Maggie and I at the rehearsal dinner

The whole thing started off at a restaurant in Phoenix Arizona called Different Pointe of View. It’s Saturday, April 3rd 2010; the big day. We’re getting married. Everyone is seated and I’m standing hidden, off to the side, with the best man (my brother) and the officiant. We’re waiting for a signal so we can walk up, center stage.

The woman I’m about to say “I do” to, Maggie… we came here to this restaurant on our first real date. The food here is top notch and I knew she would be able to appreciate the whole dining experience being that she’s a chef.

She loved it. Exactly one year after that first date, we came back here to celebrate. It was the fourth of July, 2009. From our table we could see the whole Phoenix skyline. All kinds of fireworks are bursting in the air. The staff added a lot of small touches without me asking, like “Happy Anniversary” written on the dessert. After sharing a great meal, I held her hand, took a deep breath, and popped the question.

Us after the first kiss

I ended up picking California for the trip. Maggie is a chef who was trained at Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale and she had never been to San Francisco. We could start off in Orange County where she has family and cruise the beautiful Highway 1 up the coast along the way. It’s early April and the weather outside is amazing; we can drive with the top down in our SL 500.

Day one

The day after the wedding we hit the road. Our first stop was the OC. We left Phoenix around 1:30pm taking I-10 west. The drive is pretty boring; lots of empty desert. We got to California and right about the time we hit the CA-91, there was an earthquake that hit Baja; later on we found out that it was a 7.2 magnitude. We didn’t feel it but the traffic came to a dead stop.

I always forget how crazy people are here in California. We are stuck in completely bumper to bumper traffic with motorcycles lane stripping left and right, people are blasting music and drinking booze in their car. We saw this couple in a car in the HOV lane having sex in the passenger seat while their friend was driving and honking trying to get everyone’s attention.

After we finally got off CA-91 and got to a toll-road on our way to I-5, the traffic disappeared and driving was finally smooth again. We got to San Juan Capistrano just after 7pm and met with Maggie’s family. They’re all really nice people, it was great to see them. They cooked us a delicious homemade dinner and gave us a place to stay for the night.

Day two

We got some really good breakfast at a Carniceria in San Juan Capistrano called “El Campeon”. It’s one of the best places that I’ve ever eaten at. Since we were in the area we stopped just down the street at a place called Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano was a settlement that was first built by the Spanish in the late 1700’s. There’s a chapel here that has actively been in use since 1782. You get a chance to see all the buildings the Monks lived in during their time here. Given how new America is compared to places like Europe, it was really cool to see all these old gardens, buildings, and ruins from the 18th century. There’s an audio tour you can do but it was kind of stupid. We just walked around and read from the signs.

Our SL in front of the MB Classic Center

Later we headed over to Irvine to go to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center. I’m like a fat kid eating cake in here. There were three 300SL gull-wing coupes in amazing shape and a really cool 300SL roadster. This is my first time seeing one of the old gull-wings in person.

Beautiful red 300SL gull-wing

We went to Dana Point and checked into our hotel. We usually love just hanging out at the Doheny State Beach but the weather was actually kind of nasty. We ended up spending the rest of the day at the spa at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa where we signed up for massages. It was really relaxing.

We didn’t have enough time to go this visit… but usually one of our favorite places to go in this area for a sunset is the San Clemente Pier. Parking is usually kind of tough but once you get a spot you can walk out on the pier. Someone told me that the pier is almost a mile long. You can go fishing, stop at some of the restaurants and stores there, and watch the waves come in. I love kicking back and watching the sun drop. Here’s a picture from when we did go last October (2009):

Sunset at the San Clemente Pier

Day three

We had to leave super early the next day to drive from Dana Point up to San Simeon (we had to be there before 11am). Since we needed to make good time, we left at 5am and went north on I-5 although if you have time I think you can cruise on Highway 1 the whole way. Going through L.A. is the worst part; it sucks no matter what time you are driving through there. Once we got out of L.A., we switched over to Highway 1 and just cruised until we got to Hearst Castle.

The entrance to Hearst Castle

My parents told me about this place. They did a cruise down the coast of California a few years ago and did all of the tours. Apparently it’s property that the owner, William Hearst, inherited from his parents. He went crazy and built this huge castle. After he passed away, his family donated the property (including the contents of the house) to the state of California.

