Here we are, snug with wifi, our own bathroom and electricity at the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen, with only a week left on our autumn road trip. We cancelled our reservation at nearby Sugarloaf State Park due to the big rains predicted here, as well as the redwoods in Northern California, where we planned to camp Dec. 11. We celebrate the spirit of Jack London and his love for Glen Ellen. The saloon he once drank in is next door.
During our travels the past eight weeks, we’ve ‘caught the wave’ of peak experience, gathering memories that have made us better people. The past week we caught a long ride of ‘being in the flow’ while camping in Monterey and Santa Cruz. —Bajada Bill and Cactus Kate.
Note: photos on our road trip blogs are taken by Kate, unless otherwise noted.
Leaving Malibu Creek State Park Dec. 2 in a light rain, we drove along the 101 Freeway, arriving at sunset at campsite #40 at Laguna Seca Raceway. We heated up pumpkin curry soup to warm us on this cold rainy night.
Parked across from the bathroom and perched on a hilltop looking over the racetrack and surrounding hills, our aerie trailer was embraced by the twisting arms of coast live oaks.
Our campground host gave us a 2.5 gallon bottle of potable water to hold us over the next two nights. Back in 2020, the EPA revised its arsenic limit from 10 ppm to 20 ppm. Laguna Seca’s arsenic count was at 18 ppm and since 2020, the campground does not supply drinking water. Camping here is $50 a night, kind of steep, and the showers were not working. The landscape and views, though, are worth the inconvenience.
The following morning we drove to Monterey, breakfasting at the Wild Plum Cafe. Delicious hearty breakfast and local feeling, we enjoyed people watching in the popular eatery. Visiting the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s thrift store after breakfast, Bill found a great Italian wool sweater and I found a polka dot black cashmere sweater, which I’ve worn every day since. It keeps the misty rain away, is warm and so soft. It even has shell buttons.
After showering at the local pool, we drove through the canyons to Carmel Valley to our friends Sheila and Ray Heibert. They were guests aboard the Snowgoose Alaska in 2009 and I was their cook for 10 days. We took a liking to each other then and the feeling has continued. Now we see them whenever we get up this way. Ray is 90+ and his love of life still shines through his eyes. Sheila is a welcoming friend and a great cook. Their home is one of gracious space filled with memories of their travels.
Sheila prepared a delicious oyster chowder and as we sat around the table, we told stories.
We learned that a Father Junipero Serra statue is ‘off his pedestal’ in Carmel. The 100-year-old statue had been vandalized in the past as a protest against his exploitation of indigenous people. Meanwhile the statue is being held for safekeeping.
Sheila also noted that Carmel by the Sea homes do not have house numbers, that stiletto heels are banned, and that when Clint Eastwood was mayor in 1986, he threw out a law that once banned people from eating ice cream cones outside.
Ray and Sheila each have interesting backgrounds in journalism from Maryland. Sheila recalled meeting Ray and the two of them falling in love when she was a student in his journalism class. Ray recounted stories of teaching journalism throughout Africa, and a tragic one in Liberia, where the radio station director he was visiting was taken out and murdered by soldiers. Free speech is a privilege, and Ray’s retelling of the painful memory underscored the need for protecting honest journalism these days.
Later that night, after returning to Marion and turning on our electric heat, we streamed Hoopla from Sno-Isle Library via our hotspot phone connection. We watched Unlikely Angel, written and produced by Dolly Parton. A good feelings film for the season. When I woke in the night to visit the ladies’ room, I was grateful for the sparkling view of Orion in the sky.
The following morning we drove to Carmel Valley and breakfasted at Kathy’s Little Kitchen. It is a local place with excellent Mexican food. Later we hiked nearby at the Garland Ranch Regional Park on Carmel Valley Road. The willow and cottonwood leaves had started turning yellow. The smell of autumn leaves releasing their scent as we crunched them underfoot was true aromatherapy!
Breathless as we hiked the park’s steep Maple Canyon Trail, we stood among large bottomed big leaf maples. The scent of bay leaves invigorated our lungs as we deeply breathed their astringent aroma. As we hiked the steep trail, I was reminded of friend Adam Fawcett, and his Vibrant Fitness business in Langley. His workouts include cardio movement, and some of them work the hip flexors. His cardio stations came to mind while ascending the steep trail.
Prior to leaving Laguna Seca that morning, we asked if we could stay longer than the noon checkout since there were hardly any campers there. Jim at the checkin booth assured us it would be OK. We arrived back at camp at 1:30 PM. As we were getting the trailer ready to leave, I noticed a strong smell of cat pee that I thought was coming from one of Marion’s storage bins. I puzzled what on earth would cause that stink. Turns out the resident Himalayan cat sprayed one of our trailer rugs. The smell was so bad we threw the rug out. Bill had laid our trailer’s wool rugs out to dry on the picnic table while we hiked. I guess the penance we paid for overstaying our checkout time was a marked visit by the cat.
We said goodbye to Jim in the booth as we left Laguna Seco Sunday morning Dec. 4. We headed for camp at New Brighton State Beach near Santa Cruz. Campsite #59 is close to the bathroom and surrounded by Monterey cypress and bay trees. There are no electric hookups here. We were grateful Marion’s furnace was working, though it still made loud booms when the thermostat kicked in.
We were wakened early the following morning with buckets of rain. I really needed to visit the ladies room so I fashioned a pair of trash bags—one over my head–and one as a tunic and ran to the bathroom.
We visited the famous Steamer Lane/Cowell Beach surf hangout that afternoon after the rain stopped. We sat on a bench watching more than a dozen surfers wait for the right waves to ride. The tide had dropped to minus mode and we saw more wet suited surfers descend the stairs. Even a guy standing on a paddle board road the waves.
