Monday, June 25, 2007

apartment ho!

so after we blew into town late sunday night and crashed at jason and kate's (thanks again!and hooray for their recent engagement), we gathered our craigslist scribbles and pile of maps and headed over to the great city itself monday morning.

ok that was a few weeks ago so my memory is kinda shotty, but the bottom line is, wow, how the heck did we luck out like we did? we went to one place that was an instant NO, but shortly after went to two amazing open houses. the first, (which is the one i am writing this from now) was a beautiful little place near the top of the hill, next to the magnificent mission dolores park, with a great view, charming back patio and the cutest dog next door. if only it had a vest.

we spoke with jean (the landlord) for a while, telling her about ourselves (squirming in our pants that we were people she'd be interested in) and her telling us that she didn't even really want to have the open house that night because she had one that weekend and already had a lot of candidates. eek! but we took the applications (which she instructed us to fill out with as much personal info as possible) and crossed our fingers, as we skipped out of the apartment and on to our next open house.

man, we didn't think we'd ever see a place as nice, but whoa whoa did our eyes bug out when we saw this next one. it was one of i think four units that the landlord had completely gutted and refinished with new hardwood floors, granite countertops, claw foot bath tub and other period details. and yes, it even had a little back yard. so we rolled up our faces, schmoozed with the guy and his wife,asked for an application and ran to find a place to collect our amazements and quietly cry because we knew we didn't stand a chance at getting any of these apartments.

so we barted it back to oakland where we carefully crafted our applications. after we finished the one's for the second place, we faxed them off, and then continued to add cartoon doodles and essays about how we wanted to live in that first apartment more than we wanted a lifetime supply of soy delicious coconut craze. we packaged them up with a copy of donald's poetry book and tried to sleep even though it was harder than the night before my 9th christmas.

i get up. its 8.03am and i'm getting a phone call. its the landlord from the second place, saying that he's offering us the apartment and that we can move in right then! ACK! i freak out because um like yeah! even though its a super fantastic place... we really wanted to live in the other super oober doober place but we haven't even dropped off the application yet! so i ask him if we could let him know later that night and we fly over to the city to drop off the application to jean. we get there around noon and i leave her a voice mail explaining our situation and say, like, i know you think we're nuts but is there any way you think you'd be able to make a decision by oh lets say TONIGHT? so yeah now we're thinking our chances are really shot, and after like 6 more hours of nauseous anticipation, i give her a call to see if she's gotten my message. she says she has, and boy what a hard thing it is to try and make a decision, especially when she hasn't even called anyone's contacts or even read over everything yet but you know what? she's gonna let us know one way or the other by 8pm. what a doll. i didn't even care what she was going to call back saying -- i just hoped that she would be my new best friend because she is the awesomest lady i've ever met.

drumline... she calls back, fakes me out with her depressing voice but then says, "oh what the heck, im just gonna give the place to you guys. im going with my gut and you guys seem like nice people." hooray for jean's gut!

and now the much anticipated photos of our place! enjoy! (and thanks for being so patient, families)

this is the park near our place (during the few seconds when it's not overflowing with folks)

view from outside our apartment

the front of our apartment (middle right windows with the red curtain). thats my new harley btw

thats the front door and this is the uh sitting room (?)

another angle of that room


check out that dresser (and dont be deceived by how big these rooms look. wide angle lens)

hallway that goes past the bathroom

computer room looking back towards front door

same room looking towards kitchen

kitchen pt. 1

kitchen pt. 2

little backyard patio cutesy face

Utah and lands west

I guess it's been almost two weeks since we finished our road trip and a bit longer since we made a post. Well. It's been busy.

After the storm in Wyoming we stopped in the first lodging we came across, a chain motel somewhere between Casper and Salt Lake City. Because of the extra time we'd gained, we looked up directions online and decided to make the trip to see Spiral Jetty before stopping in Salt Lake City proper.

The drive really takes you to the middle of nowhere, and then 15 miles further on unpaved roads. 13 miles in, as the directions put it, "the Class D road designation ends and the quality of the road deteriorates markedly." The jetty itself is awesome, but those last two miles are the real adventure.

