Home! Home? Home!

Home! Home! Home! Holy shit! After three months, I am home! This is Oakland; this is the bay area. Life moves super quickly here. What’s changed? What’s stayed the same? The good news was my apartment was in the same condition as I left it, well, with a bit of dust. My plant had survived three months of no water (all aloes). Pepe was a kick ass house sitter! But even though I was home, my journey wasn’t done.

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Yes, that last drive was a bit overwhelming. I really did think about what all might have changed while I was away. I did a pretty horrible job of keeping in touch with any of my friends while I was away. Facebook and Instagram where about the only contact I had with anyone. The only one I called was my Mom on Round 1 and my Dad on Round 2. My brother was lucky and did get a couple of calls. I admit it, the trip took all my focus and concentration. I had time for nothing else. But what a treat, I just took three months to explore the US and see the crazy amazing country I live in.

Yes, there have been many before me who taken the journey and many more will come after, but everyone I encountered was super supportive. I was often told, “I would love to do that!” My response was always, “Do it! Take the chance! It’s been worth every second!”

I slept really well that first night back in my bed. I slept for 12 hours straight and I wanted to stay sleeping for the rest of the day if I could. But Mom was still with me and would be through Thanksgiving. Dad would be joining us before Thanksgiving, bringing me my car and later driving Mom and him back in Mom’s car.

Out of the five months I’ve lived in Oakland, I was on the journey for three of them. So I am still getting to know Oakland, exploring the neighborhoods, and finding what’s out there. Mom wanted to go boutique shopping. I’m not a big shopper, and I really hadn’t found any of the boutiques in Oakland, but I’d heard rumors of great shops on Piedmont. So that’s where we headed on my first day home. I found a few shops I really loved like the Rare Bird. I also found a great gift for my cousin’s Sweet 16, whose party we were going to later that night. Unfortunately, Mom was being picky and didn’t like the boutiques.

We then headed down to San Jose for my cousin Alexis’s 16th birthday party. This young woman lives her life to the fullest, and it was fun to celebrate! This was the family birthday party with Aunts and Uncles, so it was much tamer than the party she had with her friends. But we got to hear all about the DJ with no slow dances, the candy bar, the mocktails, and the ice-cream pops. It sounded like a fabulous party. However, the family party was also fantastic. The dining room was decorated with balloons and crape-paper flowers. A fresh pink flower centerpiece decorated the table. Alexis had made each of us place setting tags. Dinner – another amazing home cooked meal by Stephanie, Alexis’s mom anchored the party. Au gratin potatoes, green beens with pancetta and walnuts, and sausages feed us all very well. We stayed late, but finally had to head home to Oakland so I could get more much needed rest.

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Sunday was another lazy day. I admit, I’m feeling a bit moody from returning from the journey. I was having the party to celebrate the end of my road trip that afternoon. People were canceling all for good reasons, but since I had not been a good friend while I was away, I got a little worried that I’d pushed everyone. This absolutely was not true, but it does demonstrate the level of moodiness I was going through. Mom and I headed to the party at Telegraph Beer Garden. We had a great visit with Cricket, Shaun, Seme, and Thu. They all got to sign my travel book and hear the stories of my journey. It ended up being a great pick-me-up to have the party and get to see everyone.

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The next day, I took Mom to one of my favorite local cafes, Awaken Cafe, so I could work on my blog for a bit. Since I was home, I was feeling really behind that I didn’t have much done on Round 2 of the journey. Even though I love this cafe, the set up is really awkward and we had a table stuck in the crammed in the middle, so it wasn’t the most comfortable. After the blog writing, we headed back to my apartment so I could nap. By this time, I was becoming acutely aware of how tired I was. I had absolutely no energy and just wanted to sleep. For a large part of Round 2, I was battling a virus and even though I no longer had any outward signs of the virus, I wondered if my body was still fighting it. But the exhaustion was pretty overwhelming, I started to think it was more than being sick. Luckily, naps were helping.

