California is the most recent state to be added to my list of Marriott stays. The tally is now 29 states, plus the District of Columbia (Re: In How Many States Have You Stayed at a Marriott Property?). The three-day jaunt to the left coast was too short by far, but having spent many weeks in this part of California over the years, the hurried pace was no problem. The goal for this journey was to collect a few dozen counties in the central part of the state.
The trip began with a short flight on UA from CMH to ORD on an A319. Lake Michigan, still showing signs of large sheets of ice came into view just before arriving in Chicago. I've flown this way many times before, but don't recall ever doing so in winter, so seeing part of the lake frozen was somewhat of a novelty.
Despite continuing on to Sacramento on the same flight number, the ORD-SMF leg was on a different aircraft (A320) and in a separate concourse. Even with the distance between gates, there was enough time to grab a quick dinner. The bulkhead row ended up with considerably more legroom than I anticipated and I expected no under seat area in front of me. Finding the divider between FC and Economy Plus had a cut out at the bottom allowing room for my laptop was an added bonus.
Until this trip, the only California counties I had visited since beginning my unusual hobby of mailing a postcard from every county seat in the country were San Diego and Imperial Counties along the southern border. My map of the state looked like this (green being for counties where I previously visited the county seat, cyan for counties I have been in or through).
By the time I flew home, it looked like this. (Hmmm, looks like I need to plan a trip to LA soon to collect those 8 counties in So Cal.).
Certainly the highlight of the trip was getting to see pluto77 again. We had met in D.C. last November, but since I was passing through her home territory it seemed appropriate to visit again. Sadly we didn't think of taking any photographs. Our get together really felt more like friends meeting for dinner rather than an Insider gathering. I enjoyed a lovely dinner with her and Mr. Pluto, and naturally, much of our conversation involved Marriott, MRI, and travel in general.
Over the three days, I covered 1691 miles, but lest you think all I did was drive, here’s a photo from the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
The trip would not have been complete without at least one stop at In-n-Out burger (I managed to grab lunch there twice ) or without crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
The drive through Napa County on the final day of the trip was amazing. I crossed the county roughly south to north along State Route 29 in hours just after sunrise and enjoyed the scenery immensely. No pictures, I'm sorry to say, and at the time I visited, none of the wineries were open. I'll have to make a return visit for a tasting tour some day. I did manage to hit all my planned stops, something that doesn't always happen due to traffic or weather. The trip included stays at 2 CYs and one SHS. All quite nice, though nothing remarkable. I'd stay at any of them again.
The journey home yielded one last unexpected bonus—an upgrade to First Class. Having the extra space on the overnight flight from SMF-IAH made a huge difference (I was actually able to doze off a few times which probably would have been impossible even in Economy Plus). Perhaps the pre-flight beverage helped a little.
All 35 postcards arrived within a week of the trip (the first dozen showed up an hour or so after I arrived home) bringing my collection up to 1,389, roughly 44% of the county seats in the country. With only one more aggressive collecting trip planned, reaching 50% might not happen this year, depending on what other travel opportunities come my way. With Hawaii on the agenda for September, I will be trading quantity for quality. I'll collect 3 counties in Hawaii over the course of 10 days (such is the sacrifice one must make when visiting paradise ).
Up next will be a trip into Appalachia at the end of April, which will involve completing the last counties in VA, western NC, and eastern TN, as well as dozen or so in northeast GA. Also included will be a visit with foxglove. I’m sure that will be fun.