Monday, May 07, 2012

What I did on my Spring Vacation -- Day 1, Sunday

Having had some PTO I needed to burn off, and having spoken to my girlfriend Jean about the time, and to my friend Ryan about what to do, it was decided that we'd take a week off, and go to Southern California, and visit Disneyland.

A note about Disneyland:  I've never been to Disneyland.  I did spend a slight amount of time in the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, but mostly locating it so as to go around.

A note about these notes:  there are a lot of them.  You should just expect it at this point.

So it was with moderate trepidation that we planned our week of travelling.  Jean and I have been dating for nearly a year, and have been living together for over six months, but we hadn't traveled together yet, and I am notoriously unpleasant to be around while traveling -- I'm cranky, anxious, nervous, and usually in a moderate amount of pain due to back and leg problems -- so it was going to be interesting for our relationship, at least.  We spent the night before travelling, Saturday night, at a concert with some friends, so we probably stayed up too late for my mind, but whatever, it was a great time.  On Sunday morning, we got up early, returned the rental car we'd gotten for the weekend, and got in the security line at PDX airport.

A note about PDX:  there is no better airport.  It's pretty, it's cozy, it's not terribly large but not overly small, it's got free wifi everywhere, the prices are fixed (by law) to the prices outside of the airport, and the employees of the airport itself, the various airlines, and especially the TSA are all good-natured, pleasant, and friendly.  If the TSA was managed as well elsewhere as it was in PDX, well, it'd still be a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, but it would at least be a nice multi-billion-dollar boondoggle.

Once through the PDX security line, which took about as long as I expected, we grabbed a bagel for breakfast and relaxed for a bit before flying JetBlue to the Long Beach Airport.

A note about JetBlue:  It's a Southwest knockoff, certainly.  They operate only second-hand Airbuses (A320s and A230s), they operate to only limited areas, and mostly to secondary or tertiary airports.  That said, the seats are pleasantly large, the rows have a very pleasant amount of legroom, they don't charge for checked bags, and they are only slightly more expensive than the other Greyhound-in-the-Sky airlines.  Two thumbs up; will fly again!

A note about LGB (Long Beach):  if PDX is the best airport ever, then LGB comes in a close second.  It's a VERY small airport -- it doesn't have gates, just places where they park the planes and roll up stairs to get people off -- and almost all of it is outside.  When we landed, I kept expecting to enter some sort of building, but since it's apparently always nice in LA, there wasn't any inside.

After a two-hour flight, the bright sunlight and fresh air was actually quite refreshing.  We got out and picked up our rental car extremely easily, and I was introduced again to the perfidious, insidious, regressive pain-in-the-ass that is sales tax.  It was late morning on a Sunday, so Jean and I were naturally inclined to find brunch before the long-ass drive ahead of us, but living in Portland has spoiled me in two ways.  The first is in brunch; as I would come to learn, nowhere in Southern California does brunch correctly.  The second is parking; for a city where EVERYONE OWNS A CAR, finding a parking spot is a forced game of "how many right turns can I make" that no one ever wins.  We faffed about trying to find somewhere that wouldn't kill us with hunger while waiting, which brought us to 10:30, which is when In N Out opens, so we gave up and had an early lunch.

A note about In N Out:  If you don't know what INO is, then I am excited for you to experience it for the first time.  It's a burger joint, kinda like Burgerville (in that they're moderately local, careful to use fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and they have a good word-of-mouth relationship with their customers), but whereas Burgerville has a one-of-everything sort of menu, INO has a very, very limited menu.  On the board, anyway.  They also have an unwritten, secret, never discussed unofficial menu passed from person to person via word of mouth.  And the secret menu is the best part of INO.

I haven't had INO is more than a decade, since they don't have it in either Dallas, Chicago, or Portland, and had seriously considered a road trip from Portland to Redding, CA (the nearest INO, an 11-hour drive one way) to get some.  Thankfully, I didn't do that, because having a 3x3 animal-style, protein-style was EXACTLY what I wanted to eat for the first time (for the uninitiated: 3 patties, 3 slices of cheese, with extra tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and pickles, no bun, wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves) and I consumed it in less than 90 seconds.  I also filched some fries from Jean and her much more reasonable double-double and fries.

Then, we departed for Points North.  Specifically, I took Jean to see her mom and stepdad for the first time in a couple years, who own a house somewhere in the wilds north of LA.  And when I say north, I mean a hundred miles from the airport.  Thankfully, it was Sunday morning, so we didn't have too much trouble with traffic, but still, 100 miles.  Thankfully, we got a pretty nice rental car, the Ford Fiesta, and it was actually a pretty fun drive.

A note about the Ford Fiesta:  introduced in 2008 in Europe as a replacement for the Ford Focus Hot-Hatch, and introduced in the US in 2010, it's a sporty, spacious, roller-skate-style car with a high-revving engine and really responsive handling.  It's a great car, and I'm as shocked as you are that I'm saying something nice about a Ford car, but there you are.  If you've got 17 grand, you could do worse than a Fiesta.

Once there, we met up with Jean's family, and had a nice sushi dinner at a local sushi joint.  We visited for a while, and then went to bed.