Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Stuff Dreams are Made of

Day 5: San Francisco

I don't even know where to begin to talk about yesterday. We woke up early to go on a whale watching tour in Monterey Bay. It was a chilly morning, and we weren't wearing enough layers. It was pretty cold whenever the boat was moving, but I found a place shielded from the wind where I could huddle when the whales weren't in view. The bay was just full of humpback whales. After we got out about 15 miles into the bay, we could see them all around us. The captain of the boat would spot one, get up kind of close to it and then turn the engines off. We'd see the whale's fin peek up, then go back down, and we'd all be staring out into the ocean wondering where it would come up next. A couple of them got really close to the boat. What surprised me the most about the whales was the sound. With all the engines off, we could just hear an occasional bird flapping and the water sloshing gently against the boat. Then there'd be a huge woosh of air as the whale reached the surface to breathe. Then you'd hear gasps from the people and the clicking of their cameras. The first picture that I posted is actually 2 different whales. You can tell by the direction of the fin that the tail fluke belongs to a different whale.
Then we reached San Francisco, and wow. I've seen pictures of it before, so I thought I knew what to expect. I just always thought, "Who cares about a silly bridge," or "What a waste of beach space to put all those buildings there." I was so wrong. We were driving around, and I just kept saying, sometimes out loud or sometimes whispering to myself, "I didn't know it was going to be like this." Cory is going to have to pry me away, because I just don't want to leave.
So as I'm experiencing this overwhelming awe, we are driving around looking for our campsites. We knew it was just outside of Sausalito, so we drove through the town, bought a map, and finally found the "state recreation area" which is where the 2 camping sites are located. We ran into a teensy problem when we realized that you could only stay there if you had a reservation. Whoops! Beginners' mistake, I know; we should've known better than to try to stay near San Francisco without a reservation. In our defense, however, most of the campsites we've looked at had 2 areas: a reservations only and a "first come first serve" area. This one had one by reservation only and one "walk-in," which I took to mean like a barber shop "walk-in"- meaning you don't need an appointment. But no, it meant you do need a reservation, but you have to actually walk in using your two legs and not a motor vehicle. Like I said, whoops.
Next stop, Holiday Inn Express. So now we get to stay on Fisherman's Wharf, walk down three blocks to the "oldest Italian restaurant in the US" which my father suggested, and wander around the streets of SF, which we wouldn't have done otherwise. I'd really like to stay here a lot longer; I'd really like to move here actually. The camping really would have been beautiful, so we'll have to come back. We're headed out this afternoon, to Muir Woods and then further north. Even though I might like to pause it for a minute, the journey continues!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Bit of Road Trip Adversity

Day 4

Monterey, CA: 8:10 p.m.

This morning we enjoyed the advantages of our campsite and hiked some of the nearby trails. It has been overcast and chilly, but it was nice to get our blood pumping and climb some of the hills. Then we continued the drive up Hwy 1 for a short distance trying to reach Monterey. We ended up going a little too far and driving up and down one particular street in Seaside, trying to find a place to eat and a grocery store. It was really a bit ridiculous because we went to a local grocery, decided it was too expensive, tried Costco instead, realized you had to be a member to shop at Costco, and finally succeeded in buying some necessities in Albertsons. We loaded up the cooler only to realize we had forgotten ice and had to go back.

We also had reached the end of the planned portion of our trip, so we wandered aimlessly for a bit wondering where we should go, what we should do, and where we should sleep. That was a little frightening and we laughed nervously about driving all the way to Seattle for lack of a better plan. Finally, though, like a glorious beacon from heaven we were inexplicably drawn to the Visitors Center. We're back on track! No worries! We spent over 2 hours at the Monterey Aquarium where I learned that tunas are huge and anchovies can open their mouths really frighteningly wide. There was a new otter exhibit, but I was kind of snooty about that one, seeing as I'd already seen an otter in the wild. Oh, and the was great.

We also found a campsite (at Laguna Seca which is apparently a famous race track) and a wireless Internet connection, so we're back on track planning for the rest of the trip.

I'm particularly excited about tomorrow, which if all goes well, will include some whale watching and then the short jaunt up to San Francisco, in the direction of Sausalito and Muir Woods.

Hwy 1

Day 3: Los Padres National Forest, CA 9:00 p.m.

