One must always take the time to make a friend’s birthday extra special!
At least that was my excuse when I organized one of my best friend’s birthday getaway. Always helpful, ever thoughtful Lena never suspected anything, of course, as I happen to be masterful at being sneaky when it comes to surprises.
The first draft for my new YA novel (which I was supposed to be working on) was set aside. I had been working on it everyday after the SCBWI Summer Conference, and after 17 days, I was about ready for a break.
August 26, 2011, Friday
I left work early that Friday so I could pack for our weekend trip. Then at 6PM, Maiko, Lena and I headed to the San Pedro Harbor to get our tickets for the Catalina Express Ferry, and await our 7PM boarding time.
We were so excited, we forgot that San Pedro was just 15 minutes away from the house (and Maiko forgot her sandals). In other words, we got there way too early.
So we spent our time wisely, reading books and taking pictures of random scenes around us.
We finally boarded the ferry. Figuring the view would be much better from the top, we found seats in the cabin upstairs.
Of course, later on, the would prove to be a big mistake.
The ferry started off slowly, as wove its way across the busy harbor. We stood in the cabin, or outside, enjoying the breeze and the view. When the ferry reached open water of the Pacific, it sped up. At first, the bumps and the drops made everybody laugh aloud–after all it was like riding a rollercoaster.
After 5 whole minutes of this bumpy ride and the sickening rise and fall of the ferry, everyone fell silent in their seats. I think we all realized that unlike a rollercoaster, this ride would last for two hours.
Maiko and I had taken some dramamine in case of sea-sickness. It worked very well for me, as I felt nothing but sleepy. It didn’t work as well for Maiko, however, and I had to sit with her outside because she was already feeling very sick. We sat freezing our faces off in the open part of the upper cabin. After half an hour, I suggested that maybe the waves wouldn’t be as bad downstairs, so Maiko braved the rocking boat and made her way downstairs to find a seat there.
I was afraid I would slip and fall overboard if I even tried to reach the stairs going downstairs, so I just made my way back to our original seat and sat beside Lena, who had decided that being asleep was better than being sick.
The ferry reached the port of Two Harbors after an hour, and we were all very thankful for the short break. Most of the people on the ferry disembarked, while a few of us stayed on to await our Avalon destination.
40 minutes after, we finally reached Avalon, and boy were we glad! We called the hotel to ask for a shuttle, and one came by to pick us up a few minutes later.
Nights are always darkest on an island, and we were glad that we didn’t walk to the Catalina Canyon Resort & Spa Hotel. As soon as we got to our room, we unpacked, got ready for bed and just slept like the dead.
August 27, 2011, Saturday
The next morning, the three of us walked down to the pier shops to have breakfast at the Cookie Co. coffee shop. We sat down with our tea and pastries, and talked about what we would do the rest of the day.
Lena still had no clue as to the surprise Maiko and I had planned for her. She didn’t know that I had also invited some of our other friends to join us in Catalina, and while we were having breakfast, I saw one of them creeping up to us. I immediately distracted Lena by talking about flat bread as loudly as possible–allowing our friend Leeann to surprise her from behind.
Apparently the ferry ride wasn’t any better when Leeann and her boyfriend JP had traveled to Avalon that morning. So JP stayed in the hotel room to recover while Leeann joined Maiko, Lena and I for a short tour of the pier and its many sights.
The pier was filled with bobbing boats, and ferries.
We saw the round building of the Catalina Casino, and a light house that belonged to the Tuna Club of Catalina.
My camera allowed me to zoom in on the pretty pirate ship windvane on top of the light house.
After checking out Descanso Beach, (so that we would know where to go for our 3PM kayak tour), the four of us trudged back to the hotel.
I had been texting back and forth two other friends (who Lena had no idea was coming as well), and I found out that they were recovering from the bumpy ferry ride by the hotel pool. So I led everybody to the poolside, and Lena got her final surprise for the day, when I pointed out our (seasick) friends Su & Ian.
Our group was finally complete. We freshened up, got our things ready for the afternoon, and then headed out to lunch at the Cafe Metropole.
Lunch at the Cafe Metropole
Su, Ian and JP were still feeling a bit seasick from their bumpy ferry ride, but a good lunch was just the thing to make everyone feel a bit better.
We chatted over a lunch of salads and sandwiches.
Then we headed for the Descanso Beach Ocean Sports booth, where we had reserved a kayak tour.
We met our kayak tour guide, Dan, who briefed us for our journey to Frog Rock.
He gave us all life vests, a bottle of water, and beach sandals that had straps on so it wouldn’t fall in the water.
Afterwards, we trooped down to the water, where we got into kayaks. There were seven of us, so Lena decided to brave it out and ride solo on a single person kayak.
We followed tour guide Dan, who told us all about Catalina Island, to Frog rock, a tall rock that jutted out of the water a mile or so from Descanso Beach. Maiko and I decided to get a bit closer to the rock, and ended up ramming our kayak straight into the rock. Thankfully, it was just a slight bump and we were okay. Tour guide Dan even took our picture.
We paddled back toward Descanso Beach, but halfway there, tour guide Dan pointed to a rocky beach.
We parked our kayaks there for a little break. We were supposed to have a little snack here, but Dan forgot the oatmeal cookies, so instead, we just explored the rocky cove, rested our tired arms, and made stacks of rocks.
Oh, and we also had our only group picture so far.
We headed back toward the pier. This time, Lena and I partnered up for the kayak while Maiko took the solo trip. Lena and I were first into the water and we immediately started paddling. We thought we were way ahead of everyone else, but then this mom and son tandem whooshed past us. The mom power paddled all the way back toward the beach.
When everyone had landed their kayaks, we all returned the sandals, and life vests. Then tour guide Dan gathered us one last time, to give us our cookies, a certificate saying that we had survived our frog rock tour, and were now expert kayakers. Dan gave us copies of some of the scenes around Catalina that he had painted. Of course, he had to autograph those.
It was already 5 by the time we made our way to the shuttle stop.
After hot showers, we all met up again and then trudged into town to look for a dinner place. Maiko had heard about the buffalo burgers in Catalina and wanted to try those. Lena expertly found us a restaurant called Buffalo Nickel. Buffalo Nickel had its own shuttle, and while waiting for it, we wondered why we would need a shuttle to get there when Avalon was so small.
We soon discovered that the road to the restaurant was not only dark, and winding, it was also very narrow–and kind of foggy. We felt like we were on a strange and spooky quest. Five minutes later, we saw the restaurant lights, and we all breathed out in relief.
Leeann and I ordered big fat steaks. We felt like we deserved it after all the paddling we had to do. Maiko ordered the buffalo burger and Su, Ian and Lena ordered seafood combination plates
The night ended with some chats, and a few drinks of wine at the hotel room.
August 28, 2011, Sunday
Our ferry was leaving for San Pedro at 12:30, so we only had time to pack, check out and have a big breakfast at the Pancake Cottage.
Maiko and I decided to share a big plate of bacon, eggs, and the pancake house’s famous potatoes. The meal came with two large pancakes and peaches on the top.
After breakfast, we picked our bags up at the hotel and made our way back to the boarding station. Su, Ian, Leeann and JP hung out with us until we had to get on the boat.
I had stuffed my stomach full during breakfast. I was a bit worried because we were boarding the ferry in a couple of hours and I didn’t want to get sick.
Thankfully, though, it was smooth sailing that day and the three of us were asleep all throughout the trip.
I had such a great time that weekend, and Lena couldn’t stop laughing at how we had all surprised her. It was not only a fun break from my monotonous writing schedule, but also a great way to spend some quality time with good friends.
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