In June 1999 I went to San Francisco for the JavaOne Conference.
I decided to hang out there a bit more and visit some friends of mine in California while I was there.
I packed my stuff and drove down to Brussels. An evening out with the people I'd been skiing with in February was scheduled and my flight was leaving from Brussels on Sunday. How convenient :) The night on the town consisted of meeting eachother at a bar outside a castle after which we drove down to a Moroccan(?) restaurant in downtown Brussels where Cous-Cous was served. Of course accompanied by the dancing of various belly-dancers :)
Dinner took a tad longer than planned so it was close to 1am before we left the restaurant and went to a club to dance and hang out a bit more.
I guess it must have been around 4am by the time we got home. With me having to get up around 10am that didn't leave much time for sleep.
Ah well, who needs sleep anyway...
I did get up around 10am, although I must admit my sister, who I was staying at, had a hand in that.
She and my nephew Laurens took me to the airport for my flight to SF via Washington. She promised to take good care of my Mini, which she would be using the two weeks I was away.
The flight from Brussels to Washington was pretty uneventful. Didn't get any more shut-eye and was amazed at myself not longing for a cigarette during the trip.
Customs in Washington wasn't much of a hassle and I joined (oops, wrong word ? :) the other addicts there in the 'smokers-cage' :)
On the flight to SF I sat next to a guy who was also 'in the business' (That's the IT or ICT business for those of you who don't know what I do for a living :), so we had a nice talk about 'shop-stuff'. By the time I got to SF I was beat. Even though it was just 7pm, with the 9 hour time difference it was 4am in the morning for me and I'd had less than 6 hours sleep in the last 42 hours. So I was glad to finally check into the hotel and get to bed.
I woke up at 6am. Now this was very eerie for me; I never wake up that early by myself. Usually a whole battery of alarmclocks isn't enough to get me up at that time ! :) It gave me the opportunity to get a little 'feel of the town'; find out what was where, before heading over to a days' session on XML. The session was quite an eye-opener to me, but that's shop-stuff again, so I'll leave that for now :) Enjoyed lunch in the sun in the park across the street. While it wasn't to hot, it was pretty nice weather and it would stay that way the rest of the week; overcast and windy in the mornings and evenings and bright and sunny during the days. Almost would make you feel sorry to be 'locked up' inside most of the day...
After the session I walked around a bit. I'd taken up the plan to rent a motorbike the second week and do a tour of the area. Also tried finding a mobilephone (always can come in handy when stranded in the middle of nowhere :), but didn't find one that was affordable enough.
Sun NL had organized a getogether that evening which I attended and where I met a friend of mine; Gerald and his 'sidekick' Jacco.
After the meet we walked back to our respective hotels together and had a quick bite to eat at a Jack-in-the-Box. (Fast-food :)
Back at the hotel I made a couple of calls to let people know I arrived in one piece and went to sleep.
Tuesday through Friday
Was filled with attending numerous sessions of the JavaOne conference.
Now I know you're supposed to learn and 'network' during the day and party at night, but after those long days I usually was quite beat so I stuck to having dinner with a couple of interesting people and turning in relatively early. Others obviously had some more energy than I did, given the stories about visits to gay Karaoke bars and such :) On the last night of the conference I had dinner again with Gerald and Jacco, discussing the modeling of movement without using time or distance... No, we didn't have too much to drink, honest :)
I spent most of the day hanging around SF. Walked down to Fisherman's Wharf, found a bikeshop there that would rent me a bike for the week, lay in the grass for a while, walked around Pier 39, looked at the SeaLions there and took the long walk back to the hotel; darn are those hills steep!
Back at the hotel I gave one of my friends, Louise a call and arranged to come over for a BBQ the next weekend and called another friend Stan, who'd I visit on Monday. Dinner was served in the Planet Hollywood restaurant, although I don't quite get why they call it a restaurant; it's merely a posh fast-food chain :)
Incidentally, I never was asked for an ID in bars this time around :)
Was kind of similar to Saturday. But instead of hanging out at Fisherman's Wharf I hung out at the square close to my hotel, where an artists exhibition was being held. Also got a map of the region, which would come in handy during my trip and bought some postcards, wrote them and send them off.
In short; an enjoyable, laid back day in a laid back town. By that time I also had gotten back into my usual rhythm again of getting up late and going to sleep late.
Checked out of the hotel, took a cab down to the bikeshop (I wasn't going to walk those hills again !:) and rented a Yamaha V-star Classic for the week.
Drove back to the hotel and somehow got all of my gear on the back of the bike.
