Saturday, December 30, 2006

hitting the road

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I got my learner's permit. As such, my parents started teaching me how to drive this morning. They first let me practice in the LAHS parking lot in Dad's 1988 BMW 528e. Speaking of which, 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.

In other news...

Our New Year's Eve party is still on schedule. Oh yeah!

Friday, December 29, 2006

got my learner's permit

I went to the DMV this morning to take my written driving test at the best of my parents. Though I was off by one point on my first attempt, I passed on the second. W00t!

This is only a learner's permit, meaning 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!

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 my family just got back from the Southwest U.S. again. I don't want to sound unappreciative, but the vacation didn't quite meet our expectations. For one thing, there was no novelty because we had just gone to the Southwest last December. The trip was also exhausting due to the amount of driving. On top of that, my father and I both caught some sort of bug. Being sick while traveling is no good!

That said, the getaway was still quite awesome. I had a great time writing this trip report and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Day 1

The trip had a hectic start. As 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. That fortunately wasn't the case as we didn't have to wait long before a shuttle 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.

There wasn't much to do in the evening, although we watched Path of Destruction on the Sci-Fi Channel and The Island on HBO. 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 interesting stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built into the mountain. Mom and I didn't feel like leaving the car and waited in the parking lot while Dad went for a look inside. I later found out the chapel is actually quite beautiful. This is my biggest regret of the trip.

Another local attraction was the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. I enjoyed browsing the shops even though there wasn't anything we needed.

Day 3

The morning began with a 30-mile drive to Flagstaff. This is a place we visited on our December 2005 trip. The historical district was full of stores and restaurants. I could spend the entire day here if not for time constraints.

The iconic Monument Valley awaited us next. Though I 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.

The other highlight of the day was the Antelope Canyon tour. This is another place I had only seen in pictures. The guides took us through a section of the canyon; the geology was incredibly fascinating. It was hard to believe that erosion could create such an otherworldly landscape. Antelope Canyon was undoubtedly my favorite part of the trip.

Two other places we had considered going to were Meteor Crater in Arizona and the Four Corners Monument. But having been to both of them before, my parents and I agreed it would be better to go somewhere new instead.

Day 4

The day was mostly spent on the road as we needed to get to Tucson. There were few stops along the way other than the ghost town in Goldfield. The attractions there didn't really interest us. On the other hand, I bought some specialty candies at one of the gift shops. Though I haven't tasted them yet, they look delicious.

The three of us arrived in Tucson in the late afternoon. I wanted to check out Saguaro National Park as it was fairly close, but we decided against it after noticing the scenery in the area wasn't too impressive. To be honest, I don't think we missed much.

Day 5

Merry Christmas!

It was time for a long drive to El Paso. One thing we noticed is that the city has a large number of children's clothing stores. I imagine there are lots of family with kids there. We had a quick dinner at a Mexican fast food place before returning to our hotel.

There was also the option of crossing the border into Mexico as Dad had brought our passports. However, the amount of traffic suggested that clearing customs would take hours. That's not even including the time spent in Mexico. After careful consideration, my parents and I agreed it wasn't worth the trouble.

The evening didn't end well as Dad started feeling ill. Getting sick on a vacation sucks. :-(

Day 6

Our journey brought us back to Tucson. All of us were tired from the traveling and didn't do much in the afternoon except check out the local Costco and a nearby shopping center. The mall was similar to those in the Bay Area.

On the other hand, downtown Tucson wasn't too bad. The cheap eats made it feel like a college town. Speaking of which, my family had dinner at a Vietnamese noodle shop. The meal unfortunately wasn't too enjoyable because our waitress was somewhat rude. Dad took the high road and still left her a tip.

The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful. This was the perfect opportunity to get some rest anyway as Dad wasn't feeling well.

Day 7

We visited the University of Arizona campus after breakfast. This was a school I had applied to three years ago, although we didn't stay long as it was closed for the holidays. Just south of Tucson was the historical Mission San Xavier del Bac. I'm not normally that interested in missions, but this one was pretty famous. Dad even bought a refrigerator magnet at the gift shop before leaving.

I had hoped to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument afterwards. However, because Mom was concerned about the safety near the border, Dad took us to Nogales instead. That place wasn't any better: the entire city looked like a big ghetto and actually turned out to be located right next to the border as well. As a matter of fact, none of us wanted to leave the car except to take pictures. Let's just say we probably won't visit Nogales again anytime soon.

Day 8

As our flight back to San Francisco was in the early afternoon, my family didn't do much before heading to the airport. The bad news is that I didn't feel well myself after breakfast. To be specific, I have a gnawing pain in my stomach that is worse when I'm standing up. The pain is bearable but nevertheless unpleasant. :\

The flight to SFO was overall uneventful. Our very last stop was the newly opened Elephant Pharm in Los Altos as my mother wanted to see what the store looked like and buy Tylenol for my stomach pain. It was almost midnight when we arrived home.

Conclusions

Just because we already went to the Southwest U.S. last year doesn't mean this vacation wasn't fun. The highlight of the trip was the Antelope Canyon tour. That was one of the most fascinating places we've ever visited. Monument Valley and Sedona were also memorable. I definitely hope to visit the Southwest again in the near future.

The not-so-fun part is that Dad got sick a few days ago. I'm not feeling well myself at the moment either. As much as I love traveling, I'm can't complain about getting home in this case.

In other news...

Mom has invited several other families over for New Year's Eve. I've been told there will be lots of new people. I'm so excited!

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. For those wondering, 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. >:(

From what we gather, the guy likely didn't even know he hit us. The good news is that Mom was able to get his license plate number. I'm planning to file a report with the DMV soon. But perhaps the most important thing is that we weren't 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 finally (no pun intended) over. The semester seems to have gone by extremely fast. At this rate, I'll graduate before I know it.

As for holiday plans, my family is leaving for the Southwest U.S. again in five days. This trip will be exciting as the Southwest has always been one of my favorite destinations. I definitely can't wait.

For those still in school, I wish you all the best of luck on your exams. :-)