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Tuesday
Nov021999

Pre Y2KRTE: The Bay Area Extravaganza (BAE)

Before Chris and I embarked on the first official Road Scholars trip, the Year 2000 Road Trip Extravaganza (Y2KRTE), I took a few road trips to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit family and used the opportunity to test out the newly created RoadScholars.com mailing list. The first of these trips occurred over Halloween Weekend and I took along with me my roommate at the time (also coincidentally named Chris) his then girlfriend (now wife), Aliciana. It was our last chance to get away before the holidays and final exams.

The impetus for the trip was my hankering for the past two years to check out the much advertised Winchester Mystery House. During the weeks leading up to Halloween, they offer evening Flashlight Tours of the mansion and I heard it was pretty cool. So Chris, his girlfriend Aliciana and I piled into the car Saturday morning and headed north. Well, actually, we started to head south. I’m so used to jumping on the freeway to go home, that without thinking I took the wrong on ramp and we were, for a brief time, headed to Orange County. A quick course correction put us back on the right track and we were on our way, the Space Mountain theme blaring in our ears and the wind blowing through our hair.

Since the car was rather soiled, I waited to fuel up until we found a gas station with a car wash. After a few scenic detours, we finally found a Chevron in King City. Naturally, by the time we fueled up and got in the car wash line, there were four cars in front of us. And of course we picked the slowest car wash in the tri-county area. The cars ahead of us must have been so clean they won’t need another wash for the rest of the year. The line crawled forward until finally there was only one car in front of us. For some odd reason, the driver positioned the car as far away from the keypad as possible. I should have seen this and known, but it wasn’t until this inDUHvidual got out of the car to make the trek to the keypad that I knew we were in trouble. I wouldn’t say she strolled over, it was more of a calculated swagger. After studying the curious contraption for a few moments, our hero finally figured out how to input her code. Now keep in mind, she’s had about 15 minutes to sit in her car and read the big-ass instruction sign over and over and over again.

So now that the code is entered, our hero “swaggers” back to her trusty steed, pulls into the car wash about half way and stops. I lower my head in disbelief. About a minute passes. She’s still sitting there, apparently oblivious to what a GREEN light with big bold ENTER text across it means. She’s not just sitting there anymore either, she’s begun honking. This was really nice, because it allowed me to reminisce about the good ol’ days I spent in New York. Made me feel downright nostalgic as I hung my head once again.

It gets better.

Just as I am turning to Chris to go tell this inDUHvidual to get a clue and pull forward, the station attendant comes out to see what all the raucous is about. He motions her forward until the light turns red.

Alas, her car is being washed! As the machine passes over once and wets the car, we stare ahead in disbelief. Then we start laughing uncontrollably. She has turned the windshield wipers on. I know what you’re thinking. She’s obviously having an off day, she must have panicked when she saw the water and instinctively reached for the lever. Nope. She used the intermittent setting. SWISH SWASH…5…4…3…2…1…SWISH SWASH…you could have set your watch to it, if you could keep from laughing so hard. Unbelievable. I nearly died when I realized she didn’t spring for the deluxe wash that dries the car. I’m thinking, oh great, we’re going to sit here another hour while she air dries. She’d had enough though, and as we pulled into position and watched the water finally flow over our windshield, I couldn’t resist. SWISH SWASH.

The rest of the trip was actually uneventful. We packed a lot in to 24 hours, but it was still relaxing and good to get away (now we’re back and everyone’s a nervous wreck). We drove over the Bay Bridge into the city and parked the car in Chinatown. I have actually never been to SF’s Chinatown, so it was kind of a neat new treat for me. We grabbed a quick bite, did some window shopping and headed for the wharf. We did the standard stuff there, walked around pier 39, Ghiradelli Square, window shopped, and ate again! Since we were ahead of schedule, we decided to drive to San Jose and stop into the mall next to the Winchester Mystery House for some coffee and more window shopping. I bought a stress relief aromatherapy candle that isn’t working as well as I’d like.

The tour was slightly disappointing. Our tour guide was kind of a dork and didn’t annunciate very well. But he was in a keen Ghostbuster costume and since all the lights were out and we all had flashlights, it was still a neat experience. The house was owned by Sarah Winchester, widow of the rifle manufacturer’s son, William. Construction began in 1884 and continued day and night non-stop until her death in 1922 to create a 160-room house sprawling over 6 acres. And what a weird house, with stairways leading to the ceiling, secret rooms to spy on servants, doors and windows opening to walls, windows in the floor…she was very eccentric. It is said that she was constantly changing the house because the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle were directing (or haunting may be a better term) her. In any event, the result is one screwy house.

After our tour, we drove to Berkeley in a rather circuitous fashion. Since this was Aliciana’s first trip to the Bay Area, we wanted to expose her to as much as possible, so we drove over the Golden Gate and San Rafael bridges to get to our accommodations in Berkeley with my friend Nelson. Sleeping on his floor was...well, hard. But nevertheless we appreciated the hospitality and the good company (good to see you again, my friend!).

Thank God for small miracles, gaining an hour from the time change gave us just enough energy to have breakfast and make the trek back to SLO…safe and sound.

 

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