The Best Little Ghost Town in Arizona – Chloride

Dear Diary,

There are two kinds of ghost towns, those whose occupants have long ago left the confines of their flesh behind, and those whose occupants are still warm and visible.

One thing that all ghost towns with living occupants have in common, an invisible sign that flashes “Approach with Caution”.

What makes someone give up all of the creature comforts that support a thriving community for one that is remote, desolate, and usually in a harsh and unforgiving environment, is also what makes them volatile and downright cranky, but also delightfully quirky and interesting.

And so the love/hate relationship is born between the ghost town inhabitant and the tourist he/she depends on to eke out a living. Whether it be donning a cowboy persona to fake a gunfight or sourcing the souvenirs made in China, the Ghosties (yep that’s what I call ‘em) depend on the dollar you and I bring to be entertained by that town’s history.

For some unknown reason…I am drawn to both kinds of ghost towns like a moth to the flame. I am not one that sees dead people (thank you for that God), but I can give those intrepid forefathers (and mothers) new life by learning of their rise and fall, and caring that they were there at all (I kind of rapped that last bit, did you notice?). As for the Ghosties…we tolerate each other.

With one exception.

Dave and Dory of Digger Dave’s in Chloride Arizona are the most welcoming and accommodating Ghosties there ever were or will be (and I have been around enough to be discriminating here). They and the town they represent are some of the most colorful and interesting you will find in an already colorful and interesting genre.

Dave and Dory are what make this ghost town stand out above all others.

DaveandDory

 

Digger Dave’s bar and diner are alone worth the drive. Just like any other saloon sitting in a 150 year old ghost town, its décor is wonderfully unique and kitsch.

As an added plus, entertainment is provided by locals (this one a snow bird) on weekends.

Digger Daves

My favorite is the women’s restroom though (notice the Donny Osmond album cover on the back of the door). Thank you Dory.

diggerdavesbathroom

Before I began my love affair with Chloride though, we were run out of town years earlier by a crusty old storekeeper when our daughter was still a little thing.

Let me elaborate (you knew I would).

What put this little town on our bucket list was not just its typical “Gold/Silver Rush of the American West” that a connoisseur of ghost towns comes to expect, but a more recent (relatively) oddity known as the “ Roy E. Purcell Chloride Murals”.

Since this was before the availability of the information highway known as the internet, we learned of the murals (more on the murals in a minute) on the thinly printed back of a hotel “things to do” brochure while staying at the Grand Canyon.

As if the Grand Canyon couldn’t keep you busy for basically the rest of your natural life.

So we kept this very close to the top of our bucket list and soon ventured out to discover what Chloride had to offer with very little expectation in 1998.

How wrong we were to expect little from Chloride.

We stopped in the general store (mostly souvenirs} to get our 5 year old niece and daughter post cards to mail from the oldest still operating post office in Arizona (Chloride in case you forgot where we were ‘cause I almost did).

The post office now resides in the old billiards hall building after the town fire at around the turn of the century.

postoffice

We have very timid and polite children so weren’t we surprised when we were run out of the store for apparently no reason? I swore I’d never go back to the town because of his bad mojo.

But I did about 17 years later, and boy am I glad I did because Dave and Dory more than make up for the crusty old man who by the way, is still there in the same general store.

Dave and Dory filled us in on why….he just doesn’t like kids no matter how well behaved they are. Now you see what I mean about some Ghosties? Volatile as heck and find no need to apologize for less than genteel behavior. You stand warned.

Built in 1860, Chloride is the oldest continually inhabited mining town in the state of Arizona. That’s a whole lot of Ghosties that have come and gone. Well maybe not gone.

At its height of silver chloride prosperity (hence the name) and many other precious minerals extracted from 75 mines between 1900 and 1920, this little town boasted a population of 5,000 (according to Wikipedia), and was the county seat. In 1921 the population dropped to 2,000 where it stayed until 1944 when most of the mines that were left closed. Today the population is roughly 150, with numbers swelling to 250 with the onset of “Snow Birds” in winter.

What’s unexpected in a ghost town that never dies is that some things are exactly as they were when abandoned. The Santa Fe train station was shut down in 1935, but its main building along with outbuildings are still intact with its doors appearing closed for just the night.

railstation1

railticketwindow

A rail car storage outbuilding. The rail ties are still visible where I am standing.

railcarstorage

Some rails are still intact after nearly 150 years.

railtracks

The desert may be harsh, but it preserves its history better than any other environment.

The jail is also intact with beds in the two cells, and in between them a sheriffs desk and chair with a wood burning stove. It is accessible to anyone, but enter at your own risk. The last time I was there this year, I noticed a used hypodermic syringe and needle littering the floor. Is the jail still being inhabited by those in chains of their own making? It would appear so.

jail

sheriffsoffice

jailcell

Now to the murals.

