Day 1: Toronto to San Francisco

Some bright person once said that a journey of a million miles starts with a single step. Obviously they were correct but really, does the first step have to be at 4:30 am. I am not a morning person but I can buck up and drag myself together if there is a plane waiting to take me to some magical place out there in the great beyond.

I waited all year for my alarm to rouse me at 3:30 so I would be ready for the jitney to pick me up and carry me away to Pearson International Airport. I wasn’t really all bright and perky when the driver appeared at my door at 4:30 sharp but I was mobile. She tuned into my somnambulism right off and hefted my slightly overweight suitcase into the luggage compartment of the van as I dozed off in the front seat. We were still in my driveway.

It is only a good hour from my house to the airport with one unnecessary stop at Tim Horton’s about twenty minutes into the mission. Did I look like I wanted coffee?

Pearson was in low gear as I found my way to the Air Canada desk for the first leg of my journey that would take me to San Francisco. I love it when I get to go through customs and immigration at home. It gives me that anxiety free exit into America.  Surely my luggage would make it at least that far.

My travel companion for this adventure lives in Sunnyvale, California with her husband Dean and dog-son Max. I met LeeAnn on a trip to Morocco some years ago and we have managed not to fall off camels in the Sahara Desert, not to drown while swimming with the humpback whales off the Silver Bank of the Dominican Republic and not to be eaten by polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. We did manage to get thrown from a Quamatiq onto the tundra, spat! …but that is another story. At any rate, ready for a break from her high stress job in Silicon Valley, LeeAnn was waiting for me, phone in hand, when I walked into the arrivals area at SFO.

I had arranged to head out a day early so that I could meet Max, the wonder dog, see Dean and get my head into Pacific Standard time before the long trek across the Pacific.

The week before my departure had been hectic. Trip preparation is almost down to a science as I have taken many journeys but this time the home front needed tending. “Sandy” the storm of the decade and maybe the century had pounded its way up the eastern seaboard obliterating whole communities, flooding the NY subway system, and taking the power out for millions. At my place, I batoned down the hatches as best I could, moved objects off the basement floor for fear the creek would rise and hoped the trees that surround my house would stay in an upright position. When winds topping 100km per hour whipped through Ontario, the trees fell like dominoes and of course one landed on my freshly re-shingled roof. Now here is the benefit of living in the same community for a long time. Rob, the tree removal man, was “Johnny on the spot” and came within two days to right the wrong. Curchung!

Now that was all at the first of the week. I still had several days to fill. Somehow the planning devils decided that my surplus time would be well spent at the dentist’s. Halloween was Wednesday and I was at a Freeman Patterson Master’s Photography Seminar. Freeman is a Canadian photographer par excellence, a mentor and a friend and the day was going splendidly until I managed to chomp down on a candy and take a chunk out of a tooth. Visions of the tooth pullers in Djemaa el Fna in Marrakesh ran through my mind. Good grief, what would dentists be like in Bhutan. I ran to the nearest phone. Thursday I was at my dentist’s and several hundred dollars later was declared fit for travel!

Now I realize that things tend to happen in “threes” so I steeled myself for the next blow. How silly of me. It was to be the loud machinations from my washing machine that told me I was good to go. Buying a new one could definitely wait till I got back.

The five and half hour flight from YYZ to SFO went quickly. I seem to do better going west than east for some reason. So by lunch, luggage in tow, I slung my overweight camera bag onto my shoulder and followed LeeAnn to her funky BMW convertible for the forty-five minute drive to Sunnyvale.

Max had grown. Well, I had never really seen him before but in my mind he was still tiny. A foot plus off the floor isn’t big but he was bigger than I had imagined. He is a Griffon and I could see why it was love at first sight when Dean and LeeAnn decided to bring him home a little over a year and a half ago. Dean on the other hand had not grown since I last saw him last winter. Being fiftyish, that was not surprising!

Dean and LeeAnn live in a residential neighbourhood in a kind of retro house that is open and airy and bright. I like bright. An oversized orange tree graces Max’s garden and I now know why marmalade is the specialty of the house. As it is lunch Pacific time, we take a short drive to the community market area and eat Thai food to sensitize our systems for what lies ahead.  Then its time for a whistle stop tour of the area so I get the feel of the place. It’s lovely here…warm and friendly and the Saturday morning market is just winding down. The trip home includes a viewing of the Apple sign at the Cuppertino campus and once around the Infinite Loop. Since I am over three I can’t go inside. Clearly, my lack of expertise when it comes to computers does not show. Only LeeAnn and I know that I could live there and no harm would be done.

As I begin to fade based on EST and my early start, Dean and LeeAnn leave me with Max while they run errands.  I promptly fall asleep. Max stands in my doorway to my bedroom and barks…a kind of defending the property kind of bark …until they return.

After wine, conversation about past and future adventures and a delicious dinner created by Chef Dean, I need to turn in. I snuggle down with three clocks on my bed table displaying different times –Eastern Standard, Pacific Standard and Day Light Saving. I’m sure I will figure out which is the correct version, once I get some sleep.