It was kind of hard leaving Mike and Amy’s this morning- I think Cory and I could both have stayed longer; we were having so much fun. But alas, this is the life of a nomad.
I’d like to tell you that Hwy 1 is a complete tourist trap- that I wholly disagree with all the lovesick songwriters and optimistic travel brochures that mention it… but that would be complete nonsense. The drive was windy and gorgeous. It doesn’t matter how many times I see the ocean, it always takes my breath away. Here, the mountains fall straight into the water and I can’t imagine what could be lovelier than that.
We stopped along the way and saw a whole shore-ful of elephant seals lying about on the beach. I was giggly with excitement as we watched them galumph along from the water to the shore. There were also some marmots that were running about that would eat right out of your hand. That’s actually a bit of an understatement because they’d actually sort of chase you down until they realized you didn’t have any food.
Our campsite tonight is beautiful (thanks to Mike and Amy and their well of travel advice). It’s on a small cliff overlooking the water, and we hiked down to the rocks to watch the water crash and spray over them. I even saw an otter from the shore! I’m not sure if we’re headed out tomorrow or if we’ll hang around. We’ll definitely do some of the longer hiking trails and head over to Big Sur. It otter be a good time.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Day 2: Pasadena, California

Today we drove the rest of the way to Mike and Amy’s, listening to Nick Hornby’s audiobook A Long Way Down to pass the time. We got to their house about 3. We decided our tourist attraction event was to be the La Brea Tar Pits which Cory had “heard about all his life” and was really excited to go to. It was really pretty amazing- we got to see the almost fully preserved bones of saber toothed cats, mammoths, ground sloths (my favorite part) and all sorts of creatures. Apparently, throughout time animals became stuck in these tar pits and died there. Later, their bones were found and excavated and the tar preserved them so much that they can be reassembled in the museum. They are still excavating from the pit, and we were able to watch them work from a big glass window.
Next, we got to see David and Leah Beth’s place and their new baby, Joel, who is precious. We went to dinner and then to this awesome fondue place for dessert. It was so much fun- a tray of fruits, cake, cheesecake, brownies, etc. was brought out to dip into an oozy chocolate goodness (not unlike a tar pit, actually…although I’m sure it tastes better) that was heating on a burner in the middle of the table. That was the highlight of my evening. We are only staying here for one night, so then we decided, what the heck, let’s go for drinks. So the entire evening was lots of fun, a huge intake of calories, and delightful spending time with Mike and Amy. Tomorrow we head up the coast for some camping in the scenic Big Sur area. Mike has graced us with some stories of ravenous raccoons, so I’m practicing my maneuvers for karate chopping them, should the need arise.

Road Trippin'

Day 1
Picacho Peak campground, 20 minutes outside of Tucson, AZ, 8:07 pm Arizona time

I am sitting at a picnic table outside our newly erected tent, watching a beautiful sunset, and writing this on a borrowed laptop. Is that wrong?
This is definitely new territory for us. Not just Arizona, but the two of us- planners and analyzers by nature with an aversion to decision-making- striking out on a roadtrip to Seattle that we decided to take 5 days ago. We’ve been in a flurry of preparation for those five days, and I’ve got to hand it to my husband. He’s not one of those people who gently glides into summer vacation, taking a weekend of sleeping in, watching movies, and doing yard work. No, he hit the ground running; he barreled right into summer. Thirty hours after school let out, and he’s already in Arizona. I like that.
So far, I’d say the best thing we’ve seen out of the three states we have traveled in was Guadalupe Peak, in our home state. Naturally. Neither of us is too impressed with Arizona, although our campground is quite lovely and is nestled at the foot of a couple of jagged peaks. The saguaro cacti are more impressive than I would have imagined.
When we drove into AZ, I think it immediately got 10 degrees hotter just by crossing the state line. And everything is the color of dirt. But really, we picked the fastest route in order to get to LA as quickly as possible. I’m level-headed enough to give AZ another try perhaps on the way back, planning in a few more scenic stops. After all, if a non-Texan were to drive the shortest possible route from El Paso to Lubbock, they’d probably feel the same way about TX that I do about AZ at the moment.
Ok, that’s enough campground time devoted to technology for one evening. Seven hours to Pasadena!
(Cory says it’s ok that I’m using a computer in the middle of the desert because even Teddy took a typewriter with him to the Amazon.)