Highway 1: L.A. to San Francisco

Called one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, Highway 1 spans several states and follows the coast from Washington all the way down to southern California. When driving this route, experts suggest taking days or even weeks to take in the beauty – and I can see why.

It’s been on my road trip bucket list for years and while we didn’t drive the WHOLE thing, we did take in quite a bit of it all the way from California up through Oregon. There were so many places we could have pulled over along the way, but didn’t, instead choosing to just enjoy the drive, take in Big Sur, then headed to San Francisco for a few days.

On the way out of Los Angeles, we drove through Malibu where I tried to stop to see the Cohen house from the television show The O.C. The home that was used, along with Marissa Cooper’s house and an adjacent neighboring house with the famous pool house from the show were in the path of the wildfires last summer. Online blogs reported the home was undamaged, however after making my way up the winding road into the community, you’re met by a gate at the bottom of the driveway and you can’t see anything once you get up there. It is visible from farther down the street, just no up close views. Sadly, the home with the pool house burned, so that’s no longer there.

Adam and I split up the drive that day; I took the first couple of hours and he took the rest. Highway 1 does take about twice as long as catching the 101, so take that into account when planning your trip.

The road is also very winding – I would not enjoy driving it at night. On one side, you have the mountain and the other a sharp drop off into the ocean. I can see where it would be very dark at night, and there are some construction zones following the mudslides from a few years ago, so plan accordingly.

It took us nearly all day to get to Big Sur, which was the highlight of the drive for the day. We pulled off at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and hiked the short trail to the overlook for McWay Falls.

The view was stunning. It was golden hour and pictures just really don’t do it justice.

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Note: there is no beach access, so don’t plan to swim here!

From there, we kept driving up Highway 1 toward Carmel-by-the-Sea for the night. On the way, I had to stop at Bixby Bridge, which some people probably recognize from the opening credits of Big Little Lies. In fact, residents in the area are pretty annoyed by tourists stopping to take photos because it’s clogging up the traffic and some are even doing dangerous things like hanging off the side of the bridge for an Instagram shot.

Please don’t be like these people! There is a designated viewing area – park there and don’t trample down the embankment or hang off the side of the bridge.

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Our hotel for the night was the Carmel Mission Inn. Hotels along this route are pricey, so factor that into your budget. I booked through Orbitz, so it was about half the price as what their web site says.

For dinner, we walked to a pizza place right behind the hotel called Allegro Pizzeria and got carryout. The pizza was New York style, pretty delicious and hit the spot after a long day on the road. I didn’t take any photos of it because I was too hungry, haha.

On day 4, we headed to San Francisco, which was another two hours or so. We left Highway 1 for this portion of the trip, stopping at Google Heaquarters in Palo Alto. I would have loved to have gone to Shark Fin Cove, but it was a more efficient route to jump on the 101 again, but if you aren’t detouring to San Francisco, consider adding it to your list of things to see.

Here are a few photos from Google. There’s a gift shop and the andriod statue garden, but if you want a tour of the place, you have to know someone who works there. We did walk around outside, but there’s not a lot to see on the campus.

We also went to Facebook but there were zero parking spots there, so no photos with the famous thumbs up sign by the road ūüôĀ

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Farewell to the Mockingjay

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Movie Review: Mockingjay, Part 2
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson.
Rated: PG-13

When we last saw Katniss Everdeen, she was grappling with the physical and emotional effects of nearly being strangled to death by Peeta Mellark, who didn’t exactly greet her with hugs and kisses after his rescue from the Capitol. During his capture, President Snow had been dosing him with tracker jacket venom and while he once looked at Katniss with love, now he’s now been conditioned to to perceive her as a threat. Hence the assassination¬†attempt.

The fourth and final installment in the Hunger Games movie saga (based on the best-selling young adult series by Suzanne Collins) picks up right where part 1 left off. Katniss is still bruised and battered and the Rebels are doing all they can to recondition Peeta so they can use him on their side in the fight for freedom from Snow’s reign.

Much like its predecessor, the first hour or so of the movie is painfully slow. Too much time is spent on both characters getting well enough to fight on the front lines and the scenes are loaded with dialog. There is very little action and the film gets bogged down by uneven pacing.

