After the fun in Vegas we flew out to San Francisco for an overnight stay at my cousin Catherine's place. Catherine has been living in San Francisco for about 5 years with her husband Owen. They have a two year old son, Dylan and are expecting a new bundle of joy in 2015. It was so good to see them all - especially Dylan as we hadn't seen him since he was just a newbie. Our stay with Catherine and the family was only brief but we would be returning to San Francisco in a week's time to spend Christmas with them. In the meantime, we were off to Anaheim for some big kid fun: Disneyland.
We headed into downtown San Fran to pick up our rental car. This time the budget was a little tight and we could only afford the cheapest rental option: a Toyota Yaris. It was about as awful as the final quarter of the 2011 Grand Final. In slow motion. This thing was a fair dinkum piece of the proverbial. It drove like a billy cart with a whippersnipper motor attached to it and made me feel so uncool I wished I could wear a burka while I was driving it. To make matters worse, the West Coast was being battered by one of the worst storms of the past 5 years just as we were driving down to Anaheim in the loser cruiser Yaris. Not fun.
As we finally moved closer to Anaheim we were excited by the prospect of booking our tickets to Disneyland. Then we passed a billboard advertising a place called Knott's Berry Farm. A quick Google search told us that Knott's had more rollercoasters than Disneyland and that it was more geared towards the big kids like us who were looking for a thrill. Suddenly a spanner had been thrown in the works. We decided to give Mickey the chop and head to Knott's Berry Farm instead.
Knott's certainly lived up to its billing. The rides were insane! The X-celerator shot us up into the air and 150kph, the Boomerang shuttled us through triple loops before coming to a stop, and then sending us backwards through the same loops, and then there was the Ghost Rider. Billed as "one of the world's tallest and longest wooden rollercoasters, the Ghost Rider looked like an antique. The basic lap bar (most of the other rides had hefty harnesses to lock in your shoulders) suggested this thing would ride like an antique too. How bad could it be right? I tell ya what. Do us a favour if you ever get a chance to ride it. See if you can help find my 4th vertebrae, which was dislodged when this rickety old wooden devil tossed us around like a dog with a chew toy. This thing was more brutal than Keith Richards' face. It also didn't help that Jess wanted to ride the damn thing over. and over. and over. I'm still covered in deep heat as I type this blog some three weeks after the Ghost Rider made off with parts of my spine. The things you do for love!
From Anaheim we made our way north to the inland Californian city of Fresno to visit Holly - another of the girls with whom Jess had studied in Italy with in 2008. We happened to be visiting on the weekend of Holly's birthday so we were due for a few fun nights. The first night involved dinner with Holly's family. We could instantly see where Holly picked up her warm and friendly mannerisms. Her family were some of the nicest people we had met on the trip. They served us up a feast of steak, veggies, and some crab that Holly's Uncle caught earlier that day. We left their place without a want for food nor a few laughs.
The next night we helped Holly host a birthday party at her place for her friends. We hit it off with all of her friends - a great bunch of down to earth folks. One of them is married to, and lives in Sydney with, an Aussie bloke. She happened to be back in Fresno for the holidays. Also joining in the fun was Holly's older brother who, along with his wife, burned a hole in Holly's loungeroom floor as they danced the night away while the grandparents babysat their 6 month old baby. These guys had just welcomed their first baby and here they were having a great time being the life of the party. We were in awe of them and can only hope that we have as much energy as they do when we're new parents.
Once again, Fresno confirmed to us that the best times on the trip are those spent with good company. Fresno isn't a tourist town and it sure doesn't make the list of "Places to visit" on your USA holiday. But who cares about any of that? Fresno is home to a dear friend and a lovely family. We'll be talking about them for years to come….or until they come and visit us in Australia ;-)
Next Stop: San Francisco