Exploring California

Continued from California, Here I Come

After last night’s supper, I doubted whether it could get much better than this.  Dinner on the bay overlooking a U2 venue while talking to an ultramarathoner as the sun dropped and set fire to palm trees lining the streets… really?  Thankfully, I was wrong.

A Quick Visit Home

Thursday morning was spent in Palo Alto.  Since I didn’t have any responsibilities, I made my way to one of my favorite places… Stanford.  I can’t describe how much this place felt like home even though it had been over a year since my last visit.

There’s no place like home..

Stanford Chapel

Although the walk took a good 20 minutes, it felt so good to step back on campus again.  I slowly made my way into the heart of Stanford, past the Rodin sculptures and the chapel.  I could easily walk around Stanford all day.  Unfortunately, today was not a free day, so I got picked up after only an hour on campus.

Santa Cruz to Mendocino

We headed to Santa Cruz for a meeting at Plantronics.  Plantronics makes incredible headsets and we got a full tour of the building… everything from the electrical engineering labs to the “Wall of Ears” in the design studio.  In between meetings, we got to meet the CEO and have lunch at the cafe in the perfect 70 degree and sunny weather.  And of course, the building was powered almost completely by solar.  I love seeing clean energy in action.

Golden Gate Bridge

After we finished at Plantronics, we started our trek to Mendocino by way of the Golden Gate Bridge.  As you would expect, it’s pretty cool driving across this engineering marvel.  On the other side, we were greeted by low clouds flowing over and down the mountainside.  Ahh…. California.

We stopped for supper just over the bridge at a place called Pizza Antica.  We were in the ‘rich’ part of California, so I knew this place was going to be good.  I was not disappointed.  Excuse the salad picture, but it blew my mind how amazing this simple salad was.

Arugula, Golden Beets, Guacamole, Cucumber….

Yeah, doesn’t look like much, but boy was this salad good.  We then split a pizza and watched some women’s Olympic soccer.  After supper, we continued our trip up to Mendocino.   Along the way, we passed vineyards and drove through a Redwood forest.  Classic California.  As we flew down the winding streets of the 101 at night, it wasn’t hard to see where the Need For Speed game developers got their track ideas from.

Eco-Lodge @ Mendocino

We arrived in Mendocino late Thursday night at a place called the “Stanford Inn” or better yet, the “Eco-Lodge”.  If you are ever in Nor Cal, you have to check this place out.  The rooms are amazing (wood-burning fireplaces), the location is incredible (right on the coast and Big River), and the food is mind-blowing (the lodge hosts The Ravens’ Restaurant).  All of the meals are prepared from the organic garden on the grounds and we even got to meet the nutritionist, i.e. the mind responsible for the award-winning dishes at The Ravens’ Restaurant.

Hallway at the Eco-Lodge

After breakfast, we walked a couple hundred meters to the Big River and got setup with a kayak.  We started up the Big River just as the sun was coming up for the day.  It was surreal kayaking in California up a pristine river with dense forest on both sides and fog hanging over us.  I tried my best to soak it all in, but the trip was just too magical.  One of the highlights was seeing a Harbor Seal chilling on a rock.

For lunch, we headed into Mendocino and ate at the Mendocino Cafe.  The whole menu looked so good that it was really hard to order.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised… California food has never disappointed.  While in this small town, we explored part of the coast and some of the local stores before heading back to the Stanford Inn for an afternoon snack provided by the lodge.  The rest of the afternoon we spent out on the trails hiking.

Mendocino Coast

Saturday started off with a ridiculous breakfast… glazed citrus tempeh with quinoa and braised kale.  Okay, I admit, it doesn’t sound good, but you’ll just have to trust me.  I cannot imagine eating like this everyday… my body would love me.  We then headed out to the trails again and explored a nearby waterfall.  For lunch, we found ourselves back at the Mendocino Cafe haha.  Yes, it was that good.

We then left Mendocino and headed back to San Francisco down Highway 1.  Driving along the coast was really epic, but involved way too much winding… It took forever to make it all the way down.  When we finally made it back to San Francisco, we decided to take a quick hike in Muir Woods.  Good decision.

Muir Woods

To get to Muir Woods, we had to jump off the highway and head toward the coast.  As we entered the park, I was surprised to find out that the parking lot also had an entrance for the Dipsea trail – host to the oldest trail race in America.  Unfortunately we only had time for one thing, so we went straight into Muir Woods and on a small hiking loop.  The Redwoods were incredible and the place had a magical feel to it, despite all of the tourists milling around.

As the sun was setting, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge for the final time and made our way into the heart of San Francisco.  I had an itch for some vintage clothes and I had heard that Buffalo Exchange was the place to go, so we made a quick stop.  Here, I found some sweet jeans and a couple of shirts to satisfy my craving for San Francisco hipster clothes.  The last thing to do was to drive down to Mountain View to our hotel.  And of course, we made a quick stop at Google HQ.

Another Great Trip

California never fails to disappoint and this trip has only furthered my desire to get out to California after college (or better yet grad school at Stanford).  I’m so incredibly thankful that my Dad brought me along on this trip and I can’t express how much I cherish the memories we’ve made exploring California.

The Man.

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