Working Vacation: Medical Mission

Its been a little over a month since I returned from our one month trip.  I’ve been thinking about how I could compose the most amazing trip I’ve ever had into words.  The week volunteering for the mission was packed with stories, just too many to count.  I came home with the most amazing experience that I will forever cherish.

The mission was held in Tuguegarao CIty, Philippines.  An hour plane ride from Manila, only 2 flights a day arrives into their tiny airport.  The city was very special to my dad.  He had spent his high school years here and returned with volunteers of Aloha Medical Mission to provide free health care to people who cannot afford it.

All the volunteers paid their own transportation and lodging.  It cost about $2000 per person.  Its a big chunk of change.  Why would anyone want to spend their hard earned money and vacation time to work?  Not just work, but hard work.

The next morning after we arrived in Tuguegarao we went straight to work.  The day started at 700am meeting at the hotel restaurant.  We were all still very jet lagged after traveling for over 20 hours the day before.  Our volunteers from San Fran traveled even longer!  We were exhausted, but no rest for the weary.  Our day was spent walking through the Tuguegarao General Hospital and the make shift clinic (the local parish).   Then we unpacked and organized over 30 boxes of medical supplies.

Going through the hospital was eye opening. The ward was nothing I’ve ever seen with many beds in a long room.  One side of the building is, male.  The other side female.  Also, a pediatric ward.  One of our doctors went straight to work and asked a family how their child was doing.

After unpacking some of us got a taste of the Philippines by riding trikes back to the hotel.  Those with energy to spare went to the Callao Caves.  Don and I were too exhausted and opted to sleep.

The next morning was the first real day.  At 630am the group met at meeting/breakfast.  Then it was straight to the hospital and clinic to start working.  We unpacked boxes in the OR.  Hundreds of people were lined up at our makeshift clinic to see a Doctor or Dentist.  Before noon the surgeons were scrubbing in!

The first day was pretty chaotic.  There was a lot of bumps in the road, but we made it through the day. By the second day, we had it down.  The clinic was well organized and the OR running smoothly.  We all worked long hours with little breaks, but the joy of helping people kept us going.  Also, we had an amazing team!  The local volunteer nurses were so friendly and fun!  We laughed and told stories.  We got to know eachother.  We were helping people together!

One of our patients was a 8 year old boy.  He was given away because he had a hernia at 3 months old.  It was a heart breaking story.  Thanks to the surgery done by Dr. Becky Sawai, he now no longer has a hernia.

A man was fitted with a prosthetic hand.  He was able to write his name for the first time in years and told the team in his native language, “I feel whole again.”

An emergency breeched C-section done by local OB allowed a family to keep their water buffalo.  Which they would have had to sell if AMM was not there.  The mother gave us the honor of naming the baby.

In just 5 days we were able to do 70 surgeries and see over 1,000 patients.  Over a thousand stories.  So why would anyone want to spend their money and vacation time working in a medical mission?  Walking back to the hotel on the last day of the mission I cried.  It was awkward, I was crying on the street.  My emotions were so strong.  The week was so fulfilling helping people in need, but I wished I could have done more, stayed longer, continued to work.  I was sad that this amazing experience was over.  I met and worked with wonderful people with huge hearts and who I can now call friends.  I got to help the most beautiful and most grateful patients.  The experience will forever hold a huge place in my heart.  I now understand why people will donate their time year after year to do these mission and I can’t wait to do it again. 

We had 3 journalist who came with us on our mission.  Not only did they document the mission, they also put in hard work helping from organizing supplies, helping the pharmacy group by organizing and packaging medication, and other duties where ever it was needed. Please check out some their coverage on Aloha Medical Mission.

Aloha Medical Mission Heals the Poor in the Philippines-Hawaii Business Magazine-April 2014

Hawaii Extends Aloha to the Philippines:  Aloha Medical Mission in Tuguegarao City

Bringing Baynihan in Better Health Care

A doctor for Krisensha: General Surgeon Margaret Lee

Aloha Medical Mission Baby

You Tube video of the Mission

Some of the pictures of our mission:

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Tuguegarao People’s General Hospital

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Unpacking supplies

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Our hotel room turned storage. Then later, Pharmacy.

Group outing to the Callao Caves.

Group outing to the Callao Caves.

Pharmacy team at work

Pharmacy team at work

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Dr. Maggie from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital talks with patient’s family during the walk through.

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Pediatric Ward

 

First Day in the, "Clinic."

First Day in the, “Clinic.”

Dr.  Ed from Kaiser Hospital in Oakland waiting to do his first case of the mission.

Dr. Ed from Kaiser Hospital in Oakland waiting to do his first case of the mission.

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Local volunteer OR nurses with AMM volunteer nurses.

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Dr. Jesse with my aunt Tita Jailu, RN doing one of thousands of teeth extractions. Debbie one of the journalist stands by to help.

Don fixing cautery machine.

Don fixing cautery machine.

Dr.  Becky and Dr. Lisa doing a hernia repair.

Dr. Becky and Dr. Lisa doing a hernia repair.

OR crew smiles for the camera during a minor.

OR crew smiles for the camera during a minor surgery.

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Anesthesia Team! Dr. Amy a anesthesiologist (and my mom’s high school classmate) from Germany and I with the best photo bombers ever.

OR crew!!!

OR crew!!!

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Happy Birthday Baby Keanu!

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Mom and BabyKeanu

Recovery team Heather and Shaun taking a quick break.

Recovery team Heather and Shaun taking a quick break.

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Hawaii Pediatrician Dr. Amelia exams a patient in the clinic.

