planes, trains, and automobiles

I'm back. Our trip to Roseville, Brown's Valley, and Oakland, California, as well as an unexpected fourth leg to Bend, Oregon was mostly good. And when the circumstances weren't, it was still nice to be with family members I wasn't expecting to see.

In contrast to epic travel posts of the past, I'll concentrate on images this time, giving you a visual timeline of where I was and what I was doing between Christmas eve and the first week of the New Year.

Driving from SFO through South San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge, and into the central valley to visit the inlaws in Roseville and Brown's Valley.

This billboard at the bottleneck approaching the Bay Bridge was there when I suffered through this commute two or three times a week, nearly two years ago.

On the Bay Bridge, looking across to the Port of Oakland and the large cranes that supposedly provided inspiration for George Lucas' AT-AT Walkers in the Star Wars films.

Christmas eve lunch at the best burger chain, In-n-Out, found primarily in California, where it was started in 1948, with locations popping up over the years throughout the state and in neighboring Nevada and Arizona.

Followed by a week of little picture-taking including a couple of afternoon "dinners", the opening of too many presents, the eating of too much chocolate, and a lot of lounging around. Only one movie was seen on the big screen ("Night at the Museum"), but a number of DVDs were watched and I made it to the second world of Super Mario Brothers on Neal's Nintendo DS Lite.

After a couple of nights in the sparsely populated Brown's Valley (near Grass Valley in the Sierra foothills), we traveled back to the Bay Area to spend the rest of our trip very close to our old neighborhood in Oakland.

For some reason, even though it's only been a year and a half since we left, because there's been so much change in our lives (not to mention the important addition to the family of friends we stayed with) I expected more to have changed in the area. The Lake Merritt neighborhood is mostly unchanged from the time we left. Plans are underway to improve the pedestrian areas around the lake and the small Albertson's grocery store that I never liked has closed and will soon be replaced with a Trader Joe's (in addition to the Whole Foods being built on the other end of the lake). I'm sure locals are concerned about increased traffic in the area but if we still lived in the Adams Point section of the lake neighborhood, we'd be within easy walking distance and quite happy, I imagine, with the change. The Kwik Way burger joint is not yet a McDonald's, which I guess is a good thing but let's not pretend their food is all that great or any healthier than McD's. And the building I used to work in (during my on-again, off-again six-year college relationship with a suite of law offices in downtown Oakland) will soon see its view of the lake obscured by a parking structure and church being built at the site of its former open-air parking lot.

We enjoyed many of the culinary delights the East Bay has to offer, including Mexican food at Berkeley's Picante and El Farolito in Oakland's Fruitvale district, a delicious spinach & mushroom stuffed pizza at Zachary's (arguably the best Chicago-style pizza outside or within Chicago, from what I've heard), burgers at Barney's, and pizza and scones (separately) from Arizmendi, where I would walk to at least once a week and then immediately cancel out any calories I burned on the half-hour roundtrip trek.

On Wednesday night last week I took my first train ride (stateside, at least) from Oakland's Jack London Square station to Chemult, Oregon, followed by a short shuttle ride into Bend.

While in Bend, I learned by email from a friend that "The O.C." is being canceled. I'm devastated.

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