Have I mentioned that I love my team?

Wednesday after work, we went out to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I brought my guitar and strummed as we walked along, and then we found that if you brought a Pepsi product can (for recycling), you got unlimited rides for $10 (as opposed to $30 or so). Max found an empty Pepsi can in the street and persuaded the folks at the recycling booth to give all four of us $10 ride passes for the single can (for which I gaped at him and he turned and teased me and said "finally, I have won Mel's respect!") and we proceeded to go on the Dipper, a fantastic wooden rollercoaster, multiple times in a row. The first time was as the sun was setting, and at the top of the hill you could see the beach and the pier and the palm trees and the city and the sky with the dusk going down it; the second time was at night and the lights festooning the coaster had come on, so as you swooped over the clattering bunny hills it was a swirl of yellow strings that blurred past your head.

I went on the Fireball (as far as I could tell, the boardwalk's wildest ride - it involves rapid spinning, swinging, and almost going upside down) with Karsten's oldest daughter Malakai, then we met up with the remainder of the group (Ian had acquired a funnel cake) and ate at a falafel/burger joint, the only remaining place that was open at that hour.

Thursday: after work, we headed to Karsten's place for another farm salon, which I spent mostly in the pedicab playing guitar (again), although I did finish Max's plum pie after he ended his Magic: The Gathering game and decided he wasn't hungry any more. Petted a chicken, admired Debbie's seed catalog, stood in the fading sunlight talking about mail clients, general geekitude.

This morning: up before the sun, piled into Karsten's rental van, whipped out my laptop and handed it to Ian so he could pay our electric bill... and then the roadtrip from Santa Cruz to Portland started, Karsten describing the economics of having solar panels on one's house as we pulled onto the highway. Swung by Berkeley to pick up a Terra from Zareason for review, munching on strawberries in the meantime. Drove through a big valley full of trees with a river down below that's a deep, deep blue, with sandy beaches on either side, and whitewater rushing through it. Halfway up the mountain perched on the edge was a house, and Max and I just looked at it and went (almost in unison) "look at that house!" (and generally expressed great envy to the owners for the view out all their windows). Actually, a number of such valleys. At high speed. In the sunshine. While listening to U2 (Ian) and Dave Matthews Band (Max) and oldies (Karsten).

California has everything - we saw snow-capped mountain peaks, rock formations that looked like a gothic cathedral carved out of brown stone, and pictures of Bryce Canyon in Utah (California has mobile broadband connectivity that you can use to get to Wikipedia). Karsten told me about the canyon when I was raving about the California scenery; apparently the early raytracing program ("bryce") was named after the canyon because the creators wanted to be able to render something as gorgeous as Bryce Canyon. I'd heard of the software before, but not the place. Go figure. I also love the little trees that pop out from the side of the hills. It's all bare dirt, bare dirt, bare dirt, and then - "HI! I'm a TREE!" - bare dirt, bare dirt, bare dirt... they're just tiny cheerful tufts of things sticking themselves into nowhere at all.

We had dinner at Outback, which featured outrageously bad Australian accent imitations by Max and Karsten and a mad dash to the car by me to get my driver's license ("bring the sangria, we swear to God she's 24 and will be right back with ID") and the fastest Bloomin' Onion consumption I've ever witnessed. Then I closed my eyes most of the rest of the ride, and think I was even unconscious for a few moments at some point in there thanks to Karsten's pillow. It is wonderful to have coworkers who are also friends, and this roadtrip was a great reminder of that.

CommArch shall ride again! But now we're at the hotel in Portland and it's nearly midnight - so I'm going to go out and walkabout a bit and get my "WHEE IT'S A NEW CITY!!!!" fix, then come back and (hopefully) pass out. I want to be up early tomorrow to (1) send Pat a sorely belated update and (2) plunge through email backlog once again (I'm winning! I'm winning!)

Update: Having wandered Portland at 1am now, I like it (then again, I pretty much like everything). Portland is warm (in July) and awake at night. However, its nocturnal population seems to mostly consist of young partygoers and the homeless, and the primary soundtrack of the city at this time of night is techno music that is still loud when you're standing across the street. On the up side, it has a rather lovely river, and I found a tiny BBQ shack, a lot of food trucks open late, and Chinatown, which does indeed feature lugaw (rice porridge, most commonly known to American audiences as congee). And a park. With a fountain! It's looking like a good week.