Friday, July 30, 2004

Leftover Thoughts

Here's the post in which I attempt to include everything I forgot to mention before about the trip.

The drive was long... when we checked the odometer driving into Pacific Grove, we discovered that we'd traveled almost exactly 1000 miles. The odometer was on 999.7 or something, about to turn over. Going home was the same, it was 997.6 when I checked it after unloading the car. We did take a couple of side trips, including getting lost in San Jose, but in the grand scheme of things the side trips weren't much. Our guessimates as to how much gas we would need (six refills of the tank) and approximate cost were pretty close.

Speaking of side trips... we visited all three state capitals along the route:

Olympia was easy, the capital is right off the freeway (you can see the capital dome from the freeway). The exit practically goes right to the visitors center, so you don't have to drive around town at all.

Salem was a bit more difficult. First off, we didn't realize the capital building didn't have a dome. Second off, it was far enough away from the freeway that it was a bit of a drive to get there. On the other hand, the signage was very good, and once we figured out what we were looking at was indeed the capital building and not just some building with a statue on top, everything was much cooler.

Sacramento was the hardest. I went to mapquest and got directions... or at least I thought I had gotten directions. As it turned out, the directions were wrong, and sent us to a marina instead. After a confused short drive, we stopped at a gas station and bought a map. Luckily, we were very near to the real location and didn't have too much trouble getting there once we actually knew where it was. Getting a picture of it was also difficult, as was walking around in the heat. We're from Seattle, where 70 degrees F is hot. So imagine our discomfort walking around in 103 degrees. Then there were the trees! Gorgeous trees all over... completely blocking any possibility of getting a good picture of the dome. Eventually I found a decent spot and got this shot, which includes some orange trees, the first I'd ever seen. I will also mention that the sky was blue... the angle of the sun makes it look washed out. Getting the shot we actually came to get was even more difficult, but eventually we managed.

Another side trip was to Gilroy. If you know the significance of Gilroy California, raise your hand! That's right, Gilroy, home to the Garlic Festival, which was going on while we were there. We didn't go to the festival, as it was almost over by the time we stopped by, but we did stop at The Garlic Shoppe for a special treat. I wanted to try out garlic ice cream. We were given samples of a garlic blue cheese butter (I just want to mention that I don't like blue cheese, but this butter was quite good), and we bought little tubs of garlic vanilla ice cream and garlic chocolate ice cream, then sat out at their picnic table and traded off while we ate. It was surprisingly good. I think it would be better to try it when you aren't in the middle of garlic country, surrounded by the smell of garlic, but it was still good. We also bought a small bottle of garlic steak sauce. If you drive through Gilroy on 101, be sure to open your windows just north of town. That's where the garlic smell is strongest and best.

I've been badgered for a picture of Eric and myself. At the moment, I'm not inclined to take my own picture. For one thing, I always blink. Always. I have yet to take a self-portrait in which I don't blink. For another, I'm not entirely pleased with my appearance at the moment. I am trying to lose weight, and once I'm down just a few pounds I'll start to feel much better about myself. Still, here's an image of Eric and some Oogaboos at the costume contest last Saturday. Eric is the one on the left. Gina, our friend who went to the DNC as a delegate, is next to him. Next to her is Betsy, who rocks, and Lynn, who is simply awesome. As you see, they are all wearing their "Jo" costumes, and giving out produce from their Oogaboo trees from baskets, or in Eric's case the Shanower lunchbox.

Regarding the Winchester Mystery House: I don't think I mentioned that the house has 160 rooms, including 13 bathrooms. It's a BIG house, sprawling across the land, now in the middle of a heavily developed area. If anyone has a copy of that old episode of Ripley's Believe It Or Not that mentioned the house, I would very much like to see it again.

I mentioned that we went on the tours, but I don't think I explained them. There are three tours. The first is the basic tour. It gets you into the house where you are guided carefully around while the aspects of the house are explained to you. I think Eric and I got lucky with the tour guide, as she was simply dynamite.

