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Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day Weekend Road Trip

Destination One - Point Reyes Lighthouse
We woke up at 5 pm on Sunday morning to start our trip and avoid traffic (they closed the Bay Bridge for the whole weekend because of some construction). We ate a quick breakfast (leftover pizza from our dinner last night at Amici's in downtown SJ), picked up our friend Dong at home, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to Highway 1. We drove on several winding roads until we reached Stinson Beach which we intended to check out but since it was so early, the beach was closed *sob*. The drive was nice in the morning, the sun was good to us and the breeze was perfect for a bay area backroads trip, passing by lots of cow ranches, small town with populations of less than 200, rugged roads and rural areas, dairy ranches with the biggest cows I've ever seen, spectacular scenic and bay views, piers and restaurants by the water, and magnificent trees. Once we reached the Point Reyes National Seashore area, we knew we were getting close to our destination, the Point Reyes lighthouse. Once there, we found out it didn't open until 10 am, so we waited in the car, caught up with our sleep with a short nap, and hiked all the way to the lighthouse. There was a good crowd waiting with us, probably around six families. Its was very cold and windy (good thing we brought our jackets). But the fog wasn't too bad (I was expecting worse). We also had seal sightings (at first we thought they were dolphins swimming) and it was such an awesome sight. We saw some cool rock formations, orange algae and other species, a magnificent seashore from a distance, and of course the inside of the lightouse which is all original until this day. We also passed by an oyster farm, but didn't stop. The highlight of Point Reyes was walking down and up 300 steep steps. Al was worried if I can make it but I assured him I could hike, although it was difficult for me coz of my asthma, but a necessary hike since it was good exercise. We also passed by the visitor center after the long hike and Al bought me a hat (my hair was flying everywhere). We also checked out the quaint downtown Point Reyes where we stopped for gas and Dong treated us for deli snacks. We were now ready for our next destination, Bodega Bay.

Destination Two - Bodega Bay
It's summer, so what's summer without a beach visit. We did get our beach fix at Pismo Beach few months ago, and of course our own Ocean Beach and Baker beach (when we toured my 'lil sis around SF), but we wanted to explore the beaches of Bodega Bay. Our way to Bodega Bay was beautiful as well, passing by Tomales Bay and other marshes. As soon as we got there, we passed by the visitor center and this nice lady helped us with points of interest. One of the main ones was that the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds was mostly shot in that town. Another main attraction was the several mile drive to see 16 state beaches spanning 10 miles (similar to Monterey's 17-mile drive). We did see the Tides Wharf restaurant and the Potter School House where the movie shot (behind St. Teresa Church), the Children's Bell Tower, and we also drove to see the 16 beaches that she was talking about, stopping to take pictures and to enjoy the view. Locals were great as well, volunteering to take our pics. The weather there was perfect, sunny and breezy, and the drive to Bodega Bay was also magnificent, of course with marshes and bay views along the way. As soon as we got there, we saw a wharf area, where people go kayaking and yatching. There were also a lot of seafood restaurants (we were supposed to pass by and eat, and also check out the town of Jenner in the south, but we are behind schedule). Since we were trying to keep a schedule, we didn't stay long so we can reach Santa Rosa and our next destination, the Charles Schultz Museum.

Destination Three - Charles Schultz Museum
We've been to Santa Rosa before to see a free Morrissey concert (yeah I won tix on the radio), but we didn't get to explore the Charles Schultz Museum yet (it's only been around since 2002). Anyway, we passed by Sebastopol along the way and made it to the museum, just an hour and a half before it closed. The weather was warmer than our first two destinations since Santa Rosa is not really by the water and is more inland. We parked, took a lot of pictures, and watched a documentary in the museum's auditorium. Al bought me a Snoopy stuffed toy as my anniversary gift (hey it was on sale). I already have one at home, but it didn't have museum inscriptions on it. I learned more about Sparky, or the man behind Snoopy, Peanuts and Charlie Brown with that visit. There was a mural that Schultz did for his kid's room before and was restored and brought to the museum. There was also a wall of comic strip tiles of his characters which was amazing (it also served as a mosaic portrait). Even the restroom walls were filled with these tiles. We also got a free gift just by filling out a survey (I think it was postcards and other cards. I also checked out the courtyard with other sculptures. Afterwards, we went to the next building to check out the ice rink. It was nice and cool inside, and we wanted to try it, but they were about to close. So I just took a video of people skating. We also visited another gift shop close by, which is actually bigger and more expensive. But there was also a gallery upstairs which we checked out as well.

