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If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Big Sur Holiday

Wishes fulfilled.

I wished to get the heck away from here.  And into nature.  And to the sea.

I hadn't been AWAY since my last trip to Utah in - I think - 2009.  The following summer (2010)  I stuck close to home, first because my dad was so sick.  Then, after he died, I stayed with my mom for a few weeks and by the time I got home there was so much to do in the yards and house that I didn't try to go anywhere.  I was content with that choice.

The summer after that (2011) I contented myself with gardening and visits to Disneyland, then mid-August stayed with my mom while she had knee replacement surgery.  Again, I didn't feel the need to get away, and was able to travel to Japan that November for the first time to meet my then-three month grandson (oh, yeah, and see my son and daughter-in-law, too).

Things were feeling pretty constricted, though, in summer 2012.  I cheered myself by knowing that the money I made teaching summer school again would get me back to Japan in November.  Then, just a week before I was scheduled to leave, my car died and I've been without one ever since.

So,  last summer (2013) I taught summer school again, then was pretty well stuck here.  And by this time I was REALLY wanting to get away.  Away, away.  No car, no money, so no getting away for more than a few hours here and there with a borrowed car.  As always, I have my garden to escape to, but that yearning...

I am rescued for a while by my fantastic uncle.  When I was little, my grandparents died within months of each other.  My uncle was still underage and moved in with us for a while.  I was only three and don't remember much (anything?) about that time, but have always had a special bond with my unclebrother.  Anyway,  my mom was chatting with him, telling him the family news and that I didn't have a car, and he offered me one of his extras. 

I have saved the down payment for the car I want - a Mazda CX5 - RED - and was optimistic that I would have the car by the first of April.  No boring details, but I called a few weeks ago to ask to take him up on his offer after all, until the end of August, and he delivered simply the best car ever.

A 1996 Chevy Tahoe.

Yeah, it sucks gas like crazy, but it is the car of freedom.  I determined not to rack up too much mileage ($$$) but it only took one afternoon of errands for the Central Coast to call through the vents or something, and on the Friday of spring break I was on the road at 6:00 AM.

It was the most gorgeous trip!  Up the 101 through Ventura and along the Rincon to Santa Barbara.  Once out of Santa Barbara it was mile after mile of green hills and poppies and lupine.  I had hoped for a bright, sunny day but instead enjoyed high fog and light clouds.  My heart did a little happy dance through the Gaviota Pass (gorgeous) as for me that marks the beginning of The Central California Coast.

The highway stays inland for a while, but my PCH1 adventure officially began when I could see Morro Rock wading just off Morro Bay.

I just waved as I drove by on my way through Cayucos, past Harmony (pop. 18) and into Cambria.

Yeah, I know SoCA is famous for our sandy surfer beaches, but they can have them.  I'll take these rocks any time.

The smell of the sea, the rhythm of the waves.

Scarlet Monkey Flower.


A little farther along.  It's a wonder I got to my destination, I spent so much time at view stops taking pictures, breathing deeply and smiling.

I figured out I haven't driven this since 2002 when I stayed in Carmel at Asilomar for a conference.  Sometime earlier than that even I had had breakfast at a funky restaurant on the west side if the PCH between Cambria and the Pacific.  I remember sitting and waiting for my food, looking out the window at the shrubs growing under the window when a flock of tiny little blue birds swooped in, chittering, and gobbled up all the buggies on the shrub, then swooshed away.  They were about the size of a hummingbird, only plumper, and pale blue and black.  It was magic.

And the breakfast delicious.  I didn't expect the birds again, but was looking forward to my first meal of the day (oh, did I mention the package of Double Stuffed Oreos and Dove Easter eggs on the seat next to me?), a delicious breakfast at the funky restaurant.

And so was very disappointed to see it gone and some kind of fake Euro styled spa in its place.

By the time I realized what I'd done, I was back on PCH going the wrong way.  I made a right onto a road that I thought would take me the back way into Cambria, and instead found myself in a very nice residential area in the pines.  I had to loop around to find my way back to the highway, and found myself waiting for some pedestrians at the stop sign.

That was worth the detour.

And to soothe myself from the disappointment of no breakfast, I decided to take a short drive part of the way down Moonstone, to enjoy the bay.  No disappointment there.

Really, no views on this trip that were not breathtakingly beautiful.

By this time I needed to walk around a little and find a restroom (it was after 10:00 am) so I headed for my scheduled Cambria stop, the Cambria Pines Nursery.

Which direction first?  Where is the restroom?

Restroom in the yellow house, but first to enjoy their front yard.  Are these the cutest ever?

After the requisite pit stop (and my only purchases, surprisingly), I wandered the grounds.  And built a fairly long wish list.

I wanted them all...

...but especially this.  Just too pricey for me.

Ohmygawd, it's a peacock flock.

HAHAHA.  And a flamingo flock, too.

Pretty nice Koi pond.

