A Random Romp in the East Bay

Ah, it's great to be back and writing more often, I'm gonna do my darnedest to keep you guys updated!

Yesterday was just one of those awesome days of complete randomness.  Well, I guess you could call it "planned randomness" (I'm the Man with the Plan, remember? :-P )  Anywho, Lesley and I decided a LONG time back to check out this free book exchange up in El Cerrito.  It's exactly what the name implies: a bookstore crammed with tons of books, and they're all free!  Dad, I know you'd love it.  Limit 50 books per person though (or however many you can carry lol as we found out).  Well, after Lesley told me about this place what?  6 months ago?  I was supposed to visit it but got sidetracked at some point.  Busy busy busy.  Instead, we decided to have a little daytrip adventure up the East Bay to see what it was all about.  Let the discoveries begin!

I'm all about the random adventure, whether it's by foot, car, plane, you name it, I'm there.  It gives you a nice break from life by the calendar.  Normally I go out on my own to get lost on foot, but it was awesome having Lesley as a travel companion for a Bay Area day-cation (I'm all about vacations, stay-cations and day-cations lol.)  As fellow busy bodies, we of course had to booked each other in advance, but I'm so glad we did!  Ok, so the haps for the day:

First of all, the weather was GORGEOUS.  It was 60 and sunny all day, a nice change from the couple dreary days of showers that I biked through. (still fun, but I'm glad to have a day of sun)  We met at my house and I proceeded with the household tour (I've become quite rehearsed over the past few months).  We both decided that my room was something out of a store catalog lol.  Not quite Pottery Barn and better then IKEA, so we settled on Target.  I can live with that :-)

We grabbed BART up in Fremont and headed to El Cerrito.  Of couse we wanted to make the most efficent use of time, so we sat and planned our backpacking trip in the Lost Coast.  It's gonna be so much fun, it's our first time backpacking and I can't wait.  I'm so glad that Robb's an expert at work and has some stuff I can borrow, b/c I really wanna try this out before I jump in head-first.  We're planning a 3-4 day loop in the King Range just north of Shelter Cove.  Should be lots of fun!  Now, if only we could find the time in our busy schedule to go :-)  Oh well, we will solve that issue lol.  I mean, I think I already have 4 trips planned between now and May?  Awesome!

I always love the scenes on BART.  Everything from the elderly lady who asked a couple if they were in love (which they said yes), to the random orange (or lemon?) rolling around the car freaking out everyone who it bumped into, to the guys trying to raise money for a trip (I gladly gave em $20 since I didn't have change, and I wasn't going to ask for some lol, but it's a good cause, plus we were going to get tons of free books!)  Always a trip, I think a day of traveling the BART lines would give you enough world knowledge alone that you could skip an international trip haha.

When we got to El Cerrito, we decided to explore a little bit.  I'm sure a lot of people are thinking: El Cerrito, really?  Hey!  An adventure is always more fun in more colorful areas, you never know what to expect!  What did we find?  Well, there's a lot of arts-related shops as Lesley pointed out.  Oh, and the jazz band playing on the sidewalk was awesome!  A nice, smooth beat lol.  We rummaged through a thrift shop and hunted through all the 70% off bargains at a party store that was going out of business.  Lesley got a few things for her classroom and we both got treats for some very lucky people who I think will be very surprised ;-)

Next up, the Book Exchange.  All I can say is WOW.  There are so many books!  It's a little store that has rows and rows of books that people, libraries, and other organizations donate, and they are all free!  They had a sign saying they've handed out over 90,000 books as of January.  My goodness!  We went to town, reading through all the funky titles.  A lot of them were like new; I mean, if you're never going to read it again, why not donate it?  I mean, I could have gotten one of a dozen like-new copies of "The DaVinci Code" lol.  We found all sorts of stuff to take.  Lesley grabbed a few Tom Clancy's for her dad, a book on starting your own childcare center (which she hopes to do someday), some travel books and a few others.  I grabbed LOTS of travel books (you know me), a hiking book, a random book as a joke to surprise someone :-) and a Jon Stewart book on Democracy which Lesley found.  Actually, it was kind of funny, everytime I was about to pick a book off the shelf and look at it, Lesley would grab it first and say that it looks like my kinda thing.  Haha, guess we know what we like.  We also brought some books to donate; keep the exchange going guys, you rock!

In the end, I ended up with bookload in my messenger bag and Lesley ended up with a whole grocery bag of books!  (which I would've helped carry lol)  Those Tom Clancy's take up a lot of space, but hey, at least you got a workout carrying all those books, right?  I mean, we did walk 3-4 miles with a bunch of books through El Cerrito and Berkeley later on, so I think we got our exercise.