My dad in the middle with his security team.

My dad Alex stands in the middle with his security team.

AMM team

AMM team

Dr.  Ed and his little patient with her family.  She had a mass removed from her throat.

Dr. Ed and his little patient with her family. She had a mass removed from her throat.

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Selfie: Don and I. We barely saw each other during our work days, but it was so nice when we did. I’m so glad that I could share this experience with him.

you can find more pictures on instagram #alohamedicalmission #alohamedicalmissiontuguegarao

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The layover: SEA to HNL

We woke up at 500am.  Semi regretting our pre vacay to Orcas Island.  Thinking we were not prepared.  Questioning ourselves, “Did we forget anything?  Did we pay all of our bills?”  WIth no one available to take us to the airport I used a car service recommended by my co-worker Jay.    At 600am a town car  was waiting at the edge of our drive way.  Quite glamours for our modest, blue collar neighborhood.  The price of a town car was just 5 dollars more then a taxi service.  He loaded our 2 backpacks, 2 “personal hand carries”, one huge check in bag, and a box full of medical supplies.  He asks us, “is that it?”  It made me a little proud of our packing skills.  We would be living out of these bags for one month.

The car ride to the airport was quiet.  Constant thoughts in my head, “did I remember our passports?”  I probably asked myself and checked and double checked over and over again.  Somehow Hawaiian Airlines made me a Gold member.  Without even trying I flew enough to receive the status.  I have to say the perks are pretty good.  We walked to the premier/first class check in line.  Turned in our free check ins and had our seats upgraded to premier seats.  I fully took advantage of the perks.

Near our gate is a restaurant that I had breakfast at 2 weeks before when I flew to Hawaii to help pack medical supplies.  I made friends with the bartender who was from Tennesse.  I told him about meeting one of the Titans in the Philippines.  The only full-blooded Filipino in the NFL.  Don and I went to the restaurant, I hoped to see him at the bar  and talk Seahawks.  He was there!  ”Hey Tennesse! ”  I said.  He replies with an excited, “Hey girl!”  I felt like I was in Cheers for a moment.  Frequenting my favorite bar in the airport.

Our plane ride was uneventful.  We arrived in HNL.  The weather was a bit overcast with rain showers.  My dad picked us up and we headed to Kapolei.  Before heading home we had to stop in Waipahu to get fruit and vegetables for my mom.  I never been there before.  The market just a few blocks from the old Waipahu sugary mill.  As we walked in I suddenly left Hawaii and felt as I was transported to a small version of Bagio market.  Small venders and stalls of different farms. This became my new favorite market.

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Upon arrival in Kapolei we met the couple who would be housesitting my parents home for a month.  They grew up new my mom’s childhood home in Manila.  They were the cutest couple who wore matching outfits, enjoying long walks together, and to eat fresh fruit. They now reside in the Bay Area.  There family would later join them for a vacation.  Such a win for both parties!

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We ate good that night and the next day.  The house was full with every room occupied, even the living room and family room.  We shared good stories and continued to pack the remaining boxes.

The next day Don and I were dropped off at Alamoana for some shopping.  We met Michi for drinks at Maitai bar and later with Dina for dinner at Gome tai. We spent over 5 hours at Alamoana.  I even got a pedicure.  That place has it all.   After dinner Dina dropped us off at the Alamo rental so we could pick up a van so we could get to the airport the next day.  It ends up cheaper then calling for a taxi or airport shuttle.  We pick up Shaun at the airport also.  His flight arrived and we take him straight to the bar.  We had people to meet up with!

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At Mercury bar we had so many friends stop in to say Hi.  There was really good live music.  I once frequented this bar when it was a shady dive bar in the late 90′s while I attend Hawaii Pacific University.  The 90′s?  When did I become that old where I can date myself like that?  The night ended with everyone a little tipsy.  Thankfully, our designated driver Don got us to a diner for some food and parked Astra’s car in a garage to avoid it getting towed in the morning, and got us all home to Kapolei.  Now my parent’s house was really packed.  Every bed and couch was occupied!

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The next day, our flight didn’t leave until 12 midnight.  Being extra stressed, all the planning for the last year came to this day.  We left for the airport at 6pm.  Yes!  Super early.  Thankfully, we had an excuse to return the van, but before that we snuck away and ate take-out food at Nico’s.

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At the airport my parents and brothers waited for the volunteers to arrive.  Everyone was advised to only bring one check in and they would be given a balakbayan box full of medical supplies.  We start to see new faces.  I almost felt like I was starting a new job or attending summer camp.  This will be the people I will be traveling and working with.  Don and I check in just in time before the line to really pile up.  There is only one direct flight from HNL to MNL with Philippines Airlines.  Last year we took Hawaiian Airlines, but the airlines stop their non-stop service to MNL.  I was disappointed, but I heard there was some political reasons that the airline had to discontinue service.   securedownload-16

The gate was packed with people.  My dad saw his high school classmates who were going to the Philippines for their 50th high school class reunion.  He could’t go because of the mission.  I saw Dr. Lisa whom I had not seen since our wedding back in 2008.  I was excited.  My dad and Lisa had been doing medical missions for years.  Finally it was my turn!

We boarded on the plane and head off to MNL.  I take out my blankets and neck pillows and pass out waking up in MNL to the most beautiful sunrise.

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Preparing for a medical mission

We were going to the Philippines for work and pleasure.  My dad was coordinating the mission with his friend Dr. Lisa Grininger for Aloha Medical Mission.  They have been apart of this organization for about 20 years.  The mission was in the town of Tugeugarao.  A city about an hour north of Manila by air.  Only 2 flights fly into Tugeugarao each day.

