First time at an Estate Sale

I didn’t know what an estate sale was until today when my mom brought me along to two of them to look for a few household items. After two weeks we are pretty much settled into our California apartment, and we are now working on getting little things now like bookshelves (we don’t have books yet) and decorations for the walls.

Estate sales are basically like garage sales but for everything in the house (and sometimes the house is put on the market as well). I went to two houses today and only the second house allowed buyers into the house.

One interesting thing that I learned was that people hire estate sale companies to run their estate sales. At the first house we went to, there were ~10 workers that covered a wide spectrum of race and age that all wore black aprons and ran around arranging items and pricing them. At the second house, there were three latino ladies that ran things. Here are some photos from that second house:

Each company has their own way of pricing and labeling items. At the second house, they used colored buttons, which was much simpler than the first house’s method, which was having a worker come and stick a custom price onto the item.

The second house was actually really amazing and had a beautiful pool in the back and a spacious garden area right behind the front doors.

The only thing that I dislike about estate sales is that most of the items are old, dusty, and depressing, and since there are so many items in an estate sale, the house tends to look way too crowded. Some people see a bunch of cheap stuff that can be cleaned off and reused but to me it seems like a waste of time to buy them, unless you really like the item or are on a tight budget. By the end, I almost got a headache from looking at all that clutter!

Small Californian towns: Gilroy, Ojai, and Carmel


We started off our journey to Ojai at OD’s Kitchen in Gilroy, CA (population 50,000), for breakfast. Locals lined up ten minutes before 8 am and chatted before the restaurant opened. The locals were talking about some sort of festival in Gilroy where you weren’t allowed to bring beer to drink after eating, then a Vietnam War veteran began talking about how during his time in Vietnam he drank more beer than water.

The locals were friendly to us foreigners and when one local recommended a dish on the menu, I decided to order it: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”


He recommended the “Rosebud”, which was a “Kitchen sink” (chopped up potatoes and ham) plus biscuits and gravy topped with an egg. He also recommended the thickly sliced bacon, and we ordered that too.

We got to Ojai in the evening after driving south for about 5 hours. We’d been here exactly two years ago, and we’d loved it. Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) is a small town of 8,000 in the Ojai Valley.

My family liked three main things about Ojai.

1). Last time we were here, we visited the Pepper Tree Retreat, the former home of Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti.

2). There is a place called Meditation Mount which holds monthly meditations on the full moon. We were lucky enough to visit on the full moon this time, and attended the meditation, which started about an hour before sunset.


There was a 30 min music session where a young man played relaxing music on a keyboard while everyone (30 ppl or so) sat in a circle on chairs, then two speakers talked about helping humanity by accessing the wisdom from our souls. The sessions stressed unity with each human being. This was the first time I’d heard of this so here’s more information:

Once the sun set and we’d sat in silent meditation for 10-30 minutes (I have no idea how long my eyes were closed) the leaders of the meditation led everyone outside onto the terrace and we released something we’d built up through meditation out into the Ojai Valley to help humanity.


3). The third thing we liked about Ojai were the burritos of La Fuente Restaurant:


Three types of salsa, each spicier than the next.

We came here two years ago and ate burritos in the hot sun outside the small restaurant because the only sitting room was outside. We liked it so much that we ate there twice last time.

This time we came here at 8:30 after the meditation on Meditation Mount for some evening food. We were glad to see that the restaurant had expanded to the adjacent store space as well, so we could sit inside. The carne burrito wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it.


Carmel (a.k.a. Carmel-by-the-Sea, (Carmel pronounced Car-Mel(Mel like the name))), California: We’d been here exactly two years ago as well. It’s a really small, touristy town of 4,000, and the only place we’ve been to in this town was downtown. The seaside part of Carmel is also an attraction but we never left downtown.

The streets were so cobbled and sloped that apparently the municipal code prohibits high heels longer than 2 inches unless you have a permit.


