Proposed Northern West Coast Trip

This is mainly for the use of people in my family, but I suppose there’s nothing wrong with posting it to the general public.  I mean, I guess some wise guy could see this and then jump on and buy all the plane tickets or something but I really don’t see that happening.

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The triangle-oid on the map shows approximately what we would be doing, except we would fly, on Alaska Airlines, to San Francisco (Seriously, those guys are giving all the other airlines a run for their money.  You can fly to SFO for 59 dollars from Utah on Alaska, and freakin’ Delta wants to charge you like 200…), and then ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight train line (yes, Amtrak still exists) north to Portland, Oregon, chill there for a few days, and then continue on northward to Seattle, Washington on the Amtrak Cascades line.  We would remain in Seattle for approximately a week and then return by air to Utah.

The point of this was to outline transportation and lodging costs in my proposed trip itinerary, so it might get boring.

We would depart on Alaska Airlines flight 743 (an approximate $290 total in airfare….I don’t have much experience in air travel but I think for five people on an airplane that’s like way cheap) early in the morning on Monday, March 23, (about three weeks after we return from California), and arrive in San Francisco (of course he planned San Francisco as the first stop… XD) at a still very decent time in the morning, with that extra hour on our side.  We would rent a car from the airport (on the house rental I found for Monday night they said that discount car rental was available) and then head across the bridge to the northern peninsula, to the Muir Woods and Beach, just like last time.  Maybe even go to the same phantom Starbucks and 7-11 as last time.  And then stay in our vacation rental in the northeast section of San Francisco.  It’s listed on VRBO at about $159.  Also we would need to acquire Muni (which is San Francisco’s equivalent of Utah’s UTA) passes (17 dollars each for a one day pass) the night before to avoid the outrageous downtown parking costs.

Still following the general plot of our last excursion to San Fran (which can be viewed on my homepage), the next day we would leave our car at our rental house and ride Muni into downtown and go from there.  We would just need to get the rental car back to SFO in the evening and catch the BART train (BART airport line is $8.50) per person from the airport to The Embarcadero, where we would catch a bus at the Ferry Building to take us to the train station to catch 14 Coast Starlight, on which we would ride through the night and until it arrived in Portland the next afternoon.  For all five of us, the total cost for Coast Starlight to Portland overnight and the shuttle bus to the train is about $388.

I found a vacation rental in Portland, listed on VRBO for $150 per night, where we would remain for three nights as we did whatever people do when they go to Portland.  I think Mount Hood and Mount Rainier are near the area, and I like mountains but I don’t know if everyone else in my travelling party could relate.

After our Portland experience, we would board 516 Amtrak Cascades to Seattle, and my plan is that we would stay there from Saturday the 28th through Friday, April 1st (and I think my dad would come and meet us either on Friday night in Portland and ride the train with us to Washington State and stay in Seattle with us for a short period, or maybe meet us in Seattle Saturday night), and then fly back to Salt Lake Friday night.  I found a very nice rental house in Seattle, listed at $119 for March.  We would do whatever one does in Seattle. (Seriously I don’t know hardly anything about these places, they just sound appealing.  I know Oregon has forests and mountains, as well as Washington State.  I also know that Seattle is near the ocean and has this fancy space needle building.  And that’s pretty much it.)  And then we would go back to Utah on Alaska flight 706.  The über cheap fares no longer apply, so to get all five of us on that flight would cost about $621, but that’s still cheaper than anything I found on Google Flights, as well as Southwest and jetBlue, which I always thought were also supposed to be affordable but, like I said, I don’t know much about airlines.

So there you go.

San Francisco – Day 3 (Friday)

So… San Francisco.

The main objective of Friday was to go to Monterey: a smaller place about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, across the Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz.