Prior to the mission I spent 4 months gathering donated medical supplies and over the counter meds.  My awesome hospital donated lots of supplies such as endotracheal tubes and IV kits.  My co-worker Val, donated multi-vitamins, Tylenol, Advil, band aids, gloves, and Neosporin.  Her donation help hundreds of patients and were the most needed meds in the clinic and for post operative patients.  All her donated goods were from Costco.  I’m so grateful for her generous donation.  Another co-worker collected donations from people such as diabetic supplies and gloves.

Months prior my parents and Lisa had been preparing and sending boxes to a local contact in Tugeugaroa.  Local hospitals and facilities donated lots of medical supplies that helped us supply all the surgeries and procedures performed.

There is a lot of preparation involved in a mission.  You have to do necessary paper work.  The organization will provide the paper work for you.

I really didn’t know what to expect in a medical mission.  Growing up I watched my dad leave for these missions and return with amazing stories and pictures.   He made life long friends and memories.  I was excited to finally partake in one.  There was about 30 volunteers along with my parents, brothers, husband, aunt, uncle, cousin, and a friend.

I watched youtube videos of previous Aloha Medical Mission.  Around the hospital I spoke with nurses and doctors who volunteered before.  I was ready, or I thought I was.

If you are ever interested in volunteering check out Aloha Medical Mission’s, Where we’re going, page.  

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Orcas Island, WA

Our friends Jeanette and Morgan invited us to spend the weekend with them on Orcas Island for Super Bowl Sunday.  We quickly jumped on the opportunity.  Seahawks were playing in the Super Bowl and we figured if they lost, at least we would be on a mini vacation.

Our last day of work was January 31, 2014.  This would be the start of our one month holiday.  We spent the entire year saving vacation time and over time monies for this very day.  Why not start a vacation with a pre-vacation?

We left our home for Orcas Island at 7am.  In order to get to Orcas Island you have to drive approximately 1 1/2 to Anacortes, Washington and catch a ferry.  Because it was off season and Saturday morning we were ok on being at the ferry dock 20 minutes before departure time.  During busy seasons you should get to the ferry dock at least one or two hours before departure time.  There is limited space on the ferry and multiple stops on various islands in the San Juans. The ride on the ferry is always beautiful with tranquil views of isolated islands.  We didn’t see any whales, but in the summer time, Orca whales frolic in the Puget Sound and I have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one a few years back.

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Washington State Ferry

Upon reaching the Orcas dock you are welcomed by a tiny stretch of town.  As you drive through Orcas island you step back into town and pass small farms and and peak a boo views of the water.  We stayed at Rosario Resort about a 20 minute drive from the ferry dock.  It is considered on the East Sound.  The resort is an old mansion owned by ship builder mogul,  Robert Moran.  He donated the land that is now Moran State Park, the entrance is a short 5 minute drive from the resort.

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Entrance to Moran State Park

The resort sits on the the little bay.  Buildings are scattered along the bay.  The mansion no longer has guest rooms.  The front desk, spa, and restaurant is located in the mansion.  We stayed in Bayside building which is the closest building to the mansion.  Our room had a view of the bay and the mansion.  Jeanette and Morgan booked the spa package was was upgraded to the Bayside deluxe suite.  It was a huge room with a dinning table, sitting area, and a unobstructed view of the water.  The resort was pretty quite.  Most people venture Orcas Island during the day.  We only saw cars parked in the lot at night.  By sunday night everyone had left and only 3 cars were parked in the lot.  Two of the cars were ours.

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Bayside Building

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View from the suite’s balcony

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Moran Mansion

We walked around the small town of East Sound which has little art galleries and shops.  We meet a nice shop owner who also charters whale watching tours.  She informed us that   the boat leaves near the ferry dock and walk-on allowing walk on passengers to take the tour.  The cost of the ferry with a car and 2 people is about $43.  Walk on is significantly cheaper at $12.70 per person.  You are only charged at the Anacortes dock.  The trip home is free.

Back in 2003, our first summer living in Washington we camped at Moran State Park with some friends.  Reserving a spot is highly recommended.  We stayed in the primitive camp sites that had outhouses, but no showers.  You can take a short drive to showers.   There are many trails in the park and a lovely lake to cool off in.   Mount Constitution is in the park and boast amazing views from the observation tower.  It is on the highest point of the island at 2400 feet.  There was a light dusting of snow when we visited the tower and no people.  Don and I had the lookout to ourselves.

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View from the top of Mount Constitution observation tower.

On Super Bowl Sunday Rosario Resort’s bar hosted a party.  The menu was exceptional and cheap.  We had pitchers of beer and enjoyed the game.  Seahawks won by a landslide and we were the youngest and rowdiest group there.  Most of the locals that came were a bit older.  We celebrated the win with a soak in the resort’s hot tub.

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Super Bowl selfie

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SEAHAWKS!!!!

The next morning Don and I caught the first ferry out at 700am.  There was only 2 ferries scheduled to leave the island that day.  We couldn’t afford to be stuck on the island.  We headed home and packed for our next adventure.  The next morning we were off to Honolulu for 2 days before heading out to the Philippines.  So this is how it all started.

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Buster loved vacations too…

We lost our beloved dog Buster 1/14/14.  Don and I got him when he was 8 weeks old.  He was our child, our baby.  He will be missed.  Buster loved vacations just as much as we did.  We took him on camping, boating, cabin, ski trips, and stay cations .  He loved going somewhere new all the time that he would whine in the car as if he was telling us, “are we there yet?”.