With the nap, I had energy to take Mom to Chinatown in San Francisco to meet up with Stephanie and Alexis for dinner. We took BART into the city, which I think was my Mom’s first BART. It was definitely her first ride under the bay. She did very good not freaking out that we were riding the subway under the bay; I was proud of her. Mom and I then taxied up to Grant and California, where we’d meet Stephanie and Alexis since they drove in from the south Bay. We spent a great afternoon exploring the shops in Chinatown followed by a fantastic dinner at the R&G Lounge. I had always promised to take my Mom to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, but for all the years I’ve lived in the Bay Area this was the first time I did. I think she loved it. After a fantastic San Francisco afternoon, we headed back across the bay to wait for the arrival of Dad the next day.

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Dad made it to Oakland bright and early. Since I was not there to navigate for him, he used his Tom Tom GPS and made it without issue. I was proud. I had been waiting for Dad to arrive to take Mom to Brown Sugar Kitchen, which is an amazing soul-food kitchen in West Oakland and one of my favorite restaurants in the bay area. I know I had introduced Mom to chicken and waffles in Port Townsend, but now it was time for her to try the best I’ve ever had. I had the cheesy grits with poached eggs and wanted to lick the plate and Dad had the beignets. He said they were better than the ones we had at Cafe de Monde in New Orleans. This brunch was just fantastic and all of us walked away nicely sated, which also meant it was nap time.

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The rest of the day, we took it really easy. Dad had just driven from Utah and was tired from the drive, and I was still just tired. So had an excellent pizza dinner at Forge followed by laughter watching Robinhood Men in Tights at home. Dad had never seen the movie, and it’s one of my favorites.

Like I said, Mom takes about 2 hours to get ready in the morning and even though we all sleep in, she usually sleeps the longest. Dad and I can be ready in about 30 minutes, so rather than sitting around waiting for Mom to get ready, we go for a walk around Lake Merritt. One of the things I love the most about my apartment is that I’m only a block away from Lake Merritt. I live in the middle of a major city, but I have easy access to nature right out my door. Many people enjoy Lake Merritt so it is great people watching as we wander around the lake, but the birds are even more showy than the people. The lake is a preserve home to gulls, geese, ducks, egrets, pelicans, and more. We make it around the lake and grab some coffee from another one of my favorite cafes, Farley’s East. A tasty cappuccino to fuel the rest of the day.

While Dad and I are walking, we talk about how tired I am. I can’t make it through the day without a nap. He thinks it’s the journey. For three months, I went, I pushed, I saw. My mind was constantly exposed to new things, we walked, and we explored. Now that I’m home, my body and mind is relaxing and recuperating. He says not to feel so bad about being tired, but I do. I want to be a good host, but honestly my brain doesn’t want to think or plan a thing. And I think my lack of energy and planning were starting to bug my Mom, who has a lot of expectations on her visits to the Bay Area.

Mom still wants to shop, so we take her to Jack London Square to explore for a while. We walk around and I take a few photos. I had been challenged to a five day black and white photo challenge by Brian, so I was looking for shots that would fill the bill. But honestly, my brain and body did not want to function. I just wanted to be at home in bed. Such a great host. Finally, we went back to my apartment and I slept again.

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For dinner, I took Mom and Dad to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Oakland, or the bay for that matter. Molcajete Cocina is the first restaurant that I’ve eaten at in the US that reminds of the food I ate in Mexico City. Since the food is more traditional, and not the USivised version my Mom is used to, I think she had a hard time deciding. She went with something safe – a shrimp quesadilla, but she enjoyed it. Dad had the fajitas and I had my favorite, the cochinita pibil tostadas. Yummy!

After dinner, Mom still wanted to shop. I still hadn’t really researched anymore boutiques, but I drove her over to Berkeley and back along Telegraph so she could look at the shops. We ended up doing the shopping at Target in Alameda. Yes, I’m the best ever tour guide.

One super awesome thing about how I was ending this journey was getting to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. I’ve told them, that I won’t ever go back to Utah for Thanksgiving, but if they come out here I don’t mind celebrating. Also, we are spoiled by Thanksgivings here in the Bay Area. My cousin Stephanie invites us over for Thanksgiving Dinner when my parents visit. Like I already said, Stephanie is an incredible cook.