I'd planned to take the scenic route down highway 1 for a bit, but as usual it was covered in clouds, which made it cold and wet, so after some 10 miles I headed back east again and took the highway round the bay area to Milpitas. So what's in Milpitas you ask ? MiniMania, that's what :)
As a righteous Mini-lover I couldn't very well come that close and not stop by to say hi to the owner Don, now could I ?
As I was heading for Yosemite, Oakhurst to be
exact, that day, I decided to take a short cut past Mt Hamilton Observatory.
Finding that road turned out not to be as easy as it seemed on
the map though. The owner of the shop I stopped at to have some
sandwiches for lunch was very helpful though so I eventually
found the small and twisting road. After about an hour I
got to the observatory and saw a sign there 'no services next 50
miles. Checking the fuelgauge I figured I'd better take in some
gas as I had no idea yet what the mpg of the bike was. That
turned out to be a problem; when I turned around I saw another
sign saying; 'no services next 21 miles'... So there I was, sort
of in the middle of nowhere, with probably not enough gas to make
it to the next services and no intention to turn back; would take
two hours to get back to where I was. I asked another biker that
I happened to see there what would be best to do and he advised
against continuing as there was nothing the next 50 miles or so.
I found some people inside the observatory and although they were
not allowed to sell me gas, they did help me out with 2 gallons.
So I continued on my way. All in all it took me over three
hours to cover what had seemed to be a shortcut. I decided to
take the highway as far as possible from there, since I wasn't
making good time and wanted to arrive in Oakhurst before
sunset. Well, that was the plan anyway. Stopped on the way to
have a bite to eat and then continued onto Yosemite/Oakhurst. I
hadn't thought of gas anymore, which I should have... About 20
miles from a turn-off, in the mountains leading up to Yosemite, the
bike started to stutter. So there I was, the sun already setting,
in the middle of I don't know where, 20 miles from where possibly
the next gasstation was, running on reserve that I didn't know
how far it would take me. Ah well, we'll see :)
It took me far enough. Made sure to gas up and continued on my way to Oakhurst. It was completely dark by that time and about 3 hours later then I'd said I would arrive. Arriving in Oakhurst I gave Stan a call to tell him I had arrived and he came to pick me up. Met his parents, George and Helen and sat on the patio for a while relaxing after a rather long and eventful drive.
Since the week and day before had been a bit exhausting I slept in for a bit. After having breakfast and enjoying 'The Mansion' a bit Stan and I headed out to the local Bass Lake to swim, peddle on airbeds, lay in the sun and 'chat up' the locals a bit :) (Okay, so it _was_ politics that were discussed :)
Afterwards we stopped at ehhh, not sure what to call it. To Americans it probably is a restaurant, to me it looked more like a roadside pub where they also served food. Anyway, they had some burgers there that I really needed to get a taste of, or so Stan said. Later though I got the impression we were there for 'something' else than just the burgers. He told me he's always dragging people from all over the world (Stan has an extended circle of international friends) in there.
Later that day Stan tried to teach me the basics of the fine sport of golf on the 9-hole range he and George have created on the grounds of the Mansion. Although I must admit I wasn't to bad at it (I didn't dig into the grass to much), it's not really my kind of sport and the neighbors kid most definitely was a lot better at it than I was. Enjoyed watching him and Stan play for a bit and got a tour of the grounds afterwards, with Stan telling all about the (sometimes weird :) plans he had for it.
Stan, being involved in the local community as he is had to attend some meeting or the other. I in the mean time enjoyed the company of his parents George & Helen for dinner at... ehhh, some sort of Mexican restaurant I guess you'd call it. Taco's were served and eaten. The rest of the evening was enjoyed on the patio overlooking the Mansion and looking at the stars that always seem to be shining brighter away from home.
I slept in again. Sure, some people may call that a waste of time and beautiful sunshine, but it happens to be one of my hobbies! :) A holiday without some R&R isn't one to me. After having breakfast I got a map of the area and started out on what was going to be a drive around Bass Lake. I drove up the small winding roads on the one side and down again on the other. As I own a dirt bike myself I didn't shying away from using some dirt tracks on the way down where I got some nice views of the lake. The sun out, riding in the wind in a beautiful and very quiet setting... it doesn't get much better than that so I toke my time enjoying it.
When I got back after a couple of hours it was close to dinnertime already which we enjoyed together. Stan again played a round of golf. I opted for watching them play and do some reading on the patio this time.
