From the Blog

Holy Fricken Crap, What A Vacation That Was

Because I am exceedingly smart, (I just needed spell check for “exceedingly”), I purposefully selected the earliest flight I could find on Christmas Eve. My reasoning was that I wanted to get to California early in the day, and I figured that travel crowds on Christmas Eve would only get worst as the day progressed. However, a 6:45 am flight meant we needed to get to the airport earlier than public transportation would allow.

Upon hearing our predicament, our good friend Amy offered to drive us to the airport at 5 am. Did I say our good friend? I meant our very good, dear, friend. But she was a little drunk when she offered. But even after Amy sobered up from the Holiday Ale Fest, she still offered to take us to the airport at 5 am. So if I may share a universal word of wisdom…always relate your sad tales of woe to your friends while they are slightly tipsy. Your results may vary.

We arrived in sunny Long Beach, California around 10 am. I found my dad and sister wandering the airport, thinking we were coming in on a later flight. My dad was already wearing reindeer antlers. My sister had to go back to work after meeting us, and my dad drove Dave and me home.

It was the first drive of many that were at least an hour to get anywhere. Dave, Native Portland Boy, marveled at all the driving, and all the freeways, and all the cars. There is no hope of avoiding freeways in Southern California. There is rarely such a thing as taking an alternate route, especially if we were driving over 20 mile distances, as we often were. If a freeway is jammed, you can’t really pull off and hope to navigate through unfamiliar communities.

So later that day, during rush hour, my sister had our Chinese food dinner in her car, and she texted me asking, “How long red on the 60?” Who would know what that means unless you’ve lived in Southern California?

I had to explain to Dave what Sigalert was. It’s a bit of a culture shock to visit California.

The next morning was Christmas, and I was happy that Dave could share in our family pillaging of the stockings. Me, my sister, her fiance, my mom and my dad. Santa was funny and got my sister carrots for her stocking, because she is known in my family as the “Food Nazi.” My sister is diligent about healthy eating and exercise, and rightfully concerned about my parents’ eating habits since my mom’s heart attack in May. So she got carrots in her stocking, which we all know, is a zillion times worse than coal.

After stockings and coffee, there was a frenzy of opening presents, in which much loot was given and received. Dave remarked that he will pack much more booze and presents next year. Even the dogs got to unwrap their own gifts.

Before Christmas dinner. There were no carrots involved.

We had a lovely couple of days leisurely hanging out at home, playing with new toys, eating great food, playing with the pets, drinking a few bottles glasses of wine.

Saturday evening, we drove to Redondo Beach to see my sister’s new apartment and to get dinner with our dear friend Keiko. Astonishingly, not far from my sister’s apartment, Redondo Beach Cafe serves poutine.

I dare say, of all the poutine variations we have had in Portland, this may have been the closest to authentic Canadian fast food we have tried. It was quite good. My one complaint was that the cheese curds were still chilled and waxy as we ate. I would have preferred them melty and gooey. But, still quite good.

The next morning, we woke up early to take the regular Sunday Sonett drive up a mountain with my dad’s nutty Saab friends. They usually drive up Angel’s Crest (California State Route 2) but it has been closed intermittently since the Station Fire.

For this trip, we drove up Mt Baldy.

Did I mention this car is older than I am? And perhaps in better shape?

This drive does not twist and turn as much as Angel’s Crest (where many people fly off the road and die all the time), but the terrain on Mt Baldy is quite pretty, especially now that Angel’s Crest is burned to a crisp and looks like a moonscape.

Also, the Mt Baldy Restaurant was a delight. We arrived before the restaurant was open, but they let the Sonett drivers in from the chill mountain air. We were greeted by roaring fireplaces and a waitress who knew all the orders from memory, down to who got honey with their tea.  The food was great and the rustic atmosphere was a million miles from the throbbing metropolis (only 10 miles away).

The M&M cars. They didn’t have drab colors in the early 70s.

For reference, these cars are about the size of a men’s size 12 sneaker.

A Miata is a tank next to this car.

After driving down the mountain and allowing our breakfasts to slosh around in our bellies, we went home to meet up with my mom and sister. Dave and my dad stayed home while we womens departed to go wedding dress shopping. My sister was in the home stretch after a dozen various outings and trying on over fifty dresses. She had her dress in mind, but was nervous about making an actual, final decision.

It made my heart skip a beat to see my little baby sister walk out in her wedding dress. I took plenty of photos, but will omit them here because something bad happens when men see women in their wedding dress before the wedding, or something. Like their eyeballs melt.