William Hearst had a lot of money and built an amazing modern day castle. When you get to the park, you have to take a tour bus up this winding road until you actually get to the property. It’s amazing to see the artifacts and the interior of the castle. Mr. Hearst had a lot of stuff imported from Europe that probably wouldn’t be legal to import today; like there were real ruins from Greece imported and put back together around the outdoor pool.

The outdoor pool at Hearst Castle

We only did tours 1 and 2. You have to actually take the bus up and down for each tour, which can be a pain in the ass since it takes about 20 minutes or more to go each way. We had time for more tours but we didn’t want to get on the bus again. We got in the car and got back to the beautiful Highway 1 cruising.

From everything I read, the area between San Simeon and Carmel is the most scenic part of Highway 1. Some places I read about online ranked it as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It’s even more beautiful in a convertible. Weather was perfect… lots of sunshine and beautiful coastline.

Beautiful coastline along Highway 1

When you’re driving through the Big Sur you get into really beautiful wooded areas with lots of great views of the coast. Someone recommended a resort called the Post Ranch Inn which is in the midst of all this. I looked it up online and it’s amazing… but I couldn’t justify the cost for a one night stay.

We ended up staying at the Big Sur Lodge. The lodge was in the middle of the woods and had a lot of character; I loved it. The restaurant didn’t look like much at first and it seemed kind of understaffed… but the food was great. Someone back there knew how to cook. Looking at the walls, there were old black and white pictures of the original staff from the late 1930s.

The only bad thing about this place was this couple in the dining room. They’re an older (60s) white couple with an adopted black baby. I’m cool with that… but the baby was SCREAMING it’s head off. Not cool. It was enough of a problem that most everyone left. We hurried up and ate and left also.

We walked back to our room and got all settled in. That’s when we found out that couple was actually in the room next to us because the baby released blood curdling shrieks. I was so mad at that baby. I called the front desk and they were nice enough to switch us rooms and we got to bed.

Day four

The next day was my favorite day of the trip. This part of the Highway 1 is unmatched; it’s the most beautiful drive I’ve ever been on. I was comfortable with the drive but my new wife wasn’t so much. We cruised with the top down and it’s unreal. What an amazing coastline. With the breeze hitting you and seeing the height of the cliffs you’re driving next to… you just feel so alive. We just drove slow and took in the scenery.

More coastline including the Bixby Creek Bridge

After a fun drive, we ended up in Monterey. We got off an exit from Highway 1 for the “Pebble Beach 17 mile drive”. You drive up to one of the 5 gates and it cost about 9 bucks to get in, which includes a brochure that tells you about the area. On one hand it’s just a private neighborhood that rich people live. But there are a few stops that are picture perfect, like the famous “Lone Cyprus”. Definitely a great drive to do a picnic on. We drove slow and probably spent about 2 hours in the area. After that, we stopped at the Pebble Beach Market and got some drinks to go.

A scenic stop along the 17 mile drive

Our next stop was the Santa Cruz. My friend Bud told me about the beach boardwalk there and how he and his wife Dee recently went for the first time in years. Games, food, and fun.

5 minutes after we got out of the car I was throwing baseballs at plates for prizes. I wasn’t going to leave without doing the roller coaster that Bud told me about, the Giant Dipper. It’s an old school wooden roller coaster. I was able to convince Maggie to go and we jumped on (she had never been on one before). Man it was crazy, really fun. I bought the picture, check out Maggie (she had her eyes closed the whole time).

Maggie and I on the Giant Dipper roller coaster

We left Santa Cruz for the short drive up the coast to Half Moon Bay. The drive along the coast is just so beautiful. On the way, you can stop at the Año Nuevo state park to check out the Elephant seals.

We got in town and drove right up to the Ritz-Carlton. I came here with my family in 2003 but we only looked around. There are paths that you can walk or bicycle on that are several miles long around the hotel. When you go along the path, you’ll see stunning coastline views. There’s also access to the beach which is really cool.

The hotel from one of the walking paths

We went to a really nice dinner in the “Conservatory” area. Had some gourmet food and watched the sun go down. Once the sun dropped, the staff comes out and lights up the fire pits. You can see a bunch of folks gathered around those just talking. We went to the fitness center and relaxed with some swimming. The hotel itself has this huge spotlight on top aimed right down at the beach so that you could see the waves coming in. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We ordered some dessert to go from the bar and headed back to the room. When we opened the doors we were surprised. While we were out, the staff had setup the room; there was romantic music playing, the large HDTV was set to a fireplace channel, the lighting was soft, and there were flower petals all over the bed and table. Small touches like this made the whole trip really memorable.

