Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the Road with Annie Nakamura

Part III of a series

In two previous blogs (October 2011 and January 2012), I told the tale of Annie Nakamura’s request to be taken on one final road trip and to be buried in one of two locations--either on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Forest in Washington or at Anza Borrego Desert. Our decision was to “leave a little bit of Annie” in some of her favorite spots. Four fellow travelers—Kawa (aka Ann Kawasaki), Janet, Don, and I began the journey on October 8, 2011. The trip took us north on Interstate 395 on the eastern interior of California.

On Wednesday, October 12th, we buried Annie on Hurricane Ridge amid the splendor of beautiful trees and SNOW. The trek to San Francisco begins.

Day 7: Friday, October 14th: After a seamless trip thus far, we arrive at the San Francisco Holiday Inn (airport location) which turned out to be an ordeal in itself. Difficult to locate, and when we finally found the entrance into the parking lot, there was no spaces available. Driving round and round in the parking lot, the decision was to park along the side and unload the bags. This precipitated yet another ordeal. The room key would not open the exterior door; I ran around to the main entrance, through the lobby, and to the side of the building. We unloaded our bags and wended our way through a large crowd of people attending a wedding. The small elevator barely accommodated our bags; we had to make two trips to reach our rooms. By this time, we were all tired, frustrated, and on edge.

Rather than struggle to get a meal at the overcrowded hotel restaurant, we ventured out once again; this time in search of In-and-Out Burgers. Janet had NEVER eaten one, and it was her lucky day. The joint was packed, but the burgers were great. The rest of the evening, we spent resting.

Day 8: Saturday, October 15th: Bright and early, Lea Saito and her sister, Meryl, come to the hotel. Annie, Kawa and Lea roomed together in San Francisco, and Don and I spent many a happy nights staying over during our trips to San Francisco. After a hearty breakfast, we head over to Trader Joe’s to begin the food purchasing process for the “wake.”

Annie loved San Francisco; and we decided that some of her should remain in her favorite city. Good friends from Hilo now living in San Francisco—Kei and Dan—graciously offered their backyard as the San Francisco burial site. We head over to their home to meet and greet them.

To celebrate Annie’s love of food, (one of my favorite Annie-ism, “If I couldn’t eat, I would DIE!), we stop at Tartines and purchase luscious, scrumptious pastries and order sushi combos. Kei and Dan are vintners and will serve their own wine.
A former co-worker, Julie, flies in from Los Angeles; Mike (friend of Annie’s and Kawa’s Hilo High classmate), flies in from Houston to participate in the wake.

Day 9: Sunday, October 16th: We begin the day with Dim Sum at Ton Kiang Hakka Restaurant on Geary (one of Annie’s favorite restaurants). Six of us are crammed into the Altima as we make the various stops to procure the food.

At 2:30, we have a beautiful ceremony. Annie’s cousins, Will and Louise Nakamura, Lea, Meryl, Julie, Mike, Kei, Dan, Kawa, Don, and I recount lovely stories about Annie. Don has dug a space by the back wall in a spot amid a small poppy patch. How fitting it is, since one of our favorite pictures of Annie is of her sitting in the Poppy Reserve outside of Lancaster, California. It is perfect. We each scoop a handful of dirt, say our farewells, and Don finishes.

The celebration that follows is equally beautiful—all of us laughing, eating, and recounting endless funny stories about our many encounters with Annie. At 7 we decide to leave, but Kei and Dan insist we go for dinner! We go to Park Chow on Lincoln and Irving, and miracles do happen; there are TWO parking spaces in a row. Annie must have been looking out for us.

We depart with hugs and good cheer. It was truly a great day, one that Annie really enjoyed.

Day 10: Monday, October 17th: Janet leaves for Hawai’I; Julie for Los Angeles; Mike for Houston; Kawa, Don, and I for San Diego.

We three begin a “Missions” tour stopping at as many missions along the way. At Nuestra Senor de la Soledad, we light a candle for Annie and leave cranes; we head south and stop at Mission San Antonio, Mission San Miguel, and Mission San Luis Obispo where we leave cranes.

By evening, we reach Bakersfield with the intent of eating at Buck Owen’s restaurant; but alas, it is closed. We eat at the Chalet Basque instead and enjoy a HUGE meal before heading south to Tehachapi where we spend the night.

Day 11: Tuesday, October 18th: Heading south, we decide to go through Death Valley—another one of Annie’s favorite road trips with Kawa. We arrive at Bad Water around noon where it is a sweltering 104 degrees! We begin driving up and find a location that overlooks Bad Water with a panoramic view. The sun is bright; the heat shimmers from the water, and we find a spot to scatter some more ashes. Another idyllic spot that Annie will enjoy.

We decide to take Kawa to the Kelso Train Depot. There we find another little pot in which to keep Annie’s ashes.

Day 12: Wednesday, October 19th: We drive through Joshua Tree and slowly make our way back to San Diego.

To be continued.

Judith Liu
April 6, 2012


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