At the end of June, I had the chance to get away for a glorious girls-only weekend for one of my bestie's bachelorette party. When I heard about the plans, I wasn't sure that I would be able to make it all work. I really wanted to be there to celebrate my friend, and to enjoy some much-needed female bonding energy. I told Jon about it and he immediately said, "Well, of course you have to go." So I bought my plane ticket and immediately started fantasizing about my weekend away.
Although the rest of the ladies live fairly locally in the Greater Bay Area, I was able to help plan some of the "touch points" from afar. I loved the collaborative efforts and thoroughly enjoyed our text and email chains full of clever ideas and conversation. It was really invigorating and inspiring and made the anticipation that much more enjoyable. I was busy in the few weeks before crafting up my contributions to the event.
Finally the day arrived. I remember the first time I left Alice, Jon dropped me off at the airport and I cried all the way through security. This time I gave them all a hug and kiss and ran right out the door!
On my way to the airport, I had to swing by the drugstore for a travel-size bottle of contact solution and I realized I'd forgotten to pack any nail polish, so I decided to buy a new one for the occasion. I was trying to choose a color, when I realized one of the colors I was considering was called "bachelorette bash." So, duh.
|Yeah, those nails could use a manicure...|
On my way from the drugstore to the car, my armpit accidentally called my dad. He texted back to tell me he was in a meeting but that he'd call me later, and that he was staying at one of the SFO airport hotels for a conference that weekend. I was already planning to spend that evening with my sister, so I texted to ask her if Dad was aware of our plans, and if she knew he was staying at a hotel approximately 5 minutes from where we would be spending the night. We decided we should probably let him know that we were going to be nearby and coordinate something with him.
So my sister retrieved me from the airport, and we headed over to the hotel row. We were going to hang out at a little park by the water, but we basically had time to park the car and for me to give her a birthday present before we had to rendezvous with my dad. We met him at his hotel and walked down the street for dinner, where I spied an El Torito. Not, like, the very best Mexican food, but dependable enough and way better than what I can currently get in my town, so they obliged me...
|Seeing this picture kind of makes me wish I'd also ordered a giant margarita.|
Anyway, we had a fun night kicking off the festivities with a few girls who weren't able to join us for the weekend, but minus a few of the final group. So in the morning, we reconfigured our attendees, packed up the big van, and hit the road for a fun-filled adventure that was a total surprise for the bride-to-be.
Before we left, the bride's like-a-sister cousin gave her a special "Soon to be Meowied" shirt and a handmade cat ear fascinator headband. Several in our group are cat-lovers, but Laura really loves cats; like, even more than I do, which is hard to beat. In trying to include a few feline touch points, the cat theme kind of spread like wildfire. Or like feral kittens...
|cat ears about to cross the Golden Gate Bridge|
The only detail that Laura knew was that we were headed to Ukiah, about 2.5 hours North of San Francisco in the Mendocino wine country. It was just enough time to feel like a real little road trip, and to enjoy lots of conversation, silliness and laughter through the lovely NorCal landscape - including a road trip soundtrack specially prepared for us by a very dear friend of the bride who couldn't attend, including interludes of personal messages she recorded and timed to coincide with our progress along the way. It was so thoughtful, and we all really appreciated her virtual presence.
Finally, we reached the turn-off for Starfall road - which was exactly 5.9 miles from our last turn, just as they said it would be.
|Heading down Starfall Road, into this beautiful valley.|
It's hard to read this sign, but I had to capture it because our fearless driver paid it no heed despite the warnings that going any faster would destroy the road, and despite her nervous passengers who were bouncing around in the back and terrified that we were going to slide over the side of the narrow road and roll down the steep hillside...
Finally we pulled up to our destination, a beautiful home situated all alone on the top of a hill in a valley with only a few other homes.
|I've missed the NorCal hills. This was a sight for sore eyes.|
We let Laura lay down and rest for a few minutes while we quickly put up the decorations we'd brought, including some incredibly sexy and stimulating thematic nature photography.
There were a few more cute items like a glittery banner ("Let's Get Wild!"), but I'm not sure I got any good photos before the washi tape I used to hang them up gave out...
I think we took a break to fix a quick little lunch, but we didn't have long to relax before it was time to head back up the windy driveway to our first activity. We arrived at California landmark #980, the Vichy Springs for a relaxing afternoon of taking the waters in the "Vichy" or "champagne baths."
|A charming bridge over the little creek that ran below the bath houses.|
|I think my expression here indicates that I'm noticing that I forgot to clean the make-up and baby slobber off my phone camera lens, hence the dreamy glow...|
We wanted to relax but we also wanted to chat, so we got cozy in the tubs. There were two tubs in each little room of the bathhouse, so we got the best of both worlds!
|The little babbling brook next to the bathhouses, which are inside the building on the right.|
My "bachelorette bash" manicure and my champs on the back deck, with a beautiful view of the valley.
|work in progress|
It was tough to finish before the artist had to pack everything up, but I was pretty happy with where it ended up in a little over an hour!
After we wrapped up the painting party, the chefs got to work cooking dinner, despite the fact that the water had stopped working somewhere during the painting party.
Our moving and profound experience was interrupted by a small fire in the kitchen, lots of yelling and bickering and profanity, and then the announcement that the meal was ready, despite one of the chefs falling asleep in the bride's bed...
By the time dinner was ready, I'm pretty sure it was the middle of the night. So we thoroughly enjoyed a delicious meal, and then went out to lay on the porch in the dark and watch the stars. It was so dark out, and so quiet in the valley, and so peaceful. After what felt like hours out there, I heard something rustling in the grass near the trees off to the side of the house. I think I had to use the bathroom, so I quietly went inside, just in case it was like a mountain lion creeping around in the yard. After that, people started making their way inside and some were heading to bed - including me.
The water still hadn't come back by the time everyone went to bed, despite the hosts very best effort to fix whatever was wrong with the well system. So, in the morning, we all just rolled out of bed and shrugged.
I made special coffee cups for everyone, with kitty faces and "meow" written the way it's spelled in French, Italian, Spanish/German, Norwegian, and Japanese, to reflect some of the cultural heritage in our group. And also just because it's fun to see how other languages make and spell animal sounds.
|Spanish and German cats say "miau."|
|French cats say "miaou"|
The teacher saw me taking photos and offered to take some with my phone during the class.
We said goodbye to the lovely house and headed out for our last stop before we hit the road. We drove a little further up the main road to the Montgomery Woods State Reserve. We wanted to take a short hike through the beautiful redwood forest. We found a little place to pull off and park, and headed down the trail. Immediately, we came to a stream with a little rocky outcropping, so we set down and had a little picnic lunch.
|I think Laura was trying to operate my camera but took this cute selfie instead...|
It was hard to fly away from a place that I love and people that I love so much and wish I could see more. I knew that it was going to be a great weekend, but somehow, the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts. I was sorry to leave, but my cup was full and running over with a peace, a joy, a love that I haven't experienced in such a long time. I am so thankful that I met Melissa, who introduced me to Laura, who introduced me to their wonderful friends. I am grateful that I know them all, and that I got to spend such a wonderful weekend with them, celebrating one of the most unique and inspiring people I've ever known. I think we should do it every year...