Travel Log, Past Entries
CALIFORNIA JULY 2005
We've been living in Humboldt County, California for so long we thought it was the center of the Universe, and the most beautiful spot in the nation to boot. Well, we've barely started this trip and so far we've had to eat a lot of humble pie. We have just been drop-jawed and dumbstruck by many of the places we've seen. No wonder so many people are happy just where they are, and wouldn't dream of living anywhere else, thank you very much. They, like us, are under the impression that they are living in the center of the Universe. The Sierras, though, may actually be the center of the Universe for all we know. High forested mountains perfectly accented with wildflowered meadowlands, alpine lakes and cold, clear streams-- what's not to like, as they say in New York?
Rus' brother Rick moved to the Sierras 20 years ago and will hardly ever leave, and now we understand why. We had a short but very fun visit with him, checking out the 4X4 he's customized to take extremely tough forays into the backroads. He not only takes spare tires and wheels, but spare axels! Rick is a mechanical and electronics genius, which was fortunate, since our solar charger went out while there, and he went right to the source of the problem, a little 30 amp circuit breaker hidden away on the underside of the chassis. Press the reset button, and voila! He said best not to be too curious about why it happened to trip in the first place. Electronics.
SONOMA and MONTEREY
We love to visit my (K's)Dad and we also love to be in those gently curving vineyard-covered hills of Sonoma, a place that has both the charm of a small town, with it's generous green, tree-shaded central plaza, and the sophistication of a big city, with its delicious food and wine, and cultural influence from nearby San Francisco. We got there during a heat wave. The thermometer said between 99 and 100 degrees but it felt hotter to us, and we were drooping, even the dogs. Still, we had a wonderful, if lazy visit and left with clean laundry and open hearts, heading toward Camping World to have our water purification system installed for traveling in Mexico and beyond. Later we stopped in at the John Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. Seeing Rocinante, his traveling rig, was the highlight for us, having recently read Travels With Charley. And the upscale Whole Foods Store in Monterey made our eyes pop! It's about the fanciest we've seen, besides Central Market in Dallas. You enter amoung stalls piled high with summer's abundance of ripe organic fruit. Inside it's colorful and immaculate. We spent over an hour wandering around like country bumpkins, overwhelmed by the choices but happy that a place like this appears to be thriving.
BIG SUR and SOUTH ON SCENIC HWY 1
Or maybe the center of the Universe is really Big Sur. Yeah, it's probably Big Sur. Maybe, though, the center of the Universe is really wherever Kathleen and I happen to be at the moment. And maybe everyone else feels the same way. All we know is that Big Sur is so beautiful it makes you grind your teeth. Driving Highway 1 also makes you grind your teeth, but the scenery, if the driver dares to look, is worth it. A lot of other people must think Big Sur is the center of the Universe, too, because all the campgrounds were full, reservation only, "you must be really stupid to think you could just pull in here and camp" kind of full. Finally we gave up, pulled into a secluded beachfront picnic area off the highway, found 3 other campers there who'd had the same experience, had a delicious dinner of steamed clams from our stop in Monterey, and a good night's sleep with the surf crashing outside. In the morning we visited with the other renegade campers and got a taste of neighborhood when one borrowed some sugar for their coffee.
Later we took a walk on the beach, saw some aluminum skiffs that fishermen had lowered over the cliff with ropes and anchored to the rocks, and threw the ball into the ocean for Ziggy to retrieve, her favorite pastime and one of ours. That is, until a seal took exception to her intrusion into its territory. It was more of a "What the-?" than a showdown, then Ziggy got the message loud and clear and beat it for shore. This was an unusual event for us, as she swims with seals all the time back home and they co-exist just fine.
We continued down the coast, stopping at the parking lot for the Hearst Castle (reservation-only, thanks, and too crowded anyway), then stopped to visit with the elephant seals (interesting, but glad I'm not one), and chat with a friendly and very knowledgable docent to find out what had brought probably 100 of them onto the shore at this time of year. It turns out that these were all males who were enduring their yearly molt. Mostly they lazed inertly in the sun, occasionally scooping up flipperfulls of sand and throwing it on their backs or raising their heads to belt out a tune, elephant-seal style, sometimes in three part disharmony. The males are constantly 'play' fighting, which involves smacking their necks together over and over, sometimes until they're bloody. This serves to keep them in shape for other battles (like who gets the female) and probably to protect the herd. Rus thinks they should stop this silly behavior.
We decided to stop early that day and found a berth in Moro Bay at the extremely crowded and chaotic Moro Dunes campground, sandwiched between the sewage treatment plant and the beach. We were lucky to get the very last spot, so small we had to move the picnic table and barbeque out to wedge into the space, with a fine view of the sewage tanks. It was just the ticket after weeks of overwhelming natural beauty, so we stayed an extra day, just to work on our website and get caught up on our travel log. We fell in love with the place too during our walks along the smooth, clear waters of the bay, around the impressive Rock which crowns it and among the docks crowded with fishing boats, restaurants, shops, and smelling of the sea.
On the way to visit Rus' parents in Fallbrook, California, in northern San Diego County, we were struck by a little town called Santa Paula, on Highway 126 east of Ventura. Santa Paula is at the end of a lovely, fertile valley, with large trees, beautiful old buildings, no tourists except us, and a vibrant community spirit. There've been a number of towns we could easily settle in, and it's fun for me to imagine putting down roots, living a parallel life in these inviting places that always seem to take us by surprise.
<Morro Bay Dock and Eatery>
Rus' parents, Marge and Les, have lived in Fallbrook over 35 years, since Les retired from the Air Force. They have a comfortable home with views of the surrounding mountains and a golf course (Ziggy resented the golfers' intrusions into what she felt was Les and Marge's back yard, and made sure they kept their distance). We spent 3 days with them in the lap of luxury with a washing machine, a dishwasher, a small vehicle to run errands in, and being able to move more than 3 feet without stepping over a dog. We'll see them again in December, when the whole family will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with them.
Bubbo disguised as an angel in Morro Bay