And maybe a tea house?  Not sure, as it's very patio like.  I liked the lanterns, though.
After a stop for gas ($4.27 a gallon, I believe) I took the road again.  The farther north you go along this stretch, the more beautiful it becomes.  Still no sun, but the fog and clouds were high enough that the views were unimpeded.

Just a few miles north of San Simeon I pulled off at the new (to me, anyway) Elephant Seal view park.  A real parking lot and wooden boardwalk for a full block or more so that humans can enjoy these remarkable critters safely (for the remarkable critters).

Sweet looking, huh?

The docent said they come here at this time of year to moult.  In late fall/early winter they will come to mate and give birth.  May have another trip at least that far in mind.
So many.  I suspect I've seen these while flying down this highway before but thought they were washed up driftwood.

My favorite.  Doesn't he look content?

Just a short time later the REAL Highway One to Big Sur began with hairpin S curves for a few miles.  Over the years Caltrans has "shaved" the curves for most of this road so that the drive is much easier than I remember.  And in the "shaving" they created LOTS of view points.  I didn't stop on the way up - wrong side of the highway - but promised myself plenty on the way down.

I did pull over for this one, a patch of blue sky showing in the fog bank.

I cruised through the beautiful Big Sur and headed up to Carmel, my final destination.  I stopped at the Safeway market (MUCH has changed there since my last trip) for another restroom break  (and some coughpeanutbuttercookiescough), then tracked down this place.

Valley Hills Nursery just a few miles down Carmel Valley Road.  And LOOK what I found!  They had a couple of nice tables of Annie's Annuals!

This was a nursery to make me drool.  Rhododendrons.  Sigh.  There were peonies on the left side of that walkway on the left.


I didn't come home empty-handed, after all.

Had to stop for a quick shot of the beach in Carmel.

And headed back down the PCH away from Carmel.

My favorite view, this turquoise water.

And back into Big Sur.

My favorite view spot.  Nothing better.  Anywhere.
On the way down, I pulled over at several view spots.  At this one, a sweet, giggling couple was taking selfies.  I got out of the car to stretch my legs and take some pictures, and offered to take some of them together.  The lovely (French)man offered to take some of me.  This one I liked.

 OK, funny woowoo story here.  On the way up (impossible to stop safely) I enjoyed the ceanothus in bloom EVERYWHERE.  This was the most spectacular of the plantings, and I kind of tried to take note of landmarks in hopes of catching a picture of them on the fly (I call them my kill me now shots. Shhh.)  I started recognizing the area on the way down, but some jerk was riding my tail.  Finally the road widened enough for me to pull over and let him pass.  Once I was safely over, I took a look around and DANG!  I was right in front of that patch of ceanothus I had wanted a picture of!

Thanks, asshole. :)

  This had come as a shock to me on the way up.

Kind of made me nervous.

My favorite bridge is the Big Creek Bridge.  On the way up I ran into these stop lights and didn't really understand what they were until the light turned green and I was able to proceed through.  It looks like the hillside has fallen away and left only one lane.

The bridge is still gorgeous, though.

And so is the sea beneath it.
This is new.  This hillside is very prone to rockslides in storms.  It slides (and blocks the highway for months at a time) often enough that Caltrans was looking for a solution and developed it in this design.  The structure is designed to deflect falling rock and debris over the highway and into the sea.


I LOVE the design of this thing.  Kind of a cross between the WPA (which built a lot of the hardscape along this highway) and the original Time Machine movie.

Steering wheel tripod.


The only poppies I saw along this stretch...

...were planted by this group.  Just want to say, "Thanks."

Really a lovely gift for all of us.

I was almost back to Morro Bay when the sun finally made a short appearance.

This was cool.  There was a guy on that rock outcropping.  I said to myself, "Ah, I don't want a guy in my picture," at which point he climbed down the other side of the rock and out of my line of sight.  Thank, mister man.

Worth the wait, don't you think?
The only 'uh oh' part of the trip was at Cal Poly.  I had not considered, when I developed my itinerary, that all those Cal Poly students would want to head home for Easter weekend at exactly the time I was hitting that part of the highway.  Got stuck for 45 minutes in a real Los Angeles style traffic jam.  Set me back a little, but no harm.

Originally, when I planned this trip, I was going to get off the One at the 154 and go into Los Olivos for dinner at Mattei's Tavern.  THEN,  just days before the trip, I learned that my son, recently relocated to Nashville, would be just a couple of miles away at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez.  He was on his first paying tour with country carry over singer, Carolyn Mescher.

Easy decision.

It was fun to watch him play again, and heartwarming to see that some of his best friends had made the drive up to share hugs and love of music.

Have to admit that the drive home - particularly the pitch-black drive down San Marcos pass with that same jerk from earlier in the day on my tail (HAD to be him, right?  Couldn't be two of them!).  Frankly?  Terrifying. 

But I made it home safely with my spirit restored.  Next trip?  Maybe sometime this summer when the hills are my favorite golden grass with oak trees.

So worth all involved.

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