Although I had initially planned on setting out for Lake Tahoe I changed my plans and decided to join Stan on his trip to Mammoth Lakes, on the other side of Yosemite. So I drove into town to get some money and fueled up the bike. On the way back to the Mansion I spotted a Mini in the corner of my eye. Turned around but it kept going and it was getting about time to set off for Mammoth Lakes so I didn't get to see it up close.
Got back, packed up all my gear onto the bike and by that time a friend of Stan who'd be joining him; Teri arrived. Said my good-bye's to George & Helen, took some pictures of all of us together (well not all; there always had to be one taking the picture :) and then we set off.
Although it was a sunny day again, I always 'dress up' when
riding a bike. first hand experience has taught me that you
always want to have some form of protection just in case you fall
off a bike. This didn't seem to bother two other bikers who
passed us on the twisty roads in Yosemite. The
first had already passed and the second, wearing only jeans and a
T-shirt apparently got fed up with driving behind us so just
before a sharp corner he decided to overtake us. Luckily there
was no oncoming traffic, but he did approach the corner way to
fast. As a result he skidded through the dirt next to the corner
and was only with shear luck able to keep his machine and him
with it from coming in contact with the brutal mountain-face.
Even with the sun out Tioga pass, being at about 10.000 feet can be quite chilly. Before getting to that elevation I stopped to tug myself in a bit more. The drive down to Mono Lake on the other side of the park was a spectacular one; broad roads meaning high speeds (well, AFA you can speak of high speeds in the US :).
Took in some gas again (didn't want a repetition of Monday :) and on we went to Mammoth Lakes. As it had gotten already a bit late we dropped off or stuff, freshen up a bit and set out to find a restaurant that would still serve us. The meal (burgers I think it was :) was complemented with a couple ehhh, well it had tequila in it, that much I remember :) Not sure what we did the rest of the evening. Listened to some music, talked, played a card game I think, we had fun and I got to know Teri a bit more, that much I remember.
I think by now you can guess at what time I got up :)
After having breakfast I packed up my gear to the bike again. Just before I left Stan's brother also arrived so I said hi to him and my good-bye's to Stan and Teri and off I was to Lake Tahoe. Even if it was in the afternoon it still was a bit chilly, but the sun was out so the temperature rose quickly during the day.
On the road to Lake Tahoe I saw a lot of other bikers. When I arrived in Bridgeport I understood why; there was a biker-rally called the "Bridgeport Motorcycle Jamboree" there that weekend. There were already about a thousand bikes assembled, but as one of the organizers told me, they were exception several thousand of bikers there that weekend. Would have been fun to hang out there a bit more to see what US bikers-meetings are like.
Around 14.30h I was close to Lake Tahoe; in Minden
Nevada. Still had to drive around to the other side of the
mountain though so I arrived at the touristcentre around 4pm. I
always like to meet people while traveling, so I asked if there
were any B&B's/Motels/Hotels around where one would find a
more young international crowd. They only could think of one,
that was closed at that time.
I drove up north along the lake, enjoying the view and keeping an eye out for interesting looking places to stay. I found a nice small lodge motel, run by a woman who was originally from Germany; Antje. Unloaded my gear and took a nice long rest in the Jacuzzi; very relaxing after a days drive on the bike. After I was regenerated I drove along the lake's coast for a bit and sat down to enjoy the sun set.
Back at the motel Antje told me the restaurant next to it was having a Mexican night, so that was as good a place as any to have dinner and some tequila of course :) Ran into Antje and some of the locals there and got updated on what was going on around there. Something to do with someone working (or not ?) at some pizzaplace and someone going there (or not ?); IOW; the usual local stuff. I didn't stay up to late as the next day I had the drive back to San Francisco ahead of me.
Got up at about 9 and had breakfast in Antje's kitchen. Got some real coffee for a change and a full continental breakfast together with some homebaked muffins. After packing up again, thanking Antje for her good care and saying goodbye I headed down south again along Lake Tahoe, stopping once to have enjoy the view again before heading back to San Francisco on the highway. By noon I was at Placerville where I took in some gas and food and around 13.15 I passed Davis. Coming into San Francisco the wind picked up and I had trouble keeping the bike in a straight line.
Around 3pm I arrived at Louise's place where I was invited for a BBQ that evening. Now while Louise and I 'go back' more then 10 years, we've never met in person. Our contact had been through BBS's, back in the old days, and by internet email since that came into swing. It's always weird to meet people in person that you've been in contact with for so long. Even exchanging pictures never really gives you the full picture of what they are like. Louise and her family turned out to be even nicer people than I'd expected. So I finally got to meet her in person, as well as her daughter Alicia (who I'd talked to way back when too), granddaughter Briana and the boyz; Chris, Louise's hubby and Alicia's friend Ryan.
