every word between him and the front desk.  But the chance of him flirting with any of us girls was completely diminished when the lady asked me what type of car I was valeting and I responded with “white Ford 12-passenger van,” which the valet guys nicknamed “The Mammoth” while we were there.

What do five young ladies do in Hollywood for the day?  Rodeo Drive?  Hike up to the Hollywood sign?  Eat at some trendy restaurant with the hopes of spotting another celebrity?  Nope, we didn’t leave our hotel.  We ordered room service up to the rooftop pool and drank wine all day in the sun.  And when we ran out of wine, we summoned my New Orleans Final Four friend who lives in LA to bring us more.  And then when we ran out of wine again, two of the girls walked up the street to the nearest store.  And then we ordered Thai food delivery for dinner.  And that, my friends, is how we experienced Los Angeles.

The next day we were early risers (too early if you ask me) and the day was spent driving to San Francisco.  We had to make the decision whether we wanted the drive to be fast or scenic and we chose the latter.  I am so thankful for this because driving the Pacific Coast Highway was amazing.  Granted, it was another 13 hours in the van, but it was so beautiful that I felt like I was in a foreign country at times with the coast of Italy on my left and the mountains of Austria on my right.  The first stop of the PCH road trip was Paradise Cove, which was a little cafe on the beach in Malibu.  We randomly found this place and it was a hidden jewel.  I ordered apple pie pancakes if that tells you anything.

Stop number two was to see the hundreds of elephant seals relaxing on the beach.  Thank God they were adorable because they stunk so bad!  Please keep in mind that none of these “stops” that I mention along our PCH road trip were planned, so when I say “stop” it really means “saw something cool so we slammed on the brakes and swerved off the road.”  Stop number three was our attempt to see Hearst Castle, but that quickly fell through when we realized that the tour was going to take two hours.  Everyone took turns driving and I somehow got the Mario Kart leg of the trip.  We all got car sick with the twists and turns and curves and hills.  I seriously felt like I was driving in a video game.  But you just couldn’t complain because it was so beautiful.  We made numerous other stops throughout the drive just to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery.  

Let me preface the next part of our trip by saying:  don’t mess with a girl from Manchester, Kentucky, who just spent the last thirteen hours riding in a van.  We finally pulled into San Francisco around 7pm.  We checked-in to Hotel Abri in Union Square and were told that one of our two rooms had been upgraded to a suite.  Sweet.  The other room was this:

Apparently, the girl working the front desk did not know this room was under renovation.  So she moved us to a different room... this one was freshly painted and had a huge blower in the middle of the room to diffuse the toxic paint fumes.  She apparently did not know this as well.  Her solution:  “I will give you a room with a single queen bed and give you 30% off.”  Wait.  There are six of us (another friend flew into SF that night to meet us), so where are we all going to sleep?  Her solution:  “There is a pull-out couch in the suite.”  So we are paying for two rooms where some of us now have to sleep on a couch?  And then Manchester came out.  I’ll fast-forward and just let you know that we had the second room completely comped with three bottles of complimentary wine delivered to the room.  Don’t mess with Manchester.

The night ended with a sushi night-cap and an early exit to bed.  You know you are getting old when you care more about hiking around in San Francisco the next day than staying out all night.  The next morning was spent sight-seeing around San Francisco in temperatures that I did not pack appropriately for.  After a quick stop at In-N-Out Burger near Fisherman’s Wharf, I ducked into a United Colors of Benetton store to buy a coat.  And I walked out 15-minutes later with a whole new wardrobe.  They were having a “going out of business sale,” so what’s a girl supposed to do?

Fourteen, yes 1-4, 14, other girls flew in that morning to San Francisco and met the six of us in Napa later that afternoon.  It was bachelorette time.  We rented a gorgeous compound (there were twenty of us, so yes, we needed a whole compound) and spent the next four days exploring wine country.  This is the point in the story where I now draw the red curtain... because we all know that what happens in Napa celebrating a bachelorette, stays in Napa.  But, I will make one exception because this story epitomizes how awesome we are.  After a day of having a private bus tour of wineries, we needed food.  Nevermind the fact that we had $1000 in groceries at the house.  Some of the girls had ordered food at a taco truck in town the day prior and one girl had the idea, “Why don’t we just order the taco truck?”  The whole truck?  Yes, the whole truck.  So the taco truck made it’s first private house call ever to our compound that night and those Mexican boys loved us when we sent them home with a bottle of Makers.  It’s just what we do.

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