Monday, May 30, 2011

Trip 38 continued: California day 4 and the long trip home

This was the big day.  The one I planned my trip around...The Warrior Dash!  Sunday started as normally as you would expect it to, if you're into crawling through mud and leaping over fire.  Any day when you're not decorated in pink and/or skulls is a day wasted in my book!

Seriously though, after JoAnna and Holly got decked out in their Team BadAss/The Pink Ladies costumes (can I call it a costume when I would actually wear it??), we loaded into vehicles and hit the road for Lake Elsinore.  Holly, JoAnna, Ryan, and I were in Holly's car, while Holly's parents followed us.  Ryan was pretty insistent that we play Go Fish, and I finally gave in.  Once I realized we were playing by Ryan's House Rules, however, I had to put a stop to the shenanigans.  Instead, we took some lovely photos with my camera:

After a brief moment of temporary displacement, we made it to the Dash site with moments to spare.  Holly and JoAnna made a run for packet pickup while I grabbed Ryan and waited for Dan and Mary Ann to join us.  I was worried the ladies would miss the starting fireburst, but they made it just in time!

I knew we wouldn't be able to see them again until the very end of the run, so we spent some time people-watching.  It was neat being there as a spectator this time, because I knew what to expect....

I can't decide if this guy is more Captain America or Captain Underpants, so I've decided to call him Captain UnderAmeriPants.

Dan planted himself near the finish line while I wandered toward the fire obstacle with Ryan and Mary Ann. 

Ryan was antsy to see him mom and kept calling for her.  Still, he was very well-behaved and stayed with me while I kept watch as well.  Apparently fluorescent pink shirts were quite popular with runners on that particular day, and every time I saw two people in pink I thought it was Holly and JoAnna.  No.  Nope.  Not them.  Unh-unh.  Not yet.  Is that them?  And then finally, it was.

JoAnna is crawling down the cargo net while Holly is going over the top.  I love this picture because of the guy posing next to Holly.

Their leaps of faith over, it was time for the final obstacle:  MUD!!

Ryan and I had been running the rest of the field with them, trying to take pictures the whole way.  I was able to get this one of Holly and JoAnna holding hands across the finish line:

Awesome job, ladies!!

JoAnna's husband Mike surprised her and was at the finish line as well!  It was great to see the surprised look on her face when she realized he had taken off from work and was there to cheer her on. 

Soon it was time for a bath!

Afterward, Dan and Mary Ann said their goodbyes and left for home.  The rest of us decided to head over to Chili's for a celebratory meal.  It was nice, relaxing after the day in the sun (and the mud!) before driving back home for my last sleep in California.  First, though, we had another stop to make:  Charlie Brown Farms.

This place is part circus/part flea market/part convenience store/all crazy.  It has a crazy eclectic mish-mash of statuary, trinkets, candy...everything. 


Eventually we made it back and JoAnna left for home.  Holly spent the evening removing mud from herself while I packed for my flight home the next morning.  After I woke up Monday and got ready, I said goodbye to my wonderful hosts, Dan and Mary Ann.  I was truly grateful for their hospitality and couldn't have surprised Holly without their support. 

Holly and I left for the airport, but we had one last thing to do before we got there.  A few years ago there was a car commercial (Honda, I think?) in which the auto maker created a 'musical' road for you to drive over and listen to.  Being a big fan of all things quirky, I had to witness it myself, since the road was in nearby Lancaster.  Enjoy!

And that was it.  Aside from boarding the plane and flying away, my trip was complete.  I surprised my best friend.  I met her parents.  I got to know her home state through her eyes.  I enjoyed myself!  I got to watch her run through a muddy obstacle course and prove to herself that she had it in her to succeed.  I was proud of her then and continue to be now.  I had an amazing time in an alternate universe.  And while I missed my own family and was happy to be reunited with them, for a few days I got to be a part of her family, where I will forever feel loved and welcome.