We stayed only briefly in Salt Lake City. We saw the Temple and ate at a great vegan place, and then — it was maybe 10 or 11 — were at a weird place time-wise. We didn't want to stay in the city, but didn't feel up to driving much further, so we decided to hit the road and stay at the first lodging we saw.

Thus began the one truly late night drive. East and north of Salt Lake City, along the lake, was an expanse of suburbs and small cities. West of the city was nothing. According to the car's GPS, we drove along the lake for some time; but this was the sort of buildingless, streetlightless expanse that we couldn't see more than 20 feet off the road in either direction. There was nothing but a succession of signs: "Drowsy driving kills," "Sleepy? Rest area ahead," "If you have to, just pull over," etc.

The first lodging was in Wendover, over 120 miles from SLC. There was a concert in town and the woman at the first hotel we stopped at doubted we'd find vacancy. There was a motel next door, but she thought we "might not like it." She made a face. "Kind of skeevy?" "No, no. It's clean. Just: you ask for a key, and look at a room." She also offered to let us sleep in the lot but we figured we would travel another 60 miles to Wells.

We stayed at a small hotel there and woke up on Sunday determined to hit Oakland. Late afternoon we entered California (new home state!) through the gorgeous Sierras.

At Sacramento, the traffic was unbelievable.

And finally, Oakland, at about 3400 miles.

Somewhere in Utah.

The poorly marked way to the jetty.

One of many such "Did we make a wrong turn somewhere?" gates.

I guess this is still the Class D road.

A quarter mile after we should have turned back. It's a good thing we're keeping the car because you could feel the resale value lowering with every KTHUNK.

The Great Salt Lake. You wouldn't believe the stench.

Spiral Jetty! (Yes, we walked out there.)

This place shared a parking lot with our hotel in Wells.

Welcome to California!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

raise your hand if you love wyoming

we decided to see if we could get into devils tower even though it was after 9pm, and indeed we could! even though the west has its creepy ghost towns and deadly speed limits, they do have a great honor system. we were able to deposit the park fee and a camp site fee and set up amongst the few other campers. we decided to sleep in (8am!) and then got a start on hiking through the park.

i guess the lack of topography in these parks doesn't allow them endless trails, so we were able to hit all of them by 3pm. and what trails they were! not only did you get brilliant views of the tower all along them, but you got to experience all different landscapes and the wildlife that went along with them! like the PRARIE DOG TOWN in the meadows and the ANTELOPE through the fields. im gonna have to let the prarie dog pictures speak for themselves because i can't begin to describe how cute and snuggly and sometimes chubby they were. and they really bark! like dogs!

since we were able to see all the beauties of the park sooner than we expected, we decided to press on and see how much of the 9 hour trip to salt lake city we could get under our belts. we stopped in casper, wyoming to grab some eats at this authentic little mexicano joint and wow what goodness we got all for 13 bucks!

now we are on our way again -- we just went through a huge lightening storm and we saw a cow get sucked up in a tornado!!! ok no but thats what i thought was gonna happen. donald was being all storm chaser and i was being all like you is crazy ive seen the movie twister i know what im talking about when i say this is no good. well anyway it wasn't a big deal of a storm i guess but now we are driving through the darkest of dark. there hasn't been an exit in over an hour now -- if it wasn't as dark as jackrabbit scat i'd so be using my travelmate, but i'm afraid that will have to wait until tomorrow.

devil's tower from a distance

a bit closer. it was crazy how it was surrounded on one side was trees and on the other by fallen boulders.

some views of the surrounding areas from the trails

makes you wanna cry red white and blue tears

some of the mountains were so red. we painted donald's entire body in the dust. can you spot him in this picture?

another view from one of the trails

like OMG so cute. their little holes covered the plains - you couldn't walk anywhere with out one of them reaching up and gnawing and grabbing on to your shoes.

so gosh darn adorable don't ya know

we hiked up to this one ledge where we stopped for lunch. can you see how tiny i am?

this was the town of casper. someone complained to us about the town because of how much the cops SUCK - but um like cmon if you have those mountains in your backyard...just shut up.

wyoming is FILLED with awesomely named things. i also liked the dead horse creek.

kind of blurry picture, but just wanted to show the rain in the distance -- this was the storm that we survived.

and here was another one back from the badlands. i just loved how you were driving along through the plains and then bam these formations came out of nowhere

distance traveled: appx 1,996 miles

ps. sorry for all those who have been trying to call or have been expecting one - we haven't had signal for like a day and then our phones died! we should be recharging tonight.

pps. donald is a lamer explaner. mt rushmore was cool -- not only did you get a great shot up jefferson's nose, but we broke the law to get that hush hush shot of roosevelt smooching lincoln.

