The following travelogue has little to do with the purpose of this blog. I expect only my lurkers (I know you're out there) and grandmother to read this post. But if you want to know in great detail about our recent trip to southern California, here goes: Wednesday, August 26, 2009:
I dropped off Lil at Alex's parents, flew through CMH and ORD and arrived at LAX in the afternoon. I rented a car by myself and drove by myself through crazy ass LA traffic to Alex's hotel in Long Beach. Together we went to the shore and ate at a mediocre microbrewery. Then we walked along the beautiful beach front and watched the sunset.
Alex ran off to work and I lazed around. Around 9, a friend from high school met me at the hotel. We walked the beach again. Part way into our walk we ran into a massive flock of Black Skimmers. I previously have only seen these birds in pairs or singly. Though we tried to walk around, we split the flock of hundreds and they flew over and around us. It was fascinating and beautiful!
My friend and I met Alex at his job site, picked him up, and ate lunch at Eggs Etc. The food was yummy and came in huge portions.
Alex and I were due in Monterey that night. As we said goodbye to my friend in the 100 degree heat, Alex turned the rental car on to start the air conditioning. When we hopped in, the car wasn't all that cool. After half an hour of driving, it still wasn't cooling, so we stopped off at LAX to have words with the rental car company. They pleasantly swapped for a different car but the exchange knocked an hour off our driving time.
Which wasn't a good thing because we had a huge drive ahead. We spent the next hour or so in stop and go traffic on the 405. We were near Santa Barbara at dinner time, so we stopped and had a quick bite at the Natural Cafe. I had a big delicious salad with julienned jicama. I haven't used jicama in so long that I forgot how much I really like it.
We were back on the road and drove for what seemed like forever. At about 9 pm PST we were driving by Soledad and saw fires ripping through the hills. Wildfires are so unusual to us that we stopped and tried to take photos, but didn't manage any decent shots. The air smelled like singed celery.
After finally arriving in Monterey late Thursday, we slept in for a bit in the morning before hitting up a local coffee shop for breakfast sandwiches. We ate them along the Monterey waterfront watching boats and a sea otter.
Then we went to my favorite place in the world (not that I have seen the whole world), Point Lobos State Reserve. We hiked the north and south shore trails from Whaler's Cove, one of the deepest coves and most unique habitats in the Pacific. The trail wound us uphill through pine forest and then to the point, where we saw resting sea lions, sunning harbor seals, and several sea otters.
Next we walked on rocky sandy windward side of the point pausing to let lizards skitter out of the path. Along the windward shore are amazing tidal pools with tiny jewels of sea urchins, crabs, anemones, snails, and more.
We eventually made our way to Hidden Beach, the spot that Alex gave me a ring nine years ago. We spent a lot of time taking pictures of the two of us together.
We hiked the short rest of the trail back to the car. Hungry, we drove down the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea for one of our haunts from long ago, Lugano Swiss Bistro. The food was hearty and tasty, just as we remembered.
Next we walked through ritzy Carmel. We stopped in a few galleries but mostly wanted to see the beach. We have fond memories of taking our old dog Mica to the Carmel beach. The sand is perfectly white and off to the north you can view Pebble Beach golf course. (Mica actually climbed a cliff and almost ran onto Pebble Beach once!) The waves were rough this time and the water was very cold.
After the uphill walk to our car, we drove back to Monterey. We skipped the tourist Fisherman's wharf, preferring the still in use "old" Fisherman's wharf instead. We were rewarded by viewing two species of jellyfish and sea lions right below our feet.
We ate dinner at a busy Japanese restaurant. Alex's sushi was delicious; my vegetable meal was uninteresting.
Afterward, we hoofed it to the Coast Guard pier in pursuit of noisy sea lions. Lil loves lions and I thought it would be awesome to take a video of sea lions calling. The two pictured above would not make a noise no matter how many times I started and stopped the camera. Unfortunately just as we got to the end of the Coast Guard pier (where many more sea lions roost), the coasties closed down the pier to the public. We never did get that video.
Saturday's task was to travel back to Los Angeles. Not wanting it to be as boring as Thursday's drive, we choose to ride south on Highway 1 through Big Sur. Somehow neither of us remembered how wickedly twisty and cliff-y Highway 1 is. When Alex drove, I felt sick to my stomach; when I drove, Alex was scared of heights.
We were glad when we got to Jade Cove, a stop about 2 hours into the curvy drive. We walked down the steep trail to the shore where rock collection is legal between tide lines. Unfortunately the tide was out and the rock picking was not great. We still managed to find 10 pounds or so (mostly serpentine, jade is below the shoreline) that we stuffed into my suitcase coming home.
We continued our drive to San Luis Obispo and were happy to merge on the smooth and relatively flat Highway 101. We stopped for a quick tasting at Latetia Vineyard. The vineyard was beautiful, wines yummy, and grapes delicious. Having never been to a vineyard before, Alex and I enjoyed seeing the grapevines most of all.
The sun was bright so we packed back into the car and returned to Los Angeles. We saw the other California fire burning in the Alta Dena hills. The fires were incredible and frightening to us Midwestern folk.
We did finally make it to our hotel. Alex returned the rental car, we swam in the chilly but spacious outdoor pool, and tucked in early for our flight the next day.
We spent most of the day in airplanes and airports. Coming home from California is like that - between three hours of time change and a layover it takes all day. Lil and the hounds were very happy to see us, as we were of them.
We are already planning a return trip sometime with Lil. There are loads of things to do in the Monterey area with children and we want to share our love of the place with her. We will not attempt, nor do we recommend, driving from LA to Monterey and back in three days. It was just too much car time.
We do recommend visiting the stunning Monterey Bay if you get a chance. We love it.