If you would have asked me anytime before this trip if I had relatives living in Berkeley California I would have answered no. But that answer would have been wrong. As it turns out I have two cousins living in Berkeley with their families. Cousins Jon and Billy Witort and they were most accommodating to my travel plans.
It's funny how things turn out really. I planned on traveling alone on this trip and planned to see amazing natural wonders, special things I thought I should stop and take notice of on this planet before it's too late. But one thing I learned in Berkeley is that family is a special thing, and one you can experience in much the same way as many of the worlds natural wonders.
Seeing the beauty that this world has to offer makes you feel like you're doing something right. It makes you feel like you belong in that place for that moment that you discover it. Well my cousins (along with their parents while I was in Portland) made me feel as if I belonged when I came to see them. Even more so it seemed as if there was an instant connection. As if there was no judgment, no predispositions, just a discovery of not something wonderful, but someone wonderful. I feel so blessed to have a family that I love, and who loves me, but I've come to realize that the circle of family that I thought I had is actually much bigger than I first thought.
Berkeley was a great stop though, even more so than just being able to spend sometime with some wonderful people. I was able to visit UC Berkeley and walk around a beautiful college campus which always puts me in a good mood. Anything that can bring memories of 4 years at Penn State to my mind always makes me feel great. I was also in town for another birthday party, Jon's, which was fun, but what I will remember most about it was the group of hippies that we shared the park with. Classic...
Berkeley really seemed like a different place than anywhere I'd ever been before though. On the surface it was just like any other nice, well to do area where people have money, and live what appears to be carefree lives, but if you look a little closer it's has something different about it. My first hint was when I got in Billy's car and he said it ran on vegetable oil, and my second was when Jon's car didn't make a sound. Not only did these people have money, but they were eco-friendly too! There were recycling bins for every type of material you can imagine, solar panels, hybrid cars, community cars, and some people even rode bikes! Honestly, I used to think that America can change with time, that someday in the future we can be more conscious of our effects on the environment, but I was wrong. It doesn't need to happen "someday" it really can happen now. It already is, in Berkeley.
Berkeley was also my jumping off point for San Francisco. Billy lent me his bike and I rode around the busy streets of San Francisco for a whole day like I was Kevin Bacon from "Quicksilver". I usually love walking around big cities but this bike experience was great. I went all over from the Pier 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge, beach front parks to AT&T Park to catch a free baseball game. This was the best city experience I had on my trip.
All that and they had a dog I could play with too. What more could I ask for, right? Well Billy ended up trumping all of that by giving me the best advice for where I should go when I get to the Grand Canyon. I will always be indebted to him for that. "If you wanna just look at the Canyon, yeah, go where everyone else goes, but if you want to hike it, go here." Man was he right. But you'll have to wait to hear about that place later because I wasn't off to the grand canyon yet.
Next stop Santa Cruz!