In remembrance of Buster this post is dedicated to traveling and adventures that Buster enjoyed.

CAMPING

When we first got Buster I was a full-time student.  Don and I had just bought a house and had a very limited income.  We went camping a lot.  Its a wonderful inexpensive get away. Washington has a lot of wonderful camping spots.  Our favorite was Twin Lakes in Belfair, WA.  The campsite is on a first come first serve basis.  You have to hike in your camping gear which deters most rowdy crowds.  Buster loved swimming in the lake and chasing chipmunks.  When we were off dirt biking Buster would wait for us patiently, laying on the picnic table.  He loved camping for the first 2 days.  More then that, he couldn’t wait to go home.  Such a suburban dog!

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Ruff weekend camping

BOATING

We were blessed to have access to Don’s dad’s boat.  We would take weekend trips around the Puget Sound and day trips to Maury Island.  Buster was a great boat dog!  He loved walking around the boat, climbing up the ladder, and meeting new people on the dock.  He made friends with everyone!  He was a natural mariner!

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Buster loved laying out in the sun. Moments after this picture, he fell asleep and fell into the water! It was so funny!

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He loved laying around with us

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Lazy dog day on Blake Island, WA

Hiking goof balls

Hiking goof balls on boat access only Blake Island.

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On the dingy to Maury Island.

CABINING

We love renting cabins.  We rented many of cabins with friends or just the 3 of us.  Buster was always the center of attention when we rented cabins with friends.  We have many of funny stories of him being super goofy.  He always brought laughter and love.  He loved exploring the grounds of the cabin and discovering new smells.  Most of all enjoying time with us.

Family Reunion in Seely Lake, WA

Family Reunion in Seely Lake, Montana

Sunset dip in the Hood Canal

Sunset dip in the Hood Canal, WA

 

Boating to the cabin in Ten Mile Lake, Oregon

Boating to the cabin in Ten Mile Lake, Oregon

 

Bust swimming in La Push, WA

Swimming in La Push, WA

Buster in Montana

Buster in Montana at Tamaracks Resort

SKI TRIPS

Buster loved the snow.  He would wait patiently when we were out snowboarding.  We would return to the truck and let him run about in the parking lot.  He got to play with other dogs and meet new people.  He also loved to go snow shoeing with us and wad through chest deep snow!  He enjoyed it when we would rent cabins in the snow and staying in the Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass.  Thank you for being pet friendly.  We wished more hotels were pet friendly!

snow shoeing at Alpental

Snow shoeing at Alpental, WA

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Buster and Don playing the snow

 

STAYCATIONS

Buster was never good in a crate which prevented him from airline travel.  When Don and I would visit Hawaii we would sit on the beach and say, Buster would love Hawaii.  Thankfully, we have amazing friends who would care for Buster when we were gone.  One of his favorite stay cation was with the Gordon’s.  He got to spend time on a Lake Tapps with a lovely family.  Lilly, the youngest daughter would let Buster sleep with her in her room.  I bet Buster was in heaven!

Buster and Lilly

Buster and Lilly

Buster also loved visiting Opie and Dana on their lake front property in Maggie Lake, WA.  He got to hang out with his buddy, Hole Shot (RIP, buddy) and swim around the lake all day long.

Buster enjoyed trips as much as we did.  He lived life to its fullest!  We loved him so much and will be missed.  Rest In Peace Buster.  We miss you so much.  Till we meet again.

 TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH YOUR PETS

Pets are allowed on most campsites.  Glow in the dark collars are very helpful at night so you can spot your pup in the dark.

Dog friendly hotels allow dogs with a fee. Usually, $25 a night.

Vacation rentals:  We found most of our vacation rentals on VBRO.COM.  You can filter pet friendly properties.  There’s usually a dog fee.  Its either nightly or one time fee.  We experienced either $25 a night.  Or fees like $60 a trip.

LINKS of some of places we’ve stayed at:

1 bedroom cabin on Hood Canal in Tahuya, WA  –  The property is waterfront and very secluded.  Lots of room for dogs to roam.  The owner was very friendly and accommodating.    She loved dogs and didn’t even charge a dog fee!

5 bedroom Olympic Peninsula & Pacific Coast House in Forks, WA -  The property is on 80 acres!  Plenty of room for dogs to roam!  Buster was so excited about the size of the house and property that he kept running around and exploring!  He ran right into the sliding glass door.  It was so funny and he was so embarrassed.  After that he was so weary of running into sliding glass doors.

Ten Mile Lake House in Oregon -  This property is very hard to get to.  Many of the homes on Ten Mile Lake is boat access.  This property would be very difficult without 4 wheel drive.  The drive way is very narrow and steep.  But the property is very tranquil  and just beautiful.  The boat house was a great place to relax on the water.  Ten Mile lake is very close to the Oregon Sand Dunes where we go dirt biking.

Tamarack Resort in Seeley Lake, Montana –  This large property has a cluster of cabins.  Its great for family reunions so that we all can get a cabin and have some personal space.  They are very pet friendly!

Summertide Resort in Tahuya, Washington -  Lovely owners who love dogs!  The property is a cluster of rentals on the shoreline of Hood Canal.  Great for fishing and crabbing.

Great Northwest Cabins in Packwood, Washington -  This was the last vacation we went on with Buster.  We knew something was wrong when he started to act like an old man.  We were so lucky to spend time with him on this trip.

Buster had is own Facebook page.  You can check out his awesome adventures here!

You can also find him on Instagram.  Hashtag #busterwoo.

