We are back in Chicago. Erin and I spent eight days away, and it was exactly what we needed. I could actually go for a few days of downtime in Chicago, but I’ll take Friday’s off here and there for the rest of the summer.

What did I learn while away?

  1. I work to live, not live to work. This is obvious to some, but I've been working hard for the past 18 months without time off, and this trip made me realize that I need to shift some things around to not only be happy, but keep my sanity. Downtime is important.
  2. Air travel still sucks, but I don't mind that much really. United recently implemented a policy where they're charging for extra baggage, similar to what has been done by European budget airlines for awhile. This will definitely go away, as there is no way the major US airlines can stick to this trend if low cost airlines like Southwest aren't charging these fees. I'm sure this made sense in a boardroom, but in practice this is just going to piss people off. Also, United is charging $5 for snack boxes. These snack boxes are full of processed garbage that offer little nutritional value. It would be great if they offered an apple as an alternative to pretzels or shortbread cookies, and alternatively charge $10 for something that will satisfy travelers vs pissing them off. I looked around at people eating stuff in the snack boxes, and they weren't happy.
  3. I love San Francisco. I think it's the perfect city for me, as the weather is cool and perfect for jeans and a fleece, the area is strongly rooted in technology, and there's abundance of options for doing stuff (wine country to the north, great hiking all around, lots of foodie type places to eat at, etc). Erin on the other hand likes the city, but is frightened by the thought of raising a child there ("imagine trying to train the banana how to ride a bike or rollerblade on these hills")

What did Erin learn?

  1. Pack less
  2. Pay attention to the weather at the destination. We've always been to SF in the winter when it is warm and sunny. SF in the summer, it's often foggy and sitting at 60 degrees during the day (which is again, perfect for me)

And we both learned that we like to bargain shop for hotels.

So here is a quick run down of what we did while away:

  • Saturday, June 21: Arrived SFO, spent day dorking around Palo Alto. Stayed in a Marriott Residence Inn in Sunnyvale near Yahoo. I forgot how Residence Inns hook you up with actual living space. It was oddly nice.
  • Sunday, June 22: Drove up to Healdsburg (wine country north of Sonoma), ate at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar. Food was ok. Visited a bunch of wineries with the highlights being Lambert Bridge and Seghesio (I think we'll sign up for Seghesio's wine club, Lambert Bridge was ridiculously overpriced). Stopped in San Francisco on the way back to Palo Alto and ate at the House of Nanking. Man I love that place. We didn't even order anything, they staff just kept bringing us killer food. Yum.
  • Monday, June 23: Woke up, went for a run. I then spent the morning at Cafe Del Doge in Palo Alto, while Erin and her father took a client out for lunch. Picked up a couple of city and hiking guide books. Moved to the Residence Inn in Los Alto (using points). Ate dinner at Zibibbo.
  • Tuesday, June 24: Woke up, worked out, checked out. Stopped in ElephantPharm, a great drug store that seems to be a combination of Whole Foods, CVS and one of those stores that has all the yoga stuff. Drove up to 92 to Half Moon Bay. At lunch and had a beer at Half Moon Bay Brewery. Food was pretty good, beer was super tasty. Drove south to Santa Cruz. Stopped at strawberry farm along the way. Met up with Dave, Amy, and Tyler Thomas (what a cute little dude). Toured their place, then head south to some town (name forgotten) with a killer fish house (also name forgotten). Headed south to Monterey, used one of the guidebooks to call all the hotels in the area in search of best rate. Holed up at the Otter Inn, near the water, for $110 (a huge value when neighboring hotels were going for 300-400/night).
  • Wednesday, June 25: Breakfast a crepe place along Wave St. Spent a few hours at the Monterey Aquarium watching the sea otters swim and play, jelly fish pump rhythmically through the water, and a bunch more. We had a great time at the aquarium, and I'm sure will go back one day with soon-to-be baby J. Called down to Big Sur to check the status of a fire in the area, and unfortunately most of the area had been evacuated. Big time suck. Decided to leave frigid Monterey (it must have been 50 degrees while we were there) for warm and sunny Santa Cruz. I sat in Santa Cruz Coffee Roasters enjoying a cup and wifi, while Erin walked around shopping. We grabbed dinner at Malabar (probably the best meal of the trip), then saw The Promotion. Checked into the Seaway Inn, which was just ok for the money.
  • Thursday, June 26: Woke up, went for a run. Checked out of the hotel, went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk so Erin could see the sea lions. She loves seeing those guys. Again I went to a coffee shop while Erin shopped. I'm perfectly happy doing this because I don't get enough time to sit in coffee shops, drink coffee, read and do catch up on stuff. Ate tacos at Tacos Moreno (the taco stand, not restaurant) and then took Highway 1 all the way up to San Francisco. Stopped in Whole Foods to grab some essentials and a light dinner of break, prosciutto, and cheese. Checked into the Pacific Heights Inn for $110 per night, free parking and a nice light breakfast. Left the hotel to walk around and grabbed some sushi at Okoze Sushi.
  • Friday, June 27: Breakfast part 1 at the hotel, breakfast part 2 at Noah's Bagels (yep, we're big eaters). Grabbed a cup of coffee and then headed north for a hike in Muir Woods. Hiked a 5 mile trail, then drove up Mt. Tamalis (beautiful!), ended up in Fairfax, stopped into the Iron Springs Pub and Brewery. Great beer! Started to make our way back to the 101, then stopped in San Anselmo to grab a cup of coffee at Marin Coffee Roasters. Stopped in Sausalito on the way back to SF, checked out a local farmers market and a jazz festival, then grabbed pizza and sat outside at a place called Poggios. Finally, back to the hotel to relax.
  • Saturday, June 28: A light breakfast, followed by a few hours of chilling in Peet's while Erin shopped. More shopping, more Peet's. Then the Japanese Tea Garden for a walk around (amazing!), followed by some tea and Japanese candies (yum). Back to the hotel - I hit the gym, Erin caught up internet action. We finished of the night with a couple of amazing burgers at Polkers (complete with curly fries and killer ranch...I forgot how much I love ranch, and there ranch was perfect with the fries) and a movie (Get Smart, which was not good).
  • Sunday, June 29: A full day of travel (flight home to Chicago, then a drive up to Milwaukee to pick up Roscoe and Dylan. Thanks again for watching the boys Mike, Deb, Joe and Jerzey).

I’ll probably add more as I remember.