I get two weeks off for Spring Break. Most of UNC gets one week off, but the business school gets two weeks off so the business school can have mini-study abroad trips. I chose to forgo forking over more than $7,000 to spend 12 days “immersing” myself in two or more countries, and instead planned my own trip. The main objective was to visit friends, and I also signed up to visit some tech companies and investors in the Bay Area.
Ryan, my old Peace Corps pal, drove up to Chapel Hill from Atlanta the week prior to my break (it happened to be the week of his break at Emory). My last final was on Thursday, and on Friday we drove west to Asheville, NC.
February in Chapel Hill was extremely nice weather wise. We had days in the 80’s, and a few in the 70’s, with many in the 60’s. It wasn’t too wet either. That changed as soon as we got to Asheville. It was in the 20’s at night, and snowed. We managed to get in a small “hike” and spent the rest of our time hopping around town with some other friends that were in town.
However, we did have one minor setback: Ryan is gluten-free. Why I went to the East Coast’s beer capital with a gluten-free? I have no idea. But he still enjoyed the breweries and got his hands on some good ciders. I also enjoyed Wicked Weed Brewery’s name for their gluten-reduced beer: Gluten Freak.
After two nights in Asheville, Ryan had to head back to Atlanta for class, and I joined him for the ride. On the drive south we stopped in Greenville, SC for a quick stroll through the city. It’s nice. Sterile, but nice.
I spent two nights in Atlanta before it was time for the main event: the West Coast. Ostensibly, I had been to San Francisco once before and Southern California four times (one of which I was too young to remember). In San Francisco I first stayed with one of my best friends from the Peace Corps, Rubén, who grew up in Northern California. It was wonderful to see him. I had not seen him since he left Nicaragua in October 2015. I was pleased to see how happy he is and how well things had gone for him since getting back from service.
A few months ago my roommate began playing Grand Theft Auto for fun, and watching him play jogged a lot of memories of me playing it in the basement with Aaron. In particular, I recall all of the funny radio stations that you could put on when you get in a car in the game. As I was taking rides around San Francisco, hearing the radio stations, watching the fog roll in and out, and cruising over the hills, I felt like I was in San Andreas, from Grand Theft Auto.
I had one completely free day in the city, and I spent it just walking from neighborhood to neighborhood. I started in Golden Gate Park, which was excellent, despite the clouds (the bad weather from Asheville haunted me for most of the trip). I love trees, and there were some awesome trees all around the park.
As I exited Golden Gate Park I found myself on Haight Street, so I walked through Haight-Ashbury before defying Rubén’s warning not to walk over to The Castro and The Mission. I marched up a big hill covered in beautiful houses, and descended, huffing and puffing, into The Castro, and then Mission Dolores Park and The Mission District.
The day was long; it tired me, and I was jetlagged. I enjoyed seeing all of the different neighborhoods, the different architecture, and getting a better feeling for the city, a city I had not been in (except for 12 hours between flights) since I was an underclassman in high school.
The following two days I spent in San Francisco and the Valley visiting various start-ups, venture capital firms, incubators, and tech companies. It was tiring to run around the city so much, but quite rewarding in the end. I met a lot of very interesting people, got closer to my classmates that were with me, and I gained an appreciation for the start-up/tech culture of the Bay. I really liked the feel of the culture. I don’t like companies that take things too seriously or think that everything they are doing is of the utmost importance (a complaint I have of my old employer). I did not get that feel in San Francisco. They seem to think that they can accomplish a lot with ingenuity and hard work, and suits and ties contribute nothing to that end, so they espouse it as being very NY and an artifact of taking things too seriously. I know that many people have a lot of differing opinions about start-up culture and emphasize a number of negative aspects, but this is simply what I perceived after a short two days of running running around.
On my last day in the Bay I also went down to Palo Alto to see some old friends. Han from EY brought me to an awesome Mediterranean hummus joint before I went over to join the (in)famous Robert and Xochilt at their chateau at Stanford Country Club. Seriously, Stanford is a beautiful campus that reminds me of a handsome retirement club in Florida. Robert called it a “country club for smart people.” They showed me around the campus before we went up to Muir Woods (Xochilt, a Leonesa, had never been) and then ate dinner at a good restaurant with bad service in Chinatown.
On to Spring Break: Part 2, LA and DC…
A gallery with one image for each bed/couch I slept on in the first half of the trip:
Onward to Spring Break: Part 2 …