Always excited to go somewhere!

Always excited to go somewhere!

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He was the biggest goof ball!

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Hey SoCal!

 

The joys about my work schedule is that I get 5 days off in a row every 2 weeks.  When my best friend Dina said she was spending a long weekend in LA and Shaun saying I should  visit, I was down!   I was able to find tickets 2 weeks before departure date for an amazing price: $80 one way.  I flew into LAX via Virgin America.  With all that money I saved I upgraded to first class to start my trip out right.

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My friend Shaun picked me up at the airport.  I was able to get a room at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA on hotwire.com for $125 a night.  The decor was old Hollywood.  A bit glam and gaudy.  Parking at the hotel is super expensive at $40 a night.  Best value is to park across the street at Pershing square garage only costing $16 a night.  We choose to stay in Downtown LA due to the hotel rates we were able to get on hotwire.com.  Dina was able to get a room at the Sheraton via hotwire.com for the same rate.  She was spending 4 nights in DTLA.

Downtown LA is going through a bit of a gentrification.  Honestly, I had never stepped foot in this area until now.  My friend Everette just relocated here from Las Vegas (Originally from Hawaii) now lives in Little Tokyo.  During the day DTLA seemed like any city center.  Business people walking about, etc.  At night the homeless camps pops up under bridges.

We met up at dinner a few blocks from our hotel.  Shaun has never been to DTLA despite living in SoCal.  We ended up getting lost to the restaurant and very late for dinner.  We met up with Dina, her husband Brandon, and Everette at Baco Mercat.  We enjoyed delicious food and tasty wine.  We were all pretty tired and called headed back to our hotels.

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wrong turn in DTLA.

The next morning we met up with the group at Bottega Louie for brunch.  It was  Sunday morning at the restaurant was packed.  The restaurant is adorable.  The place has a market and bakery.  The space is clean and crisp.  And all the staff were GORGEOUS!

Bunch with friends

 

 

After brunch we checked into the Westin Bonaventure.  I wasn’t anticipating to spend 2 nights in DTLA, but I booked with hotwire for another amazing rate.  We all met up afterwards at The Getty.  It’s a museum perched on the hills, offering amazing views of LA.  The Getty is free.  You just have to pay for parking.  We didn’t have enough time venture the museum.  You could easily spend an entire weekend here.  Instead we ventured the grounds.  There’s cafes and stands selling food, wine, and beer.  Or you could bring your own.  This would be a lovely date place.

 

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Tram to the Getty

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I have some amazing friends!

 

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We all planned to visit Universal Studios for their Halloween fest.  Sadly, our lack of planning cost us and all the tickets were SOLD OUT.  Instead we went to West Hollywood for dinner at some texmex place.  Nothing too special except and lovely evening with friends.  We ended the night having drinks at our hotel and desert at Bottega Louie.

The next day we headed to Disneyland.  Shaun lives in the City of Orange just minutes from Disneyland.  I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was 8 years-old.  Here we were 4 adults with no kids going to the most happiest place on earth.

It will cost you an arm and a leg to get in.

It will cost you an arm and a leg to get in.

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The day was spent waiting in lines followed by rides.  Disneyland seemed a lot smaller then I remembered it.  Sadly, no fireworks since it was, “off season.”  boo!

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We still enjoyed ourselves and relived memories from our childhood.  We ended the day eating cheap authentic Mexican food from some hole in the wall and watched Walking Dead’s season premier at Shaun’s.  We said good by to Dina and Brandon as they were heading back to Hawaii the next day.

The next 2 days was spent at Shaun’s in Orange, CA.  He lives just 2 blocks from a strip of restaurants and antique shops.  Shaun having to attended a work conference one of my days I was forced to venture out on my own.  I took his dog, Joe with me.  At a near by Haven gastro pub they had a dog menu.  Joe had his favorite (according to Shaun), lamb and rice.  As I sat in the outdoor seating area, many people stop to compliment me what a beautiful dog I had and small talked.  Wow, everyone is so friendly!   I called Don and told him about the dog menu and how dog friendly So. Cal was.  We both agreed that Buster would love it here.

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Sharing a bed with another man.

Lunch date with Joe

Lunch date with handsome Joe

 

I was also able to meet up with my brother Vernon and spent the evening shopping with my lovely niece and nephew.  The next day before flying out, Shaun and I went out to breakfast at a french/mexican cafe in Orange.  Sooooo delish!

I flew out of Santa Ana airport (SNA).  The airport is sooo tiny that it took me 2 minutes to get through security.  I inquired about an upgrade.  Sadly, they were all sold out.  I asked how much they usually cost and the gate agent informed it, $50.00.  Damn!  I did fly with Alaska airlines.  I’m not too fond of the airline.  Its kind of, uh, ghetto.  They were offering free bag checks because of their full plane.  I will admit, I was shaking in my boots, worrying there wouldn’t be any overhead room for my carry on.  Luckily, who ever was destined to sit next to me was upgraded and I had seat between me and my row mate and room for my check in.  My row mate was incredibly friendly and shared her magazines.  She told me that she was heading to her second home.  She splits her time between Bend, OR and Orange County.  To get to bend she would fly from SNA to SEA, then SEA to PDX, then PDX to the nearest airport to Bend.  Wow!  I was so glad I only had one flight.

I was greeted by my amazing husband then welcomed home by a very happy Buster.  My short trip was a quick one.  I got to see my lovely friends and family.  Even convinced Shaun on coming on our medical mission to the Philippines in Feb!!!

Till our next adventure!

