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Living it Up

It’s been a month since we started this journey, and that sounds like a completely arbitrary amount of time deserving of a few notes about our trip so far.

The first week involved a lot of driving and a lot of stops along the way. Our favorite place was completely unexpected and we only stopped in Moab because Summit County was in this weird state where the snow is mostly gone but still prominent, and there isn’t really much to do. Moab was in the desert and we ended up spending two nights there, riding mountain bikes and then spending an entire day in Arches National Park, which was remarkable. We camped in the Grand Canyon near the rim with our own semi-private view of the big ditch and did some hiking, then spent a night in Vegas, which we agreed was overrated. On the way, we did the audiobook of AJ Jacobs’ My Life as an Experiment, which was a great way to pass those long hours of barren deserts.

The Jeep is still holding up, after some weird rattling, a Check Engine light which turned out to be caused by someone not completely tightening the gas tank cap, the need for a new battery, and an oil change. That’s a relief. A few years ago we had a bunch of problems with it over the course of a few months and I was afraid we were tempting fate by driving her out west. It’s been a good vehicle so far, and she’s now seen both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which I’m sure she appreciates.

The apartment is pretty Spartan, as we expected. We could only bring what we could fit in the Jeep. It’s like living in one of my old bachelor pads again, which is a bit of a shock when you’re used to having a big kitchen and ample room in which to do, well, anything. It just takes a little getting used to again. I’ve grown a fondness for cooking complicated recipes I find on the internet back home, but here, we’re kinda limited to what we can do with a pot, a pan, a few mixing bowls, and a couple spoons. We eat out a lot.

And by a lot, I mean, we’re living it up. There are tons of unique restaurants and bars all over the place here. We’re making a concerted effort to experience everything we can. We’ve got a ton of places within walking distance. A mile down the road is Santana Row, a myriad of awesome restaurants and swanky hipper-than-us clothing stores. In one night, we started with sushi and sake, moved onto an outdoor Mexican bistro with tacos, margaritas, and shots of hardcore Añejo tequila, then onto the Cheesecake Factory, which as it turns out, serves tons of purportedly great food, though we only fit in enormous pieces of cheesecake.

One night when Jen was working, I spent the evening at a dive Blues bar a short walk down the road with an amazing blues band and a drunk guy explaining to me the perils of his life and how he was afraid to meet, for the first time, his son who he assisted in assembling at age sixteen but had never seen. I offered some worthwhile advice, which as the night wore on, ended up involving me chastising him and telling him to man up, that it wouldn’t be that bad.

Last night, we went to downtown San Jose to the Gordon Biersch brewery for some lunch and liquid courage. They make that hefeweizen that Jen liked. The beer was great and the food even better. We also stopped at the Los Gatos Brewery a few blocks away which seemed more like a swanky night club than a brewery. I had one of their only four lackluster beers, and it was a sad thing, more like a Budweiser mixed with a little caramel and left out in the sun for a week. There are more breweries in the area, so I’ll see how long I can get Jen to put up with my cravings.

Today, we met Jen’s cousin for lunch, who was visiting Napa with her boyfriend. We wanted to meet somewhere near the airport, and there was a Chinese place really close by. It was awesome. I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. We expected the Americanized version of Chinese food, but this place was legit. We were the only honkies in the joint and most of the staff didn’t speak English. At first we felt a little overwhelmed because there were all sorts of staff pushing carts around and pressuring you to take bowls full of who-knows-what. When Stephanie and Thomas showed up, we just started agreeing to everything they’d offer us for a while and we ended up a with some great food and a few interesting and presumably edible dishes. I loved every minute of the chaos, and I think everyone had a pretty good time.

As for our jobs, I’ll have to let Jen speak for herself but I think she has fit in really well with the team. She was understandably nervous at first but the training seemed to be a breeze and she looks like she’s taken really well to the job. There are all sorts of great people she meets at work, from all over the globe. She’s getting a great range of people to talk to and everyone is very friendly.

As for me, I’ve become more of a recluse, tied to the apartment during working hours as it is the only wireless connection I’ve got which allows me to use VPN. I’ve tried working from Starbucks, but without the VPN, I’m severely limited in what I can do, which will be ok at times, but there are often times I need to have direct access to the office and all the godlike powers I have with that privilege. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I’m fine with it now. During the first few days of work, I got pretty stir-crazy, playing the role of Mr. Mom at home and with no interaction with the outside world. That feeling has passed as I’ve become accustomed to the weirdness of working remotely and the fact that, while in Pacific Time, I’m pretty much keeping an Eastern Time working day. This means I get up pretty damn early and get done sometime midday or very early afternoon. This turns out to be working quite nicely, since with Jen working nights, she usually is asleep during those hours. This past week, I shifted a few working days because of Jen’s schedule so we could go to Yosemite during the week, and I worked over the weekend. Without too many distractions, I was able to really hone in and get a lot done on the projects I’m working on. Jen’s schedule is a bit chaotic, so I’ll probably end up doing that a few more times during our stay, which isn’t that bad on my part because I seem to be able to get more done when I’m not distracted by emails pouring in all the time.

We do miss home and our dog, Piper, especially. We have a cat too but, meh, he’s not really all that interesting. Melissa and the family are gratefully taking care of our house and animals and often send us pictures of Piper. It’s a mixed blessing. If we had her out here, there are a lot of things we’d be limited on or just couldn’t do, so it opens us up for more options. On the other hand, it sure would be nice to have her here with us because we’ve become so accustomed to her and we hope she doesn’t forget us. She doesn’t really understand the concept of Skyping, though I’ve gotten her to sit by commanding her over the internet. Usually when she hears our tinny voices through the speakers, she gets confused and goes to the window or door. That’s a bit heartbreaking, but at the same time, I’m taking it as a sign that she misses us and is awaiting our return. Jen and I have been talking about the next assignment, should we choose to continue on a new adventure, and how we’re definitely going to have to find a way to get her out here, or wherever we may end up.

And if you’re reading this and have made it this far, we miss you too. It’s our first time being away from family and friends for an extended amount of time. We’re only a third of the way into this assignment and I think we’re finally settled into this way of living, albeit temporarily. In a few weeks, we’re going to be visited by several bouts of family and friends, which ought to be a fun time. Now that we’re locals, we’ll know all the fun things to do.

In other news, I’m training to run half of the San Francisco marathon at the end of July. I’ll be running the first half, which goes over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never done a marathon and frankly, have always thought people that did were a little whacky in the brain to enjoy that amount of pain. Turns out I’m only half that whacky. I got some good training tips from a local guy and have been running over at Mission Peak a few times a week. Today I did a ten mile route which went up the entire first half, then turned around and went back down. While the first, upward portion, is hell, the second half was such a relief, it didn’t really feel like work because you mostly just float down the mountain.

The weather has been great, if not slightly on the chilly side at times. We’ve had the door and windows open at all times. There is no humidity and there hasn’t been a need to run the air conditioner. In the sun, it can become hot but once you’re in the shade, the temperature is great. I’m still hoping to surf, but the water is still too damn cold. I’ll probably have to end up renting a wetsuit in addition to a board in the next month or so, just so I can at least say that I did it. But damn, that ocean is still frigid.

All in all, this whole thing is turning out to be fantastic. I can’t imagine that we’d ever set up a permanent residence here but it’s so great to be able to try it out for a few months and absorb everything we can.

Categories: travel
  1. Sue
    June 4, 2011 at 12:08 am

    You know you’re not too far from Chinatown right?

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