Road Trip, chapter 2: Bay Area and Coast

Refreshed by the hospitality and love of dear friends, we left Medford and headed for the Bay Area. The temperature climbed steadily as we descended from the Siskiyous, then further wound our way down from Mt Shasta toward Redding and more serious heat. Those of us in the Pacific Northwest can be such wimps when it comes to weather. I remember a Seattle forecast one June day that said, “And today’s going to be really hot: 72 degrees” (yes, Farenheit). I also remember being in Redding years ago when it was 118 and wondering if I had died and gone to hell.

The drive was uneventful and required only one urgent potty stop. We arrived in El Cerrito to stay with my brother-in-law’s wife’s sister’s (!) family. These folks are so much more than shirt-tail relatives; they are the kind of friends with whom we laugh until it hurts, and with whom we share some extraordinary history in working with refugees (hope to write about that under separate cover). This was our first opportunity to hang out with them since their return from several years of living in SE Asia.

After dinner in Berkeley us old folks walked up and down Solano Avenue and our hosts’ son Paul took off with our kids. Paul’s hospitality, kindness, and sense of humor cemented his relationship with Lauren and Zack. What an immense gift for a very cool college-age guy to give his attention to middle-school kids. As the old folks sat around the kitchen table talking and laughing that night, Susan and I again found ourselves thinking maybe we’d forget the rest of the trip and stay here.

Following a gigantic breakfast and fond farewell on Monday, we saddled up the horses for San Francisco. It was a beautiful day to show the kids a few iconic attractions. Drove along the downtown waterfront and had lunch with a handful of other tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf. Our outdoor table was right across the street from an exhibit with exceptionally annoying recorded laughter that was triggered by every passing pedestrian. After lunch we encountered a 45-minute wait for the cable car. Forget it – we’ll drive down Lombard Street instead then stop at Ghirardelli Square for ice cream. I got a “mint bliss” and learned that when Susan says, “I don’t want any ice cream,” it’s code for “I’ll eat about half of yours.”

On our way to the Presidio we went into neighborhoods like the kids have seen in The Princess Diaries and Monk. It was sunny and clear at the Golden Gate, so we walked halfway across the bridge and watched the spectacular mix of pelicans, windsurfers, helicopters, sailboats, and parasurfers. Susan’s not a big fan of heights, and her hands and feet really started to sweat when a man with his toddler daughter on his shoulders insisted on walking right next to the railing.

Next stop: a sleepy little community outside of Half Moon Bay (and now the home of former next-door neighbors who we hope will return to Seattle soon.) What a difference 40 miles makes! Hard to believe that the bustling city by the bay is just over the hill. We spent a couple of relaxing days playing with our friends’ two younger kids and their dog, poking around tidepools, chasing and being chased by waves, and watching surf pound rocks. Also found our way to the tiny town of Pescadero, where we had the best fish tacos ever – served in the gas station. Since watching the awesome surfing documentary Riding Giants, we were very interested in seeing Mavericks, a location off of Pillar Point that draws surfers from around the world to ride waves as high as 60 feet. We saw the spot, but the water was flat as a pancake. Sounds like we might see something altogether different if we came back between November and February.

Wednesday morning we continued our trek down Highway 1. Stopped in Santa Cruz to gawk at the stunning coastline of rugged little coves and artfully carved rock formations. We had also talked about riding the old roller coaster on Santa Cruz’s boardwalk, but I ended up going on it by myself. Though prohibited from using a video camera on the ride, I recorded it anyway and have the incoherent blur of footage to prove it.

On the way to Monterey we went through Castroville, the “artichoke capital of the world,” and I wanted to sample some deep-fried artichoke hearts. Let’s just say that my curiosity about those was satisfied once and for all.

We stayed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium until closing time, then checked into our motel. This was the first night we would all sleep in the same room, and we needed a creative arrangement to accommodate Big Old Daddy’s thunderous snoring. The bathroom wasn’t large enough for me to sleep in, so I wedged myself into the 22″ wide space on the floor between one of the queen beds and the wall. I also used pillows and an extra blanket to construct an enclosure over my head, hoping 1) that it would be soundproof, and 2) that I would be able to breathe. Thankfully we could run the air conditioning on its lowest setting to provide background noise and keep me from overheating in my anti-snoring compartment.

About 2 AM I awoke (if I had actually managed to fall asleep) in a sweat. It was warm in the room, and I didn’t hear the fan running. Extracting myself from my enclosure, I stumbled across the room to check the AC. Sure is dark, I thought – better turn on the bathroom light so I can see what I’m doing. Hmm – is the bulb burned out? I looked outside and couldn’t see a light anywhere. Not much I could do about this, so I squeezed back into “bed.”

I sort of slept until about 6 and got up. Still no electricity. Walked over to the office and learned that someone had hit a utility pole. Bummer.  Was the driver OK?  Does this mean we lose our continental breakfast? When the kids woke up, the novelty of a power outage lasted about five minutes. We opened our curtains and door so everyone in the parking lot could see us in our PJs. It also gave us enough light to assemble our own breakfast while we watched other motel guests grumble and stumble around outside. As soon as we’d finished eating, the power came back on – for half of the motel. Fortunately it was our half. We showered and packed as soon as we could. We were eager to get out of town: this was our day to drive through Big Sur.


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