We just hung out for a while, enjoying eachother company, playing games and catching up on what was happening in our respective lives.
Since I hadn't arranged a place to sleep for the night yet I
checked in at the Days Inn at the end of the street. Took a
shower to freshen up and gave my sister a call to let the family
back home know I was doing alright. Hadn't thought of the time
difference though, so ended up calling her in the middle of the
night her time :)
I also met my neighbors who seemed to be having some Spring-Break-like party going on.
But I had a date for BBQ at Louise's place so I got back on the bike and drove to her place again. Now I know Aussies are supposed to know what throwing a Barbie really is about, but I can tell you that some Californians also know their way around the fire. Big (and I mean big !) piece of meat were ritually burned and enjoyed with the proper amounts of fluids. I was sorry to have to leave somewhere in the middle of the night but I really was getting tired. I promised I'd look in again before leaving and drove back the the motel. Gave my sister a call (who was awake this time :) and went to sleep.
|Louise & Briana||Louise, Alicia, Briana||Louise, Chris,
I was getting closer and closer to the end of the trip so of course I slept in ! :)
After breakfast (or was that lunch ? :) I got the bike out as it again was a fine day in California. Drove to the beach but it was a bit chilly there. Did help a couple of guys with engine trouble and talked to a(nother) biker for a while before heading up highway 1. Passed Louise's but she didn't seem to be home so continued towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
As it happened the Pride Parade was taking place that day, so I stopped to have a look at that for a while. Lots of people being extravagant and having fun, IOW; SF was one big party.
As I'd promised myself to drive over the Golden Gate this time (hadn't when I was there before) I continued up north. Stopped on the other side of the bridge to take some pictures and mostly to look at other people taking pictures. As I was sort of running out of gas again (seems to have been a theme during this trip :) I drove down to the bay, filled up, got some sandwiches and enjoyed them overlooking the bay and San Francisco.
And again I continued up north on the highway 1. Some twisty roads and some straight through Point Reyes Nat'l Seashore brought me, with some stops on the way to enjoy the views, to Point Reyes itself, where I sat in the sand looking at the Ocean (the Pacific not the one I'm 'used to' seeing).
When I got back to the motel it was already dark and the pizzaplace around the corner I'd planned on eating at was already closed, so I decided to have supper in a local Mexican restaurant. The guys behind the counter didn't quite understand English (at least not the way I speak it) as as my Spanish is ehhh 'rusty' I ended up pointing out what it was I wanted, Taco's filled with all kinds of stuff. Ended the evening doing watching some tv (getting up to speed with current events again) and doing some reading before going to sleep.
Got up at a decent time and made arrangements for an airport shuttle to pick me up the next morning.
Took a long detour driving back to Fisherman's Wharf where I dropped off the bike at the bikeshop. Told them the bike had been a blast, although maybe a bit underpowered and I could have done with a windvisor. I only had to ask I was told. Ah well, next time :)
Took a long walk along the bay to the South Beach Harbor where the eXtreme Games were being held. Had planned to visit them, but the lines were a couple of miles long(!) so I decided to skip that and just enjoy the atmosphere around the event. Had lunch watching more and more people get in line to get in and talking to an (Australian I think it was) girl who was competing.
Walked down town into the financial district and continued lunch there looking at all the 'suits' coming out the offices for a minute to have lunch or smoke a cigarette. Got onto the L-line subway which took me back to my motel, which incidentally was right across from the Zoo. In order to try to get back into European time again I took an afternoon nap. When I woke up again I walked up to Louise's to find her and Chris home. Had some coffee and conversation and said my good-byes to them. Back at the motel I packed up all my gear, ready to leave the next morning and went to sleep (again :).
Got up at 8.15 and after a fast shower and breakfast was ready to leave around 9.
Shuttle took some time arriving, but got to the airport in time to catch my flight out. The stewardess took good care of me so all in all it was an enjoyable flight to London Heathrow. Again had to wait a bit for my transferflight so walked around Heathrow a bit.
Was very unimpressed by what I saw; basically an old airport with some new sections. Even the monitors showing the departure information weren't quite up to speed; didn't indicated what gate I would be leaving at. Based on the flight number I guessed what gate I might have to go to and started my quest for my plane. Although hardly anyone seemed to know anything I eventually found it. The flight back to Brussels was a short one and upon arriving my sister was there to collect me. She had taken good car of my Mini and after a visit to her place of work and having some snacks there I set off for home.
Arrived back home around 4pm ending what had been a great trip.