The weather was right around 60˚, so we weren't the only ones getting in some exercise in the sunshine. We ran into a bunch of other people and met some friendly dogs. There was one little chihuahua that got all up in some cows' grills... cutest little dog ever! He seriously wanted to make some new friends.
Once we had hiked up for about forty minutes, we paused to take some photos of the vista. I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday (Happy belated, Mum! xx) and we started to loop our way back down the trail.
Seriously though, Northern California is so gorgeous. Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking of all the things I'm going to do next time... wine tour, anyone?
After we descended, we hopped back into the car and headed back to N's for a shower and the family barbecue. Her family is Italian so I was expecting a lot of food... I was not disappointed! One of her Nonnas brought all these sweet and savory dishes with her. Two of my favorites were Bagna Calda (which is an intense garlic dip) and garlic zucchini. Notice a trend? She also made these strawberries in a fruity sauce. I'm not doing it justice, but I could have stood there with a spoon and eaten the whole thing!
Anyways, I met her whole family, we ate, talked, ate some more, and kept talking. Everyone was incredibly friendly--a really nice family to spend some time with. At the end of the afternoon, I was full and exhausted from conversation and laughter... so I took a powernap and rallied!
N wanted some new combat boots so we hit up the local mall first. First stop, Steve Madden!
I didn't feel like buying anything in particular, but these babies just begged to have their photo taken... Maybe one day I will splurge! Definitely on my to-buy list (hint, hint!) We then drove to the outlets just to check out Nike and Kate Spade. I got a new little three-card wallet from Kate with my horse money from yesterday and a pair of leggings, and N got a similar wallet to mine. We stopped by Ghiradelli for some samples and then went back home for an evening of leftovers (three-bean salad, yum) and Real Housewives. I'm a sucker for some reality TV! We hit the hay early, because tomorrow was shaping up to be a big day...
The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn to start our trek back to Los Angeles. We literally rolled out of bed at 7:30 and got in the car with the promise of a big brunch down the road. That's probably the only thing that will get me moving so quickly on a day off!
This was my view for about a thousand miles this weekend. All highway, pretty much straight and flat, clear skies. Certainly nicer than taking a bus and definitely cheaper than flying. Also, Costco socks are the best socks, duh. Anyway, we drove for two hours and pulled off the highway in Coalinga, California for brunch at the famous Harris Ranch. Harris Ranch supplies North America with a few million tons of beef every year and bakes a mean biscuit. I was in the moment N mentioned brunch...
Outside, there are big cuts over a flame filling the air with juicy, spicy smoke. We walked in and down a long Spanish-style hallway (past a meat counter as well, obviously) and headed to this room to wait for a table. Just a few minutes of perusing the goods and then we sat down to eat!
N and I both had eggs, potatoes, biscuits, and freshly-squeezed orange juice... and half a strawberry. Seriously, what's the point of giving each person half a strawberry? We were a little confused. N's plate was also a bit lacking in the potato department (she got graced with a stingy portion) but we both enjoyed our biscuits! Big, fluffy, warm, and flavorful... Mmm!
After we paid, we drove across the street to fill up the tank and clean the windshield of our rental. Then it was back on the road for another few hundred miles!
Another few hours of driving later, and we were back in smoggy LA. This is the view from the parking lot of N's building... it's a pretty cool place to be! N and I returned the car and walked back to campus in the sunshine. We timed our return so we could do some work and set up for our friend's (and N's roommate's) birthday. Balloons, streamers, and cake... A perfect end to a perfect long weekend.
Altogether, a pretty wonderful few days spent in a place I can't wait to visit again.