Dad and I go for another walk to prepare for the festivities later in the day. I take Dad on a tour of some of the street art murals in downtown Oakland. There are definitely a few new murals that have been put up since I’ve been gone. There are many incredible old buildings in downtown Oakland. One of my favorites is on the corner of 17th and Webster Street. It was the showcase building for the Holden Tile Factory. The entire building’s exterior is covered in classic tiles from the 1920s. However, on the one side that is not covered, it looks like there used to be another building there that was removed for a parking lot, there is a brand new Zio Ziegler mural. Zio Ziegler is one of my favorite Bay Area street artists. His work is complex, very unique, and the speed at which he creates the pieces is astonishing. This photo has my Dad in it to demonstrate scale. Zio completed this mural in 2.5 days. Amazing!

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We continue to walk around downtown Oakland looking for more murals. Since I am so new to the area, I really have not explored enough. So we walk past this incredible park in downtown, Uptown Art Park. What I loved the most was all the statues of important promoters of social justice throughout US History. This is just a few days after the Michael Brown decision to not indict. Oakland had been having large protests to support Ferguson and BlackLivesMatter. There was something so fitting about having this incredible piece of art in downtown Oakland with all that was going on, that it brought tears to my eyes. But I don’t think I was the only one, I peaked over at Dad and he was feeling the same weight and his eyes were teary.

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Finally, we headed back to the apartment to pick up Mom and go to Whole Foods on Thanksgiving. Yup, that’s what I said. We went to Whole Foods on Thanksgiving. It was definitely hopping, but I wouldn’t say crazy. Plus, everyone who was working were all super nice and joyous. We grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and fresh bread for dinner and headed back to my apartment for the afternoon until we went to Stephanie, Randy, and Alexis’s house for dinner.

Dinner was fantastic. Full of incredible food, excellent conversation, lots of laughter, and gratitude that we could celebrate together. Dinner was butternut squash soup (I had two bowls) rotisserie turkey, sugar snap peas, roasted potatoes, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Wonderful! Again, the conversation continued on, and we left late or really into the next day 🙂 But that’s just a sign of a great dinner.

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Friday, the day after Thanksgiving was going to be a lazy day. I woke up at noon. I was the last one awake. But still Dad and I had time to go for a walk. This time we explored Oakland Chinatown, which is now my favorite Chinatown. It is not at all touristy like San Francisco or New York. It is alive with food businesses and people crowding the streets buying their supplies.

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Then Dad and I went to Awaken Cafe to grab some coffee for the day. Ended up there was an amazing pop up show at Show and Tell featuring local Black-owned artisan businesses. Like I’ve said, I’m not a fan of shopping, I don’t like rampant consumerism, I’m typically disgusted with the consumerism of Christmas, and I do all I can to avoid shopping on Black Friday. I didn’t even have my purse on me. But I fell in love with a few of the items at the pop up. They convinced me that since I was shopping local, it was making up for my consumerism sin. And honestly, if I didn’t buy it on Friday, I was coming back on Saturday. So I bought it that day. Luckily Dad had his wallet, so I could buy right then. But before he could buy, I found him getting a massage. I was jealous.

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We went back to the apartment and picked up Mom to drive back to the Pop Up shops. I got a massage, and felt like a new person. I bought everything I had wanted to buy. It was quite a change from the rest of the journey. Dad and I only spent $125 per day between the both of us per day. But here I was shopping again, shopping like I still had a job 😉 Dad and I both bought new beanies to keep us warm. But Mom still did not like the pop up shops. It just wasn’t what she expected.

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That night we were invited back to Stephanie, Randy, and Alexis’s for dinner and to celebrate my birthday a week early since my parents were there. I’ll be honest, I was exhausted again and just wanted to stay home and sleep, but I’m so glad I pushed through. Everyone but me enjoyed turkey sandwiches but Stephanie spoiled me with salami since she knows I’m not a fan of turkey. I had more of the butternut squash soup. Dinner was just fantastic again.

After dinner, Stephanie took us to a play at the City Lights Theater. It was extra special since she had taken me to a play at the same theater 10 years earlier for my birthday shortly after I had moved to the Bay Area. The play, Truce: A Wish from the Great World War, was a world premier performance with the writers in attendance. The play was a beautiful and touching critique of war and the toll the loss of life takes. Yes, the play made me sob. It rocked my core. It made me feel. I was so grateful of the gift to see this play. We then said our goodbyes, since this was going to be the last visit for my parents to see Stephanie, Randy, and Alexis before they returned to Utah.

