If there was anything I'd change about our experience down in California, it would have happened on Sunday morning. I would have insisted we'd gotten our rear ends moving and out of the hotel about 90 minutes before we actually did. Granted, we did have kind of a last minute course change about the route we'd take - which meant a whole of unknowns were thrown into the mix, but an extra 90 minutes (or even 60 minutes) would have alleviated a whole lot of white-knuckled driving stress through the streets of San Francisco!
As it was, we set off west from Fairfield to the wine country of California. If we'd had more time, we would have stopped to take so many more pictures - the color was not modified in these pics, the sky really was that blue (and about mid 60's in temps.) So beautiful, but unfortunately all viewed driving by. We drove through Napa and then ended up in Sonoma for lunch.
I had mentioned "Black Bear Diner" as a fun location we had eaten when our family was on vacation in 2007 to Lake Tahoe. Knowing our group's affinity for breakfast foods - and that they serve breakfast all day- we thought this would be a cozy place to stop at. (I know what you are thinking, "you are in world-famous Sonoma and you opt for a franchise restaurant to eat at vs. some sort of one-of-a-kind cafe"....yeah, we are bad like that. We tend to gravitate towards comfort and cozy vs. eclectic and unknown when it comes to eating out....)
The girls did indeed love the atmosphere and we raced through our orders. Unfortunately, the time span between when Michele and I got our "Blackberry Bear Claws" (in the above pic collage) and their orders of pancakes was eight minutes. Not a big deal normally (bear claws must be served early like appetizers or something...), but in our case, every minute counted knowing we had to make it to San Francisco and be in our seats at the Orpheum theater by 2pm.
So, while we waited, Michele thought today would be a great day to treat her oldest daughter to a mini make-over - giving her a little eye shadow and mascara. As a 7th grader, and for such a special event, it seemed like the right timing. And, wow - Oh Natalia, it's a truth we've always known, but made more apparent as the years go on, how beautiful you are - both inside and obviously, out. =)
Within about five minutes of the girls getting their pancakes, we were exiting the restaurant with "to go" containers and on the road. Every stop sign and red light had me stressing....ugh. But, soon enough (we were staying within our navigation's time expectation and even gaining a few minutes) we saw this on the horizon, and eventually were crossing over it. Of course, we had planned all along to stop at the Golden Gate Bridge wayside and take a picture of all of us together, but we definitely didn't have time for that. (And, on the way home, unanimously didn't feel like it was a priority to retrace our steps, opting instead to get home the fastest way possible).
To top off the stress, the route to the Orpheum theater via the Golden Gate Bridge was definitely not a shortcut. Instead it was one stop light/stop sign after another. At one point, we got into the shorter left lane, only to be stuck behind the guy who needed to do an unprotected u-turn. After a couple minutes of being stuck there (and no way to change lanes), we learned our lesson to stay out of that lane. We also found ourselves on a track that quickly gained elevation on our way to the theater. So glad we didn't have a manual transmission at some of those stop signs!
Thank God for an excellent phone navigation system - as we were able to get to the pre-determined parking garage by about 1:30. We were still about 3 blocks away though, so we all hustled as fast as possible, but once on foot, were a little unsure which way to go. Fortunately, we found two gals also headed the same way, who clearly knew where they were going - and we followed them. It's a good thing, too - I had been warned, but where the Orpheum Theater is located is not a very safe part of town. In fact, the entire walk (through the downtown area) had homeless persons along all of the sidewalks - often sleeping on their belongings. It's not an unknown sight in Eugene, but not to that degree. Can't imagine how nervous I would have been if we'd been attending an evening showing and not in the light of day.
Finally, like a beacon of light, we saw this. Thank God!
And, as we walked through the doors, we received this (and then waited in line with about 50 other women for the very necessary visit to the restroom). By the time we found our amazing seats (thank you John for picking out and purchasing the tickets for us!), we had about three minutes before the show began. Sheesh! That's cutting it way too close, but we made it!
The top right picture shows the girls during intermission. Our tickets included VIP access at that time, so we got to enter a room with a handful of other folks and received free drinks and king size bags of candy. I'm not sure what "extra" John spent for this perk, but it was a welcome reprieve during the musical's version of "half-time" after the tension we'd felt before hand.
Needless to say, we all LOVED the performance. The actress that played "Glinda" was so much better than the one who played the part in the performance Mikayla and I attended in Eugene. At the time, I thought she was fine, as I had no way to know what I could expect, but after seeing this gal - wow, how much better the musical was than even I had expected. And, it's crazy how much I'd forgotten even within two years time. At the point in which Elphaba and Glinda sang the duet "For Good" Mikayla was darting her eyes back and forth between Michele and I (she was seated between us) - smiling at the fact we both had tears in our eyes. Probably the best moment of our entire vacation. Afterwards, we were able to ask a kind lady to take a picture of us and the marquee - and then, we raced back to our vehicle, choosing not to get out again until we were back at our hotel.
A few pictures of the skyscrapers of San Francisco and the best we had (amongst many attempts on our phones) of the sun setting over the harbor.
While we didn't end up getting out of the car before reaching our "home away from home", we did manage to go through a few "drive-thrus". One was through McDonald's for the sole purpose of satisfying Ellie's need for ranch dressing that In N Out didn't provide with its french fries. We tried to order additional items (like root beer) to make the silly request not seem so absurd, but they didn't have root beer. So we went through the drive though at McDonald's to only spend $0.40 on two packets of ranch dressing. It definitely brought forth a car full of laughter. Then, of course, the second drive thru was for In N Out. As seen below, it was well worth the extra couple of minutes off course, to be able to take it back to the hotel and enjoy in peace.
What a crazy, eventful day - one in which we worked hard to savor every moment.