Screenshot 2015-01-31 at 6.11.20 PMThe blue line on the map doesn’t accurately reflect the route we actually took, but I was really just trying to show, like, where it was.  We actually started from our hotel in Benicia.  After we passed San Jose, we went through some forested hills before coming out near Half Moon Bay, the small bay visible northwest of Monterey Bay,  We drove near the coastline and around Monterey Bay; and through some agricultural and industrial areas.  It was a nice drive, I can’t remember the exact roads we took though.  I think at some point we switched to the Pacific Coast Highway. Everybody loves the PCH.Lovethespin - Valerie Christensen -- 2014-10-17.jpg

We got to Monterey and ate lunch at Carl’s Jr., where I indulged with a good bacon burger, fries and at least a quart of cherry coke.  We went to the Monterey Aquarium, which I guess is supposed to be one of the best aquariums but I didn’t know anything about it.  But we went there.  And it was cool.  They had, like, fish, and stuff.

They had darkened rooms with windows into tanks full of clear water, with deep blue backgrounds, containing fairly large jellyfish.  The tanks had lighting on the bottom under the window to make it look like the blue backgrounds and the jellyfish were glowing.  They had big tanks that synthesized a coral reef, with the same rocks and plants and stuff and several exotic fish, as well as small sharks and stingrays. We heard tLovethespin - Valerie Christensen -- 2014-10-17.jpghat the workers have to wear chain mail when they dive into the shark tank.

Another tank was two stories tall, and could be viewed from the seafloor exhibit on the first floor or a mezzanine upstairs, and contained a kelp forest environment and schools of small fish.  There was a spacious room with a window to a very large tank full of larger fish like great white and hammerhead sharks, as well as tunas and other things.  The window was large and rectangular; and on the back of the room there was a balcony with benches set up like a sort of amphitheater, so it seemed like some sort of movie theater.

The entrance room to the open-ocean fish exhibit was circular, with a dome ceiling; and as the walls curved into the ceiling there’s this donut-shaped tank with a huge school of small chrome-colored fish uniformly swimming around it.  The whole thing was crowded with things, and they were all around anLovethespin - Valerie Christensen -- 2014-10-17.jpgd above you.  You could go outside on the balcony and observe seals on the rocks in the shallow bay with telescopes they had set up.

So it was definitely impressive.

Yes, that picture there is of a very large octopus.  Apparently, my Dad says that all animals were divinely created, except for the octopus, which was created by the devil.  I don’t know much about that particular religion, but I bet the giant squid and those jellyfish (they were pretty cool to look at though) might also fit into that category. And maybe that shark from Jaws.  Or all of those weird sharks in that movie theater room tank.  But then when you start overthinking it like that it stops being funny.

My mom actually took all of these.  (I was generally on my own at this place, because at the beginning, I had forgotten my glasses and I walked back down to the parking garage to get them, which I was cool with because I had to work off that cherry coke.  I just chilled in the aquarium on my own for a couple of hours after that.)Lovethespin - Valerie Christensen -- 2014-10-17.jpg  But seriously, if you just go to Google images and type in “Monterey Bay Aquarium,” pretty much all of the pictures that come up show what I’m trying to explain.  Just imagine you’re in a dark room with bassey, ambient music playing.

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After we were satisfied with our exploration of the aquarium, we walked down the street to the PinkBerry.  (There actually is a picture of me there, but I wasn’t ready so I’m just making this derp face and I really don’t think that’s worth sharing with people on the internet…)  Anyway, we went there.  And then we went south of Monterey a few miles to a place called Point Lobos, a rocky section of shore by the forest near Carmel.  We just kind of hung out there and looked around for a while.  I have pictures.


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I just happen to be wearing the same red t-shirt right now, which I got in San Francisco the previous day.  I don’t know why I or anyone else would care, but I just noticed that.Lovethespin-Valerie-Christensen-2014-10-1811-1030x773

Point Lobos was beautiful.  Something about it wasn’t exactly the same as the coastal area we went to on that first day though, but it was still memorable.  I remember more trying to find some crabs in the tide pools and the only ones I could find that were not dead ran away when I got close.  And there were these deep pools between the rocks that would fill up with every wave, and then water would run off the rocks, and then I had to time it right so I could jump somewhere… dang, looking at that last picture and thinking back… I have no idea how I actually got on that rock.