My sister has always been a head turner. Tall, thin, statuesque and, my little baby sister. She is getting married in July. My little sister.

After the dress was bought and the alterations were arranged, we met up with Dave and my dad for lunch. Then we drove a long way on the freeway to the Saab dealer in Santa Ana. Since the future of Saab automobiles is in question, my dad was agonizing over how to buy his “last Saab.” He’s owned fourteen Saabs in his life.

The Saab dealership was in an auto mall, ominously next to a shuttered Saturn lot. There were less than two dozen cars at the Saab dealership, mostly used lease returns. It was ghostly and sad.

My dad was agonizing because his current car is seven years old, and he logs 100 miles a day on it. But the newer cars just didn’t “feel” like Saabs. With each new rendition, the cars lost their quirkiness and began to feel more bland. We previously test drove a 2007 93 sedan and were disappointed. It was quick and the ride was stiff and sporty, but the fit and finish seemed cheap and generic. It almost seemed better for him to keep his current convertible and nurse it into old age.

We drove a 2007 convertible and it felt much better. It was in better shape, it had more features, it rode awful nice. It was glossy and slick. We put the top down and sped and wiggled around the empty auto mall. They had just dropped the price by $1500. I knew my dad was going to buy this car.

We waited in the dealership for what seemed like hours as they shuffled paperwork and got the car ready. Dave remarked that our day was the quintessential California experience. 150 miles of driving, up a mountain in the morning, then to wedding dress shopping, then lunch, then to a car dealership to buy another car. All in a day. At least the traffic was good.

Still with me? The next day was Disneyland. Yay! The Happiest Place On Earth! Where everyone is a princess! My dad was thinking it was going to be horrifically crowded, but I was optimistic. We were going on Monday, not a weekend day. So more people were probably back at work. Even if the kids were out on break. Less crowded. Right?



Packed. Shuffle room only. Thousands of strollers. Hour-plus lines for everything. It was nearly impossible to get from one side of the park to the other.

But in a fit of male bonding, Dave and my dad agreed to drag us to lame attractions that didn’t have long lines. Like the canoes. Yes, canoes. Where you had to paddle with your own arms, which was total bullshit. Have you heard of the canoes at Disneyland? Me either. Because they are totally lame.

Dave and my dad also bonded over NOT wanting to go on Space Mountain, or the Matterhorn, or Thunder Mountain or any of the cool stuff. But, yay, we got to go to the Enchanted Tiki Room. Yay. My dad was also disappointed we couldn’t find the Country Bear Jamboree. I was glad we didn’t find it (it’s actually no longer at Disneyland) because it would have been lame.

As they day progressed, the crowds did not seem to get any lighter. We regretted going in the middle of the day instead of waiting until later afternoon/early evening. Disneyland was open until midnight.

We missed a lot of stuff I would have like to see. I would have even gone on Small World if the line hadn’t been 75 minutes long. We were trying to avoid the crowds gathering for the nightly parade. We were inadvertently caught in front of Small World as dusk was falling. We heard an announcer ask everyone to use the Magic of the Holidays to Wish for World Peace! Then Small World lit up! Ooooh.

And surprise! World Peace was granted! Didn’t you notice?


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday.
    Disneyland on winter break???? No thanks!
    Happy New Year

  2. sigalert!!! i remember that. i am so lucky that i only had a hellacious commute for the first year of living in LA. after that, my job was one mile away. i occasionally rode a bike. it was straight up La Tijera which is 4 lanes of traffic on each side, at the worst points. no fun. but way better than jakes commute across town to santa monica. growing up the the bay area the traffic isn’t such a shock to me. i sometimes wish i could see it through the eyes of some yokel from a little town in kansas. i wonder if your eyes would literally bug out of your head?

  3. Rush hour traffic, going across all of Los Angeles (Long Beach to Redondo Beach to Pasadena to Chino Hills, and 8 freeways later) is no good. I didn’t eat the carrots. I think that dinner was the best dinner for Christmas. Beef tenderloin, marinated salmon, green bean casserole, grilled, garlic veggies, cheesy, mashed potatoes, chocolate, Jack Daniels pecan pie!! Dress shopping- harder than I thought. (Still) feels good that I made the choice I did. Really helps to have your mom and sister there cheering you on!! Dad made a great choice for a car!! It just felt good riding in it!! Canoes, they made us use our muscles, on Christmas break, and the employees yelled at us if we stopped paddling. But lunch was great! Indiana Jones was fun! And we missed traffic on the way home! All good! Then had Hawaiian food for dinner! All good again!!

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