Epic Trip Report Of Uttermost Epicness, Part One

Gone Bamboo: Crazy Beard You want a trip report? I got your trip report right here. No, no, avert your gaze from my crotch; I wasn’t being sarcastic. I literally mean that – “I have your trip report right here.” And by “right here” I mean, “Hey, it’s right down there, seriously, just drift your gaze lower – lower – looooower…”

Hah! It’s my crotch! Sucker! You just got burned! By my balls! In your vision! My testicles cause cataracts. True story. I’m forced to carry a warning around with me at all times.

Okay, no, seriously. The trip report is right here on the page. I mean, c’mon. Stop staring at my junk.

A warning: this is a long post. That’s just how trip reports roll, son. Feel free to skim to the tasty parts, like where I wrestle King Kamehameha on the lip of an active volcano, or where I steal some velociraptor eggs and the two mommies (stars of the children’s book, Raptor Has Two Mommies) come and hunt me down and me and Kamehameha (now allies) battle two angry dinosaur parents.

Let us begin.

The Journey

Wai Ale Ale, Wettest Spot On Earth …goes like this: San Francisco for four days in order to attend Bouchercon 2010, then off to Kauai (Hawaii) for nine days, then back to San Francisco for three days (only one full day, really).

Why break it up like that? First, attending Bouchercon made that a necessity on the first leg. But then, on the second leg, we had the opportunity to do a full red-eye midnight blitz from Kauai to Pennsylania (likely with about seven stops in between) — and can I tell you something? That sucks. That sucks lead paint chips off the wall, chews them, eats them, then dies from the resultant lead poisoning. Word to the wise and weary traveler: if you’re going long distances, do not subscribe to the “It’s Like A Band-Aid; Just Rip It Off Quick!” theory of traveling. Because traveling 15-22 hours is not a “quick” rip. Stop along the way. Get off the plane. Get out of the airport. Hunker down in a different city for a night or two. Not only does it break up the monotony. Not only does it break up the clots surely forming in your legs, clots that want to shoot to your brain like clumpy blood bullets. But it also lets you travel a little more broadly, experience a bit more mileage out of your trip.

Just my two cents.

Details: Airlines

Mostly United except for the last two legs, which were with American Airlines. United was probably the winner in terms of clarity and timing — always got us off and on the ground early. Still. Flying is for assholes, as evidenced by the many assholes who fly — see accordant post, “Air Travel Is For Assholes.”

Details: Other Travel

Travel From San Francisco, took a SuperShuttle from the airport to the hotel. They had the wrong address and took us to the wrong hotel, so on the reverse trip I called them three times to confirm that, “Hey, you have the right address this time, yeah?” They said they did.

So, lo and behold, when leaving San Fran (for the first time), nobody shows up.

I call and they say, “He’s two minutes away.”

Five minutes later, I call and they say, “He’s waiting out front.”

He’s not. Turns out, he’s waiting out front of the wrong hotel. He’s at the hotel they tried to drop us off at earlier despite my thrice-confirmed address. Then the dispatch tries to tell me that I was supposed to wait at a certain “corner” to be picked up, which makes no sense since he’s at a hotel? Then they tell me they’ll “make an exception” and have him come directly to my hotel. Which is what they said he’d do all along, but they’re just trying to make me look like an asshole.

Finally, he shows up.

The van has two seat belts for nine passengers. We are already running late and he has — drum roll please — picked up zero other passengers. By the time he wanders the city looking for the next one, it is very apparent we would not make our flight if we didn’t leave for the airport now now now, so I told the dude this. He said he knew, that we would probably miss our flight, and that SuperShuttle would “pay for our airline ticket.” He then proceeded to insult dispatch. They are his oppressors and thus we shall be late.

Uhhh. Okay? Except, howzabout you just not make me late to begin with? That’d be sort of awesome. So, acting on a gut whim, I told him to stop the van and let us out. As I rescued our luggage, the wife hailed a cab which then whisked us away to SFO — and got us there on time.

We’re still trying to get our money back, by the way.

Avoid SuperShuttle.

On the second leg to San Fran, we used Pleasant Limos, which was as cheap as SuperShuttle and totally awesome — town car, free water, comfy ride, and so forth.