 

 

 

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Escaping to Point Roberts, WA

The most unusually, difficult to get to part of America has to be Point Roberts, WA.  Don first told me the story of this town while driving home from Whistler about this town that got forgotten when USA and Canada drew the border through the 49th parallel.  A small portion of land connected to Vancouver was deemed USA. I thought I was sooo silly and even thought he was lying (this was pre smartphone days).  It wasn’t until years laters our friends Destry and Craig invited us to their condo in Point Roberts aka Point Bobs that it was confirmed true!

Getting to Point Roberts, WA

To get there is somewhat challenging due to 2 border crossings.  You have to cross into Canada then drive to the town of Tsawwassen to get to another bordering crossing from Canada to USA.  I seems kind of ridiculous to have a border crossing for a small town almost completely surrounded by water.  This maybe the most gated community in America.  Due to the border crossing it tacks on an extra hour to get there.  You can also take a small plane with Northwest Sky Ferry from Bellingham and fly to Point Bobs. If you’re lucky enough to have a boat your can sail or cruise there.

Maple Beach

Destry and Craig’s place sits on Maple Beach.  A popular destination for weekend and day tripping Canadians and home to a small amount of year-round residents.  Just a 22 miles south of Vancouver you travel back in time to a small beach community.  Maple beach sits on Boundary Bay.  In the summer the shallow waters are quite warm allowing for swimming.  The tides are drastic and can go out almost a mile.  Be cautious because it can come in quickly.

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MAPLE BEACH

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Low Tide

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Sunset on Maple Beach

The weekend of our visit Maple Beach was having a a sand sculpture competition.  We woke and drank bloody mary’s on their porch and watched groups working on massive sand sculptures.

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Let the day begin!

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My favorite sand sculpture

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The winner!

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Sand sculpture award ceremony

There’s one pub on Point Roberts, Kiniski’s Reef Tavern.  The outdoor seating offers views of the Vancouver Island.  The staff are super friendly and we had most delicious cheesecake made by the waitress herself.

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Scenes from Point Roberts:

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Lighthouse beach

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Canadian-USA treaty monument

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Boobs are border crossing!

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The best place to eat in Point Roberts is Brewster’s Fine Foods.  They had delicious brunch.  And the owner and staff are super friendly!

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Brewster’s Brunch!

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We spent most of our days on Maple beach lounging in the sun and swimming.  It was so nice to relax and step back in time.

Places to stay on Point Roberts

There are no hotels in Point Roberts.  VBRO.COM has a few vacation rentals.  Maple Meadows B & B sits a block from Maple Beach.  You can also camp at Lighthouse Marine Park.  If you have a boat there are guest moorage at Point Roberts Marina Resort.

Point Roberts is a great place to relax.  The cell phone service is with Canadian Telcom, ROGERS.  To avoid roaming fees, you’re forced to shut off your cell phones and relax.  Enjoying time with friends and making new ones.  I can’t wait to visit again.  Maybe next time I’ll fly over to avoid the border crossing.  But once there, you realize it was definitely worth the trip!

Invite for fruits and drinks at the neighbors house.

Invite for fruits and drinks at the neighbors house.

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Neighbors gathering on the sea wall.

 

 

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Too much fun with Craig and Destry!

 

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Summertime in the Pacific Northwest

 

 

 

I rarely go on a trip in the summer time.  Summers are my favorite season in the Northwest.  Its beautiful here with mild weather and so many activities.  We usually spend our weekends at a friend’s property on the peninsula, 4 x4 on the trails, and lounging near the water.  Here’s some of our most favorite activities in the PNW.

 Maggie Lake, WA (near Tahuya and Belfair)

We are pretty blessed to have friends who share their vacation property with us.  Kevin and Dana spends their summer weekends on this beautiful lake just 90 miles from Seattle.  The lake is spring filled and no motorized boats are allowed on the lake making it a peaceful retreat.  There’s a mix a permanent residents and weekenders that live on the lake.  Sadly, there are no vacation rentals on the lake.  Washington state is filled with little lakes just like this.

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View from the property

There are vacation rentals a few miles away that we have stayed at.   We’ve stayed at this cabin on the Hood canal and Summer Tide Resort.  The Hood Canal is a great place to go crabbing and because of its shallow waters the temperature of the water allows swimming.

Hood canal at Summer Tide Resort

Hood canal at Summer Tide Resort

 

The area offers lots of activities.  Nearby is 4×4 trails and dirt biking trails at Tahuya State Forest.  There’s also camp sites there.  Don and I have spent many summers dirt biking and camping here when I was able to rough it.

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4×4 at Tahuya State Forrest

 

 

After a long day of activities we love to wind down with friends in front of the camp fire.  Dinner is always made on the open flame.  Its an even bigger treat during crabbing season to have fresh crabs for dinner!

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Sunbathing near water:  Alki Beach and Lake Tapps

The Puget Sound is always at 45 degrees all year round.  Although it very tempting to swim in the waters are cold.  Good enough for a quick dip to cool off.  Washington state has weird property laws.  Unlike Hawaii where all beach front is public access, property owners own the beachfront and tide rights.  There are public places, but it can get real crowded on hot days. Again, we are blessed with wonderful friends who allow us to hang out at their place and enjoy the water.

Alki Beach with Buster and Leon

Leon and Buster at Aunty Nicole’s place on Alki

 

Buster’s favorite place on Lake Tapps at the Gordon’s.

 

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Baby Seal sunbathing at Redondo Beach (just 2 miles from my home)

 

Other places to lounge around near the water is Lake Washington’s Seward Park, Lake Sammamish, and Dash Point State Park.