In 1966, Roy E. Purcell took a break from pursuing a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at Utah State University to labor as a miner in the Cerbat Mountains near Chloride, Arizona. While he was there, and with the support of local residents (hippies), he painted “The Journey,” a 2000-square-foot set of murals on some boulders about a mile and a half outside of town. His work, executed in the abstract Modernism tradition, led to early world-wide recognition for Purcell and helped launch him on a professional career that continues today.

These murals were very recently restored by Roy Purcell and volunteers to their original brilliant color. They are truly one of a kind and should not be missed, but be prepared to travel a primitive dirt road to get there (the way to the murals are well marked). I took these just this week under cloudy skies.

Dirt road to murals.

dirt road

Murals directions

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murals1a

murals4

murals1 murals2

murals3 murals5

There are ancient Native American petroglyphs all around the murals, rather the murals were painted amidst them. I have to assume the hallucinogens of Timothy Leary’s time made one indiscriminant of historical sites. You post baby boomers will have to Google him.

Petroglyphs and murals

These petroglyphs are across from the murals.

Petroglyphs alone

The murals offer an excellent view of the town of Chloride below.

muralsandchloride

The town still plays host to artistic Ghosties that a short walk around the small town makes one feel as though they have been treated to an outdoor art festival, but without Sedona’s superciliousness.

There is a fine line between kitsch and art, but I love them both for they are Americana. This is just a tiny example of what Chloride offers with regard to individual expression of junk art. Most of it found in the desert in and around town.

kitsch1

kitsch2

For sale by owner…

houseforsale

The Chloride Historical Society has built a “mock” old western town tourist area with many of the original local furnishings. And the best part…not crowded like Oatman! We had the place to ourselves this day.

touristtown

A land/money/mine register in one of the buildings (housing a museum) is original and priceless to someone like me. It is by far the best and most accessible of any re-creation of settler life I have ever seen.

historicalmuseum

 

And by accessible, I mean you can play the antique piano in the Dead Ass Saloon and belly up to the bar. The whiskey bottles are empty though I’m afraid.

Here’s a couple of dead asses now. Just kidding, that’s my hubby and a friend.

deadasssaloon

piano

There are many original homes that are unique to rustic America. How many people can boast a vintage gas station AND railroad tracks running under her porch and in her front yard? I’ve seen the resident sitting and reading in this chair. I reckon it doesn’t get any better than that.

Filling Station House

One of the oldest buildings in the town was built by an ex Naval officer who left the sea because of recurring nightmares of drowning. The windows are still visible resembling port holes. His name has been lost to time, but not his sad end. He drowned in either his mine after slipping and falling or in a flash flood. The actual cause of drowning is also lost to time, but the irony is not.

His house was then used as a brothel known as the “House of Soiled Doves”. Residents say there is still an eeriness about it that keeps most away. Maybe it was the grey skies, but I felt uneasy when I took these photos.

rockhouse

rockhouse2

Once again I am stricken by how especially harsh life must have been for women back then. Long skirts in the summer heat of the desert? No running water or fans for hot homes (especially while cooking on wood burning stoves)? While having to worry about Indian invasions? I shall never complain again. Or at least for the rest of the day.

Pioneer women must have been deeply in love or indebted to follow their men to this place.

But who am I to talk? I keep coming back.

As if all of this is not enough…there are the abandoned mines that still have their chutes full of rock, as if the miners are only away for lunch. Maybe they are.

Chloride Mine

There is also a 40 acre cemetery with some very old graves. One is of an Indian Chief who recently got a large head stone carved in his likeness.

But you already know I don’t take photos of graveyards so you will have to go see that for yourself.

If you go, stop by and say hi to Dave and Dory at Digger Dave’s. Tell ‘em Chris sent you.

Until next time Dear Diary.

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What Makes Something Real?

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Dear Dairy,

You know I don’t normally start my posts with a photo. I feel like photos are there to help illustrate a story.

But not today.

The photo IS the story. It’s the pile of crap I have begun to amass for The Next Big Thing. As the pile gets bigger, so does the feeling that I am a fraud.

So I keep asking myself, is The Next Big Thing real? The answer is always yes.

Unfortunately, I find I am surrounded by skeptics. Oh they don’t say much, except when I bought a ridiculously large knife with all kinds of survival gear tucked into the handle, and my Eagle Scout of a husband scoffed and said I had fallen for a gimmick.

I defended my choice while unloading the fishing hook, matches, compass, and showing him how I would defend myself against a bear. What I got was an impatient and curt reply, “If a bear gets that close to you, you would already be dead”.

I was afraid of that.

And this will be why the dreaded bear canister will be the last thing I buy to complete my backpacking ensemble. Because that means if it is really real, I will have to face my worst fear…bears.

