Consulting As Navigator
by Mike van Zandwijk
Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Houston, We've Got a Problem (in LA on Day 7)

Day 7 with road trip from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles where we ended in Houston's Restaurant with a serious problem

Santa Barbara beach experienced a weird mix up of national sports.

IMG_3994Two Dutchies played American football last Wednesday, August 26. The big guy wearing a Dallas Rangers baseball jersey and the skinny dude a soccer shirt with Holland’s national color.

That morning, Jorrit woke up early for a change, around 8am. A bit later (ok hours) I rolled out of my bed and noticed how Jorrit confiscated my laptop and Facebook friends ;-)

Since we couldn’t see much of Santa Barbara in just 1 day, we decided to practice our football skills on the beach (who’s still thinking I’m lazy? OK, actually I am :)

IMG_3957IMG_4015IMG_4016

After our traditional Subway breakfast, we headed to Los Angeles. Just 93 miles according to the navigation system. Wow, what a beautiful road trip. Especially cruising through Malibu gave a glimpse of LA’s jet set.

In 2 hours we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Century City. Pretty cool location nearby Beverly Hills and a convenient mall with awesome shops. With no concrete plans for the night, we dined out at Houston’s Restaurant. I found it on Google where Houston’s rated third as best restaurant in the Century district.

houstonsTurned out to be an excellent place for delicious food and a trendy bar for drinks. Definitely one of best Thai Steak salads (and Asian is not even the chef’s specialty). The only problem occurred at 10pm …

The bar closed, so no more beers :(

Friday, 28 August 2009

Tuesday Trip to Santa Barbara (or is it New Orleans?)

On day 6 (Tuesday, August 25) we left Monterey and headed to Santa Barbara. Roughly 200 miles and over 5 hours later, we ended up in a cajun restaurant.

IMG_3898Woke up late in the morning of day 6 already. It’s Tuesday, August 25 and we’re about to continue our road trip from Monterey to Santa Barbara, CA. Roughly 200 miles to go.

Before we checked out the room in the Monterey Plaza Hotel, we had an excellent breakfast (or brunch really).

Very friendly service and always fun to see Americans struggle when they have no idea where Holland is on the map. We’re equipped with a navigation system, which we programmed to explore the scenic route via the Pacific Coast Highway.

IMG_3947Halfway, we stopped to get water and cigarettes. Jorrit entered a shop, where they funnily enough said water is cheaper at the mini market across (lol). Wish I could say the same for Marlboro ciggies, frigging $9.50 for a single pack.

Just a few miles later, we noticed quite a crowd pulling over to the left. Turned out half a dozen zebras walked around in the meadow.

Who’d know zebras lived in the wild in California? Fortunately it wasn’t a zebra that stared in my headlights a few miles later, but whatever small creature crossed the highway, sadly got to meet the Explorer’s front grill.

After 5 hours, we finally arrived at Brisas Del Mar, our hotel in Santa Barbara. A cozy apartment complex with a typically American indoor yard. Usually I only see those hotels on TV when the FBI is raiding a room to bust a mafia boss :-)

Although I’m sure we arrived in Santa Barbara, our restaurant for the night Palace Grill almost made me believe I flashed back to New Orleans, Louisiana. My Sirloin Steak in Cajun style tasted delicious, just as well as the Dixie beers. Jorrit’s Jumbo Shrimps looked pretty fine as well. Only their self-acclaimed New Orleans’ best dessert set too high expectations.

Every déjà-vu of New Orleans makes me smile anyway. With great memories of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, even though I lost an embarrassing bet which caused me to attend a Microsoft event in our secretary’s dress (fortunately stretchy material) and a wig. So frigging glad those (blackmail) photos & videos got lost in action :)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Mafia Monday Morning with Monterey Trip on Day 5

Road trip report from San Francisco to Monterey (Day 5 of my USA trip)

IMG_4023On Shady Sunday’s evening, Jorrit asked me to teach him the basics of Mafia Wars. Apparently he’s really enjoying MW, since Don Karst already logged on early Monday morning to check his stats, burn energy and blast stamina points.

Good timing to practice mafia behavior, since we need to check out our hotel room before noon and pick up our rental car at Hertz.

IMG_3881We reserved a mid-size car via our travel agent, but I felt disappointed finding out about the high surcharge for dropping off the car in Vegas. So when I asked the sales guy about our contract, he offered to upgrade our mid-size car to a SUV:

an awesome Ford Explorer! :-)

Still thinking we deserved some freebies, I hinted to supply us a navigation system without charging us for the damn Hertz NeverLost-yeah-right GPS device. The guy reluctantly confirmed he wouldn’t charge us, although he should.

IMG_3885With me behind the wheel and Jorrit as navigator, we left San Francisco for our trip to Monterey, California. Jorrit got all excited to take the Pacific Coast Hway, which admittedly is a beautiful route.

As dorky IT guy and close to Palo Alto, I wanted to drive through Sillicon Valley; home of well known internet companies like Google and Facebook (actually I’d personally infiltrate Facebook’s HQ if they’d disable my account ;-)

IMG_3868Finding the actual Googleplex didn’t work out quite well with our navigation system, so we just picked the first Google office to shoot a couple of dorky photos.

(can you see my improvised smiley? ;-)

After slurping the largest McShake, we continued our 93 miles road trip, which eventually took us roughly 3 hours.

IMG_3888Once we arrived at Monterey Plaza Hotel, the clerk thought he had good news for us:

Good evening gentlemen, we’ve upgraded your room to an ocean view suite with a king-size bed.

So I thanked the guy after he summed up his memorized sales pitch and responded:

Well, ocean view room sounds great, but 1 single king size bed … not so good.

Thank heavens they still had rooms with 2 separate queen size beds, so after the switch, I plunged on my bed and started our daily rituals: Jorrit watching American Football on TV and me writing text and Facebook messages to my Mafia ;-)

We dined out at the hotel’s bistro called Schooner’s and enjoyed top notch seafood with a bottle of Chardonnay. Whenever you’re in Monterey with your spouse, I’d definitely recommend to stay a day or 2 at this hotel and try the “Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi” (spicy pan fried chili garlic prawns) or the seafood pasta dish.

But if you’re a single dork like me, better find a more affordable hotel with reliable internet connection to check your Facebook profile or Mafia Wars stats ;-D

(BTW: really appreciate all your playful comments on my FB wall. If you post your comment on my blog right here, bear with me since it doesn’t get published right away due to anti-spam precautions)