In Hawaii, we used Budget, which was ehh, mehh, pbbt, iffy. Got us a “full size” ugly-ass gray Buick, which we nicknamed “Grandpa Buick” for the remainder of the trip. Then we’d say things in an old man voice like, “GRANDPA BUICK NEEDS TO PUT HIS COLOSTOMY BAG ON THE ARMREST.”

Details: Photography

I took about 2400 photos. Maybe 1700 of them were from the DSLR, which is actually a reduced number from our last (and shorter) Hawaii trip. A few reasons for this? First, I didn’t want to get caught up in all the mechanics and time it takes to snap incredible vacation photos — all the lens changing and metering really just reduces my enjoyment “in the moment.” Second, the camera is bulky. Third, I had the iPhone with me, and while normally I would suggest that the iPhone camera is a piece of technological sadness, it is made infinitely more awesome with the inclusion of Hipstamatic.

I took about 500 Hipstamatic shots, for instance. While in San Francisco, I took nothing but Hipstamatic shots. Captures the grungy retro weirdness of a city like that. But it worked for Hawaii, too –

This shot, for instance, appears utterly retro and vintage, but I took it just last week:

Vintage Retro Now You can see the rest of my Hipstamatic shots here at my Flickr photostream.

I took this shot of a gecko with my DSLR, and I’m pretty darn happy with it:

The Allerton Gecko

You can find a slowly-growing collection of DSLR photos over here, then (note: it’s slow-growing because I have to process ‘em with Photoshop before I upload).

Details: Dear iPad, I Love You Lots (Kisses On All Your Ports And Buttons)

The iPad is an elegant travel computer.

It earned its merit badges due to plane travel alone. On planes I was able to: read Joelle Charbonneau’s Skating Around The Law, start Hilary Davidson’s The Damage Done, watch episodes of Terriers (awesome show), play games (like Little Things, Cut the Rope, Plants Vs Zombies), take notes and make outlines for two novels, read some Jane Austen, and so forth.

Then, when at the hotel, it increased its awesomeness.

I was able to: make reservations, look up maps and directions, take more notes on writing work (using Plaintext and Index Card), use Twitter, write emails, open and sign contracts (with my finger as the pen and the PDF as the background! — using Note Taker HD), download new episodes of Terriers for the plane (oh, and the Mad Men finale), and blog. (Though, a fair warning that the WordPress app for the iPad is a stinky car-crash of an app — I mean, it works, but it doesn’t work so hot.)

I did not bring a laptop with me. This was difficult for me, but actually, I suspect, the right choice. My laptop is heaaaavy. The iPad is light. The iPad does most (and more) of what I want done on a vacation, and it does it more swiftly, to boot (my laptop is also slooo-hooo-hooooow).

So: iPad as travel computer?

Total win.

Leg One: Bouchercon 2010 (San Francisco)

It Is Not The Destination But The Journey I’ve already written a little bit about this part of the trip (blog posts here and here), but, I know, I know. You greedy jackals want more. With your slavering jaws and your gnashing teeth.

San Francisco is, in case you didn’t know, a city of hills. Or, rather, one big hill. So, when I think, “Our hotel is not that far from Bouchercon, we can totally walk it,” this is accurate insomuch as, yes, the actual distance is not that bad. But the distance is complicated by 45-degree inclines and declines. Up is hard, but down is a killer, too — it feels like your calves are guitar strings pulled too taut, so taut in fact that they might snap and recoil and whip you in the eyes. The thing is, it’s not like I didn’t know San Francisco is a City on a Hill. I’ve seen the movie. Hell, I’ve been to the goddamn city before.

And yet, I was a younger lad then.

Anyway, so it goes. We did a lot of walking because cabs are hard to come by.

