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hi, want to be friends? i don’t have many here. we could get in n out together, if you’re down, even though it’s really not that good. yes, i said it. i should tell you, though, i’m not very good at being with you yet. especially driving. all these u-turns are confusing and sometimes i get distracted by the palm trees. also, i use too much of your water. i’m sorry! i’m from michigan, that one state literally surrounded by water, so forgive me, ok? you just keep having nice weather and i’ll keep trying to be a good resident. now, let’s go to the beach.

My entire day in San Francisco was kind of a hilarious disaster.

Nicole and I got up early in time to catch the free breakfast at our hotel. Carrying our bowls of cereal, cups of juice, and plates of waffles, we headed back to eat in our room since the “breakfast room” was full.

That was the plan anyway. Our hotel room door wouldn’t open. Somehow the lock mechanism had broken or gotten stuck in the door, and our door card couldn’t open the lock.

So, I set (carefully!) my waffles and juice onto the floor, told Nicole to guard them, and headed down (from the sixth floor) to the main lobby via the staircase (the creaky old elevator is an entire, even longer, story). I told the guy at the desk that my card wouldn’t open the door – so he gave me a new one – card, not a new door. Although, as it turned out, that’s what we needed… sort of…

Did the new card open the door? Nope! Although, we did try to make it work several more times. Then, Nicole took over (while I guarded the now-soggy cereal) and marched (again) down the stairs to the lobby.

After about 15 minutes (and one European couple’s strange looks at me as I stood looming over several plastic plates full of food in the corner of a hallway), Nicole returned – with the Manager! We were finally saved!

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Only – no, we weren’t. The manager had brought another key. And, when he tried to open the door himself – it didn’t work! Surprise! So, back down to the lobby he went. Finally, he returned with the (magic) master key (card), and got our door open in one swipe!

In we barged into our room, soggy cereal and waffles in hand. The manager said he would get us a new room, and then he left. Yes, we then ate our cold, soggy, breakfast. And it was good!

Later, after transferring all of our stuff into a new room (right across the hall from the “breakfast room”!), we were off to explore San Francisco. We even had a route mapped out. First, to the cable cars! Then, to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, then off to the Golden Gate Bridge, and, lastly, a stop at the Golden Gate Park.

However, disaster followed us throughout the day. I could write forever on all that happened to us, so I’ll just give you the summary.

Cable Cars? That went well enough. We found the ticket booth easily, stood in line for twenty minutes to get tickets, and then went to board a car. Only, there was an hour-long line to board. The walk to Pier 39 was only 45 minutes from where the cable cars were located – it would have taken us way longer to wait for the cable cars than it would to walk there! So, we decided to walk down a couple blocks and try to get on the car further down. However, that didn’t work out – turns out, most of the people who got on at the first stop wanted to get off at the last stop.

“Next car, guys!” – Cable car driver, as he drove past the group of people waiting under the bus stop sign.

So, we walked. Up, up, up the steep roads between us and the bay. Finally, we reached Pier 39.

There were no sea lions at Pier 39.

Turns out, we visited during their mating season – a time when they are far, far, away from San Francisco. There were only three sea lions to be seen. Two of them were snoozing on the “sea lion dock”, while one was attempting to snooze on the “boat dock”. We watched then as a dock worker, pushing a large garbage can in front of him, attempted to scare the sea lion off the dock and into the water. He managed to do so – but only after the sea lion ran towards the man, literally barking mad.

With nothing much else to see at the pier, we were off to the Golden Gate bridge. We hopped on a city bus – which promptly took us in the wrong direction. Yes, we took the wrong bus – all the way to its last stop. Then, we waited for the bus driver to take his break… and, finally, we hopped on the bus again, this time headed in the correct direction, and made our way to the bridge.

It is beautiful! Quite a sight. Once we had snapped enough photos of the bridge itself, we wandered around the area a bit and read up on some Golden Gate history.

It was about 6:00PM when we decided to head to our last stop – the golden gate park.

To get there, we had to take a bus, and then another bus – and then, one more. We were bus-riding professionals by the end of the day! Well, sort of…

We got off at the wrong stop – one stop too early. We were close to the park, though! And during our walk of several blocks to catch a bus towards our hotel, we managed to see some pretty spectacular sights. We saw some of the park, so we were happy.

Until we realized, about an hour later, that we were, in fact, horrible bus-riding professionals.

