Sat. Mar. 23, 2013:
We had to wake up early for the long drive back to LA. The car was due back at the rental place at 1:30pm. I don’t know what kind of car rental place closes at 2pm on a Saturday. We got up early for nothing, the garage where our car was parked (hotel did not have parking) did not open until 8am. We had half an hour of time to kill. We walked over to the UC Berkeley campus. The streets were eerily empty; I wondered where all the crazies from the previous day had gone. Turns out, they were on campus. I was so mad when I saw the guy from last night who would yell at people. Now he was yelling at the campus, or the trees- who knows. The garage was late in opening, we had to stand there and wait.
On the freeway we passed a vintage truck hauling a car shaped like a German WWI helmet. It was an odd sight to see. Someone had made a crop circle in a field that was a cross with the word Jesus horizontally and Saves vertically through it. I do not think it was the work of aliens. We drove through some beautiful scenery of wind turbines on rolling green hills. We passed some cows grazing under hydro towers. We also drove by an In N Out burger that was not listed in the GPS- it made me mad, I was craving In N Out burger; I had been without it for a few days now.
We drove by an orchard that featured scarecrows dressed as ghosts and lots of tumbleweeds stuck against tree trunks. I am not sure if they are more effective or if it is just a relic from Halloween. The agri-scenery was soon tainted and hard to enjoy- the smell of manure overcame it all. It was unbearable, it smelled so bad. We passed three dead coyotes and I cannot help but wonder if the smell got them.
We also drove by the third (fourth if you count Alcatraz) prison of the trip. For a point of reference: that is more prisons than we had previously seen on all our trips combined. We drove by another In N Out burger and my rage grew. Stupid car rental place closing so early, we did not even have time to stop for food. The GPS said we would arrive at 2pm. And then we passed another one! I was starting to lose it, I was so hungry, it wasn’t fair that when we had no time we passed by three In N Out burgers.
Before dropping the car off, we stopped at a gas station to top off the tank. I went in to get some coffee and snacks for the next day. The cashier was really weird. He saw my shirt that said LOVE PINK and pointed out that my jacket was purple, not pink. Then he asked me if I was a LA Lakers fan, obviously I am not. He was disappointed that I wasn’t.
I was voracioulsy hungry by the time we left the hotel to In N Out burger; I stopped at the vending machines to get some cookies. While checking into the hotel I noticed that they had run out of free cookies, I bought some from the vending machine on the off-chance that the stock would not have been replenished. We checked on our way out, it had not been. We were heading to our usual In N Out burger, I think I can say that given we that was where we always went- except that one time when we should have gone there but without prescience we had no way of knowing that the bus would short-turn and we would be walking by.
All week had been building to this moment; I feel there should be a drum roll in here. It was time for the epic 4×4, animal style of course. I had decided earlier in the week, after much investigation (ok fine, ingestion) that animal style was the superior way to eat an In N Out burger. Four slices of cheese, four burger patties, one heavenly meal. I was so distracted by my joy when ordering that I forgot to say sauce only and was stuck with veggies in my epic concoction. Nonetheless I managed to pick most of them out. It quickly turned into a messy affair, sauce all over my face and hands, cheese dripping everywhere. The problem with the 4×4 is that there is so much grease (how could there not be?) that the bun starts disintegrating and the structural integrity starts to suffer. If you have just two burger patties and slices of cheese there are a lot less items that need to be lined up. With the 4×4 it is nearly impossible to get a bite that consists of equal parts cheese and beef, partly due to lack of jaw-opening, but more so the whole thing starts to lean to the side. Some bites were more bun than filling. All in all, it was definitely worth a try and the most fun I have ever had eating but the 3×3 is the perfect size. I do still want to attempt eating a 5×5, just for the messy sake of it, and to get another awesome head nod from the cashier. And let’s face it: there is no such thing as too much In N Out burger, I have yet to encounter that problem. I was actually still a little bit hungry after my 4×4, I had to resist the temptation to order animal fries. But I had insisted that we go to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner that night. You could say I was desperate to wrap up my food plans in California. Or I was just really hungry that day.
On our way back to the hotel we passed by an orange tree but none of them were hanging low enough for me to reach up and grab one, I would have to jump- not the best idea with a belly full of burger. In the park we passed a young couple making out- while a hobo watched them. I do not think they were aware they were being watched, given the guy started motor-boating his girlfriend’s chest. Rather than go back to the creepy gas station we went to the 7-Eleven for dessert instead. Turns out Slurpees are different in the US, the only way I can describe it is fluffier and less syrupy. To compliment my (semi-awful) cherry Slurpee we got some berry Starbursts, and my go-to: a Whatchamacallit.
With our stash of candy we streamed TV on Brent’s laptop the rest of the lazy afternoon until it was time to head out to California Pizza Kitchen. It was nice and breezy out, much cooler than earlier. It was really busy but we got a table without having to wait. I thought we were going to order one pizza and split it, but Brent said they were small and meant for one person. They were not, at least not one person my size. Apparently the rules for In N Out burgers and Las Vegas buffets do not apply to pizzas. I was full after half; I only ate one slice of Brent’s pizza (original BBQ chicken). That is fine given it wasn’t as good as the thin crust Sicilian pizza I had. I am not quite sure why it was called thin-crust, as California pizza is made with flatbread, already rather thin. They had a surprisingly large wine list, I could not resist and ordered a California wine, and it was deliciously sweet. I joked about ordering dessert, but I was actually kind of serious. I had a major cookie craving.
We stopped a candy store on our way back. They had an enormous selection of sodas, including weird ones like maple bacon. The fizzy lemonade was much too sweet for lemonade. I was too full of pizza to eat the jelly-filled Sour Patch Kids. As we walked by the gas station, the creepy guy was in the window just staring at the street. Starbucks and 7-Eleven were both sold out of white chocolate macadamia cookies. I ended up going to Subway, and after some confusion, finally getting cookies. The raspberry cheesecake cookie was surprisingly good; given it was basically a white chocolate macadamia cookie with raspberries in place of macadamias. It is a good thing I went o Subway, seeing as the hotel cookies still had not been replenished.