To celebrate our tenth anniversary, my husband Ian and I decided to take a second flitterwochen of sorts. For those of you scratching your heads and getting ready to google, flitterwochen, I recently learned, is German for honeymoon. As I often do with German words, I fell in love with flitterwochen, and now feel compelled to use it as much as I reasonably can. Conveniently, I have this trip to blog about, so I can slip the word in fairly easily.
Flitterwochen with my schnuckiputzi!
Anyway, we headed to California to retrace some of the steps we took on our honeymoon and visit some new places as well. I know myself well enough to admit that, although I love to visit new and different places, the actual travel days tend to make me surly and frazzled. Thus, we departed the day before our anniversary so that we would be settled at our first destination on our actual anniversary. We left chilly (50ish degrees) Chicago, had an uneventful flight, and landed in unseasonably hot (90s) San Francisco. As we waited in the seemingly endless line to pick up our rental car, I looked longingly at people passing by carrying overpriced mediocre food from an airport cafe. I ate a bit of trail mix to calm the growling of my stomach and reminded myself to be patient, as the plan (or so I thought) was to stop for lunch somewhere along the way during our drive from San Francisco to Occidental, where we would be staying the first few days…that is, of course, if we ever managed to get to the front of the line and obtain our rental car.
At long last, we were greeted by a Hertz representative and got everything squared away with our car. Along with the rental agreement, the Hertz guy handed us a piece of paper and mentioned that, if we planned to cross the Golden Gate Bridge during our stay, said paper contained the information we would need. As we waited for the elevator to take us to the garage where we would pick up the car, Ian regarded the paper for a few moments and then handed it to me. “Does this make sense to you?” It didn’t…not entirely anyway. What we were both able to glean was that the Golden Gate Bridge tolls were now entirely electronic, and no cash was accepted. The information sheet described two possible ways to deal with this as a non-native of San Francisco using a rental car. The first was a mysterious “opt out” choice, about which there was almost no information. Opting out seemed to involve doing nothing but having the rental car company take care of any tolls incurred, along with some (unstated but probably exorbitant) convenience fees, which would be added to the total bill. The second option was to create a temporary account with the rental car license plate and pay either online or by phone, which would avoid any “convenience” fees. I told Ian I’d just get online and take care of it on the drive out.
What I thought would be a simple transaction, turned into half an hour of trying to navigate a confusing website on the tiny screen of my phone while becoming carsick on top of my hunger, which was quickly becoming hanger. After numerous attempts to register our rental car in the system, I was ultimately stuck on a screen that kept telling me I must complete all the required information to register. Never mind that I had done so, I was unable to proceed. I finally gave up and decided I should actually call the number and talk to a human. When, after floundering around for a while in the land of automated phone menus, I finally reached a person, she seemed thoroughly confused by what I wanted to do.
“So, are you just going to cross the bridge once?” she asked
“Well, no, twice.”
“You’re coming into the city twice?”
I had forgotten that tolls are only charged inbound, but my not knowing this should hardly have been a surprise, seeing as I was trying to register to pay tolls for a rental car. “No. We’re heading outbound today, but we’ll be coming back in on Tuesday.”
“Oh, well, people usually just call and take care of it on the actual day they will incur the toll.”
I had come this far, and I did not want to start all over again on another day. “Can’t I just set it up now?”
“Well, OK,” she said, hesitantly, as though she were just trying to placate a crazy person.
The rest of the transaction went smoothly, except for two details: 1) in the license plate number Ian had written down, I mistook an S for a 5, and 2) Ian informed me that we actually would be coming back into San Francisco via the Bay Bridge, thus rendering the whole ordeal unnecessary.
Oh, but happy thoughts! Happy thoughts! This was a second flitterwochen after all!
It was at this time that Ian asked me if I had an opinion on which route (scenic or more direct) we should take to Occidental. I told him I wanted whatever would get me to food faster. He seemed baffled. “Wasn’t the plan to stop for lunch along the way?” I said. I swore we had discussed this in planning the trip, but perhaps not. Ten years of marriage does not mean the end of miscommunication, folks.
“Well, it’s kind of late for lunch now,” he said.”I figured we’d eat dinner when we got to Occidental.”
Yes, it was late for lunch. It was about 3:15, California time, 5:15 Chicago time, and I had not had a proper meal since breakfast, hence, my mounting hanger. “I really need something more substantial than trail mix,” I said. With that, we decided that the less scenic, more direct route to Occidental (Hwy 101) would likely have more dining options. What we didn’t realize was the 101 would also have some of the most horrible traffic ever (on a Wednesday early afternoon?) and probably cost us time over the scenic route. Just before five o’clock, we found ourselves in a Panera in Petaluma, both cranky, Ian munching irritably on a bagel, and me, scarfing down soup in a bread bowl like I was afraid it was going to run away. This is why I did not want to be traveling on our actual anniversary. Score one for planning there.
We made it to Occidental a bit after six o’clock, thankfully, before t the wine and cheese hour at the inn had wrapped up. We settled on the porch with glasses of wine before even going to our room or taking our luggage out of the car.
We had stayed at the Inn at Occidental during our honeymoon, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the tiny, quaint town of Occidental had changed little in our ten-year absence. With our travel ordeals finally over, we could finally relax. After finishing our wine, we unpacked, took a stroll (which pretty much covered the whole of the town in a matter of minutes), enjoyed some beer and a late dinner at Barley and Hops Tavern, and rested in order to gear up for the next day, when the real fun would begin.