San Francisco – Day 2 (Thursday)



Back to San Francisco last October…

So, on Thursday morning, we got up and went to the hotel breakfast buffet. Hotel breakfast buffets are pretty great. They have good waffles.

Back to the point, we left the hotel and got back onto the highway toward the Oakland bridge. The objective of that day was to check out downtown San Francisco. And that’s pretty much what we did; it did take us a while to get there though. Traffic was super backed up from around Oakland across the Oakland bridge. I guess it’s just like that all the time? I don’t know. Things sped up around the bay bridge and we ended up getting to the city at a decent time in the morning.GGBridge at dusk

We parked nearthe ocean on the northeast side of the peninsula($50/day!), and we went to the Ferry Building, which was like a small mall inside this long building, with all these quirky little cafes and shops. The main objective of going in there was to acquire public transit passes for the day, so we could ride the trolleys and busses that they have around the city.

After we got our transit passes, we walked about a block to a spot on the trolley route. It was actually not that crowded, which was unusual, because usually the trolleys are really crowded and it’s hard to actually be able to get on. This time we got on near the end of the line, so I guess it made sense. We rode the trolley west up California Street to a park at the top of the hill across the street from Grace Cathedral. We chilled around there for a few minutes and checked out the Cathedral.

We walked down the street to a trolley stop and waited for a while, but it was annoying because all of the trolleys that passed during the approximate thirty minutes we waited were 1) extremely crowded and 2) not even going the right direction. So we ended up walking a few blocks to a bus stop in a ghetto-ish area of Chinatown and waited there for a bus. An overcrowded bus finally showed up and took us to the Fisherman’s Wharf. So that whole thing was kind of obnoxious, but it all worked out so I guess it was good.

We walked down a crowded street full of souvenir shops to the chain of fish restaurants near the wharf. We went and ate in this one restaurant; I’m not sure that it even had a name, it was just… one of the fish restaurants. But it was good.

After lunch we walked down through a building full of the old carnival games from the Wharf, and then outside, where they had an old submarine and a battleship, from World War II I think. I guess the men on the battleship didn’t realize their ship would be on display, because they painted topless women on the outside of it for….. some reason, I guess. What happens on the battleship stays on the battleship.

We walked away from the wharf around to the Ghirardelli plaza. Ghirardelli is chocolate company, but they also had restaurants, live entertainment and pricey apartments in their buildings for some reason. We ate their chocolate and ice cream, which is very overpriced but still good.

There is a small section of sandy beach just north of Ghirardelli Square (which we came to affectionately refer to as “the ‘delli”). It’s just to the west of Hyde Street and the Fisherman’s Wharf. Two small piers are on either side of the arc-shaped beach, one slanting northwest and the other curving around the other way, forming a sort of artificial bay. You can see swimmers circling around

imagesI enjoyed walking out on the Aquatic Park Pier, which is basically this sidewalk that goes out into the ocean and curves around (on the left in the image). You can walk to the end and get a good view of urban San Francisco, the Bay and Alcatraz; as well as the Golden Gate Bridge and the forested mountains beyond it. Every now and then, a seal will swim to the surface of the ocean near the pier.


After exploring this part of town, we walked into town up to Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world”.


Some of the streets in San Francisco are really steep and skinny, and the old houses are generally these different colored houses tightly lined up next to each other.


After walking up Lombard Street, we waited once more for a trolley, yet to no avail. We ended up riding on a bus to Chinatown. We went into a few souvenir shops there. I got this baseball cap with Chinese dragons on it that says San Francisco, which I have worn probably most days since then, because who doesn’t love dragons and San Francisco; but also, you could say, to subtly protest the wearing of snapback hats.

