SFO Day 4: Home, there, and back again

Breakfast this morning started out at The Daily Grill which was both delicious, worth the 15-20 minute wait and had excellent service. We had walked by the previous day and the line was out the door. Since there were only a few waiting, we decided to give it a try. As seemed to be typical in San Francisco, they did not have a gluten free menu, nor designation on the menu for gluten free items, but they were happy to accommodate both my daughters gluten free diet.

Then there was general consensus to spend our last few hours on the ground on Fisherman’s Wharf. (We were to fly out late afternoon) We packed up, put our luggage in hotel storage and headed off to catch the trolley for the obligatory tourist experience of riding the San Francisco trolly. After standing here, waiting 20 minutes with a pack of other tourists,

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we changed our minds. Yep, we took a cab.

The cabbie dropped us off near 12:15pm, which is when the next heat of the Americas Cup was running. So I dragged my family out to the end of the Pier where we watched the boats race. This time the Emirates boat had some competition, the Prada boat. Well, kinda sorta competition. They started out within sight of each other

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The Prada boat is on the left (facing the camera), the Emirates on the right, headed towards Alcatraz Island. Then, all of a sudden, the Emirates boat took off and sailed away.

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Since the Pier where the cabby dropped us off is near the shopping mall, and behind the ‘main drag’ of the Wharf, after watching the boats we headed off to pass time. It was so lovely on Sunday, as it was less crowded, but still lots of artists and activities.

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We passed more time enjoying the sights and sounds, then headed back to The Franciscan to warm up (there was a chill in the air) and grab a light bite. We shared a crab and my oldest was able to enjoy our fun experience also.

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We polished off our crab, Yummmmm.

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Then it was a stroll up to Ghiradelli Square, where again, the crowds were nearly non-existent and we were able to grab a sweet treat.

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I tried the ‘new’ chocolate-banana salted caramel milkshake, my ‘cold babies’ had a hot chocolate.

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By this time, it was with a bit of sadness we grabbed a cab back to pick up our luggage and head to the airport. Another lovely surprise, the airport was nearly empty! On the plane headed home, my oldest treated me to ‘fun with food wrappers’ as a way to combat the boredom of the 3+ hour flight home.

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As I rolled my bag to the car, it struck me as odd that I was headed ‘home’. The mid-west has been good to my family. It has provided us a wonderfully slow paced life, a safe place to raise my children, a good job for my husband and a small, but treasured network of friends. Yes, it has been good to us. But…..to me, the West Coast will always be ‘home’.


Sanity Break

April 15th. It’s tax day. 

Not only is tax day gloomy enough reason for a day, but the weather is foul too. It is mid-April and we are still knee deep in snow/ice, the temperatures are hovering around 32 degrees and an added misery is a stiff wind, overcast skies and the utter atrocity of having to wear Ugg boots past April 1st not for fashion, but for warmth. 

Considering it has been weeks upon weeks of this torture I should be about on the verge of losing my sanity, suffering from what I’m sure the pioneers felt after months of seemingly endless long cold winters, cabin fever. But my dear sweet husband took me up north for a couple of blessed nights to the North Shore of Lake Superior. 

I’ve mentioned before my trips up north (here), and how they are tonic to my soul. That open water of the lake reminiscent of my beloved pacific NW ocean, the elevated topography that harkens to the summers of my youth in the high desert of Central Oregon, both are a salve to the irritation of being landlocked in a fairly flat part of the state. Sensing I was at my wits end with the winter from Narnia, we drove through a windstorm that gave stiff competition the storm of Dorothy’s. Instead of arriving in Oz, we pulled into Two Harbors, MN to a storm blowing across the lake that made it roar no less forcefully than a true ocean would. We unpacked our things in to our little condo, pulled out our books and settled in to enjoy reading and watching the storm rage. 

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The next day we drove in to the town and walked out to the harbor light house, being treated to a sight like below. Mind you, this is April 15th. By now the ice houses are suppose to be off the lakes, people are putting in their lake house boat docks, the grown thawed and spring plantings are being put in. Ummmm, yeah, not so much this year. 

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We walked past a floating hunk of ice similar to what I envisioned Rudolph the Reindeer and his buddies rode to escape the Abominable beast. As we got to the base of the harbor light house, this is what greeted us:

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Across the way, was an impressive view of the reason this little tiny town exists, barge loading for coal and taconite shipping. 

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The skies cleared not long after I took this photograph. We drove around the sleepy little town, up in to the hills, down along the waterfront, then finally back to the condo to settle in for more reading till dinner. 

We woke the next morning to eye blinding sunshine. The lake was calm and smooth as glass. The geese were milling about on the still snow covered ground, the males preening and caterwauling to the females, obviously enjoying the glorious break in the weather also. I sat in the window, tucked in to a leather chair reading, basking in the warmth of the sun through the window and gazing at that glorious sight. 

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Alas. All fun must come to an end, and after having a light breakfast, we headed home, making a short detour to Canal Park in Duluth. I love Canal Park and my husband loves to check out what is new in the Duluth Trading Company store. We parked down by the shipping entrance, since it’s always fun to see the barges coming and going through the canal, watching the lift bridge rise and fall. To our utter amazement, this is what greeted our eyes!

