Faced with a 4 day weekend, what other choice does one have but to drive 820 miles from Seattle to San Francisco for no reason?

It�s Wednesday and I get a text from my beautifully insane friend Nichole.

�What are you doing this weekend�

�Nothing yet. Why?�

�Wanna drive to California?�

�Yes. Meet me in Seattle tomorrow.�

So Thursday afternoon we load up the Hyundai with a grocery bag full of CDs and a bottle of Jack D, then we�re on the road like Jack K. We laugh at the amazing number of goofy town and street names on the exit signs. Balls Creek. Cox road. Vagina Ave. (Not really, but why not?) We consider stopping in a town called Drain, but�.doesn�t sound very exciting.

Finally, we�re driving through the woods in total darkness so we stop at an obscure gas station and ask for camping suggestions. The attendant tells us to take a left and drive a few miles out this one road past these mills and factories out into the woods, and then we can camp anywhere. How many slasher horror movies have started out this way?

We find some flat ground that doesn�t look particularly menacing, no open graves or satanic statuary anywhere nearby, so we pitch our tent. The tent is supposed to be a 2 person tent, but I�m 6 foot 2, so I think I count as at least 1.5 people. Luckily, Nichole is like 3 feet tall and 50 pounds, so she counts as about half a person. I manage to stretch out diagonally, we have a dram of whiskey, and fall asleep to a lullaby played by the demo on my Casio mini keyboard.

(In the morning)

(We talked all night about the naked feral mountain man who was going to come raging out of the woods to steal all our clothes and technology and then eat us...but he never came.)

Friday night around 8:00 we finally arrive in San Francisco. As we�re rolling over the Bay Bridge into downtown, it occurs to me that the destination on my Google Maps directions is simply �San Francisco�. So uh�.where to now, Joe?

We manage to park somewhere in the Mission District and start wandering around. Nichole is craving a cheeseburger. After passing millions of taquieras we finally stumble upon a Burger King. The first thing that greets us as we walk in the door is the sight of this black guy sprawled out in his booth, asleep, with his mouth hanging open SOOOOO wide. Seriously, it�s like his jaw has come unhinged. The temptation to toss straw wrappers into his gaping maw is unbearable.

From there we go to a coffee shop that�s so coldly pretentious it makes the average Seattle caf� feel like an Applebees. The barista doesn�t say a single word to us when we order. Not even the price. He just stands there and lets us read the numbers on the register while giving us a world-weary head-tilt.

We end up getting directions and advice on where to sleep from probably the scariest looking dude in the city. I can�t tell you how interesting it is to be warned away from �sketchy� neighborhoods by a 6 foot man in a brown leather trenchcoat and thigh-high studded leather boots with wild eyes, a long beard, a full-face mask of tribal tattoos--and the voice and diction of a Microsoft executive. I guess it was a fitting introduction to this rather odd city.

We find the beach he directed us to, and we find an area to set up our tent, but there�s a problem. Gale force winds are blasting up from the ocean. It takes the two of us to manhandle the tent to the ground, and it keeps trying to fly away. We finally get it pitched and crawl inside, but the wind is squishing the walls inward to the point where we might as well be sleeping inside the actual tent bag. It�s like being in the churning stomach of a nylon whale. We lay there for a while laughing hysterically while the freezing wind absolutely rapes the walls, whipping and rattling them like that scene from Blair Witch Project if that scene had gone on for 30 minutes straight. We give up and sleep in the car.

Next day we get our tourism on and hit the Golden Gate Bridge. Halfway out, Nichole reveals she�s terrified of heights, and has a few panic attacks. She still manages to get a few pictures.

(It was very very orange.)

The most interesting thing to me about the Golden Gate Bridge today is that it is completely swarming with Girl Scouts. They are everywhere, a blue-vested and badged infestation. San Francisco is known for it�s racial, cultural, and sexual diversity, but by the looks of things here the population has been homogenized into about 85% Girl Scouts. What the hell, man.

(Run, m@th3rfucker!!)

And then here's a few I took with my wacky new Holga camera:

After the bridge we go to the Legion of Honor museum. Outside is the Holocaust Memorial, featuring memorial statues of the dead in a concentration camp scene. We realize we are going to hell when the first thing that occurs to us is how funny it would be to get pictures of us humping the prone statues of Holocausted Jews.

Oh no he DIDN'T!!! (But come on, if anyone needs some loving it's holocausted Jews!)

(For the record, this idea makes even me cringe, and I�m the guy that celebrates September 11th Day by baking tall layer cakes with all the candles at the top and playing double-stack Jenga. I do have some sense of atrocity.)

This entire time, I�ve been trying to get ahold of my friend Michelle who lives here, but no answer. Saturday afternoon, she calls me back and tells me she didn�t answer because she was on a plane. To Washington, oh the irony. But she sets us up to receive hospitality from her room mates. We go to the house and are promptly invited to a PIG ROAST. We go to the PIG ROAST and sure enough, they have an entire ROASTED PIG laid out on a table, fresh from the giant PIG ROASTING spit. Apparently this is not unusual at all. Apparently this guy has PIG ROASTS pretty frequently. We pick over the scorched carcass like starving dingos.

Sweet young thing Nichole says she feels a little �out of her element� amongst all the thirtysomething professionals at this party, but like a fish gasping on the edge of a lake, she soon flops her way back into her element: beer. Within 20 minutes she has befriended everyone in the place and gotten twenty phone numbers, myspaces, and invites for places to stay tonight. But our room-mate liaisons have disappeared, I�m too buzzed, exhausted, and lost in the city to try to find any of the other people�s downtown apartments, so we end up sleeping in the car again. I drag her out of the party draped over my shoulder like a gut-shot soldier in Vietnam, carry her to the car, and pour her into the seat like Jello. We park on a dimly lit street corner, and sleep.

Finally, we have come to our last day in San Francisco. We find ourselves in Asiantown, and Nichole buys a bag full of rubber duckies that are dressed as other animals, dogs, cats, etc. We go to an obscure Chinese (Japanese? Korean? Laotian?) restaurant where no one speaks English, and Nichole orders some of the most bizarre Dim Sum stuff ever seen, topping it all off by ordering a whole goddamn crab just plain by itself with no sauce or anything. We smash it to bits and eat its insides. Apparently it�s a week for consuming entire animals whole.

With evening approaching, we make our final attempt to be classy and go to the Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately, it closes just before we get there, and we end up going to a bunch of girl-trap fashion stores instead. Nichole puts it best when she says, �We came downtown to get some culture, and we left with a cute skirt.�

It�s now Sunday night, and it�s time to go home. We drive deep into the night on some unbelievably twisty forgotten highway in the desert. By this point we are starting to feel a little bit lunatic.

(Please help, I'm being driven across the country by a skinnyass shirtless madman...)

(Umm, hello? We're like...lost.)

(Cute as a lost tired hungry drunk little button.)

We go through Napa Valley and finally park just off the street next to a pretty orchard. Of course this earns us a 3:00 am wakeup call from the local cops, wondering why on earth we would try to sleep in a country orchard under the big starry sky instead of in a blindingly lit rest-stop parking lot between gangs of rapist truckers. I am really getting tired of being woken up at 3:00 am by the knocks and flashlights of soulless cops.

And that, folks, is about the end of the story. We drive all day Monday and finally arrive back in Seattle, where we are immediately slapped with all the back-home mundanities and dramas, our angry bosses and clients, our contemptible exes marrying each other, etc. Travel is a drug, and the come-down can be hell. Somebody please buy me a helicopter and magic neverending fuel.

But hey, next week is Sasquatch Festival. Off we go again!


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