I had found a cheap flight to San Jose, but it involved leaving from Flint. It wasn't a direct flight from Flint to San Jose though, it had a layover....in Detroit! That was really weird. I drove out to Flint, waited around, then got on a plane. The plane was only in the air about 15 minutes. I basically flew over my house. It was very pretty though, because we never had time to get very high up. As we flew to DTW, I could admire the many lakes up north and the patchwork of changing leave colors.
It was weird to land in Detroit but not be home. However, I landed in Terminal B, which I've never been in before. There is a long tunnel connecting the terminals, filled with frosted glass panels, colored lights, and funky music. It was actually very relaxing and interesting. Well worth checking out, if you ever have time to kill there. It comes out right by the new fountain with the jumping water.
Eventually I made it to San Jose, where I rented a car and drove to SGT's house. I finally met his lovely wife, and we 3 went and had dinner at a local Greek restaurant. It was good food, and they gave us mounds of garlic bread. When we took home leftovers, we had to devote one large Styrofoam container exclusively to garlic bread.
Truly the highlight of my trip was the trip to Big Basin Redwood Forest. My hosts and I met up with a friend of theirs, and we all drove up together. It was beautiful, and I had such a good time hiking in the forest and playing in and on the trees. I posted some about it here already, so I'll just add some pictures. We took lots of pictures!
This (ex-)tree was born in 544 AD. It lasted 1392 years. Most of the large redwoods we saw were between 1000 and 2000 years old. Look how the bark alone is about as thick as my hand!
You don't realize just how immense these things are until you put a person next to one. Or in this case, inside of one. If something stands in a forest for over 1000 years, it's bound to suffer through a few forest fires. Lots of the redwood trees we saw had had their trunks hollowed out by fire. The trees were still alive though, still growing, and sported plenty of greenery above.
Here's me taking a picture, followed by the picture I was taking....
....and here's K followed by the picture she took. This tree's trunk was completely hollowed out by fire -- see the sky showing through the round hole at the top? But it was still green and growing.
A "tree circle", I think they called this. Over 1000 years ago, a giant redwood was growing right where the photographer was standing to take this picture. Several saplings started to grow in a circle around it, then something happened to the parent tree. When it died, the little trees circling around it had enough sunlight to grow big. Just think, the "parent" tree probably first sprouted probably almost 4000 years ago!
The inside of this tree is about the size of one of my dorm rooms. I could easily live comfortably in it. It even has a window.
Interesting rippley bark.
I'm inside a tree, looking out through the roots.
We actually brought 3 cameras along on this hike.
An enormous stump.
After the hike, we relaxed for awhile, then we stuffed ourselves on some absolutely delicious fondue. 2 kinds of cheese fondue to start, then 2 kinds of meat fondues (with actually around 10 different types of meat - shrimp, chicken, beef, and wild game like boar, elk, buffalo, and stuff!), and we finished it up with 2 kinds of decadent chocolate fondues. Then we waddled home....
The rest of the week
Monday, K and I went to the beach. It was beautifully sunny, but the wind from the water was cold. When we lay our on blankets we could soak up the sun, but as soon as we stood up we had to put our jackets on. A couple of people were flying kites.
I went to the conference hotel Monday night and checked in. Tuesday morning was my icky bee-sting reaction. See, I photographed my hands right before I took myself to the hospital, to prove I wasn't just being a baby about things (also because I am freakishly morbid). The sting was on my palm, but even the back of my hand was this swollen! The right index finger in particular is about twice the size of the other one.
Fortunately things had improved vastly by tuesday night/wednesday morning, and I had a great dinner with Bill which made me feel better. Wednesday I gave my talk, which went quite well.
Thursday I met up with all the people I'd gone hiking with, and we had an excellent seafood dinner at Top of the Market in San Mateo. I tried my first raw oyster, and the swordfish was excellent. I painted an Angry Bee on T's mural-wall, so we'd always remember our redwood adventure.
Friday I spent an already-documented wonderful evening with Kim and her family, then early Saturday morning I flew home. I skipped the journey to Flint this time, and got a ride from the Detroit airport to home.