Tag Archives: SFO

Foodie Tour of California

The crazy day trip to San Francisco turned out to be a great success and a much needed distraction in my life right now.

Was it worth the cheap price and all the effort? Absolutely! Let me tell you how it all went, and why I’d highly recommend doing something like this every once in a while in anyone’s own busy lives.

I could not sleep at all the night before the early morning flight. But thankfully the flight was long enough (6 hours) that I managed to take a bunch of naps in the process. The weather in San Francisco was perfect. Sunny, warm and much better than the freezing cold in the Northeast. I met up with a fellow CouchSurfer visiting from Japan, and we embarked on a foodie experience of the city. The first day though we kind of failed at public transport waiting ridiculously long for an F-car along Market Street to take us to Fisherman’s Wharf so we resorted to walking. And the one trip up hill on the way back towards Chinatown kicked my ass. Later we discovered it was possible to walk around the hill by following the main street diagonally away from the Pier 39 area, but the workout was great even though it was tiring. Especially since the views from the steep steps leading uphill were stunning and we saw a beautiful hummingbird along the way, pretty close.

in-n-out san francisco
I did get to do In-n-Out burger animal style with a chocolate/strawberry shake at the Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco
duck tongues and fish hot pot san francisco chinatown
Duck tongues and fish hot pot at Hong Kong Hot Pot, Chinatown San Francisco
ross street san francisco chinatown
apparently that’s how you say “ROSS” in Mandarin… I found a shorter nickname while I lived in Singapore: Da Xiong Mao 😉
and that’s how you say “Laguna” in Japanese… apparently the last character out of the four is a Chinese character used in Japanese language to describe a “town” … it was nice to have a Japanese companion explaining these things
tacos in mission san francisco
delicious tacos in the Mission section of San Francisco, a place full of awesome Mexican joints
ghirardellis hot chocolate san francisco
the obligatory visit to Ghirardelli’s especially in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day… turns out in Japan girls give guys gifts, not the other way around

The next morning we decided to take full advantage of the $17 day pass for the Cable Cars, by far my favorite activity in SF. To our surprise though Obama was in town so they were only running the  until 2pm which made us hustle a little. In reality though the California Street Cable Car stopped running closer to 11am, and the Hyde Street line stopped running even sooner because the cable went down. So instead we used other public transport to first visit the Cable Car museum, Chinatown, then head over to Ghirrardeli’s, then to Japantown and finally to Mission for some amazing Mexican food. While in Chinatown we tried my favorite Hong Kong Hot Pot, then bubble tea and I also took advantage of the opportunity to buy my nephew a cool traditional Chinese costume just in time for Chinese New Year. For the price I paid it was well worth it, cheaper than a onesie or a t-shirt I’ve bought in other parts of this country (Savannah for example). After Mission and a little walk around there that found us at a farmer’s market with a live performance by a young musician that sounded really good, we headed back to Ghirrardeli’s via the Hyde Street Cable Car that was surprisingly running, for some hot chocolate. Then back to Fisherman’s Wharf for delicious crabmeat and at that point I started worrying about making my flight. So another F-car ride down the Embarcadero we headed back towards the BART system.

The flight back to the East Coast was also uneventful. Sleeping was easier on the red-eye but instead of heading home to NYC I actually went via Fort Lauderdale. Though that visit was far less exciting than California even though I genuinely like South Florida much more. Ft. Lauderdale in the morning was freezing cold. I took public transport to Las Olas Blvd for some breakfast, but few places were open. The Floridian which seemed to be buzzing didn’t really have good customer service, or at least I could not find a table near an outlet to charge my phone and the staff was a bit rude about helping me with my request, so I walked out. A few blocks later I found an awesome cafeteria that made an exception to the rule (while serving breakfast) and made me a Cubano sandwich to go. Another short bus back to the airport and a quick trip through security saw me eating my sandwich at the gate just before take off.

south florida cubano
an authentic Cubano sandwich in South Florida… a must!
snowed in new york city
wasn’t too excited to be back in snow covered New York City, but the amazing classic cars left buried in snow and ice was a random and a welcome sight to see

Back in New York I once again hopped on the Subway to Long Island City to pick up my Jeep at the transmission shop. They called to tell me it was ready while in San Francisco and in typical New York style tried to explain it was going to cost more because of a bunch of parts they had to replace. $1650 bux lighter on the pocket I decided to hit Chinatown in New York as it was close to 5pm rush hour and I figured I’d be sitting in traffic heading back to New Jersey anyway. Before going to Pell Street to my favorite soup dumpling place I made a quick visit to a canolli shop on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, another one of my favorites. And at that moment I realized that I take NYC for granted living in NJ. The only time I get to visit is when I fly to places like San Francisco on a day trip. So my Chinese New Year resolution is to visit NYC more often! Waiting out traffic in the city didn’t really work, I was still stuck for over an hour trying to get to the tunnel, changed my mind and went for the bridge, and was stuck in gridlock again. When I got home I discovered my credit card was being used at a bunch of locations in Houston while I was in SF. So my journey ended by me cancelling my credit card. It’s amazing to see how nonchalant the credit card companies are towards fraud in this day and age, I should be considered lucky I guess, as my charges at Popeyes and Wendy’s in downtown Houston were minimal compared to what they could have been.

Anyway, the trip was great! As I said before, a much needed distraction to the problems of everyday life. Cold winter weather, hospital visits, broken cars, and other everyday bullshit. I wish I could travel more in the future… it’s one of my favorite hobbies.

