Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What I did on my summer vacation....

Last week we had the opportunity to take our first vacation in 3 years. It was only for 8 days but at least we got away.

We booked the vacation on Thursday and spent most of Friday trying to tie up loose ends. We drove to my parents in Chicago on Friday evening, arriving around 8. My mother was nice enough to get up at 5am to drive us to the airport (10 minutes away). We checked in and worked our way through security. CJ said that the TSA people were nice but treated us like cattle! I thought they were efficient, professional and polite and I thanked them for their work. After putting on our sandals again(!), we headed for the gate. The plane boarded and took off on time. The flight was enjoyable and CJ took some great pictures.

We arrived in Southern California at 9am local and picked up our car (2006 Dodge Charger - big car, 24-26mpg). Instead of heading for the hotel (in Calabasas), we headed to Palm Springs. Lunch was pizza and cost almost $40! A drive over the mountains and Riverside County was enjoyable - especially the short rain, the only rain we would encounter the entire time there.

We headed for the hotel and arrived just after check in time. We stayed at the Good Nite Inn at the Malibu Canyon exit of the 101. We had found this hotel several years ago and found it both nice and convenient. A little more wandering and we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some supplies. One item: orange juice. Victoria's diabetes responds well to OJ if she gets a little low on sugar and we always keep some on hand. It only cost $10 for 1/2 gallon - we didn't notice until after we returned to the room.

Sunday we went to Santa Barbara. Victoria wants to consider this town as a possible retirement spot. We decided to stop in at an open house to get a feel for prices and the types of homes available. We found one in a nice, average neighborhood, far from the beach and hills. 1100 sq feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths. 6k sq ft lot. Nice backyard, nothing special, small patio, local plants. $1,295,000.

Yep. $1.3 million dollars. We found an older home, less "upgrades", corner lot about the same size also 3 bedrooms, 2 baths for $880,000. Realtor said the children of the owner who had just moved to a nursing home had lowered the price for a 'quick sale'.

The last house we saw was near the high school Victoria had found that had excellent student results and test scores. CJ loved the house. Nice upgrades (cabinets, floors, counters) but still only about 1200 sq feet, 6k lot and 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $875,000.

We knew that California prices for real estate were going to be higher but...

On Saturday, we stopped in Rancho California for ice cream. I picked up the local paper and looked in the Real Estate section. I lived just 10 minutes north of there 25 years ago when Rancho California had just over 5k people, one little strip center, Winchester still had wood side walks and Temecula was a couple of thousand people, mostly ranches and Callaway Vineyards. Today there are over 180,000 people in the area. Of the 3 pages of real estate, one had a half page ad listing 20 homes. Every single home was for more than $500,000 and every single home was bank owned.

The realtor in Santa Barbara had been talking to others at the open house complaining that the media was blowing the foreclosure issue way out of proportion. We don't think so...

Monday we spent the day (mostly) at the beach in Malibu!! The water was COLD! But we had a good time. Tuesday we traveled around, including stopping at UCLA for a t-shirt for Victoria. Wednesday we did a little beach time and some more wandering in Santa Barbara. First stop was UCSB for a t-shirt and we then stopped by every home listed for sale in the Sunday home guide in Goleta (a suburb! of Santa Barbara and home to the high school). Nothing was less than $600,000.

Thursday was another beach day. We spent most of it in Laguna Nigel in south Orange County. If it were possible, the water was colder! Later, we headed south and found a great beach at Torrey Pines State Park just north of San Diego. The water was warmer, the beach was great sand and the waves were great. Too bad we didn't get there til 6:30pm. CJ got a great sunset picture.

Friday was a free day. I suggested a quick trip to the mountains and Victoria suggested a return trip to Torrey Pines. We headed for Mount Wilson and a great view of the valley. Unfortunately, on the way back down I hit a rock from a small rock slide. I didn't know it then, but it either damaged the oil filter or punched a small hole in the oil pan. We found it later in Palmdale when I stopped for gas and the oil just flowed from under the car. We found a Barnes and Noble nearby, called the rental car (Dollar) roadside service and they said they would get a replacement to us in a couple of hours. It was 1pm. 2pm. 3pm. 4pm. 5pm - hey, where is the replacement car? 20 more minutes was the reply.... 5:30pm, 6pm...finally. Dodge Magnum. Too late to finish the mountain trip, too late for the beach...we went back to the hotel disappointed. We did our laundry and packed up.

Saturday. This was check out day, but our plane was not due to leave til 12:25am on Sunday. Victoria suggested Torrey Pines, I wanted to hit Ojai (our target for Friday). I got lost and it took us 2 hours to get there instead of 1. It took us an extra 45 minutes to get out of there because I started back the wrong way! Three hours later we were in a traffic jam just in San Diego county. I got off the freeway 5 miles north of Torrey Pines and wasted 45 minutes getting there using the ocean highway....we arrived at Torrey Pines at 6:45. I got a little time in the surf, CJ got another picture of the sunset and Victoria didn't get any time in the water. It was a complete BUST. My fault. I should have just ignored the Ojai jaunt and headed for the beach.... We traveled up to the airport, dropping off the car at 10:30.

At Midway Airport in Chicago, there was free wireless such thing at Ontario in California. We boarded the plane on time, there were extra open seats to do a little stretching out on, but the plane was 30 minutes late leaving - maintenance paperwork...

We arrived in Chicago at 6am and caught a cab to my parents. We all crashed...quietly.

We put almost 1800 miles on the rental, we averaged 25 mpg and paid an average of 2.75/gal.
The airfare cost us just over $200 each, roundtrip, with all the extra fees. The hotel was about $85 a night. Not an expensive week all things considered. We relaxed. The average daytime temperature at the hotel was over 100 the entire week. The beaches were considerably cooler. Bad storms hit on Friday but missed us.

CJ took almost 150 pictures on our new 7 mega pixel camera and both of us got some nice tanning (Victoria uses lots of sunscreen and avoids a lot of exposure!)

How was your summer?

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