Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating Ben Franklins Birthday--2006

In September 2005 I read an article in the SF Chronicle about Philadelphia, PA preparing to celebrate Ben Franklin's 300th Birthday in 2006. Having been a history major this was of interest to me. For the next few months I mulled over the idea of going to Philly and joining the festivities in celebrating one of America's greatest citizens.

Finally in mid-January 2006 I decided that I would, indeed, fly out to celebrate. And, what better month to go than the week of my own birthday in April! So, I did some research and finally booked my trip.

Can you believe I got roundtrip airfare through Southwest (non-stop) from Oakland to Philadelphia for $226.00??? My tickets to Las Vegas, NV cost more than that--seriously! Since I got such a deal on my airfare, I splurged on my hotel. I stayed at the Sheraton Society Hill.

The morning of my flight I had a terrible sinus headache which resulted in my vomiting before I left for the airport. Yes, I know, TMI (too much info). I was afraid I may be too sick to board the plane. My parents drove me to the airport while I slept in the backseat. Luckily, by the time I arrived at the airport I felt a little better. I slept for most of the flight and felt almost human by the time I reached my destination.

I left a rainy California and arrived in a rainy Philadelphia. So, because of the weather & the fact that I wasn't feeling my best, I decided to change my plans and just take it easy for the rest of that first day. I unpacked and than ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant The Wooden Nickel Steakhouse. Yes, I had a NY Steak and a couple of drinks (my drink of choice was Malibu Bay Breeze). It was my birthday dinner to myself--haha

I remember being incredibly excited to be in Philadelphia and anxious to start my exploration of this great city. So I went to bed early so I would be well rested for my first full day of being a tourist!

I started the next day walking to the Independence Visitor Center to get my pre-purchased ticket to Independence Hall. After I picked up the ticket for later in the morning, I walked over to the building which housed the Liberty Bell. You have to go through security before they will let you in to see it up close. Amazing that anyone would want to do anything to this symbol of freedom, but I guess nothing should shock us anymore...

I wasn't prepared to feel so patriotic standing before this big Bell. I've seen it in pictures many many times, but somehow it wasn't the same as standing right in front of it! Afterward, I moved on to Independence Hall (including the old City Hall, the Great Essential Exhibit, & Congress Hall) for my tour. I can't really put into words how it felt to stand in the same room as some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived. I can only speak for myself....but I felt honored and incredibly proud to be an American!!

After the tour, I decided to have lunch and went to the Bourse and had a ham & cheese hoagie (yummy). Then I was off to the National Constitution Center to see the Franklin Exhibit...which was the original basis for me coming to Philadelphia! I spent so much time in this exhibit, I ran out of time and didn't get to visit the rest of the Center. Well, a good reason for another visit!

The morning was cold & windy but by the afternoon the weather had cleared up. It was a good time to do some walking around. Luckily most everything historical was close so no public transportation was needed. I walked by & through several historical sites before arriving at the Betsy Ross house. I did the tour--which I enjoyed. Later in the afternoon I found a Starbucks where I sat and enjoyed a hot beverage & pastry before continuing on.

I visited the National Liberty Museum which should be a mandatory place for all to see. It has to do with freedom all around the world. The very last thing I saw at the museum was a short (and silent) film about 9/11/01. It showed both planes crashing into the twin towers and all of the aftermath. WOW---is all I can say. Even though almost 5 years had passed since 9/11, it was still the most powerful thing I had ever seen! A small group of us stood there and watched it. We were all moved to tears.

I visited Washington Square and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And, being half Irish, I had to go see the Irish Memorial! I had a fabulous dinner at the City Tavern, which was right across the way from my hotel. I had prime rib, which was delicious and HUGE! What I love most about vacations is not feeling guilty about anything I eat or drink because I end up walking so much, I never worry about gaining weight!! Oh, yes, of course I had a Philly cheesesteak--twice!! What can I say but yes it was most delicious!

The only time I took public transportation was when I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was able to see the steps Rocky Balboa ran up in the movie Rocky. And, no, I didn't try to run up the steps! I love art museums and this one didn't disappoint, although I do wish I had gone to one of the other museums in town. Oh, well, another trip, perhaps?!

I guess I didn't look like a tourist because people stopped me to ask for directions. I think I should take that as a compliment! Because of my thorough research before going anywhere, I am never seen with a map or tourbook (don't worry, they're hidden in my purse, just in case) & I always look like I know where I'm going. Being familiar with street patterns, street names, & landmarks help, fyi.