Afterwords, we walked northward to the next BART station, searching for antique stores, which we had heard about.  Well, they must've been somewhere else lol, b/c we certainly didn't find them!  Oh well, we did stumble upon an Ichiban Kan, which I would call a sort-of Japanese dollar store?  I guess everything wasn't a dollar, but they did sell lots of random little things and it was all super cheap.  I LOVE going into stores like this b/c there's just so much cool stuff!  And I'm a big fan of writing on packages and things in other languages, and I love Japanese.  Lesley says there's a store like this at Eastridge too, so I'll have to check that out.

Anyways, we found all sort of fun stuff, from candy bars (some of which are sexist) and snacks (I grabbed us a bag of wasabi peas, which are awesome!), to storage containers (we're all about the organization), to random knick knacks and toys (more gifts for friends :-), to your common household items (lots of chopstick sets), and of course personal care (aloe condoms eh? interesting lol).  Lesley grabbed some Hello Kitty stuff for her friend (I loved her reaction every time she turned and saw something else with Hello Kitty on it lol)

Of course, any adventure with yours truly isn't complete without an awkward moment.  In this case, we were sharing the peas I bought at the store and when I went to pour some into my hand, about half of them missed and dropped all over the parking lot.  I was totally clueless for about 10 seconds until Leslsey started laughing.  I stopped and rolled my eyes.  GOSH!  I always do stuff like that!  No matter, I am proud of my awkward self :-)  Or am I a clumsy?  Lesley claims there is a distinction, which is true.  I'm just a little of both haha.

We traipsed up to the next BART station, lugging our pile of books and other goodies along.  Next stop was downtown Berkeley where we decided to grab a bite to eat.  Rather than walking up and the down the blocks looking for something, I decided to make it interesting.  We walked until we hit an intersection and then we would only cross in the direction that the WALK sign was on lol.  Of course we added a few house rules as the game progressed.  If you're at a corner where there's a DON'T WALK sign in both directions, just turn down the sidewalk in the direction you haven't gone down yet.  Crosswalks are wild cards, just choose which direction to go!  With these modifications (and some great running skills for those last minute lights) we found a cool little Mexican/Indian/Pakistani restaurant.  An interesting mix lol, Lesley got Indian and I got Mexican and it was really good.  The people serving us were so nice, I almost forgot to pay!  We chatted about bollywood movies and watched the beginning of Goodburger.  Ah, the good ole nineties....where is Kel now?  Evidently, we're both big Rugrats fans too.  By far THE best Nicktoon from back in the day in my humble opinion lol.

My favorite place in Berkeley was the next stop, $1 ice cream!  John's Ice Cream is awesome, and for $1 a scoop, you can't go wrong!  It was really creamy too; it really hit the spot.  We trained it back down to Fremont, nodding off and snoozing on BART after reading a little of my new Jon Stewart book at the station and on the train.  MAN that guy is hilarious!

Of course, the trip wouldn't be complete without one last little mishap (what us travelers like to call an "added adventure")  After stopping in Berkeley, we didn't have enough on our passes to get out of the Fremont BART station.  We were trapped! (well, there was a swinging door people were walking in/out of, but that's besides the point!)  Lesley and I are all about the rules, and if we believed in the No Food or Drink rule on BART and ate our ice cream outside, we sure as hell weren't going to jump a turnstyle lol!  The ticket machine IN the station (where we were) didn't take Debit or CC and nothing larger than a $5 bill.  Nice.  Luckily, after paying for stuff in Berkeley (they're all about cash up there) I had enough to add fare to mine to get out and then swipe Lesley's ATM card for her's.  Well, these BART folks are pretty crafty.  They know if a ticket hasn't exited the station yet, and so the ticket machines outside the gates won't take the card lol.  My goodness.  BUT, there's a change machine!  I changed a $10 to two $5's and gave the card back to Lesley, who now had enough for fare (and a TON of change in quarters which I happly took back lol).

Oh the stories...and so our trip drew to a close with the ride back to SJ.

Now, I'm all for the adventuring, and I always recommend that people try it, even if it's on their own.  I told Lesley all about how I manage, hanging out at restaurants, exploring new places, the works.  It can be a bit intimidating on your own at first, but you get used to it.  And it forces you to talk to so many people, which I found out in Europe.  And MAN, the things you learn from people are amazing!

Of course, I was so fortunate to have Lesley with me on this little trip.  It's always more fun with another person, especially since we're into a lot of the same things, like hiking and traveling.  And then there's all the random conversations that go along with the tour.  I mean we covered all sorts of random stuff:

  • Hiking and backpacking
  • Random places we'd like to visit
  • Where we will end up (grad schools, careers, that sorta stuff)
  • How silly standardized tests are (I mean, seriously, they're pointless...)
  • Favorite Foods
  • How some people make such a big deal out of Valentine's Day
  • Nicktoons
  • Whatever, you name it, we talked about it
Thanks so much Lesley for the fun trip, hope you had a good time too.  Best travels to everyone out there and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me when the next trip strikes me.

Enjoy your week!


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