Category: California

Finally packed and to the airport in San Francisco

Car lights on the bridge at twilight

Car lights on the bridge at twilight

This blog describes our last day on our road trip to the airport. My next one will share what I thought I knew about sleeping on a plane, and the truth.

Roadtrip map


I thought that packing everything a couple of weeks ago, then driving to California would make the day of leaving simple and stress free.  While I felt less anxious on the days leading up to our departure, the day of our flight was another matter.

We had each packed a large, wheeled duffel bag.  They are a great size for holding the clothes, shoes and extras we thought we wanted for 5 months of living…things like umbrellas, cards, extra camera supplies and a roll of toilet paper, which did in fact need on our first night in our hotel.  The downside of these bags is that they are heavy due to the hardware of the handle and wheels.  We were close for weight at home but had added and deleted a few things on our way.  Without a scale, it was difficult to come with an exact measure for the airport weight.

We also had Pete’s golf clubs in their hard case.  His shoulder and knee have been feeling much better and he found a golf course and driving range near to our location in Chiang Mai.  He was looking forward to a winter of practice.  He was also looking forward to a winter of playing his guitar while I was learning to better photo edit.  We had checked on line, and the airline stated that both the golf clubs and the guitar would count as checked luggage.  Since Air China allowed 2 free checked bags per person, that was a possibility, as long as we weren’t overweight on our other bags.

Guitar on a Plane

I also looked at stories online about how other musicians manage their guitars on flights.  Sandwiched on a luggage cart is not really how you want it to travel.  Most said that they took it as a carry on, kept the guitar in a soft case, then spoke nicely to someone on the plane about storing it in a coat closet or overhead bin. At the very least, it could be gate checked with the strollers and car seats.  If that was possible, then we had space for the extra weight in another checked bag.  If it wasn’t then we needed a carry on size bag for the things that might make our bags overweight.

Who would think so much energy could go into solving such a minor problem?  In the end, we took along a carry-on size bag that was needed for the 3 kg we were over in our other bags.  We checked it with the duffel bags and the golf clubs in the cargo and took our day packs and the guitar onto the plane.  For both flights, the stewardesses were more than happy to find a safe place for the instrument to travel in the passenger part of the plane.  The only preparation needed was to loosen the strings and Peter wrapped a yoga mat around it inside the bag for extra protection.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Once everything was loaded we began our final drive to the airport.  Our flight was at 1:30 am but we wanted to spend a few hour in San Francisco first.  Melissa took us on a quieter back road to the Bay area.  We joined the 101 and turned west toward the Point Bonita lighthouse.

Pt. Bonita lighthouse

Pt. Bonita lighthouse

The first few viewpoints were packed with people late on this Saturday afternoon but it didn’t matter as the views from just above the lighthouse were spectacular.  You could see back to the bridge and the city, the coastline south and west of the city, as well as the lighthouse.  The light is functioning and it is still used by ships to find their way into the harbor through the fog.


City view from the lighthouse

City view from the lighthouse


The fog was rolling in along the horizon as we watched the sun begin to set into the clouds.  We returned on another road back to the Golden Gate Bridge and drove over it.  Knowing the engineering that went into its construction and the number of men who died building it , I am always in awe whenever I get close to it.  We found Melissa’s top secret parking place and walked under the bridge for a few more photos of the area at twilight.  The fog made the far side disappear at times. There were surfers in the waves that curl around the rocks and the bridge. It had cooled from 25 degrees in Stockton to 16 degrees in SFO, but the wind didn’t feel as cold as usual there.  It was a perfect end to our road trip to the airport.

And it's foggy again

And it’s foggy again

Stockton,California-The last chapter of our road trip to the airport

We are already in Thailand, but we were without wifi while we were travelling.  I did my writing in my journal and will get them transferred quickly to complete the Road trip to the airport portion of our adventure.


Napa Valley

Napa Valley is a well established wine growing and wine making region in California. It was the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon on our road trip to the airport.  We enjoy a particular Beringer Cabernet at home so we went to their estate to check out some other wines.


Beringer Grounds

Beringer Grounds


Two brothers from Germany planted grapes in 1876 and started a winery.  It is a beautiful place with gardens and old stone buildings  We decided to taste the reserve wines that are normally around $130-150 a bottle.  We were curious how they were different.  I was surprised that although they have many more layers of flavor, I really prefer my $15 bottle version.  I can enjoy it without feeling I need to analyze every swallow.

We carried on our journey for a couple more hours through vineyards and orchards of olives, walnuts, almonds and unknown fruits to our daughter’s house in Stockton.  It is a city that services the agricultural industry.  The city itself declared bankruptcy a few years ago and now has a reasonable cost of living for rent and houses.  There is also, unfortunately, a high crime rate in many parts of the city.

Our daughter teachers Sports Administration at the University of the Pacific, which ironically has been recognized as one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA  We like it because her home is a great base to get to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Calaveras Big Trees State Park that we visited on Wednesday.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Gigantic base but shallow roots

Gigantic base but shallow roots

The Giant Sequoia are related to Redwoods but while not as tall, they contain incredible mass.  These trees can grow for over 2000 years.  They have certain water and temperature requirements so are only found in small groves on the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The guided trail through Big Trees explained how they grow and survive fires due to their branches growing so high up on the trunk and their special spongy bark that can be 2 feet thick.  The bark also contains chemicals that make it resistant to burning. These trees are hard to describe.  Their branches can be 6 feet in diameter!

Fallen tree from a hundred years ago.

Fallen tree from a hundred years ago.

Branches at the top

Branches grow at the top

They were exploited in the early 1900’s.  Holes were cut so cars could drive through them. A promoter got the idea of stripping off the bark in 6 ft. sections, then reconnecting them in London to show the size of these massive trees.  It was a way to make money off a “wonder of the world.”  He was surprised at the negative response, which resulted in the failure of his show, but the beginning of a movement to preserve these trees.  By 1935, the Giant Sequoia groves were protected areas.

Great for pics but tree is dead at the top

Great for pics but tree is dead at the top


Reclining bench so you can see up to the top

Reclining bench so you can see up to the top of the tree

University of the Pacific

I spent a little time each day walking through the University of the Pacific campus.  It really is an oasis in the city.  The buildings are 2-3 story brick and most of the campus is only accessed by sidewalks.  The roses were still blooming and the community garden had a big row of ripe strawberries.  The athletic facilities were extensive and included an outdoor pool.  We went there Friday night to cheer on the Tigers playing water polo against Long Beach.  I’d never seen this sport played live before.  Such athleticism!  It was fun cheering with the hometown fans, outside, at the pool in October.

Water polo

Lodi Wines

We enjoyed another wine tasting near Stockton in an area near Lodi.  It’s an up and coming wine region for visitors, although there are hundred year old vines still producing grapes.  Lodi is where A&W and their famous root beer originated.  Now it’s primarily known for its rich and jammy Zinfandel wines.  Our daughter is a member at a couple of wineries.  She commits to buy 8 bottles of wine through the year, then gets free tastings, with her friends and family…which would be us.  We tasted at Peltier Station and M2 and tried a range of wines from sparkling whites and dessert wines to naturally fermented zins and a wonderful port.  The views may not be what you get in Napa or the Okanagan, but the tasting rooms have character, the wines are delicious, the stewards know their stuff, and it’s less than an hour from Stockton  Unfortunately most of the wines aren’t available in Canada.

One more day and we are on our way.  Our California road trip to the airport is almost finished.