How do I even begin to write about my trip to California? Hmm. Well, it started with an inspiration. Holly, my best friend (and stalker), was inspired by my participation in the Warrior Dash. So inspired, in fact, that she registered for the same event in Southern California at the beginning of April. I was so excited for her!! I had gotten the news a few minutes before clocking out for lunch at work. By the time I walked to the break room, I had decided that I was going to support Holly's day in the mud...in person...and I wasn't going to tell her ahead of time!
Mind you, I'd known that Holly was doing the Warrior Dash for all of 10 minutes when I used my phone to look up the date. Crap. It was only a few weeks away! On top of that, it was at the end of the week I was on vacation (for our Campiversary trip...see previous entry)...but I was determined. By the end of the night I had found a great deal on a plane ticket, but it meant taking an extra day of vacation. The next day, my extra day of vacation was approved. That night, I emailed the best person I could think of as a co-conspirator, Holly's friend JoAnna. The next night, Holly's mom got an email.
The plan was in motion.
JoAnna had the perfect plan for surprising Holly: She told Holly her brother was flying in from Florida, which was completely plausible. Holly agreed to come along to the airport, but only after her mom offered to pick up Ryan, Holly's son, from school. Mind you, JoAnna and I had been emailing each other almost daily, and Holly's mom and I were keeping in touch as well.
My first flight was delayed by weather, but I managed not to miss my connection in Phoenix. The ride from Phoenix into Burbank was smooth, and I was surrounded by members of 80's hair band Skid Row (no joke!). It was an entertaining flight, to say the least.
JoAnna and I hadn't agreed on any specific place to spring the surprise on Holly, but we stayed in constant contact via text message. I knew they were waiting outside the exit door of the airport, and that's where I headed. I saw them standing there, looking into the distance, and heard JoAnna mention something about waiting for Chris. I walked right up to Holly and said, "I'm not Chris, but will I do?"
And then came the bear hug. And the tears. And the laughter. And more hugs. I finally got to meet JoAnna face to face and thank her for her help. Holly was so surprised!! It was amazing, seeing the realization cross her face that I was standing in front of her. You can't pay to see things like that, and it was a priceless experience I will treasure.
I was traveling light, thankfully, so we skipped the baggage carousel (which was outside!) and headed straight for JoAnna's truck. From there we went to The Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena and had lunch. Then it was off to Holly's house. I had my first experience with LA-area traffic and an interesting thing the highway patrol does called a 'traffic break.' The traffic:
Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the traffic break. However, it's something akin to reckless driving in a professional capacity.
The drive to Holly's house was picturesque. There were mountains and hills and terrain I'm not quite used to. Eventually we got to the house, said goodbye to JoAnna, and went inside. I finally got to meet Holly's parents, Dan and Mary Ann, and see Ryan, whom I hadn't seen in almost 4 years.
Now let me tell you, my California wish list was pretty small and off the wall, I think. I don't care for tourist traps and things like that. I have enough of that where I live. Instead, I wanted to see things on a much smaller scale. My first request? A grocery store. Yep, I wanted to see Trader Joe's, and thankfully there's one right down the street from where Holly lives. And so, my first night in California, with Dan as our 'goon,' we went to the store.
Have you ever been to Trader Joe's? Well, it's a Hawaiian tiki-themed kinda place, and I had been hearing about it for a few years from other friends. I loved it! I picked up a few things (including the best-ever snack, chocolate candy coated sunflower kernels)...maybe even some Two Buck Chuck. Don't know what that is? Let me just say, it's some of the best wine on the planet, and it was only $1.99. And I GOT CARDED!!
The end of my first afternoon in California was relaxing. Holly and I caught up, relaxed, drank wine, and unwound. It was really happening! I was in California...in Holly's house...on her couch!...and I had several more days to explore.