Day trip to San Francisco & quick layover in Fort Lauderdale on the way back to NYC

There’s not much to be excited about these days. While 2011 in Singapore was the best time of my life, 2015 is shaping to be the most depressing, for sure. At home, my dad has lost half his weight since last year and doctors say he doesn’t have much longer to live. Ukraine – my homeland is under vicious attack from Russia. My Jeep finally broke down and an expensive repair is in progress to fix the blown transmission, and to top it all off my marshal license is in question because of ridiculous complaints. So how can one cope with the feeling of the world caving in?

Fly… away!

Flying is by far one of my favorite hobbies. Since I started flying frequently in 2006 I’ve logged over half a million miles and 50+ days up in the air, flying around the globe several times (three times in 2013 alone with trips to the Australian, Singapore and Korean Grand Prix). That was cool as hell and I really miss flying more often.

So when an opportunity popped up to fly to one of 32 different destination JetBlue flies for just $32 dollars each way, I jumped on it. And while a trip to Barbados, Turks and Caicos or the Cayman Islands would have been incredible for that kind of price. The dates of travel fell on the same week that I was already travelling to beautiful Saint Lucia. And after discovering how expensive that place was for even the most budget conscious traveler, I’m glad I booked an “In-n-Out” run to San Francisco instead.

Why “In-n-Out” run? Because initially it was supposed to be just that. I was to fly in later in the afternoon, grab a delicious burger and fries animal style and a shake, turn around and fly back home. But with the winter weather hitting the Northeast hard, I was forced to reschedule. The new flights gave me an extra day to spend exploring the Bay area, and the return flight from California introduced a new dimension: grabbing brunch in South Florida with a four to five hour layover in Fort Lauderdale (one of my favorite places on earth!)

Anyway, all this is pending my actually waking up in the morning for the very early flight, while using the NY/NJ public transport system.

Will this trip make any of my troubles go away? Probably not. But it will be an excellent distraction. I’m most looking forward to the experience of flying itself. But equally as important will be having a delicious and authentic Mexican meal in Cali, followed by a visit to In-n-Out. A little bit of sightseeing. A few more authentic Bay area meals like the sourdough chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf, and a great Cuban dish in downtown Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood Florida, depending on how much time I actually have there.

Can’t wait!

in-n-out

PS. the last two times I volunteered at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I flew JetBlue with their amazing $120 round trip offer from Boston to San Franscisco. I didn’t think that deal could be beat, until now of course. It always pays to shop around for flight deals, and with crazy travel offers like this popping up, remember to book first and think about it later. Whatever you do, don’t miss out!

Grand-Am at Laguna Seca debrief

I like it when things go well, no… I love it! And this trip to Laguna Seca went exceptionally well from start to finish. So allow me to outline the successes and give encouragement to others hopefully reading this post that such a thing is possible.

This trip was one of the first events I booked upon returning from Asia Pacific… and what a hell of a deal that was. $120/round trip to fly one of my favorite airlines: JetBlue from Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA via Boston, MA. The connection times were a bit lengthy but at such a rate I would have been happy to visit downtown Boston for a bowl of clam chowder, but with JetBlue I didn’t have to – because they allowed me to go stand-by on a previous flight… twice! Because of this amazing capability I arrived San Fran at least four hours ahead of schedule, which meant I was there at a reasonable hour, and not around midnight like I had booked. So without giving it much thought I checked the car rental deals to see if I can do something about picking up the rental that was originally booked for next morning. Lo and behold I managed to get an even better rate for half an hour past my arrival. Sweeet! I didn’t have to spend the night at the airport, or have to go find a hotel in the city… I got into my car and headed out towards the Monterey Peninsula.

Once in Monterey I first went to check out Laguna Seca, thinking I could register early, but with Grand-Am in town there was very little happening… so I cruised around, checked out the beautiful ocean scenery and had some amazing food. The action on track finally started Friday, but not until late morning and almost noon-time. The support series that got to hit the track early were tame, but with decent fields it was fun to watch. Similarly for practice, qualifying and race day, the main attraction: Grand-Am did not disappoint. As I mentioned earlier I had the best seat in the house, working turn 8A at the bottom of the Corkscrew. I am amazed and honored with the trust the SF SCCA region put in me by letting me work that station alone for most of the weekend… they have figured out something other regions are still working on… when I’m busy I hardly take any pictures, haha!

So besides one little incident with a Continental Tire Challenge Camaro flying across the Corskcrew we were pretty quiet. I had a nice trip back up to SF to return the rental, and spend the next two nights in a hostel, which was a first. But it allowed for a perfect location to explore the city, which I was very much looking forward to do utilizing the Cable Car system… I think I managed to try every line! I also revisited Chinatown, and this time really really really enjoyed my meal. The secret to good food in that place is second story restaurants… and avoiding Dim Sum, which apparently I’m not a big fan of, it turns out.

The flight home was again excellent. I managed to credit the JetBlue miles to my AAdvantage account which I could later use for international flights. And once I reached Boston I again went stand-by on an earlier flight arriving home at a much more reasonable hour than I was scheduled. So that’s that. Great trip, great fun… good memories!

laguna seca grand am 1

laguna seca grand am 2

laguna seca grand am 3

laguna seca grand am 4

laguna seca grand am 5

AMA Superbikes at NJMP is next. Turns out my Dickies whites are only good for less than two seasons because three out of the four pairs have shredded in the crotch area, go figure! But I’m going to frankenstein a solution in time for Millville, where I’m looking forward to seeing my good friends whom I haven’t seen in a while. Singapore will follow shortly after.

Can’t believe this year is almost over!