Writing you from the future

We were running several hours behind for most of the trip but for the first time Thursday we broke schedule — and jumped ahead several hours.

When we got to Badlands, it was chilly, raining, and the winds had not let up. June high: 86; yesterday: 48. We decided to grab lunch in the nearby town of Interior and see if the weather changed.

Thus, Interior: population 67. Mind-blowingly small. We stopped at the general store — about the size of a 7-11 and, from what we could tell, the only commercial space in town — and scraped together what sandwich-makings we could.

The rest of Badlands was awesome — from the car. We wanted to give the weather a fair go so we changed out of our shorts and t-shirts in the visitor center bathroom (it'd been the high seventies when we left our hotel that morning) and tested the waters with a half-mile, boardwalked trail. But even that was too much — besides the cold, the rain came in bursts, and then — again — the wind. This was wind that, when we opened one of the car doors, sucked things out as if into a vacuum (we even lost our park map over a cliff on one such occasion).

So we drove the park loop and exited in Wall, SD, home of Wall Drug, which is advertised for over 400 miles along 80 as well as on billboards in Kenya and buses in London (it's sort of their schtick) and was tourist-trap hell-on-earth (take this from two people who liked the Corn Palace). We were in and out in less than two minutes, and were on the road again to Rushmore.

Rushmore was Rushmore. What can I say.

Rapid City, SD (pop. 60,000) was a change of pace. There was a big hill near the center of it — with Dinosaur Park on top — and looking at the stretch of suburbs was really eerie after the last 30-odd hours. (The couple that ran the Dinosaur Park gift shop had been to San Francisco once. "It's a... weird city," they said, and you could totally tell what they meant.)

We made Devil's Tower shortly after sunset.


Faking these smiles.

It was still awesome.

Everything the light touches is our Kingdom.

Get that big honkin' butt out of the way!

From the Jefferson's Nostril Viewing Platform.

C'mere, big boy, and gimme a kiss.

Dreams can come true!

It's not a purse, IT'S A CAMERA BAG!!!

She said yes.

It's billboard country out here.

Chapter V, In Which Donald and Lauren Visit the Corn Palace

It was pretty stunning how immediately hilly it was after crossing from southern Minnesota into South Dakota. Not that it wasn't still pretty level, but within just 5 or 10 miles of the lost-at-sea flatness fell away.

We made our first roadside style stop at the Porter Sculpture Park, home of the world's biggest BULL HEAD. The sculptor was there — actually, he was the only person there (there was mention of a dog but none in sight) — and he seemed a little (how to put this?) off. It was just a sort of funny quirkiness at first but at times (for instance, as soon as we've stepped out of the car: "Do you know that song from the Wizard of Oz?" "Huh?" "The theme song from the Wizard of Oz." "We're Off to See the Wizard?" "Yeah, that one. There's a storm coming." Or: "You have to go inside the Bull Head.") he gave you a FEELING.

In Mitchell (still in SD), we stopped at the Corn Palace, which is just what it sounds like. Oh, and it's also where they have the high school basketball games.

We ate at a diner a few blocks from our hotel in Chamberlain, where the waitress gave us the most shocked look and laughed — laughed! — when taking our orders: "No meat?!"

300 miles of this.

And then, suddenly, this.

Get out of the road!

These vultures represent politicians. Guy had a political science degree. No joke.

Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Yes, go in there and climb the narrow staircase. I promise not to close the GIANT METAL GATE behind you.

Not in the shot, but there were several of these guys wielding giant weapons. Lots of unsettling gory and violent imagery here, actually.

But then pieces like this made it all worth it.

Local high school girl into cell phone: "Yeah, I'm at the CP."

I do have to confess that I was very much in love with the Main Street, Anytown, USA feeling in these little towns. Of course, everything but the Corn Palace was closed.

A (tiny) rest stop church.