A pair of girl surfers lay belly down on their boards with their knees bent and their feet kicking up. As they caught waves, they danced back and forth on the board. I loved watching them.
Our long-time friend Bridget Maloney who lives in Santa Cruz said she’d join us to see a movie downtown. We had hoped to see Stephen Spielberg’s Fabelmans, but discovered the art deco theater hosting the film was closed that day. Disney’s Strange World was playing in an hour just down the street, so we walked to El Palomar, a good Mexican restaurant nearby Bridget likes. Our waitress Theresa was so friendly, complimenting Bridget’s turquoise ring that once belonged to her mom. After Theresa brought me a Bloody Mary and Bridget a margarita, we toasted our mamas. Bridget turned to me and said, “It’s so great here. That’s why I’ve always stayed.”
Bridget taught elementary school for thirty years and raised her children here. Her love for Santa Cruz is catching.
Later, we walked over to the Cineplex and were climbing the stairs to the box office when we heard someone calling out. It was was Theresa from El Palomar with Bridget’s raincoat. Theresa knew we were going to the movies and kindly made the effort to find her.
To echo the synchronicity, Bridget spoke of, I had a friendly conversation with a group of four women outside the first theater. I recommended they see Strange World as well. When we exited the theater there they were: Shirley, Karen, Fran, and Priscilla. They are friends in a YMCA water aerobics class and are members of of the Coralitos Women’s Club. “We usually travel in a pack,” Shirley, a retired school secretary told us.
The film was surreal and well crafted in my opinion, with a story line about how our world is a living thing and what we do in our ignorance to harm it. Later we met up with Bill, who had preferred walking outside to going to the movies. He told me back at Marion it was unnerving how many unhinged people he encountered while waiting for us to exit the theater.
Earlier in the day we saw a homeless man who looked like he needed to be hospitalized standing on a traffic median. It was painful to see his suffering and we made it a point to say hello, beam love and give a few bucks to hurting men we met. From what we read in the local papers, there are good social services in Santa Cruz County, including low-cost dental and medical care, along with shelter.
I need more tools on how best to help down and outers, while not giving way to despair. I have put the book, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis, by Beth Macy, on hold. The author explores the current opioid epidemic and provides tools that best give a hand up and advises us not to look away, but actually see addicted and homeless people as human.
That night I woke up twice to visit the ladies room in the wee hours and each time I made it there and back again just before the rain staccatoed our roof in a deluge.
The sun was out by the time we visited our beach below the campground, admiring the yellow Thompson’s warblers feeding on kelp bugs. A gull hovered on the sea’s surface waiting for scraps as a sea lion below struggled to eat a large fish it caught. Brown Pelicans dove into the water. The air was scented with Monterey cypress. This beach is intoxicating.
We did laundry in the nearby town of Seacliff before meeting Bridget in Capitola at the vegetarian Dharma’s Restaurant. They serve excellent food that had my gut thanking me. Later, we followed Bridget to Capitola Village, where she once lived. We climbed the stairs to Mr. Toots Coffee House, where we visited probably 40 years ago when I ran in my only 3K race. At that time, I recalled thinking Capitola was a place I could live in. I think that way still. Bridget treated us using her credit card worth $350, a one-time State of California tax refund for the middle class. We looked out over the water and later walked along the Capitola pier enjoying each other and the sunset. A moment of Satori.
The excellent sense of well being followed us through the night and stayed with us through the whole day Dec. 7.
Breakfasting at the Cook House diner in Capitola, we felt like one of the locals. Afterward we bought Christmas gifts at the nearby O’Neill Surf Shop, which carries quality clothes, shoes and sunglasses. The store reflects the great juju of surfer/businessman Jack O’Neill, a rascally much loved one-eyed surfer, who is credited with creating the wetsuit. He was born in 1923 and died in 2017. A world memorial paddle out honored his legacy in 2017. Our Drew Kampion, who attended the event, said the Cowell Beach/Steamer Lane waters are his “ol stompin’ grounds.”
Later that day we visited with my late friend Urashan’s daughter Kater, son Jacob, and his lady Eva. Jacob has some health issues nowadays. We visited in his and Eva’s Santa Cruz backyard. The energy of connection between the five of us flowed with bonhomie. Eva is a gifted gardener and brought us tea and oranges and herbs. At the close of the day we celebrated the rise of the full moon.
Later we drove to the waterfront, looking out over the ocean with a full moon shining on the water and Santa Cruz lights circling the bay. Afterwards we split a delicious brisket dinner at the Mission Street BBQ, which hosts live blues every night.
One of the reasons we take these road trips is to search for a place we might spend winters. Many of the places we stay at have qualities we seek: natural landscape, good food, culture, people who look us in the eye, and a caring community. We have that in spades in Langley. As we get older, the dark days of winter are hard on Bill and me. Bill needs light and the winter damp inflames my joints.
On this ‘Cold Moon’ day in December, we saw more clearly what we long for in our heart home.
Visiting the beach at New Brighton State Beach once again, we said goodbye to the gulls, pelicans, cliffs, sand and vistas.
Driving up Hwy. 1 toward Half Moon Bay we listened to John Lennon’s songs, remembering the day he died on December 8, 1980. His song I Know opened a deep portal of connection within us. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge always thrills me. We stopped at another touchstone, the Mill Valley Market in Mill Valley for lunch and picked up dinner for later. There are a pair of redwoods we visit in town. I feel zings of creativity in their presence.
Now it’s Saturday, Dec. 10. It is raining outside. We will join friends Margie and Ritch for lunch. Tomorrow instead of camping in the redwoods, we will stay with our friends Ruth and Jack, whose home we stayed in last year.
Wishing you peace deep in your heart during this Advent. Love, Bajada Bill and Cactus Kate.