Hiking, kayaking, and exploring

There are many hiking trails around Seattle.  REI’s  headquarters is literally in my backyard (Kent, WA).  The PNW is filled with outdoor enthusiast.  The terrain is perfect with the Cascades and Olympic mountains.  The many lakes and Puget sound makes it ideal for water sports.  There is so much to do here!

Lake Union

Lake Union

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Kayaking with Jeanette on Lake Union

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Hiking with friends at Rattle Snake Ridge.

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Breathtaking views

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Mount Rainer

 

Seattle, WA

There’s a lot of things to do in the city.  Take a trip to the Space Needle and have lunch at the Sky city Restaurant at the top.  To go to the observation deck will cost you $18.  If you eat at the restaurant you get a good meal with an amazing view.  The restaurant is run by Tom Douglas, one of Seattle’s most famous restauranteurs.

While at the Space Needle you could also visit the EMP Museum and the Chihuly Garden and Glass.

No visit is complete with out visiting Pike Place Market.  You can take a food tour with Savor Seattle or just venture on your own.  My favorite place to eat is Salmon Chowder at Pike Place Chowder.

I’ve stayed at the several Seattle hotels for overnighters.  The Westin is in downtown Seattle.  The rooms are comfortable and gives you views of the city.  Sheraton is similar and just a few blocks away.  The Seattle Marriott Waterfront offers gorgeous sound views and is located across the street from the Bell Harbor terminal where most cruise ships leave from.  The Sorrento is located on Seattle’s First Hill.  Just a few blocks from downtown. It is an old historical hotel that kept its charm.  The beds are super comfortable and is located a few blocks from the Pike/Pine Corridor.  The area is filled with restaurant and bars.  The Sorrento also offers discounted rates to hospital employees on First Hill.  Which is a big score for me!  Thank you Sorrento!

My most favorite thing about summer is enjoying my own backyard.  Afternoons relaxing on the loungers and hammock.  Enjoying a good bottle of white wine.  Dinners on the patio followed by bonfires at night.  Its always a bonus when we have out of town visitors to help us enjoy the PNW!

Whats your favorite things to do in the summer?

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Typical summer dinner

 

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Shaun visiting from So. Cal

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Side Trip: Napa Valley

Shaun had rented a mini cooper for the trip.  I highly recommend renting a mini while in SF.  Parking is awful, but manageable with a mini to fit in small spaces.  The 4 of us Val, Kevin, Shaun, and I did a 24 hour side trip to Napa Valley.  Shaun picked me up at my AirBnB apartment then we headed down the street to Kevin’s.  I had all my bags.  Which filled the back of the mini’s trunk.  Not great for storage.  So I left my 60L back pack at Kevin’s apt for the overnighter.

Big guy in little car

Big guy in little car

 

We all pilled into the mini and headed north.  Shaun took us on the scenic route by taking the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was foggy, but still beautiful.

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We checked in our hotel SpringHill Suites by Marriott at Napa Valley.  Shaun booked the room the night before and generously paid for the room.  Thanks Shaun!  The hotel was nice with 2 queen beds and a sitting area with a pull out sleeper couch.  We checked out the pool and saw the most unusual sign.

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They have a serious policy on diarrhea!

After settling in we ate at Boon Fly Cafe.  There was a 45 minute wait for a table.  So we ordered bloody mary’s and point reyes blue cheese flat bread and ate it outside until our table was ready.

Best Bloody Mary ever!

Best Bloody Mary ever!

Yummy flat bread!

Yummy flat bread!

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Starters at BOON FLY

By the time we were done with lunch it was 4pm.  Most vineyards close at 4pm so we went to downtown Napa and enjoyed tastings at Back Room Wines and 1313 Main.  It was my first time ever doing wine tasting.  I know, shocking.  Considering I spend about 1/2 of my grocery budget on wine.  I learned that you order a particular tasting.  They vary on the type of tasting that you choose on the menu. There’s a menu of different all types of wines.  The prices range from $15-$30.  You get about 3-4 tastings and all wines are available for purchase.

Tasting at 1313 Main

Tasting at 1313 Main

After tasting we went to Oxbow Public Market to buy meat and cheeses for our hotel picnic.

We went back to the hotel and enjoyed wine in the hot tub and at the hotel fire pit.

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Hot tubing!

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warming our toes!

 

We ended our night with our hotel room picnic while watching Behind the Candelabra.

Great way to end the day.

Great way to end the day…

The next morning we got up early to start our wine tasting.

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We’re ready to get our drink on!!!

Our first stop was Robert Mondavi Winery.  Shaun recommended that we go to the reserve room to have a high end tasting.  We didn’t have time for a tour.  So all of our winery visits were only tasting rooms.  The reserve room and Robert Mondavi is pretty nice and has a view of the barrels.  This was a great way to start our day.

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Family photo in the reserve room

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Our next winery was Peju Province.  It is a smaller, family owned winery.  The back tasting room has gorgeous stain glass windows and the grounds are charming as if you were in a small winery in France.

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The wine at Peju was so good that we ordered shipments to be sent to our home!

Our next stop was Alpha Omega Winery.  The wines were ok.  The prices for bottles was over my price range and the tasting room was very busy.

Alpha Omega grounds

Alpha Omega grounds

By the time we went to our 4th stop, Franciscan Estate Winery, we were getting a little tipsy.  Lee our server was this cute, old man who divides his time in Molokai and Napa.  He took good care of us with big pours and good conversation.  We left the winery with big smiles.

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We had lunch at Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead.  The food there was delicious and farm fresh!  We ate good and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine together.