After a half-hour of walking to our next bus stop, we sat down at the bench and waited. I noticed a phone number that was available to call that would tell you the next time the bus was predicted to arrive at your particular stop – so, I called.

“There are no predicted times for your stop. Either the prediction equipment is damaged, or there are no scheduled stops for your location in the next 90 minutes.”

What? Oh, crap.

With the way our luck had been going so far that day, we decided that the latter was probably the actual reason there was no prediction. So, on we walked, toward the direction of our hotel – miles and miles across town.

Then, we spotted a bus on the route we had been wanting! It was going in the wrong direction – but we knew how to handle that: We would simply ride the bus all the way to its end, then ride it back again. We were desperate for a ride at that time (it was getting dark, and we were tired), so we hopped on the bus, and waited.

“Last stop!” – Driver

“Are you going ‘round again?” – Me

“No, this is the last stop. Busses don’t go in that direction anymore tonight.” – Driver

“…” – Me and Nicole

Yes, we had taken the bus in the entirely wrong direction, and now we found ourselves even farther from our hotel, with no bus to take us in the opposite direction.

We stood on the corner as our last hope drove away.

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Then, a woman walking nearby asked if we needed help. Yes! Yes, we did!

(I would like to interrupt myself to say thank you! Thank you, San Francisco, and your people, for being so kind to visitors in your city! We had several people offer to assist us over the course of the two days we were in your city, and whether we needed it or not, it was much appreciated. Thank you!)

Turns out, we were only a block away from where we needed to be: At the stop for the bus that would actually take us all the way back to downtown San Fran. And, as the cherry on top of that good news: the bus was going to stop right by our hotel! We were saved!

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Getting on that bus was the best moment of that day. We didn’t have to walk anymore! We were on our way home! To food! To our beds! To not being lost!

And, after arriving, finally, at our hotel, we marched right over to our trusty Jack in the Box and ordered dinner. (Well, we marched there while assisting a blind man across the street… but that’s an entire different, and longer, story.)

What a day. What a long, hilariously disaster-filled day. What a wonderful, San Francisco filled day. Good night!

I’ve fallen in love in California.

His name is … frozen yogurt.

Yes, it’s true, I’ve found a new love. It is either very good or very bad that there are no frozen yogurt shops where I live. Both, I guess.

Yesterday we drove from LA to San Francisco.

The end.

Really, the drive took 6 hours, and it took another hour to find our hotel. So by the time we got settled in, it was getting late, and cold, in our new town.

But since we were starving, as per usual, we went out in search of chow – and got our first pedestrian glimpse of San Fran.

The first thing I noticed were the buildings. They’re small, compared to the buildings of LA, and cramped closely together – packed in tight on the hilly roads that are found here. They are beautiful – they look old, at least by big-city standards. The hotel we’re staying in here in San Fran is one of these buildings, and I can tell from the way it’s built that it’s definitely not a modern building. I think these structures give San Francisco a certain charm – and because of them I fell in love with the city a little bit as soon as I stepped foot into it.

I noticed the people of San Fran next. There were a lot of them – locals and tourists. I can always spot a local, no matter what city I find myself in. They have a certain look about them. They dress like they know what they’re doing. They know where they’re going and they plan to get there. The tourists here are similar to those found in other parts of California that I’ve seen – although here they’ve brought out their sweaters and long pants. Oh, did I mention – it’s cold here!

I guess I forgot that during our 6-hour drive, we were headed north. Northern California is cold, you guys! I am so glad I packed one pair of jeans and one sweater! Without them, I don’t think I’d make it here…

But, more about the people.

For some reason, I couldn’t figure this crowd out right away. Like, in LA, I felt like I understood them, like I knew how to blend in and make my way around. But here, even if I hadn’t had a bright-red sunburnt face, I felt like an outsider.

Suddenly, I didn’t know how to function. Walking down the road, I wondered, “Do I make eye contact? Do I stare at the ground? Do I smile? What do I do?”

I guess the etiquette here just seems different than LA – and it probably is. While still a big city, San Francisco is very different than Los Angeles.

Hopefully I’ll pick it up tomorrow as we explore the town.

Oh, and I almost forgot the good part!

We had Pizza Hut for dinner.

It is amazing how wonderful it feels carrying food “home” after not eating all day, and knowing that soon you will have a full belly.

And that is a fact I’m sure all San Franciscans can agree with. Yeah? See, I’m beginning to understand you already!