The second tour is the Behind the Scenes tour, which takes you first around the grounds where things like the fact that the place was still a working farm is explained. The Behind the Scenes tour also has a very short sojourn into the basement of the building, where you have to wear a hardhat and watch your head. It's very dark down there, but the ex-tour guide who was still with our group mentioned that glow-in-the-dark arrows had been put up to help people who got lost find their way out. I also noticed that in the mansion itself there were arrows on the floor in some places, almost worn away. The ex-tour guide told me that those were from the days when there had been no tour guides, and people could do self-directed tours through the house. Apparently, during those early tours, a lot of vandalism took place completely destroying some of the unique features of many rooms.

The Behind the Scenes tour has an age limit, no children under 13 or so allowed. If you take a child, be sure to call ahead and make sure of the age limit. It's also the tour I'm least likely to do again. I would love to return to the house, but going Behind the Scenes once was enough for me. If I did go on it again, it would be to get pictures of certain things, like the ex-tour guide who was with us.

The two tours together took about 2 1/2 hours, with a short break in between.

The third tour is the Garden Tour, and it's not only self-directed, it's free. You can walk around the building and listen to the pre-recorded bits about each of the areas all you want. When you enter, you are given a map of the grounds that shows to the Garden Tour route. Some of the places we stopped at on the Behind the Scenes tour were also on the Garden Tour.

In addition, there is a huge gift shop, a cafe, an arcade, and two small museums featuring Winchester products. The brochure claims that the house receives no government money at all, so they really want you to spend a few dollars while you are there.

If you intend to visit from out of town, there are really good deals through local hotels. Eric and I got a package deal from the Holiday Inn Express near the airport, which is clear across town from the Mystery House, admittedly, but when you've driven as far as we did just to get down there, clear across town isn't that far at all. And they had wireless internet service... I can't turn my nose up at that. All the package deals include just the regular tour, but it's easy to upgrade when you get to the Mystery House if you want the BtS tour too. They also offer night tours on Friday the 13th and near Halloween. I would be very tempted to go on one of those if I was in San Jose during that time.

I also didn't mention the statuary in the garden. In front of the house there are many statues, including the deer I posted. The deer is probably my favorite. There are also little statues and bits of statues elsewhere on the grounds. You sometimes stumble across them. I may post more of them in later Random Thoughts posts.

Let's see... is there anything else I wanted to say? I think I mentioned that we drove almost 700 miles the first day, Thursday, in about 11 1/2 hours. We made it from Bothell to Red Bluff, which is south of Redding. The next day we made good time to San Jose, but got completely lost looking for the entrance to the airport. Eventually we found it and picked up Karyl. The drive to Asilomar from San Jose isn't bad at all, and we made it well before the convention opened.

This was the forty-first Winkie Convention, celebrating 100 years of "The Marvelous Land of Oz" & Humor in Oz. The first night included a cool "show and tell" bit, in which Eric read the e-mail from a woman who wanted help naming her child using an Oz name. I'm sure Eric can give you all the gory details... Another cool program was on Saturday night, when Jory Mason, the granddaughter (or great granddaughter) or John R Neill, one of the illustrators of Oz, presented a talk about him. It was fascinating. There was also a fascinating talk about reading programs in the United States that was enough to make a reader like myself want to single-handedly revamp the educational system. As is often the case, most of the talks were interesting to me despite my general non-interest in Oz. The convention is certainly a cool one for any Oz fan to attend. The Oz Club could use more folks attending... the next Winkie convention will be July 8 - July 10, 2005 at Asilomar, according to the Asilomar calendar.

I've already told you about the treasure hunt, but did I tell you about the jogger who was trying to get through a crowd of a dozen or so Asilomar deer? The deer are protected, and thus are completely unafraid of humans. The jogger waved his arms, yelled, but the deer didn't move. He eventually got through, but the person telling us the story giggled as she described his utter exasperation.

Another fun little thing I noticed was this lovely fake owl on the window of a hotel room near ours in San Jose. Apparently they have a bird problem there. Fake owls are generally put up to scare other birds away.

Well, I'm sure I've still forgotten something, but I'll not worry about it at the moment. I hope you've enjoyed my trip blogging. I really enjoyed the trip.