Holly, I love you babe!  You are awesome and I am grateful to call you FRIEND!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Trip 38 continued: California, day 3

As my friend John said about this picture...Sniff, sniff.  What's that smell?  I smell trouble!  And that's exactly what we were looking for here.  Saturday California...and, Oh, the possibilities!!  Our first order of business was Ryan's soccer practice.  It was neat seeing the emphasis on kids playing and having fun instead of following really rigid rules.  They looked to be having a great time!

Ryan is the little goalie with the green soccer ball.

After practice was over we decided to go gambling.  A local convenience store, Mike's, has had the good fortune of selling three different winning lottery tickets that have won millions.  I wanted to try my hand, so we stopped by to check it out.

I did *not* win anything.  But, I was in California with my bestie, so I had more riches than money could buy.  *blush*

The plan for the day was basically to go to the beach!  I'm a Florida girl with a fondness for smelling like coconuts and having sand between my toes, and I absolutely could not visit the West coast without hitting the beach.  I had to laugh, though, at seeing snow on the mountains as we drove.

Our drive took us through Bouquet Canyon.  Mind you, I never looked at a map to see our route, had no idea how long it would take, didn't know what to expect....Yeah, I felt like I was in an alternate universe.  A good alternate universe, though!  Here, take a tour with me:

Alien plant!

Bouquet Canyon was gorgeous!  Curvy roads, towering trees, water flowing by (Holly, stop this car RIGHT NOW so I can take pictures!!)...gorgeous!!  Possibly one of my favorite parts of my trip.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

I kept taking pictures as we zoomed down the highway because I was floored by the scenery.  One minute is was bright and sunny, and the next we saw fog rolling through the hillsides. 

We made a quick stop at a place Ryan likes to call 'The Bee Shop,' Bennett's Honey Farm (Hello, Bennett family!!).  Getting out of the car we were immediately hit with the sweet aroma of orange blossoms.  I was reminded of home!

While Holly looked for some cactus honey for her dad, Ryan and I browsed and sampled.  I prefer very bold flavors of honey and really enjoyed their buckwheat variety.

Pretty soon we piled back into the car and headed further down the road.

Our next stop was the Santa Clara Schoolhouse:

Holly and her family had tried to find a geocache hidden here, only to come up empty-handed.  I love a challenge, so I was prepared to search and search if necessary.  Instead I walked right up to it.  I have to agree with wasn't there when they looked before!!

The city of Santa Paula was another one of those really random places I wanted to see during my visit...go figure.  Holly was kind enough to humor me, and for good reason!  One of...if not Mexican restaurants in existence is in Santa Paula, Familia Diaz.  But first, I had to have a little fun:

Ryan got to have a little fun, too:

Pretty soon we were seated inside Familia Diaz and enjoying albondigas soup.  It was my first experience with that particular soup and I really enjoyed it!  We then enjoyed chicken chimichangas and some fried ice cream...mmm!

Fred came out to play with our leftovers:

We finished our meal, made friends with the bikers at the bar, and then hit the road again.  Remember, I still had no idea where we were or when we'd be at the beach.  I was along for the ride and enjoying every second of it!  The scenery kept me enthralled:

And then...we were there!  At Holly's suggestion we went to the beach in Carpinteria.  She found us a parking spot right by the sand and then we went to check it out:

The day was overcast and chilly, but that didn't stop a lot of people from playing in the water.  Ryan, especially, had a great time rolling in the sand and then into the water...back and forth, several times.  I don't know how he could do it!  It was so cold I could only handle a few minutes with my feet in the water.

We stayed a little while longer and then decided to head to Starbuck's for a warm drink.  Before leaving I picked up a few rocks and shells for Olivia.  I was struck by the differences in sand, shells, rocks, temperature.  Going to the beach is such a normal thing at home, but just because I was at a beach it didn't necessarily make me homesick.  The differences were so much so that it was a separate experience entirely.

But hey, what else should one expect from a visit to an alternate universe?!

That said, I will add that this was probably one of my favorite days in California...right up there with wildflowers and Warrior Dash.  Just sayin'

The near!