What did you do for the fourth of July?

I spent mine watching fireworks at Venice Beach – on the pier, over the ocean, with several dolphins and three pelicans.

I can’t believe this place called “LA” is real. It’s so… strange.

First, there’s the ocean. It’s beautiful. There are huge beaches all along it, open to the public – they are beautiful. There are dolphins, seagulls, pelicans, all sorts of tropical vegetation (all beautiful).

Then, right next door, there is the city. It’s huge, and beautiful in an ugly way. That makes sense, right?

There are buildings and roads and cars everywhere. And I mean everywhere. And people – all sorts and shapes and colors of people.

Both of those things are wonderful to find in a city. It’s just a little overwhelming to have both, and so much of, in the same place.

It’s an interesting contrast, that’s for sure. And, so, as I approached my third day as an Official California Tourist, I wasn’t yet sure how I felt about LA.

We spent the morning… sleeping in.

Yes, we were tired out, ok? Lots of walking and sun will do that to a person.

Around noon we piled our starving selves into our car and headed towards Santa Monica Pier. I’m not kidding, that’s what I typed into my GPS – which is how we found ourselves driving up the road that the pier is on. It sort of just a-pier-ed in front of us. (Yes, I went there.)

Then, the walking began. And didn’t end until 11:30pm that night. Saying our feet were sore is putting it lightly.

What did we do for 10 hours on the beach? A lot of walking, a little shopping, a lot of sitting in the sand, a little napping in the sand, a lot of watching attractive surfer guys (and gals) do their thing. Surfing looks really fun. I’d like to try it sometime. Maybe next time I see you, California.

Then, more walking. Painful walking.

But I was ok with the extra-large blister on my heel – the walk was beautiful (how many times have I used that word? sheesh…), the people were interesting, and the fireworks were everywhere up and down the coast.

(Side note #1: A Canadian couple on their honeymoon asked me to take their picture on the beach and I did and it was super adorable! Side note #2: When I was “napping” on the beach I got hit by a stray frisbee – ow! [But, a good way to meet guys… yeah?])

On the four mile walk (!) back to our car, the boardwalk shops of Venice Beach were locked up tight for the night, and it was strange to see how quickly a bustling locale had changed into an apocalyptic boulevard.

Just across the walk, away from the successful shops and rich-people’s oceanfront homes, were the homeless.

I’ve been around homeless people before, but not like this. There were a lot of them, and they were all lying down, wrapped up in blankets and plastic, surrounded by shopping carts and overfull garbage bags.

It was sad, and quite a picture of the diversity of wealth in America – the richest, and the poorest, separated only by a ten-foot stretch of pavement.

I suppose this is another element that is commonly found in California. People of all sorts, like I said.

Should LA be an easy city to love? Should I know right away how I feel about it? Why is this city so puzzling to me?

Anyway, here’s something I heard a LA local say (while she was laying on the beach):

“Isn’t our life rough? This is why we can deal with the traffic and the pollution – we have this!”

Is that enough? Are the two sides of LA (nature vs. humanity) equally balanced? Will I ever figure this city out?

Um… time will tell?

Anyway, on to San Francisco!

I’m going to California tomorrow.

Ok, ok – that’s not totally true. I’m going towards California tomorrow. I’ll be on my way to California tomorrow. It just sounds better the other way.

Me and my pal Nicole [N.] are off on a 8 day summer journey – from Detroit, Mi to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Las Vegas, and (finally!) on to California. We’ll be renting a tiny car to drive up and down and all over California and the west coast (also Vegas).

And it all starts tomorrow. My bags are (partially) packed! I’m ready! Let’s do this!

Since I’m pretty sure our packed-full days are going to fly by, I’ve decided to lug along my computer (through airport security! wish me luck!) and write a daily nightly post here on my beautiful site!

So, if you really want to, you can follow along with me as I discover California…

California is important to me in a big way. I’ve never been there (I don’t count a 30 minute drive-through on a family trip to Arizona), not really, but I’ve wanted to go there for a long time now. A lot of the people I really admire either lived or worked or visited there. (Also, I really like oceans…)

I just feel like there’s a force that’s pulling people towards certain places – like London, or New York, or… California. There are places people just want to go.

So, this isn’t just a fun summer vacation with friends – this trip holds a lot of meaning to me. Who knows, I may fall in love and move to CA after college – or maybe I’ll hate it there! (Yeah, right.)

We shall see… Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!