Saturday, December 30, 2006

hitting the road

Now that I have my learner's permit, my parents started teaching me how to drive this morning. The day began in the LAHS parking lot. Dad showed me the ropes before I started practicing in his 1988 BMW 528e. Steering a car turned out to be quite challenging. It's a good thing the parking lot was almost empty because I was going all over the place. To be fair, I was never good at driving games either. :-)

We moved on to local streets when I got the hang of it after a while. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous the whole time. Other than that, I don't think I did too badly on my first drive. :D

Of course, freeways and mountain passes are beyond my skill at the moment. I definitely have a long way to go. One step at a time, I guess.

Friday, December 29, 2006

got my learner's permit

I went to the DMV today for the written driving test at the behest of my parents. The test was easier than I imagined. I was off by one point on my first try but passed on the second. W00t!

Because I only have a learner's permit, I must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times. Speaking of which, I'll likely start practicing tomorrow if everything goes to plan. To be honest, I'm a little nervous. Wish me luck!

In other news...

Mom has invited several families over for New Year's Eve. I'm so excited!

Currently listening to: "Pulstar" by Vangelis

Thursday, December 28, 2006

back from another Southwest U.S. trip

The year is ending on a good note as we just got back from the Southwest U.S. again. To be honest, the vacation didn't quite meet our expectations. For one thing, the novelty was gone given that we just went to the Southwest last December. The other reason is that my father and I both caught some sort of bug. Being sick while traveling is the worst. :-(

Having said that, this was still an awesome trip. Continue reading to find out more!

Day 1

It was a hectic morning. Because this was our first time flying Ted, the location of the terminal wasn't immediately clear. Dad feared we were at the wrong place and was jumpy the entire time. To our relief, the shuttle soon arrived and took us to the Ted terminal.

The plane landed in Phoenix a few hours later. Our hotel in Sedona was located right next to the picturesque Red Rocks. That alone made our stay very worthwhile.

Mom and I watched Path of Destruction on the Sci-Fi Channel and The Island on HBO after we checked in. I also edited Wikipedia for a bit before going to bed. Can you get any geekier than that?

Day 2

Dad took us for a drive around Sedona so we could get pictures. One of our stops was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. I didn't feel like leaving the car and waited in the parking lot with Mom while Dad went for a look inside. That was one of my regrets as the church is actually quite beautiful. Another attraction was the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. It was fun to browse the shops despite the high prices.

We then headed to Flagstaff, one of the places we visited last year. The historical district was full of stores and restaurants. I could spend the entire day here.

Day 3

The iconic Monument Valley awaited us next. Though we knew what it looked like, this was our first time here in person. The view of the valley was breathtaking. Pictures don't do it justice at all.

Another highlight was the Antelope Canyon tour. The geology was unlike anything we've seen. It's hard to believe erosion could create such an unusual landscape. Antelope Canyon was by far my favorite part of the trip.

Our journey brought us back to Phoenix in the evening. The plan was to visit Meteor Crater and the Four Corners Monument as well. But having been to both places, my family decided to go somewhere we haven't been before.

Day 4

We went to Costco for groceries and checked out a nearby shopping center after breakfast. This was followed by a stop at the ghost town of Goldfield. Our stay here was short, although I bought some sweets at the gift shop. The rest of the day was uneventful as we were all tired.

Day 5

Merry Christmas!

The next leg of the trip was a long drive to El Paso. One thing I noticed is that the streets were lined with children's clothing stores. I'm guessing the region has a high birth rate. The day ended with dinner at a Mexican fast food place.

There was also the option of visiting Mexico as Dad had brought our passports. However, clearing customs would have taken hours judging by the traffic. That's not even including the time spent in Mexico. After careful consideration, my parents and I agreed it wasn't worth the trouble.

Day 6

The day was mostly spent driving as we had to get to Tucson. For dinner, the three of us had noodles at a Vietnamese restaurant after a brief stop at the University of Arizona campus. The waitress was a little rude, but we took the high road and still left her a tip. The other thing is that Dad started feeling ill in the evening. Getting sick while traveling sucks. :-(

Day 7

Just south of Tucson was the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac. The mission is a well-known landmark in the area. Dad really liked the place and even bought a refrigerator magnet at the gift shop.

Our other major stop was Nogales, Arizona. Of note is that the city was located right next to the border. The entire place looked like a ghetto; none of us wanted to leave the car except to take pictures. I'm not going to lie - that was a scary experience.

Day 8

The flight back to San Francisco was in the early afternoon. I started getting a gnawing pain in my stomach as we arrived at the airport. The symptoms are worse when I'm standing up. The pain is bearable but nevertheless unpleasant. :\

Other than that, the return trip was uneventful. Our very last stop was the newly opened Elephant Pharm in Los Altos as my mother wanted to see what it looked like and buy Tylenol for my stomach pain. It was almost midnight when we got home.


I had an amazing time even though we just went to the Southwest U.S. last year. The highlight of this trip was the Antelope Canyon tour. That has to be one of the most unique places on Earth. Monument Valley and Sedona were also memorable.

The not-so-fun part is that Dad got sick a few days ago. I'm not feeling well myself at the moment either. However, that didn't make the trip any less enjoyable. I definitely hope to visit the Southwest again soon.

Currently listening to: "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

stupid hit-and-run idiot...

The week had a bumpy start as my mother just got into an accident. Someone hit our car while we were on the highway and broke the right wing mirror. The other driver was at fault because he was going too fast as we were merging. The idiot didn't even stop like he was supposed to. >:(

To be fair, the guy probably didn't know he hit us. The good news is that Mom was able to get his license plate number. I'll file a report with the DMV soon. But perhaps the most important thing is that neither of us were hurt.

Currently listening to: "Alpha" by Vangelis

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Finals are over + upcoming Southwest trip

I'm now home for the holidays as the finals are - pardon the pun - finally over. It feels like the semester went by extremely fast. At this rate, I'll graduate in no time.

The other thing is that we're leaving for the Southwest U.S. again in five days. This will be an exciting trip as the Southwest has always been one of my favorite destinations. I definitely can't wait.

For those still in school, best of luck on your exams. :-)