I met lots of people on my trip so even though I was traveling alone, I was never lonely (a big difference!). I met a lady at Independence Hall who was from Seattle WA & there on a business trip. She asked if I was there on business like her and I answered no, just for vacation. She asked if I was traveling alone and I answered yes. She told me she was impressed that I could do that as she "could never do it alone". Funny, I used to think that. Now, I enjoy it!

I actually did a lot of sightseeing in this beautiful city but somehow I didn't take too many pictures. So much of what I saw was very moving and had deep meaning for me. I was caught up in the moment & wasn't thinking about my camera. Besides, there was just so much to absorb it couldn't really be captured in pictures. It's something you have to experience individually and in person.

If you ever get the chance, please visit this fabulous City of Brotherly Love--I highly recommend it!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My California Road Trip-July 2005

I've wanted to travel my whole life. As an adult, I haven't had many opportunities to go anywhere. So, after my divorce in 2005, I decided it was time to hit the road and start traveling like I always dreamed of.

My first trip was decided, planned, & booked within 10 days of my leaving. A friend of mine told me traveling solo was an empowering experience, so I figured, why not?! My reason for choosing a road trip for my first solo adventure was simple: I would be in my own car & feel less intimidated traveling in familiar transportation.

I chose my route based on places in California I've always wanted to go, or places I've been & loved (like Disneyland). I was meticulous in my research and mapping of this route. I say that because there were detours along my trip & I never felt lost or flustered because I had studied my maps.(this is one of the reasons I dislike, & refuse to us,e GPS!)

My trip started by driving to, & over, the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought this would be cool, forgetting how much I hated going over bridges due to my fear of heights!! Nice time to remember--as I'm driving OVER the bridge!! Anyway, I continued down Hwy 101 until I got to my first destination...San Simeon. I did stop in Galt at the outlets--boy, is that place huge!!

I've wanted to see Hearst Castle since I was a little girl. I have to say that it didn't disappoint. It is an incredibly beautiful place! I only went on the first tour, but wish I had scheduled more time here & taken at least one other tour. Even today, 4 1/2 yrs later, all I have to do is close my eyes & I am transported back to the mansion, standing on the beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean. Breathtaking!!

I also wanted to stay at a Bed & Breakfast, so I stayed in Cambria at the Ollalieberry Inn. It is a fabulous B&B and I stayed in the Angels Nook room in the adjoining building. The food they provided was fresh & fabulous and the staff was awesome!! I met some lovely couples from around the country who all made me feel like a part of the group. It was heaven and, again, I wish I had been able to stay longer.

The route for my trip was Hwy 101, part of which was along the coast. Once in a while I would just stop at places that piqued my interest. I didn't really stop as many times as I would have liked. But then, I would have never gotten to my next destination .....Disneyland!!

Since I was traveling solo I decided, for my safety, to stay at the Disneyland Hotel since it was on-site. Also, I've always wanted to stay there. I've never felt safer anywhere! The staff was fabulous and I had the best time doing all of the things I wanted to do. I met Mickey and Minnie Mouse, went on rides, saw shows, etc. It was a fun and relaxing time!!

After a couple of days, I continued my journey to San Diego. Along the way I stopped at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I had the best time going on a "safari-like" trip around the park seeing all of the different animals. Again, having never been, I didn't allot enough time & wished I could stay longer, but I needed to be on my way to San Diego.

I got to my hotel, Humphrey's Half Moon Inn & Suites, located on Shelter Island. I had a beautiful view of the Bay. I was there for a few days so I was able to sit & relax on my deck & enjoy the view. Also this hotel included a concert hall behind my room, so when I was in my room at night I could hear any concert going on: including Clay Walker (a country singer--I'm not familiar w/him since I'm not a country music lover), and Ladysmith Black Mambazo/Richard Thompson.

During my stay I went to: SeaWorld--FANTASTIC! I saw all of the shows & got drenched at the Shamu Adventure; San Diego Zoo--I love zoo's. My favorite was the Koala bear exhibit. Koala's have always been my favorite animal, so needless to say, I spent a lot of time here. Unfortunately, I got lost in the zoo & it took me forever to get "unlost" so didn't get to see all of Balboa Park after I left the zoo; Old Town San Diego--I love history so this was right up my alley. I spent a lovely afternoon here & had lunch at the Cosmopolitan restaurant; San Diego Mission--again, I love history, so tried to see some of the missions on my journey. It was beautiful & peaceful!

On my return trip I drove up to Santa Barbara. I traveled from San Diego to Santa Barbara on a Sunday, mistakenly thinking it would be a nice drive. Yeah, that is if you like bumper to bumper traffic! It ended up taking me over 6 hours to make the drive & because of the traffic I did not stop along the way. I had been drinking a lot of water so, let's just say, I was never so happy to get to a destination!

Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived when I got to my hotel. I stayed at the Mason Beach Inn, which AAA (in my opinion, mistakenly) gave 3 diamonds. I was afraid to leave my room at night, so I didn't partake in any nighttime endeavors. I locked myself in my room, barely sleeping that night, and checked out the next morning! After I found a Starbucks, I did a little sightseeing around Downtown Santa Barbara & the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

My next stop was Solvang--a quaint Danish town in the Santa Ynez Mountains. I was there the day after Sandra Bullock & Jesse James got married in the area. If you ever go to Solvang, Mortenson's Bakery is a must! The pastries are to die for!! Thinking about that place makes me smile. Since I was "right around the corner", I stopped by Mission Santa Ines--what can say? I love missions.

My next stop was Pismo Beach. I walked along the shore for a long time. It was a beautiful day & I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment. I walked around the town for a bit, shopping along the way, got a bite to eat and continued my journey.

My next stop was San Luis Obispo. I hadn't been there since I was a little girl visiting my grandma. I was trying to find the San Luis Obispo Mission--however, I didn't pay much attention because I drove right past it--twice!! Who would have thought the mission would be in the center of town?? By the time I realized I was there...the mission was closed.

On my last day, driving home, I stopped at the Mission San Miguel. It was closed due to renovation, but I walked around a bit anyway and took some pictures.

As I was getting closer to home, the dark clouds were coming. Wait, it's in the middle of July, how can there be dark clouds and rain!? Luckily it didn't matter as my first solo journey was over & I was home safe.

On reflection my friend was right. Solo travel is empowering. I got to go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go, & if I decided to change my mind about something, I did, without worrying about anyone else. I met a lot of nice friendly people along the way & I had the best time! Whenever I recall this journey, it brings a huge smile to my face.

Training for a 5K

I have tried to train & run in a 5K for a very long time. More specifically, since 2005/2006, when I joined a local womens running class. Something has always seemed to get in the way of accomplishing this goal (mostly work). The closest I got was an informal race the day after Thanksgiving in 2008. I had been training & was going to run in it with a friend of mine. However, 2 weeks before the race I fell & broke my right arm. No, I was not running/training at the time of the fall. I tripped over a rug in my house. Yes, seriously.

I was st
ill planning to run the race, but my mom told me she didn't think it was a good idea with the cast. Knowing me as well as she does, she announced she was coming with me. She knew if she weren't there I would try to run. So, I ended up power walking with her--yes, ALWAYS listen to your mother! I've found that when I don't the results are usually not good!! Oh, and by the way, she power walks much faster than I do & I had to work hard to keep up. But then again, she power walks 5-8 miles a day several times a week!! Go mom!!

So, one of my New Years Resolutions for 2010 is to finally run in a 5K. I have been training for it since February. It's been hard for the most part because I dislike cold & rainy weather. Since the temperature has been better lately I've been more consistent.

It's also difficult to train because I am doing it alone, so I have to motivate myself. I do have online friends who run & they inspire me a lot. Thank goodness for them!!

I feel I am getting close to being ready. There are a couple of 5K's coming up soon in my area. A friend I used to run with (and now lives in another town) said to let her know when I have picked a race &, if she could make it, she would come run it with me!

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I've been training for this for how many years? I need to listen to Nike & "just do it". Until then, I will continue to train.....

My love of Baseball & how I started scorekeeping

Baseball is my favorite sport! My love for it started as a young girl listening to the games on the radio, & then later, going to watch my brother play Little League. At the age of 9 a friend of my moms (who was also the wife of my brothers coach)asked me to be a scorekeeper. I said okay & she took me to a class to learn.

I've always wondered if anyone else started as a scorekeeper at this young age. The other scorekeepers I saw were adults. In junior high we moved & there was no Little League in the new town, so my brother played in a Babe Ruth League and I became a scorekeeper.

In high school I was the head scorekeeper for the varsity baseball team. I enjoyed my time & the team was good--they ended up league champs. I've always taken my job as scorekeeper very seriously and was always fair & honest. I never played favorites, even for my brother.

I remember once my brother got on base & I listed it as an error. Our coach didn't think so & requested I change it to a hit. I refused. He fought me on it & felt I was being unfair to my brother. I don't remember if it was ever changed by the coach. I know I never did. My brother never got mad at me for it.

I also was a stat for the girls varsity basketball team. I kept track of the rebounds. I have never really liked basketball and don't really understand the game. The coach explained what I was supposed to record & I did it. Don't ask me anything else about basketball, because I have no idea!