On Thursday, January 12, at 4:30 AM, The Fight Nerd embarked on an epic journey to California. My final destination would be San Francisco, with the goal of Friday being my super secret mission and business on the West Coast. Being my first long-distance trip since 2009, I kept this log to recap all the craziness, and to try my hand at a travel blog (Anthony Bourdain, I am coming for you!).
Kennedy Airport in NYC at five in the morning is a dismal and lonely place, and a generally ugly place no matter what time of the day it is. After passing seamlessly through the security checkpoints, I made my way to the gate where I would be flying via Virgin America. My stomach empty, I attempted to buy some food inside in the airport. $40 later, I had a sweaty egg & bagel sandwich, a box of purportedly “fresh” fruit, and some overpriced water and juice to get me through the ride.
While waiting to purchase some additional rations, I was forced to wait as two Brazilian tourists were paying for their snacks in pennies, dimes, and nickels, all for an eight dollar purchase. This was going to be a long day.
Despite the sprinkles of rain and general malaise of the early morning, my plane left right on time to begin the long haul to California. I was sandwiched between an attractive young Asian girl with a nose piercing, and a tall hipster dressed in black who ordered Bloody Mary’s constantly, purely to pocket the mini bottle of booze to use later.
Being my first time on Virgin America, I was not sure what to expect, especially with the price of it. JetBlue is still my preferred way of flight, but VA was not terrible, with roomy seats and decent leg room. 18 channels of satellite TV kept me company, but there is not much on at five in the morning, moreso when the channels were on PST time. Nothing is free on Virgin though, other than bottled water, so any in-flight meals or snacks are best bought in the airport or on the plane. Either way, bring a credit card or three – you will need it.
After a long six-hour flight of anxiety and nervously nibbling on Chex Mix, I had a bowl of sub-par Udon soup at Wakaya, a Japanese noodle & sushi-stall in the San Fran airport after we landed. My Raw noodles and gamey tasting chicken were welcome, even in the tepid liquid they alleged was “broth” – I needed some solid carbs to wake me up. In retrospect, I should have gone to the Napa Valley Farms shop which I discovered only after finishing my chewy udon ( I would end up spending about $50 in their before my flight home, easily the best food I had on the trip). Really, though, I should have just had Pinkberry and cut my losses.
Next to me while I dined was a pair of Spanish dudes, traveling to work some music event and ogling girls, or as they called them “purebred chihuahua’s.” San Fran’s airport was a huge improvement over JFK, with plenty of high-end shops and eateries that did not look like remnants of the late ’70’s. I hung out for a bit and people watched since I arrived early, and was waiting for another person to arrive since we would be sharing a shuttle bus to the hotel for this event. Only in a California airport would you see full-grown adults skateboarding to their gates, while cowboys and overdressed women who may have been models parading around. God, I love Cali!
Finally, my partner in crime arrived, and I ran over to the shuttle pick-ups. Of course, nothing was that easy, as my meet-up was at a different location. The bus driver ignored my pleas of a second person, and began to drove off while I began to yell at him to stop. Luckily, he stopped a few moments later and picked him up on his own accord, but the dude could have at least told me! Rob nelson, professional Street Fighter player and news editor for Eventshub.com, was the man I was waiting for. With an enormous (and fresh) tattoo of a human heart beating on his right forearm, Rob was one of the select few people that was brought in for this secret event, and gave me the lowdown on the sights of San Fran as we rode to our destination.
The hills of San Fran were as impressive as a roller coaster, and even though I am from New York City, I could not help but tilt my head at the architecture and colorful homes that dotted the steep landscape. “Chinese Food & Donuts” stores were plentiful (yes, they exist but I was unable to snap a photo) as we drove through The Mission, along with a bevy of other unique restaurants and stores. I wish I had a chance to travel through the area on my own time, but that would be for another trip.
After about 40 minutes of traveling, we arrived at the Westin on Market St. With an Office Depot and California Pizza Kitchen directly across the busy city street, the hotel was a temporary reprieve from the hustle and bustle of trolly noises and car horns. It was pretty swanky, and I was quite relieved that I was not paying for it.
I would be in a one-bedroom suite on the eleventh floor, a decent sized room with a desk, iPod dock, and a ginormous bed. Inside the desk was a booklet promoting the “Westin Home Collection,” which was their quaint way of letting you know how much the towels and bed-sheets are if you decide to try and steal them.
Massive windows allowed a dearth of natural light into the room, which did little to stop me from turning on all the lamps (hey, it’s not my electric bill). While the windows were impressive and gave me a nice glimpse of the cityscape, they were also facing an office building. It was unfortunate I only realized that after I had taken off my pants.
What was most impressive about the room was the huge Philips Flat-screen TV. I was not impressed so much by the television itself, but rather, the fact that it got HDNet, meaning I got to get off an airplane, turn on a TV, and watch Marlon Sandro and Hatsu Hioko go to war at “Sengoku.” My brain was beginning to transform to mush, so I decided to fight off the urge to sleep and take a stroll around the town near the hotel.
It took a mere three minutes to find the nearest comic shop, which was aptly named “Toys.” Located at 685 Market St, the store housed a variety of toys, dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, and even some odd porcelain collectibles. Deep in the back, shelves of comics occupied rows upon rows of a section of the store that seemed out of place. I did not find much that I wanted, but that did not stop me from grabbing some Daredevil comics ‘just because.’
I sojourned on in my punch-drunk state of mind to see what else I could find. Del Taco’s, independent burger joints, coffee shops, and plenty of stores. Walgreens seemed to be the Starbucks of Market St., as I ran into a trio of them in a three-block radius. Around the corner was a craft and folk art museum, as well as a high-end chocolate store that I did not have a chance to drool over. My priority was to stock up on rations for the weekend, and I did so in a CVS of all places.
To save money in the long run, I splurged on lots of groceries – bananas, single-serve cereal containers, Teddy Grahams, crackers, and beef jerky – the food of champions. In reality, most of the food would be donated to my host since I ended up eating very few of it, but it never hurts to have in case of a zombie contagion that prevented me from leaving my room.
Dinner would end up being a grilled chicken breast burger with a side of fries from one of the many local sports bars and eateries. While the burger was tasty and healthy, the fries were a bi-polar mess, with some of the strands having the perfect crunchy outside, soft inside ratio, while the majority were just burnt and inedible.
So, with Thursday coming to an end, I was getting ready for the long haul that would be Friday. Just what was my super secret mission in San Fran?
None other than to get an in-depth, first hand look at THQ’s upcoming video game, “UFC Undisputed 3.” Yes, I had flown across the United States to play a video game. So, what were my impressions of it? Well, you will have to wait until midnight EST before I can reveal anything legally, so stay tuned for that tomorrow on the site!