Sunday, June 10, 2012


When I mentioned to people that we were beginning our trip to northern California in Oakland, without exception the question was, "Why?"  I think to myself, I didn't say Beirut.  Or Detroit.  Oakland.  The one in California.  Across the bay from San Francisco.  How bad could it be?

David was pointing out the obvious to me at the airport so I said, "Yes, I know that already, I am one smart cookie."  No, you aren't a cookie, he tells me, more like a tart.  "A sweet tart?" I ask.  No... he says with a long pause ...maybe a smart tart.

David accurately described Oakland as "industrial".  It reminded me of Pittsburgh with less grime and more graffiti.  There was graffiti everywhere.  If a surface was exposed, it had graffiti on it.  If there was a nice part of Oakland, we missed it.

We flew in on Monday to see the Texas Rangers play the Oakland A's.  Since we will leave on Tuesday morning, I didn't see any reason not to stay in Oakland.  

Before we head over to the game, I wanted to drive out to Lafayette to see The Crosses of Lafayette.  I discovered them on a previous business trip and wanted to go back and shoot some photos.

 The site was started by a local man named Jeff Heaton as a symbol of the troops killed in Iraq.  The number on the sign is updated approximately every two weeks according to various articles.

They fill a hillside on Highway 24 across from a commuter train station and are easily visible from both sides of the highway.

When I saw them the first time, I read up on them and asked my customer about them.  Some consider them a protest, some a memorial.  Having children in the military, I prefer to see them as a memorial.

I find the crosses a very moving site but I can't imagine seeing them every day as one of the commuters passing by or using that station.

We mess around so long here that we decide lunch will have to be fast food, otherwise we won't want to eat at the ball park and you can't go to a ballgame without having a hot dog.  So, off to find a CVS (I have been sick since Thursday with flu-like symptoms, it is now Monday) and a McDonald's.  I am not sure it is a good sign that we have our first vacation meal at McDonald's.

We check into our hotel, the Airport Hilton, in time to change into our Rangers gear and head out.  The hotel is okay.  Old but clean and quiet and best of all, cheap.  I thought we would be able to walk to the park but it turns out to be a little too far and the neighborhood a little too iffy.

The A's play at stadium (as do the Oakland Raiders).  I find this particularly ironic since there is nothing overstocked about this stadium, certainly not the crowd.

This stadium is old and tired.  There is talk about the A's wanting a new stadium or the possibility of them leaving Oakland altogher.  Having been there, I can see why.  I saw an article about Omaha wanting them and that they have the nice stadium where the NCAA Men's College World Series is played which sits empty most of the year.  Having been to Omaha (you can't miss the stadium), I think this is a great idea.  I think any town would support this team better than Oakland currently is.

We arrive in time for batting practice and to look around the stadium.  There isn't much to see so we go to our seats while the players sign autographs.  This is Josh Hamilton taking care of a young Texas fan.

Notice those seats between the fence on the left of the image above and where Hamilton is?  There are two rows on the field where the seats come with personal service for food and drinks.  Our knees are touching that fence meaning we have to stand all the way up to allow anyone to pass.

The issue with the legroom turns out to be minor in comparison to the A's fan that sits directly in front of me.

This quickly becomes my regular view.

Not only does he continually stand up, he is totally obnoxious.  He asks us how Texas fans managed to get seats so close to the field (the Internet you goon); he yells at Josh Hamilton, a recovering addict, to ask if he can buy him a beer; before EVERY pitch the Texas pitcher throws he yells either "inside" or "outside" because he "can read the catcher".  If the player is latin, he yells it in spanish.  He keeps up a running dialog of yelling at the players, at the coaches, at the ball boy.

Fortunately, this stadium is quite empty, as usual.  We make it two innings before we move to higher ground.  Just as good a view, more legroom and no moron in front.  He is still standing.  And yelling.  We can't hear him quite as well from here.

By this time, our team is already losing badly.  It is cold.  They actually have people walking around selling hot chocolate and coffee.  It is June and in the 90s at home so this seems really weird to us even though it is cold enough here for it.  They don't do much to help entertain the crowd the way other stadiums we have been to do.  We make it to the 9th and decide to beat what little crowd there is and head back to the hotel.  We want to make a reasonably early start tomorrow as we are driving to Yosemite.  We want to take our time, stop if we want to, eat if we want to.

Several years ago I had back-to-back trips to Stockton, CA and Chico, CA so rather than making flights to the same airport on Friday and the following Monday, I asked the customers to shift the dates slightly and I stayed over the weekend.  I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Jackson and visited a gold mine in Sutter Creek.  Our drive takes us back through the area.

Sutter Creek is a cute little town in the heart of the mining area of California.  It is known as the "Jewel of the Mother Lode".  We get out here to check out the shops and to eat lunch.  One problem...

It's Tuesday.  Almost none of the businesses are open on Tuesday and all of them display "Attempted Hours" rather than business hours.  We like this idea but wish we could have gone into a few of the places that were closed.  Finding a place open for lunch also proved somewhat difficult.

We find Pizza Plus down a side street and thankfully it was open because by now, we are contemplating a return trip to McDonald's.  The pizza was really good, thick crust, not too much sauce, generous toppings.  The ambiance was nice too.

The patio behind the pizza place sits by the creek.  It is around 68 degrees with a light breeze outside.

It was a nice drive and a nice day with good company.  Here are a few more images from that day.

We rented a convertable.  We had the top down most of this day as the drive was beautiful along a twisty mountain highway.  David really enjoyed driving those twisy roads.

We stopped when we wanted.  We found a roadside rest area by the river where we took pictures and found a kayaker going by.

I recently got some lenses, including a macro lens, for my iPhone.  David was NOT happy about being pressed into service for this shot.  It was windy and I asked him to hold the stem of the flower still.  Is that a jumping spider?

This huge cross-weilding miner is standing in front of a Thrift Store on the road into Sutter Creek.

Part of the drive took us along the Lodi Wine Trail.  We didn't tour any vineyards on this trip but the drive was nice with the vineyards and orchards all along the way. 

We reach the Miner's Inn in Mariposa, California in time for dinner at a restaurant in town I found on Yelp called Savoury. (David wanted to eat at the Miner's Inn Restaurant in the parking lot of the hotel, I was against this based on the look from the outside and the reviews on Yelp.  This will be important in my next post.)  Savoury was nice if a little trendy and to me, overpriced.  The menu seemed a little limited and all of the waitresses are young and identical in solid black with neat updos.  It was dark where we were and I think I would have liked it better by the windows in the front where it was light and you could see the town. The Miner's Inn is our camp for our one day excursion into Yosemite.  Everyone tells us that one day will only whet our appetite to come back for a longer stay in the future.

That may be true but one thing is for sure...
 I don't see us returning to Oakland any time soon.

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