Places we visited on this leg of San Franwacky:

The Jejune Institute: If you ever had the feeling, “Gosh, I think I’m special. Maybe even psychic.” And your follow-up thought was, “You know, I could really use to become part of a cult scientific organization along the lines of the Dharma Initiative,” then boy howdy, do I have the experience for you. The Jejune Institute is a… well, I guess it’s an ARG, a live (and free) experience in San Francisco that begins with you entering a very nice building and going to an abandoned floor of that office building and then getting a key and sitting down for an, erm, orientation video. What happens from there is both fascinating and secret, and thus I shall not tell you of your experience except that it will require you to wander several blocks around that building, following a story and solving ciphers based on the city itself. Very cool, very trippy. We did it in the rain, which was, erm, less than pleasant, but still cool enough where we finished the experience. Except, you never really finish the experience…

Worst Breakfast Ever (But I Was Hungry Just The Same) Thad’s Cozy Cafe: Dang, yeah, no. This was near to our hotel and was just a little coffee counter with a small breakfast menu, and I thought, “Wow, this is refreshing. It’s a totally non-ironic, non-hipster joint with biscuits and gravy on the menu.” Mmm. Uh-oh. Wandered in and had what was easily one of the worst breakfasts of my life (which I snarfed down like a dying man because I was famished). Burned potatoes, hockey puck biscuits, watery “gravy,” and coffee that tasted like the inside of an old burned-up bourbon barrel (not as appealing as it may sound). Guy was very nice, but — ehhh. No. We were treated to some fascinating overheard conversation, though, typical of the madness that is San Francisco: some old dude wanders in and starts asking Thad for legal advice because he’s going to be on some kind of… gavel-banging judge show on TV? I dunno. Thad, not breaking a sweat, offers legal advice that is both dubious sounding yet full of confidence. Then, some other weird dude wearing a helmet (not a bike helmet but a “your head is a little too soft to survive the rigors of modern living” helmet) runs in and needs to talk to the old dude, and they proceed to hurriedly get a corner table and babble at each other. Good times. Oh! And this place is a good example of why reviews on the Internet are not always tip-top: people on Yelp seem to really dig this place.

Modern Thai: Absolutely, without a doubt, the best Thai food I have ever had the pleasure of sticking in my gluttonous craw. And I have eaten the unmerciful hell out of some Thai food. We went here the first day we got to San Fran just an hour before the dreadful calf-destroying walk down to the Embarcadero, and the noodle dishes were so warm, so comforting, they made you feel so good, obliterating a day of travel. So when the time came to honor our reservations two nights later at the hip and upscale Le Colonial, I said, “Hey, eff that in the ear,” and canceled. Then we went back to Modern Thai. On that second trip I ate what will likely remain one of my Top Ten Dishes ever. It was a green papaya salad, but the papaya was shredded and deep fried in this really light, crunchy batter. The dressing, a kind of lime-fish-sauce-citrus-something-or-other, was — I — guh! Gibber. Drool. I don’t even have words. It was so intimately satisfying, this dish. A nigh-sexual experience. The rest of the food was top of the pops, too, but nothing knocked this crispy papaya salad (which was as big as a football helmet, for the record) off its pedestal.

Joelle Charbonneau Slanted Door: Ate here for our “Team Decker” dinner, and it was phenomenal. Food is very often about context, so I assure you that part of the pleasure of this meal comes from the company kept (Super-Agent Stacia Decker, Dan O’Shea and his lovely wife, Joelle Charbonneau, Seth Harwood, and of course my own loverly wife), but the food really was delicious. Modern upscale Vietnamese. Tried oysters for the first time (well, raw — had ‘em fried prior to this). Good. Briny. Unlike anything else I’ve ever had in my mouth (except dolphin penis). (What?) (Shut up.) It was during this dinner, by the way, that I learned the grim truth never before told to me: I am a clone (and let’s be honest, a diminished clone due to some greasy lab error) of Dan O’Shea, as evidenced by this picture. Anyway. What I’m saying is: froofy atmosphere, great company, solid food, and even the excitable Giants fans in the crowd could not diminish my pleasure.

MEAT CONE (Boccalone)Boccalone : MEAT CONE MEAT CONE MEAT CONE. Okay, I’ll stop now. No, wait, once more: MEAT CONE. Boccalone: great Charcuterie joint in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Their motto is, awesomely and appropriately, “Tasty Salted Pig Parts.” They will, for around $3-4, put a bunch of homespun salumi into a paper cone and give it to you. It is some of the greatest meat product ever. Stacia bought a shirt. And a hot dog. You’ll have to ask her about the hot dog.