The main reason we never left downtown was a restaurant called Dametra Cafe, which served excellent Greek food. We were glad to see that Dametra, like La Fuente in Ojai, had expanded into the adjacent room. The best part about Dametra was that last time we were here, a cook came out from the kitchen to sing a song to the entire restaurant. A tall, grizzly, hook-nosed man came out to introduce the chef, holding a bouzouki, which looked like a guitar with a broken neck, and a few drummers sat in the back of the restaurant and the short, old chef began to sing.

We learned on this visit that the chef sings at least once every day at random times. And as luck would have it, he came out to sing right after we’d ordered the check.

Golden Gate Bridge

One cool thing about living on Stanford’s campus in Palo Alto is that the Caltrain station is really close and San Francisco is then only a short train ride away.



San Francisco is usually cooler in temperature than Palo Alto because San Francisco is surrounded by water. Fog was covering the “Twin Peaks”, two hills near the center of San Francisco. Fog was covering the top of the Golden Gate Bridge for awhile. Even though I was wearing jeans and a hoodie for the first time this summer, the breeze traveling up the hilly streets of San Francisco made me cold.


We joined the hundreds of people already walking on the bridge.

The wind intensified as we walked onto the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge walkway was pretty cramped because cyclists were supposed take up one half of the space.


Knowingly throwing objects off the bridge was quoted as a misdemeanor.

I overheard someone say, “The bridge isn’t golden in any way, shape, or form!”, and inside the gift shop there was a book with a title asking the same question. The bridge is that shade of orange to increase its visibility, and it’s named after the Golden Gate Strait, the area between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.


Amazing view of San Francisco.

I suggest bringing extra layers to put on here because it gets really windy and chilly.

I also suggest you go to Tampopo, a Japanese restaurant in Japantown in San Francisco. They have amazing ramen and the food comes sooner than you think.



Day 7: Sacramento, California to Palo Alto, California

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This post is five days late because I didn’t have access to wifi after reaching Palo Alto. We are staying on Stanford University’s Campus and didn’t get a modem and router until today. I guess I could’ve gone to a coffee shop or public library to write this post, but we were all busy unpacking and shopping for food and household supplies.

We immediately began noticing some differences between our old home in rural Illinois and our new home in urban California.

Everything in Palo Alto was clean and space efficient.



Some space-saving bike rack

Going to Walmart was comforting because the aisles resembled the ones back in Illinois, but the store was ten times as crowded in Palo Alto.


There were tons merchandise left on the floor and misplaced on the shelves by customers. I would’ve been shocked, but we were warned by others that this was a result of the busy lifestyle that most Californians live.


First meal at home, eaten on a picnic blanket on the floor of the empty living room.


It was like a cheap furniture factory for the first few days.


One of the busiest streets in Palo Alto, El Camino Real.

Intro / Last Weeks in Champaign, IL

My family is leaving my hometown on July 26, 2014,  and driving West. Our final destination is Palo Alto, California (My Dad’s taking a semester-long sabbatical at Stanford University), but we will be stopping along the way for sightseeing. I will stay in Palo Alto for about three weeks and leave for Taiwan around August 23, although my travel agent hasn’t sent me the itinerary yet.

My blog is structured into three main sections, each one corresponding to one part of my upcoming year. The first is Journey West, where we will drive to Palo Alto. The second is California, where I spend three weeks in Palo Alto, California. The third is Taiwan, where I will live in Taipei for a year sponsored by Rotary Youth Exchange. To see all of my posts in order from most recent to oldest, click on the title of my blog at the top of the page, “A Gap Year In Taiwan”.


Here are some of the things I did in Champaign before I left.

Birdwatching that was organized by a very knowledgable classmate in Meadowbrook Park


In the forest

Champaign County Fair

I’d gone last year and really enjoyed the change in atmosphere. I went two nights in a row, and ate a donut burger, deep fried oreos, nachos, and drank a ton of lemon shake-ups.


4H Club


Fairground rides











In Indianapolis, we stumbled upon a Family Day celebration in a park

There was a concert, a World Cup soccer game displayed on a huge screen, lots of food stands and TONS of people. Last summer, around the same time of year, we’d seen a similar festival going on in the same park as we drove towards downtown Indianapolis. Now we were in the middle of it.


Spicy Mango Drink


Ice Cream Cart