Fortunately, the movie is well made and well cast, which helps make up for the the plodding first half. Jennifer Lawrence gives a mostly emotionless, yet realistic performance of a war weary soldier who has had to turn off feelings in order to see the battle through. Jena Malone isn’t given much screen time, but her zany character portrayal of Johanna Mason is fun to watch. We also get one last performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his final role as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Things finally ramp up in the second half, when Katniss, who is still at odds with the Rebel’s leader President Coin, decides to go rogue. Coin wants her more for propaganda pieces rather than as a weapon out on the battlefield, but being the strong-willed heroine everyone looks up to, she eventually¬†joins the fight and leads a team through the Capitol that includes Gale and Peeta. Their mission: kill President Snow.

After a sequence of harrowing attacks brought on by the game makers and the loss of several on her team,¬†¬†Katniss and Gale finally make it to the President’s mansion, just as the Rebels¬†are making their final assault on the Capitol. The events that unfold thereafter¬†cause Katniss to re-evaluate what she’s fighting for and ultimately leads her to a decision that may be surprising for those who haven’t read the books.

Like the three movies before it, Mockingjay Part 2 has many important political messages about tyrannical oppression, government overreach, poverty and starvation of the common people.  Though futuristic, many of us watching the movie will see some of the same issues present in our society today. Neither the books nor the movies offer a real solution to the problems the people of Panem face Рtheir purpose is to serve as more of an awareness piece on what can happen when you live in a society where the government has all the control.

The ending isn’t perfect, but every story has to come to a conclusion at some point and while there are some bright spots at the end for our girl on fire, she’s still left to wrestle¬†with how to shape the future generations and deal with life after the revolution.

 

A Look Back at the X-Files, Season 4

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Season four of the X-files focused pretty heavily on the alien conspiracy plot and mid-way through, Agent Scully was diagnosed with cancer as a result of her abduction. As I’ve said before, I don’t think the alien plot is the most interesting part about the X-Files, so while the episodes in this season are still very good, it slowed down my re-watch of¬†the season, putting me a little bit behind where I need to be in order to get every episode watched by revival time.

Season four also contains Home, one of the most controversial episode of the series. Even though I’ve seen it multiple times, it still leaves me with an unsettled feeling. Another prime example of how excellent writing holds up over time.

Other standout episodes include Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (where we get a fascinating theory about who the cigarette smoking man really is), Never Again (a man’s tattoo comes to life and murders people who get to close to him), Kaddish, Small Potatoes (a baby is born with a tail and the mother thinks the father is Luke Skywalker) and the shocking cliffhanger season finale, Gethsemane.

Onward to season 5 – that one should be especially memorable for me since it was the first season that I remember watching when the show was on the air. And with only 20 episodes, it shouldn’t take as long to watch as season 4.

Happy re-watching!

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

BOOK Book Reviews 11514819042The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

Rachel Watkins’ life is a mess. She’s an alcoholic who recently lost her job, her husband left her for another woman, and she’s still obsessively in love with him despite the fact he’s already remarried and has a baby. She tells no one about her job, but keeps up appearances ¬†by taking the same train each day to London to look for work.

As it passes by a house near her old neighborhood, Rachel pays special attention to a couple who she affectionately names “Jess and Jason.” Their lives together seem perfect – a loving couple enjoying marital bliss until one day Rachel witnesses something horrific that will turn everything upside down.

One day after work, Rachel turns on the TV and discovers that “Jess” is really Megan and she’s gone missing. Rachel thinks that what she witnessed that day on the train might help with the investigation, however the police come looking for her first – it seems that she might have been one of the last people to see Megan alive the night she disappeared. The only problem is, Rachel was so drunk she can’t remember anything about that night except that when she woke up the next morning, there was blood all over her hands and face.

As the events surrounding Megan’s disappearance unfold, the story is told from three different perspectives, each one just as unreliable as the next. A tense page turner, “The Girl on the Train” is a griping read about the harsh realities of deception, obsession, violence and alcoholism. The story instantly hooks you, reels you in and keeps you dangling until the very surprising end.