Miette Patisserie: Wife and I both consumed these delicate little ice cream sandwiches here — one was peanut butter, but the other was a creme fraiche ice cream between two slabs of graham cracker, and that was the distinguished winner. The rest of their confections looked fantastic — actually, most of the food joints in the Ferry Building made me weak in the knees. I saw mounds of cheese and racks of fungus. I wish I had a teleporter just so I could bop in and out of there. Oh, but one restaurant — Mijita – wasn’t good. Blah Mexican food, very expensive for tiny portions. Meh.

Anywho. That’s it for now — part two (and maybe three?) of the trip report coming, uhhh. Tomorrow? Tuesday? You can’t pin me down. I’m like an eel. Slippery and uncertain.

6 comments

  • Super Shuttle really is an amazingly stupid thing. I’ve used them for a ride home from Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport twice. (They didn’t get a chance for a third strike.)

    Each time I used them, I scheduled a pickup in advance. Each time I landed, they weren’t ready for my arrival. It was like they have a section on their website where you can say, “Hey, I’m scheduling a pickup,” but it’s really there to make you feel like you have some control of when they’ll actually show up. It seems that when you call, whether you scheduled ahead, or not–you get the same service: “We’ll be there when we get there.”

    Then, despite scheduling a pickup in advance that I had to wait quite some time for, they drove around the airport several times, trolling for more passengers. Each time I used them, despite the extra time spent driving around D/FW Airport, we picked up one extra person.

    Then, even though I scheduled everything and told them where I lived, the driver acted like he didn’t know where I lived, despite living not too far from where they’re based. I spent each ride giving them directions; it was like they never heard of this thing called the Internet, where they can type in an address and get directions. Nope, instead of listening to music, I got to tell them where to take me and listen to them argue with dispatch.

    While I’m sorry you had to deal with their monkey nature, I’m glad to know it wasn’t just me who had a bad experience with them.

    Oh, and the gecko photo is all kinds of cool!

  • Just skimmed the article for now, but my iTouch has become my travel computer of choice. It’s small,it’s portable, and I can do almost everything on it as long as I have a wireless connection.

  • October 31, 2010 at 4:58 PM // Reply

    Was wondering about the Jejeune Institute. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m up there, which at this rste should be some time around 2025, or well after the Replicants have killed us all in Dickian glee.

    And yes, I totally meant it to sound that way.

  • I enjoyed your post, Chuck, and the photos ~ really neat. So glad to hear the iPad worked out great. I’m so impressed with all the work you accomplished, too! We just bought an iPad for our son. My MacBook is very light to begin with, so I don’t mind taking it in a backpack.
    I took SuperShuttle, too…it wasn’t too bad, but after arriving, we had to go WAY out of the way for the first passenger, so I was in the car for about an hour and 45 minutes, and it was hot. He kept shutting off the a/c. The pick up from the hotel was much better, they were on time, and we sped right to the airport in plenty of time (I asked for the earliest pickup time, as I was scared I wouldn’t be there on time, meaning the 2 hrs ahead of time that the airport requests).
    I know it was brief, but I’m so glad I got to meet you and your lovely wife at the Hyatt Regency.
    Welcome home!

    • @Kathleen: A total pleasure, indeed. Glad you made it out there! Hope to definitely meet you again.

      @Stephen: Definitely do up the Jejune Institute — you know, after the Deep Dickian Dicking that society receives from the Replicant uprising. :)

      @John: I don’t know if I could quite do all that I wanted on just my iPhone — my fat fingers do not like the keyboard (or vice versa), but the iPad is a whole other animal. Especially true with the keyboard adapter!

      – c.

  • I’ve never had a major problem with supershuttle… but I’ve only used them around Sacramento. Slow, but half the price of a cab.

    Word of general advice to anyone flying into San Francisco and planning on staying somewhere around there.

    USE BART! (aka the subway). Bay Area Rapid Transit. It goes to the airport. You know where else it goes? Downtown San Francisco. Oakland. Berkley. The burbs. And it’s not *too* convoluted… at worst case, you need to do 1 transfer from a train to another train.

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