Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day Getaway to the Bay

I'm heading to San Francisco for the Labor Day weekend. My biggest bro is there on business, and we decided to do the Bay area big time, from his base in Hayward. Let the games begin!!

Saturday morning, and we're off to Yosemite, celebrating its 150th anniversary (from the Yosemite Grant). I've been to Yosemite several times, and it has changed since my last visit. They have shuttles now to get you around the Valley, which eliminates a good chunk of the road congestion.

It was great to see my old friends Half Dome,

and El Capitan. My bro and I went off-road hiking through the Valley, strategizing where to cross the creek at the lowest point, to see the monolith up close and personal. We later stopped to watch rock climbers scaling the face!

Click here for Yosemite's website.

Back to dinner in Hayward, we went to the fabulous Hayward Ranch. Deeelish!! These are my lambie chops, spaghetti and steamed veggies. Hayward Ranch dates back to 1948; it is decorated barn-style with random farm implements, old photos, and memorabilia, and the wait staff call you "sweetie."

Click here for Hayward Ranch's website.

Sunday morning, and I'm off to the 149th Pleasanton Highland Games. Yes, these games have been held almost as long as Yosemite has been around! I'm there for just a few hours to watch some piping competition as preparation for my first time competing coming up in October.

Pleasanton has a bit of a Ren Faire reputation, due to its living history zone. This Scots Guards re-enactment of protecting the King was cool to watch. Stay tuned for Scots Guards circa 2014 shortly!

Click here for Pleasanton's website.

I could only stay in Pleasanton for a few hours, because we had tickets to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose for the evening. The Winchester House, built by an heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, was under construction for 38 years, starting in 1884. The house is famous for its doors to nowhere, skylights in the floor, Tiffany stained glass windows placed where the sun doesn't hit them, and the number 13 throughout. Apparently, Mrs. Winchester continued building the home to confuse "the spirits" after her husband and young child died.

Click here for Winchester Mystery House's website.

Before leaving San Jose, we had to stop by Psycho Donuts, which is sooooo reminiscent of Voodoo Donuts in Portland. The Canadian Morning Squeal Meal on the left is a buttermilk bar topped with maple icing, bacon bits and chocolate drizzle. On the right is the Headbanger, with gooshy raspberry filling. Fun and tasty!!

Click here for Psycho Donuts' website.

Monday morning, and we're at the front of the boat swinging by Alcatraz before heading first to Angel Island!

We learned that Angel Island was a defensive base during the Civil War to protect the gold found in them thar hills for the Union. This is where some major artillery was placed, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Later, Angel Island served as an Ellis Island west for immigrants coming from Asian countries.

P.S., to stay on this milestone trend, California State Parks are celebrating 150 years. Angel Island is one of those state parks.

Back on the boat, and we're at The Rock. This is a  drill-out to show the thickness of the glass! They offered a really cool audio tour, with sound effects like closing cell doors, foot steps, and fights. Walking into the solitary confinement space was especially chilling!

I was surprised by the "Indians Welcome" graffiti, until I learned about the 1969 occupation by Native Americans to turn the abandoned federal prison and island into a cultural center. I think it's cool that the graffiti was preserved, and the story is still told.

Click here for Alcatraz's website.

Click here for Angel Island's website.

Tuesday morning, and I'm at SFO on the way back to reality. I heard chanters coming from another gate and raced over. It was the Scots Guards performing "Amazing Grace" for the blond lady. What a bittersweet send-off for me!

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