Afterwards, we proceeded to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in downtown Santa Rosa to check in for the night and call it a day. We all went swimming, but I didn't stay too long, because I really don't know how to swim, although I did enjoy dipping in the water. I took a funny video of Al and Dong doing synchronized swimming, and then went upstairs to go on wifi. After a nice shower, we all went out for dinner at the neighboring Hyatt restaurant, Seafood Brasserie which had a nice ambiance, and overpriced food. Then we drove around to explore downtown Santa Rosa, where you can find lots of clubs, bars and restaurants. We stopped by a cool coffee shop called Aroma Roasters that serve organic coffee, but we went there to get our ice cream fix. There were lots of people and it seems to be a happenin' place, so we hung out a little bit in the ice cream area. It had a hip and cozy ambiance.

But the highlight of the night was this screaming man by the pool section of our hotel. He kept screaming at the top of his lungs around 3:30 am and we all woke up! I guess someone called the cops on him so there were a lot of cop cars, an ambulance and a firetruck that showed up. We were just watching everything from our 4th floor hotel window. After more cussing and yelling, they put him on a stretcher and loaded him on the ambulance. I wonder if he was crazy, or if he was just drunk. We couldn't sleep well afterwards.

Destination Four - Safari West
We woke up early around 6 am to shower, get our buffet breakfast and be ready for our safari trip. We had omelets made for us, and indulged ourselves with endless portions of belgian waffles and french toast, plus the meat breakfast necessities of bacon and sausage. We could only eat so much (they had a lot of food) but as soon as we were done, our server told us that we have a free meal. I think it's because Al inquired about what happened early morning with the cops and the crazy guy, and he also mentioned that we couldn't sleep after that! Anyway, breakfast was excellent and we packed our stuff while I checked out of the hotel. We drove to Safari West, passing by another point of interest called the Petrified Forest, and saw a deer as roadkill. It was a sad sight.

We reached Safari West and the entrance already had a safari feel to it. We waited a little bit since we were a few minutes early, check out the gift shop, and went with our group. We did a walking tour first in the aviary and other cages that housed screaming lemurs (man that was loud), a carnevorous fox/canine which is the smallest of the species, some almost extinct animals, and some dangerous ones like cheetahs. For photos of the species we've seen, click here. By the way, Safari West is a wildlife preserve, but I think it's overpriced, although we just consider it as donation to the preserve. My favorite part of the safari was driving around with the jeep. We sat at the back which was elevated so the ride was really bumpy but fun. We got real close at times to some animals like this giraffe who's butt was in my face, haha! And I got scared at the ostrich that was just right beside us because I thought it was going to peck me. But it was a cool experience though. I also got scared at some cape buffalos that was in close range to us. They are considered very powerful and among the Big Five in Africa, aka the most dangerous mammals. Check out the Battle of Kruger here. Another fave part of mine was when the jeep drove by a little water hole which I thought was cool. After the safari, we treated ourselves with a safari buffet lunch (which I didn't really like). But at least I was full with some barbeque chicken, macaroni salad, fruits, ice cream, and lots of cold drinks, hehe.

Destination Five - Old Faithful Geyser
After the safari, we set out to drive to see one of three old faithfuls in the world. We drove by wineries that surround the geyser wonder, and the weather was getting hotter too. We finally found our destination, and entered the doors to see the geyser already starting to spurt. I guess we were there just in time, because it takes 30 to 60 minutes before it happens. People were clapping afterwards. They were also featuring fainting goats, but I didn't see them faint though. The geyser is also surrounded by bamboos so we just posed to take pics because it actually looks nice. We also drove by the visitor center in downtown Calistoga and drove around the beautiful downtown area. Of course what's Calistoga without all the spas and mud baths. We're gonna do that on our next visit hopefully. Then we stopped by for gas so we can get to our next destination, River Rock Casino.

Destination Six - River Rock Casino
We drove by past more wineries along Alexander Valley, and we passed by Russian River where people were swimming under the bridge to cool off. Along the way, we were looking for Francis Ford Coppola's winery but to no avail. We finally reached River Rock Casino, played some slots (we all won a few and lost a few that day), and ate a dinner buffet at their restaurant. The place was packed, maybe coz it's a holiday. Al wanted to play the table game, but he changed his mind coz he wasn't really feeling lucky. After a few hours, we called it a day, drove back home, and had a magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge at night.


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