California dreamin’ becomes real—just not for my dog

If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Actually, don’t bother buying flowers because you’ll need the money. The city isn’t cheap.

If you read this blog with some regularity, you know I’m a near-lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan, and I live in Texas—which is obviously and unfortunately Dallas Cowboys country¹.

I love being a Texas resident; living in Austin with my wife and dog, Katniss, the undisputed superstar of this blog; and embracing all things Texas—aside from from the Cowboys²



… and the state’s checkered past on racial and social issues. In short, Texas is home, as much as I miss my native Ohio, and I am more than giddy to breathe Austin air. My nearby job, which is now seemingly a part of my DNA, and even the rocky soil and calcium-heavy groundwater here in Central Texas are essential parts of who I am. But I’ve always been curious about another part of the U.S.—California.

My childhood—the 1980s and into the 1990s—was chock full of songs from my dad’s youth, and as those of you who appreciate good music have probably noticed from the headline and first sentence of this post, many songs from the 1960s rhapsodized about the Golden State.

My favorite bands, 1.) The Doors, and 1A.) the Beach Boys, both came out of California during that era, and both groups had a love affair with the state. I suppose many Americans do, me included, even though I had never been there.

So when we decided to take a short vacation during the week of Thanksgiving, California was near the top of my list of destinations. Before I knew it we were on a bike tour pedaling across the Golden Gate bridge—sans my beloved Katniss, of course.

From start to finish, the tour portion of the bike ride was 8 miles of going up and down hills with strangers from Puerto Rico, Australia and Pennsylvania. At the end of the tour, the rest of the group, guide included, hopped on a ferry to cross the bay to return the rented bikes. But not my wife and me. We rode our bikes all the way back to the start—16 miles total. Why? I’d like to think it’s because we’re from Texas and we’re tough, and everyone else was too soft to make the trek. Take that, Australia!

Some things I noticed while in California:

The San Francisco 49ers museum, located at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, was a perfect side trip on a day with so much rain that I nearly built an ark. The museum features life-size statues of 49ers legends in action poses, such as the “Million-dollar backfield” of (from left) Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry, Y.A. Tittle and John Henry Johnson. Note Tittle’s Plexiglas facemask and the handle on the side of his helmet. My coach told me once in high school that I physically resembled Yelberton Abraham Tittle, which I took as a compliment. Y.A., who’s also a Texan, is a tough dude. (Photo courtesy of wife)
My boyhood idol, Joe Montana (left), and head coach Bill Walsh both agree that this blog is awesome.

• We visited the 49ers’ stadium in Santa Clara, which is possibly my new favorite city, but it seems borderline illegal that the 49ers don’t play in San Francisco anymore. Likewise, the Cowboys’ stadium is in Irving, I think, not Dallas, and the team’s headquarters will soon be located in Frisco (not to be confused with San Francisco). Shouldn’t a team be required to have a stadium in its home city? The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals do, for example.

• Kudos to the makers of “Grand Theft Auto V.” The controversial and violent video game, which I love but think is not fit for children, nailed the look and feel of California. The game takes place in fictional Los Santos—which is basically Los Angeles and other California areas—and as we traveled through the state I really felt like I had been there before via “GTAV.” It was eerie, actually, how well the state was rendered in the game, right down to the houses and ambient sounds.

• Gas is about $1 per gallon more expensive than it is here in Texas.

• Actually, EVERYTHING is more expensive in California than in Texas.

• Drivers don’t have to pay to leave San Francisco, but they pay something like $7 per car to enter.

• I’ve had bad/odd dreams about driving up roads that are less steep than the actual ones in San Fran. I’m not sure how such steep roads are even legal.

• Like Austin, dogs seem to be welcome everywhere in San Francisco, which made me miss my fur child that much more.

• Our Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is something I think we Austinites take for granted. It’s still the nicest overall airport experience I have ever had, along with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Numerous signs like this are posted along the Golden Gate.

• Apparently a lot of people commit suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate, evident by numerous crisis hotline signs and cops patrolling the bridge. I don’t mean to make light of that; I just found it quite sad. I swore to myself that if I saw anyone trying to jump while we were on the tour that I would do anything I could to help save them. I think I even saw a group of volunteers walking the bridge in orange hoodies who were there solely to help those who might jump. Only one side of the bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists at a time; I wonder if that makes it easier to monitor the bridge for possible jumpers?

• I spent as much time missing Katniss as I did trying to enjoy my vacation. Sheesh. I need a life.

Other vacation notes:

• I did not see the “Full House” house, but the theme song from the show was stuck in my head as we rode our bikes.

• I saw zero celebrities—no Katy Perry, no Snoop Dogg or otherwise—while in California.

• One percent of me was fairly certain California wasn’t even real before we arrived there.

• I was bracing myself for an earthquake as we roamed San Francisco.

“Daddy, let me sleep!”

• Upon picking up Katniss, she promptly fell asleep once we got home. I expect her trademark whining to resume any minute.

• As much as I needed a vacation, our family unit felt vastly incomplete without Katniss. Leaving her at the kennel always makes me feel like I am abandoning her, even though I know we’ll be back to pick her up. I’d almost rather not even go on vacations if it meant I didn’t have to leave her and feel that awful feeling.


¹Actually, I have seen a LOT of 49ers fans in these parts. Austin seems to be full of ex-Californians who moved here for employment. And 49ers fans seem to be all over the place. I once went to a Carolina Panthers/49ers game—in Charlotte—and there were more Niners fans in the stadium than Panthers fans.

²Sorry for the awkward pause; I threw up in my mouth a little just typing the word “Cowboys.” Uh-oh, here it comes again. …


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