Saturday, March 12, 2011

Orange County

Two hours north of San Diego, our next camp was in Anaheim, California. We don't normally like to make camp in the thick of things like this, but to be within a reasonable drive of the people and places that we came to see, this was a good location. Canyon RV Park is actually pretty nice, stretched out along the Santa Ana River, just across from a wilderness area. Unfortunately, the park's other boundary is the insanely congested freeway 91, so road noise was ever present no matter what time of day.

25 years ago a 16-year-old exchange student came from Brazil to spend a half-year in Freeport, Maine, and stayed in our house with my parents and sister. I was away, a freshman at Clarkson, but my school year ended earlier than that of the local high school, so when I came home for the summer, I too got to know Michele. We all loved her and remember her visit fondly. Only my mother has been diligent in maintaining communication, and thanks to her we re-united after all these years, here in southern California.

Michele's husband, Carlos, shares my love for mountain biking, and our visit began when he picked me up first thing in the morning to go to ride some of his favorite local trails. We had a great ride at Santiago Oaks park, climbing and descending sweet, fast single track trails in the hills overlooking all of Orange County.

One moment our legs and lungs would be burning from a steep climb up switchbacks...

...and the next our minds and hearts racing as fast as our bikes as we rocketed down hard packed turns or sat on our rear wheels on steep, loose gravity infested descents. It was awesome!

After the ride, Nancy and I went over to Michele and Carlos' home, where they served an amazing meal. It was so nice to see Michele after all these years. We ate outdoors in the perfect SoCal weather, and leisurely enjoyed the cedar-plank grilled salmon, all of the lovely salads, and washed it down with fine white wine. So nice!

Afterwards we walked off a few calories taking the dogs out on the paths assessible right from their door.

After the walk it Michele and Carlos' two beautiful daughters, Naomi and Mia, came home from school and charmed us with their sweet personalities. Naomi (6), quiet and serious, and Mia (3) outgoing, gregarious and impish!

We enjoyed another meal all together, then said our goodbyes.

And what visit to La-la-land would be complete without a dose of Mickey Mouse?

We spent most of the next day at Disneyland and California Adventure parks, strolling around the fantastic creations of Toontown, Frontierland and Fantasyland, and along the midway at Paradise Pier. We went on a lot of rides, particularly enjoying Indiana Jones Adventure and Soarin' California.

Our third and final day we got to see Michele again, when she joined us for lunch here at Casa-de-Whale. I baked a loaf of bread, just like Mom use to make, and of which Michele had fond memories. Michele brought boxes full of decadent deserts almost too beautiful to eat (almost!).

Then we braved Friday afternoon traffic and went down to Huntington Beach, where Carlos had seen a dog-friendly beach. We found it, and Toby enjoyed a romp in the Pacific ocean...

...and many romps with a host of other dogs. He left the beach happy, wet, sandy, and tired. (How tired? DOG tired!)

We capped off our stay with dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant: Kitiyama. This might just be the best Japanese restaurant, not just in Newport Beach, not just in Orange County, not just in California, not even just in the U.S.A, but I dare say in all of the entire world!!! Master sushi chef, Mr. Yamasaki, served up the freshest, tastiest, most creative sushi creations that I have ever had the joy to eat. Amazing.

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