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We took another slow start on Saturday. First thing, my parents gave me my birthday presents early. I had asked for the Oakland book just to help me learn Oakland better. So the next time my Mom visits, I will now be more prepared. Then we went to Bicycle Roaster to get fuel for the day. This is a tiny cafe driven by a bicycle in the middle of the warehouse used for roasting. Bicycle is mainly focused on retail, but I love their cafe. Everyone who works there is friendly and unpretentious. Plus, they are focused on community, which creates a great feel.

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Then we headed north into the Sonoma Wine Country. I had some wine to pick up from a group of 6 family wineries based in the Dry Creek Valley. I had joined the wine club for this winery one one of my parents visits over a year ago. I had been wine tasting on an empty stomach and ended up with more wine than I could drink and that is still true today. We were picking up two cases from the wine club, which I’d have to store in my tiny home. I also had not eaten yet on this visit, but I was much smarter this time and did not taste any wine. But autumn in wine country is beautiful so I still enjoyed the trip very much.

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We enjoyed a super tasty late lunch at Barndiva in Healdsburg before walking around the shops. I knew Healdsburg would be a great place to take Mom since it is at least four blocks of boutique shops. We let Mom shop until she had worn out her legs. Then we made the trek back to Oakland.

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I thought I might have finally satisfied Mom’s shopping desire for the visit, but I was wrong. When we got back to Oakland, Mom wanted to go out shopping again. Or she at least wanted to go out for desert. Even worse than knowing where to shop, is my knowing where to get desert. Desert usually triggers me getting sick, so I avoid it all cost. Plus, if I want a desert, I usually will take it in cocktail form. So I said I was all out of shopping ideas and I wasn’t sure about desert, which did not make my Mom happy. I suggested a couple of places that served tasty cocktails and might have desert, but nope. I didn’t even know where to get a frozen margarita in Oakland. I only drink mine over ice. So I was a complete failure at ideas, and Mom started to watch the Walking Dead. I still wanted my cocktail, so I headed out and Dad decided to come with me. Mom sat at home being unhappy with me for not being a good tour guide. We went to Bar 355 which is a super cute cocktail bar in downtown Oakland. It is decorated in dark wood and has an old-fashioned feel that compliments it cocktail menu.

The next day was my parents last day in the Bay Area. We met up with Thu to explore her town of Alameda. Now Dad had seen Thu’s house before and the area where Target is, so he thought that was all there was to Alameda. I told him he was very wrong. We ate lunch at La Penca Azul which was super tasty. Then we wandered around the boutiques so Mom could shop some more. Luckily, there was bead shop so Mom could take care of her bead fix, since she is an avid beader. We then headed over to the beach so my parents could see the rest of the island. They definitely like how cute of town Alameda is.

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Even though we’d taken Mom to more shops, I knew she still wasn’t happy about the visit. I had to take her to San Francisco one more time. So we drove across the bridge and thankfully traffic was not bad at all. We went to Ghirardelli Square to look at the shops and see the Christmas tree that they had already lighted. Mom had really wanted to see the Christmas tree in Union Square, but with all the construction for the new BART line in the area I did not want to drive through there so this Christmas tree was going to have to work. After the shopping was done, we returned to Oakland with Mom seeming happier about her visit since she got to see San Francisco one last time. Mom and Dad packed up their bags to be ready to leave in the morning. Dad wanted to beat rush hour traffic so was trying to leave by 6 am. They made it out the door by 6:30 am and did the full drive back to Ogden in one day. After a wonderful visit with my parents, and getting to enjoy a long Thanksgiving weekend to close out my trip, I was finally back home and on my own. For the first time in three months, I was on my own again. I admit I was worried about feeling alone. Luckily, I had so much work to do after they left, that I didn’t have time to fret at all. Rather, it’s time for me to wrap up the blogs on the journey, go through all my photos, and actually take a moment to process everything I just did. Even though this is the Home blog, it’s not the last. I just need to consolidate my thoughts on what I’ve learned, so there is more to come 🙂

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