Roses on the bed

Day five

The next day we got the Benz from the valet and started working our way up to San Francisco. First stop was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. We had always seen that on TV and thought it would be cool. It was definitely interesting. We did two tours which was a bit much. I think the main tour is enough.

Winchester mystery house

We checked out two parks in San Francisco. First we stopped by the Alamo Square park. This is where the “six sisters” houses are located. I remember seeing those on the TV show “Full House”. Just so you know, I really hate the show Full House, but I thought it would be cool to see this.

The park was small but nice. There are a lot of grassy areas to just sit down and relax. Great place for a picnic. The area of the grass closest to the street had all kinds of foreign tourists taking their picture in front of the houses.

A set of houses known as the Six Sisters

The next stop was the Golden Gate Park. I had found a few places to go that sounded great. I’ve never been here, so we had the GPS out. I’d have to say that in a city as old and large as San Francisco, the GPS is almost useless. It gave us so much trouble with directions that I almost threw it in the garbage. We didn’t find the aquarium which we came to see, we only drive around inside the park.

Afterwards, we drove to some viewing areas to see the Golden Gate bridge. I was trying to get a shot of the car so I asked some folks to move out of the picture. I was like “Guys, sorry, I drove over a thousand miles to get here”. It turned out they all came from Israel and were like “Well, we came 10,000 miles”. I felt bad, but they did get out of the way

The Benz in front of the Golden Gate bridge

We stayed over by at Fisherman’s Wharf. Yeah, it’s a touristy area, but I like it. I love talking with the hobos and watching the street performers. We caught two break-dancing shows which were crazy; lots of fun to watch. We saw this one guy do a backflip over these two guys.

Break dancers at Fisherman’s Wharf

Since we live in Arizona, this was finally a chance for Maggie to have some real fresh good seafood. I don’t eat seafood, so I was more about the sourdough. We stopped at the famous Boudin Bakery for dinner and got more sourdough to go on the way out.

Day six

The next day, I took Maggie over to China Town. I found an area close to the gate to China Town on Bush Street, right around the corner of Mason. Dammit. I scraped my rim on the curb trying to parallel park on the hill. Oh well. I parked, filled up the meter (it said 1 hour max) and off we went.

Gate to China Town

China town is great. It’s another tourist place but its fun to walk around and do some shopping. I got a silk robe and she found a place called the Wok Shop where we got a huge Wok and a bunch of cookware.

When we got back the car wasn’t there. Maybe it was another block down. I realized about 5 minutes later that they towed it. Those f’ing assholes. I found the area I remembered parking. It said “Mon – Fri, 7am – 6pm 1 hour maximum” on the meter. I later found out that is 1 hour for truck loading only.

So we had to bail the car out from AutoReturn. Good thing I grabbed the GPS before leaving the car! We punched in the address, 450 7th steet, and set it to give directions on foot.

On the way there, this black guy missing all kinds of teeth tried to sell me cocaine. There were a lot of soup kitchens on the way and people are just openly smoking crack. This black lady was holding her pipe screaming “I ‘member when my mama was a little girl, mmm hmm”. Maggie was kind of scared and had her wok gripped like a baseball bat. I tuned those people out, I was more focused on what I’d be screaming at the Auto Return people.

Our car inside the impound lot

I cussed at the lady behind the bullet proof glass and paid the stupid $450 dollars. We got the car back and went over it. It didn’t have any damage so that’s good. We took it back to the hotel and parked in a safe spot.

If we didn’t get towed, we were going to drive over the golden gate to Sausalito. There are a lot of great restaurants along the coast. After some lunch you can hike the nearby Muir woods. I went there with my family in 2003 and it was great to see all the trees and the green, especially coming from the desert here in Phoenix.

Day seven

Our way back wasn’t as exciting as the drive up. We left San Francisco and got all the way to Solvang. We got there around 5pm. We got a chance to walk around and check out the city. It was really quiet but overall a cool place! We ate some dinner outside at the Heidelberg inn where a guy serenaded us with accordion music. The weather was great, the music was good, and it felt like we were in Europe just by the architecture.

The next day we started our trip home. Overall the trip was only a week long but we had an amazing time. We got to start our life together with a trip that we’ll never forget.