We walked out of the gate to Chinatown and rode the bus back to our car. We ended up eating dinner at an In-n-Out Burger on the way back to our hotel in Benicia.  So, Thursday was great.

Sorry, I know it’s just a rundown again.  Don’t get me wrong, downtown San Francisco is a great place and you should go there.  Maybe this particular day didn’t stand out as much in a certain way as the first day, but it was just as memorable.  In a different way, it stood out a lot, because I got that dragon hat…

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Which I wore to Disneyland while I made that dumb face.


San Francisco – Day 1 (Wednesday)

Last October we went to San Francisco, California.

On Wednesday morning, we went to the Salt Lake International Airport and flew directly to SFO.  We left pretty early in the morning and we ended up landing about 9 a.m.  I think the time difference is not exactly the same as the sun difference as it is in Utah so it seemed like Wednesday was an exceptionally long day, even though it was really only about an hour longer.

We rented a car at the airport (A red Nissan Altima, to be exact, because I know some people care a lot about cars.  I’m not sure exactly what year but it seemed fairly new.  I don’t have strong opinions on cars myself, but whenever I see one of these I’m like, “Hey, that’s the San Francisco car,” for some reason)  and started driving north along the eastern outskirts of urban San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge State Park (on the San Francisco side).  We checked the place out for about an hour.  They had good viewpoints of the bay, the bridge, and surrounding areas like Alcatraz.  They also had displays of information on the history and physics of the bridge.

After spending some time at the park, we drove across the bridge to Sausalito, a few miles north of the bridge on the northern peninsula.  It’s a nice place; we stopped there because my Mom thought she saw a Starbucks and I looked around several times and I’m like “I really don’t think there’s a Starbucks here,” and she’s all like “I’m pretty sure I just saw one…”

So we finally found the phantom Starbucks after driving around the small block for about ten minutes.

And then I went to a convenience store and got some mountain dew.  And I thought, “Dang, California mountain dew is expensive.”  But it made sense because the one thing that’s better than drinking mountain dew in Utah is drinking mountain dew in California.

I suppose that’s not very important to the narrative though.

So we drove from Sausalito to the Muir Woods National Monument.  Muir Woods is a forest of California redwoods.  The redwood forest grows along the bottom of a canyon, so when you look at the area from above you only see a canopy of greenery.  You have to hike along the bottom of the canyon to get the full experience.  It’s a great place, 10 out of 10 would recommend.

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I suppose one would recognize these woods from the new Planet of the Apes movies.

After hiking a distance into these woods, we headed back toward our car, checking out the gift shop on the way out.

We decided that we would go to the beach for a while.  Stinson Beach appeared to be the closest; over the mountains in a northwest direction from the Woods.  The drive over the mountains was quite beautiful.  We drove mainly through forests of moss-covered deciduous trees.

We got to Stinson Beach overlook.  For a reason I cannot remember, we decided not to take the drive down there and continue south down the coast instead.  We drove a few miles on the tops of the huge cliffs overlooking the shores for a few miles.  I was pretty light-headed from the airplane and the drive at this point, but I still enjoyed it.

We came to a small neighborhood, in the woods along the sides of the mountains and the canyon, called Muir beach.  We had to walk a distance to the beach.  It was in a small cove, with a sandy beach in the middle and rocky shores on the north and south sides.  This is one of my favorite beaches that I have been to.  There wasn’t much surf and I didn’t actually go in the ocean.  This is one of those places where you just have to walk up the beach by yourself and experience it on your own.


So that was great.  Anyway, we left the beach and headed back toward Sausilito and crossed a bridge going east across the Bay.  We drove for a while to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in a place called Benicia and checked in and ordered pizza.  So Wednesday was a good day.


Map of San FranciscoSanFr.SmallMap

Note: (writing this like a week after I wrote this post) I know this post is just kind of a rundown, not anything personal going on, that was kind of what was going on in my mind.  I don’t know.  This day I’m writing about here was actually pretty important for me for reasons I cannot explain well at all, but I will reference it more later.  Just read the rest of my articles.

