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What I did on my summer vacation -- The Big Apple

(not that Big Apple)

(not that Big Apple)

June 20, 2006|by ALAN SOKOL

Traveling over 6,000 miles in 10 days wasn't my original plan for a summer vacation, but when the opportunity came to visit Apple Computer in San Jose, Calif., I couldn't turn down the offer.

I jumped on a train in Martinsburg, W.Va., on a weekend in late May with my grandparents, and settled in for a four-day ride to California. Scenic? Well, I saw lots of rust and abandoned buildings - not exactly what I expected. I did get to see some interesting sites along the way, road runners and tumbleweeds, but it seems that the national railroad system goes through a lot of ghost towns. I also didn't expect the tracks to be as wobbly as they were. The only other thing we had to worry about was running out of food because our train was delayed by a derailed freight car.

We arrived in California on Wednesday and hopped on a bus that went into San Jose. No more than two minutes after we started moving, the driver pulled over with urgent business: He washed the bus windows. Back in the bus, he "put the pedal to the metal" and got us to our destination in half the estimated time. When Uncle Joe picked us up, we were bushed from the wild bus ride.

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On Friday, my cousin Laura's graduation was celebrated at a mass at a large elaborate church. The service was unlike any I'd seen in Hagerstown; it had a dancing portion during the songs and the communion was different. But this mass had something in common with other masses; it made me a little sleepy.

On Saturday, Uncle Joe, my grandparents and I headed out to see my Aunt Kathy in Gualala, Calif. The roads we took were very steep and windy, and we wondered why she moved out where she did. Maybe it was to test if her family loved her.

When we finally did get there, two dogs "greeted" us by barking viciously. We met Isaac the crow, who makes different noises when he's happy, afraid, hungry, etc. His happy noise was "waaah," and if we said waaah then he said it, too. I think Isaac is more of a parrot than most parrots. While we were back there we met two more of Aunt Kathy's dogs, Smokey and Blossom. Uncle Joe said, "Smokey is as long as he is wide." I can't say that I disagree.

Sunday was beach day. We went with Blue, Aunt Kathy's fifth dog, who is part wolf. He wasn't as vicious to us as the other two were, unless we were the field mice he was hunting. When we got to the beach, we picked up some odd-looking driftwood that almost seemed like it was whittled. We watched Blue swim in the water and pose like he just won an Olympic medal.

The next day, Uncle Joe took me to "The Big Apple" - the Apple Computer headquarters, where Uncle Joe is a senior programmer with the Core OS department. The Apple campus looked much like a college campus, except there were older adults, but they dress very casually so they could've fooled me.

After breakfast - eaten in the cafeteria with iPod promotion posters plastered all over - we went to Uncle Joe's office. There was a poster showing how iTunes had conquered Windows. There were also many OS X boxes with all the different versions on them. He gets to play with all the new operating systems and fix problems he finds.

I talked to some of the people in my uncle's department about what they did. They gave me advice about my future careers and colleges. I also saw a computer lab with hundreds of hard drives stacked into an intricate mainframe. Walking around the building, we had a close encounter with Steve Jobs. I almost brushed his shoulder, but I didn't know who he was until we passed him. He didn't seem as scary as most Apple employees say he is

I headed back home on an airplane Tuesday. And unlike trains, they don't get delayed that much. While I was flying I thought about the good vacation I had, and I hoped that future vacations would be as great as that one. You never know what could happen when you're far away from the familiar everyday life at home.

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