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Normally that is all water. Where I am standing, there should be a good drop to the lake surface, but instead, the ice was piled in boulder like fashion as high as I am tall and as far as the eye could see. No shipping traffic coming and going through here, but in the far distance one could see the barges anchored, awaiting passage. Our eyes, unaccustomed as they have grown to light this winter, were blinded by the radiance from the sun and snow. It’s obvious that the camera on my phone felt the same way also! I guess all that wind drove all the floating ice from the lake directly to here. I guess that is the power of 50 mph winds!

After enjoying a lovely morning on the northern shore of the lake, it was time to head back to reality, and reality was awaiting us as we drove over the cliff side of Duluth in to the interior of the state. We crossed that natural barrier and drove right back in to snowy-slush mixed with freezing rain. 

As I sit, pecking away at the keyboard, I stare out at the iceberg I call my backyard. Once again I return to the consequences of living at the feet of the North Pole. Once again, I return to muddling through

 

 


Kalua Pork

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While traveling on the island of Maui, we were told to try many dishes and drinks – Moco Loco, Poke, POG, Mai Tai’s, Hawaiian varieties of fish and Kalua Pork, or Kalua Pig which brings me to Hana. Heavenly Hana.

The road to Hana is known not as a destination, but a journey. It is all about the drive along the way. Stops galore with sights that constantly take your breath away. Breathtaking not only for the hair-raising dare-devil, barely two lane road (but mostly one car sized road) drive up perilously treacherous hairpin turns overhanging the ocean hundreds of feet below, but also for the sheer beauty of nature. It’s a journey that should be on everyone’s Bucket List.

We got a late start and hubby took the wheel on the way up. We hugged the hillside so close I swore we were going to take off a side mirror, climbing to over 1400 feet on a road that twisted and turned as it carved in to the hillside on a path, I swear, was made for goats. There were lots of turnouts so there were an abundance of walking and stretching of leg opportunities to take photos, but they handled few cars and one needed to mind where walking, lest you end up bumped off the side!  Up, then back down again, then up even higher, then back down again. Despite the potential for car sickness or other calamities, it was completely and utterly worth the ‘thrill’ of the ride.

We saw painted eucalyptus trees. Trees who’s bark looks like it was painted with an artists watercolor palette. We saw small remote towns who grew Taro in small fields out on a volcanic spits where the waves crash and spray like a steam iron on overload. We saw palm forests that looked like they were out of Jurassic Park, literally. The scenes for the opening of the original Jurassic Park were filmed in one of the valleys on the way to Hana. We saw cattle, bamboo forests, gorgeous plants and flowers one only sees in florist shops, growing wild. We saw Tarzan vines, and roots that looked like the rudders of a ship and were nearly as big. The canopy of the forest was overflowing with beautiful vivid orange tropical flowers, reminiscent of the image in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ when Bilbo climbs to get his bearings. We saw lots and lots of rain, but then it is a rain forest. That part of the island can an average of 12 feet of rain. There were secluded waterfalls and caverns with their crystal clear blue pools.

We made it all the way to Hana, where the sands are black and the waves are big. It’s a quaint isolated little town, where they were friendly to the tourists. We grabbed a coffee at the local market (which reminded me very much of a Ben Franklin 5&10) and then it was my turn to drive back down. As it was getting late in the day we decided to stop at this teeny tiny little tin covered hut, (which we passed on the way up) that sold Kalua Pork, for an early dinner. It was pouring rain at that moment and it sounded like the heavens above were coming down on us, what with the tin roof and all. A woman standing on a platform behind a counter, with a couple of food steamers and an ice cooler, was serving a nice selection of fish, shrimp and Kalua pork tacos or bowls, ‘homemade’ mac n’cheese, hot dogs and chili. I choose the Kalua Pork bowl. There were giant condiment bottles labeled with masking tape ‘HOT-garlic/chili’, ‘BBQ’, ‘Sweet Chili Sauce’ along with soy, Tapatio, ketchup and mustard. I went for the BBQ, garlic chili and soy. Oh, it was mighty tasty. Sitting there in that forest, hugging the side of the road, with the rain beating down loud enough to make it difficult to talk among each other was absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes in circumstances like that, you wonder if the food was really as good as you thought. Was it? Or was the ambience and scenery so amazing that the food benefits by association? I’ll never know. Kalua Pork on it’s own isn’t all that hard to make based on the recipes I looked up. Maybe it was the atmosphere, or the smell of the rain forest, or the leaves its’ steamed in. Maybe it was the picnic bench covered with a vinyl cloth, or the man next to us in his handmade banana leaf brimmed hat. Maybe it was the chickens pecking about next to us, or the music of the rain on a tin roof. All I know was that it was amazing. It was amazing, and I hope to be back again in my lifetime.

Just because it’s checked off the Bucket List doesn’t mean I can’t repeat it, right?

(The photo up top was taken from my iPhone, during a break in the rain. Quality suffers, but you can find many other professional quality photos online)