Edit 2 (2/13/15): I dedicate this music (El Ten Eleven, self-titled album) to this experience, especially the Muir Beach.  And especially “Connie”, the second to last song.  No, I don’t know anyone named Connie, and my life’s romantic activity level is a good, solid zero, but it was just the first song I heard by these guys and I’m like, “Hey, this is amazing.”

Pasadena and Kath’s Family

January 19-22, 2015

We got to our friends house about two fifteen. Our friends in Pasadena that we are staying with are some of our closest friends. Kath and Wade are friends with my parents. They have a son Noah’s age and a daughter named Ella who is my age. We have been friends since we were babies. We goofed around for the rest of the day. We made funny music videos and watched a show at night.

The next day we didn’t do much because we all had school. But at night we went to Soup Plantation (owned by the same people at Sweet Tomatoes and they are basically the same place). I used to go there all the time with my mom and Doris when I was a kid. Kath and Ella are vegan and are trying to go gluten free so it reminded my family to remember to eat healthy even though we were on a trip. Souplantation has a really good Caesar Salad. After we went to Trader Joes, and it was the one that we used to go to a lot in Pasadena.

The next day we did school and then we finished our fake music videos. After the kids went to the park by the Rose Bowl with the adults so me and Ella watched TV then when everyone got home, Kath and my mom left and got dim sum so me and Ella were baby sitting. We had pizza and watched TV until the adults got home.

Today we woke up and did school. We are going to our house by the beach in Oxnard later when we are done with school. I am really excited!


Noah goes to Disneyland

Last Saturday I went to Disneyland with my family. It was crowded and rainy, but I had fun and we were able to walk on a lot of rides.  It smelled like popcorn and there was music everywhere. 

For lunch we ate at the French Market, and I tried the corn chowder in a bread bowl but traded it for mac-n-cheese. There were live jazz musicians playing while we ate.  

I liked Autopia in tomorrowland, I drove the car and Ben pressed on the pedal–I could have, but it was a little hard with the slippery pedal. I liked Pirates of the Carribean the best–I liked that he said, “Dead men tell no tales” a lot of times.  I loved all the mountains–Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain.  Our longest wait was for Space Mountain, but we got a fast pass later and went again. We walked on to Splash a few times and onto Thunder twice. I got to become Ironman in Innoventions and meet Captain America.  The Haunted Mansion was the Nightmare Before Christmas style still, which was weird.  I like the regular one.  But I liked the hall with floating Zero in it. I saw my goat Dangit holding some dynamite in his mouth on a rock on the top of Thunder Mountain.  

I really don’t like the Indiana Jones ride, its just so rumbly and dark and loud, and you feel like it’s over but it’s not, but I do like the Indiana Jones movie.  Our Jungle Cruise tour guide was funny and told good jokes.  I like Mr. Toad’s wild ride because the whole story is that he’s a bad driver and blows himself up and goes to hell.  I like the first part because you go in through a place and then turn around and come back out and it looks like you are going where you started, then you look like you’re going to hit people but end up going through a wall.  For dinner we ate at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland, but I didn’t like it.  We stayed until it closed at 11 and walked to our hotel.

We forgot to go on Winnie the Pooh, so next time I’d start with that.   If others are visiting, I’d warn them that Indiana Jones is kind of creepy.  

Overall I give Disneyland 5 stars.

Noah, age 10

A week at “home” in CA

All you have to do to have your life perfectly and beautifully
catalogued is hang out with my sweet Doris 24/7. I'll fill in a few
details when i get back to Utah but for now you can enjoy Doris and
her version, which is just lovely. Today I am driving from Vegas to
Utah and it is supposed to snow a bit. Wish us luck! (yes I took a
road trip with four kids and no husband, but it actually turned out

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