Beef tartar

Beef tartar

Caramelized beet salad

Caramelized beet salad

Best Mac and Cheese ever!

Best Mac and Cheese ever!

 

Farmstead burger!

Farmstead burger!

 

Our last meal together...

Our last meal together…  Good times… Good times..

Poor Shaun had to catch a flight that evening.  He rushed us back to San Francisco and dropped us off in front of Kevin’s home and then rushed to the airport.  The day was so awesome.  I wished we had more time to venture Napa.  Next time we will definitely have to spend more days there.  The food and drinks were amazing!  And my company was even more amazing!  I laughed sooo much!  Good times!  Good times!

I picked up my backpack at Kevin’s and said my goodbyes.  It was so sad to say goodbye.  I had such a great time.  Despite living apart from them it so nice to be able to see each other and pick up as if we just saw each other yesterday.  I felt very lucky and blessed.  I had an amazing week with old friends and new ones!  I’m really looking forward to our next trip together!

I headed over to the BART station with my big bags to visit my family in Fremont.  I reflected on the awesome time I had in SF.  I love my friends so much.  Thank you for the most amazing time ever!  Till next time!

 

 

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Side Trip: SF

It all started with a FB post by a friend on going to the Bjork concert in SF.  A week later, 4 of my friends that live outside of SF confirmed on the trip. This would be a friend reunion!!!  My husband who established a expensive new hobby, 4×4 trucks, decided not to join.  It was a friend trip without my significant other and designated walker/driver.

I didn’t want to check in a bag, so I had a small weekender bag and a 60L pack.

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My husband dropped me off to the airport on a Monday morning before heading to work.  I  travelled on Virgin Airlines and was able to score roundtrip tickets to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for $230.00.

When I arrived in SFO it was easy to take the BART (SF transits system) to the city.  I spent the first night with my friend Paul who I met over 10 years ago when he lived in Seattle.  He lived in the heart of the Mission district.  We ate brunch at the Pork Store Cafe and had ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery.  We also visited the Ferry Terminal, but was too full to eat anything there. Later that evening we met my best friend Dina visiting from Hawaii and her husband at Woodhouse Fish Co. just 2 blocks from Paul’s house for dinner.  After dinner we had drinks at a dive bar off Velencia street and stumbled back to Paul’s.  Great way to start friend’s trip to SF!

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MISSION DISTRICT art work

The next day I met with my other best friend Astra who also travelled from Hawaii.  She was staying with a friend just a BART stop away.  We had breakfast, thrift shopped, and walk around the Mission.  At 200pm I had to meet the cleaning lady for my airbnb apartment to get keys.  I’ve never tried airbnb.com.  I’m usually use VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owners) and used it over a dozen times.  Airbnb has permanent vacation rentals, but most are sublets and people renting out their rooms.  The apartment I rented was just 0.25 miles away from a friends house and was a pretty good deal at $100 per night.  It was a sublet.  The resident was going to be out of town for a week.  The place was clean and cute, but it was her home AS IS.  There was no place to put my clothes.  The apartment did have a good view, was comfortable, and in a safe neighborhood tucked between Mission District and Noe Valley.

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View from the apartment

The rest of the day was meeting up with friends and bar and restaurant hoping.   It was so nice to see friends and meet new friends. I started drinking at 3pm and I didn’t get back to the apartment till 2am.  LASING!  LASING!

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Friends and New Friends

The next day was Bjork concert day.  Another friend from Hawaii, Val, had arrived at 1am that morning.  We had brunch at Radish.  They had bottomless mimosas!  My kind of place.   Also, delicious food!

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Brandon, Dina, Me, Astra, and Val at Radish

After breakfast we rented bikes at Golden Gate Park.  I wished we had more time to explore, but had to get ready for the concert.  Our ferry was leaving early at 530pm.

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The bike crew!

The concert was in Richmond.  Which is supposedly, really far away from SF.  Especially without a car.  Some of us met at the pier to ride a ferry to RIchmond.  The ferry was just for the Bjork concert.  If you are every going to a concert at Craneway Pavillion, make sure you EAT before heading over.  There is lots of alcohol, but our only food option was chips and famous amos cookies.  Thankfully, our friends that drove snuck in slim jims and trail mix!  Bjork was amazing!

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On route to Craneway
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With my Besties!
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With friends at the Bjork concert
It was a long trek home getting back on the ferry, short ride on the cable car, a few stops on the BART back to the Mission.
The next couple days was filled with good eating and good drinking.
Some favorite places I ate:
Swan Oyster Depot:  Be prepared for along line.  It’s worth the wait for the freshest seafood.
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Yamo: Hole in the wall.  It’s the yummiest Chinese food ever.  Best for take out and eating it at Delores Park.
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El Farolito Taqueria: The best Mexcian food in the Mission!
Paprika:  A small German Restaurant in the Mission.  Yummy food!  The owners are super nice!
Venga Empanadas:  Delicious empanadas.  I bought a dozen of these and ate them every day for breakfast.
Beast and Hare:  Super cute.  Delicious food and wine.
Favorite Drinking spots (that I can remember):
Trick Dog: Delicious cocktails and some good eats!
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El Rio:  Great bar with a nice outdoor space!
On my last night in SF some of Val friends had a get together at their beautiful home.  It was Hawaiian potluck style.  Almost everyone was from Hawaii!  It was a little slice of home in the big city! There was so much amazing food and drinks!
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SF friend reunion trip was amazing!  I can’t wait for the next one!
And Yes!  I was LASING!  LASING! A lot!
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