And that’s also why I now know that this 57 year old (just by a couple of weeks mind you) city girl whose only real survival skill is finding parking in LA, will be backpacking the Lost Coast of California alone. The look on the Eagle Scout’s face said it all, he is beyond humoring me on this trip.

This is not new.  But guess what is new…nobody’s skepticism makes this bucket list item less real for me, in fact it hardens my resolve.

But let me tell you why.

This is the first time I have dared ever make a decision for just me. When I wasn’t running away or to something, when I wasn’t traumatized into or out of my comfort zone.

I am doing it because I want to…but somewhere else is the unrelenting desire to do it because I have to. Because I can’t back down. Not to the skeptics, but most of all…not to myself.

Not break the promise that I made to myself every time I was in the Grand Canyon, or Lake Powell, or Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Park or Zion or Bryce, or any other place in nature…that I would be back when I didn’t have to rush home to the cement jungle to be at work Monday morning.

Rush home because I couldn’t ever take off more than a week. It was too grueling trying to get caught back up on emails, meetings, payroll, budgets, deadlines, etc.

But I don’t have those constraints now. For the first time in my life, my time is my own.

So are my decisions.

My decisions for the last 57 years were made with the best interest of my parents, kid(s), husband(s), sister, nieces, and whoever else was most dominant in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the last person on my list of important people to consider was me.

Until now.

So the pile in the room we loosely call the office (loosely because nothing really productive happens there remember) keeps growing.

I have to start my training from ground zero again. The hip injury from my overzealous conquering of the Ice House Trail healed rather quickly, compared to my injury being an excuse to throw myself into the holidays and making it perfect for family and friends.

There I said it. I know what my true weaknesses are

But the holidays are past, and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility to be all things to all people is temporarily sated.

So bring it skeptics…this $&*! is real because I said so.

Until next time dear diary.

Route 66 – Kingman to Seligman, Arizona

Dear Diary,

I’m not sure what the big attraction is for me concerning Route 66. I think what attracts me is the history, but what keeps me coming back are the surprises it holds.

My story starts in Kingman Arizona, but I will have to do a rewind on this city as it is so full of both the history and the mystery it is a post unto itself.

Our adventure today takes us right outside of Kingman on old Route 66 heading east toward Seligman, and we don’t have to wait long for the surprise. What’s that you say? A giant green head that looks like it belongs on Easter Island, except it’s in the desert? Well of course it is, and even has a name…Giganticus Headicus.

Giganticus Headicus

But why? Because this is Route 66. Where terms like “quirky and kitsch” describe the normal here. Where the new meets the old and becomes a delicious melting pot of unique. That’s why.

Specifically with regard to Giganticus Headicus and why…the artist was asked just that and his reply was “because the place looked like it needed something like this”. The Frankenstein’s real name is Gregg Arnold, and after buying the old Kozy Court Trailer Park and relocating from New Jersey, he created his 14′ high masterpiece in 2004 out of wood, metal and stucco. He has been remodeling the building that used to house a restaurant and store into a gift shop.

Since there hasn’t been much that has changed in the last 10 years all I have to say is…Gregg knows how to pace himself!

Our next stop is Valentine Arizona, population 36 on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Truxton Canyon was renamed Valentine after Robert G. Valentine, Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1908 to 1910. There is little more than a ghost town here now, and the large decaying building along Route 66 is what’s left of Truxton Canyon Indian School which was built to assimilate the native children into Caucasian culture (with heavy emphasis on religion). It served as a day school for the Hualapai and a boarding school for the Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Mohave, Navajo and Papago. It closed in 1938. It’s this kind of history I am not sorry is rotting into oblivion.

Valentine SchoolValentine School 2Valentine is full of empty buildings. The stone, cement, and wooden cadavers are the only remains after Route 66 was abandoned when the interstate opened in 1978. It was a quick death along this 90 mile stretch between Seligman and Kingman.

A building you will not find here is the famous Valentine Post Office. After the town died, the post office was kept alive by the thousands of Valentine’s Day cards that would arrive here for the famous heart shape Valentine stamp every year around February 14th.

That tradition came to a violent and bloody end on August 15, 1990 when Jacqueline Ann Grigg was working alone and Bryan Allen Buckingham of Murfreesboro, Tenn (19 yrs. old) walked in and shot her to death for a little bit of cash and 20 blank money orders. He drove away in her car. Mr. Buckingham turned himself in to authorities in Laguna Beach 2 days later.

Jacqueline Grigg’s husband who owned the building that had housed the post office she operated for a dozen years was grief strickened.  He bulldozed the building and left town never to return. The post office used to stand next to this abandoned building.

Valentine Post Office Site

The famous valentine postmark was retired to the Kingman post office where workers will still use the cancellation for those who know to ask for it. Since there is no date on the heart shaped stamp, the Kingman stamp will also be on it.

Valentine POST mARKThe postmistress of the Kingman post office will happily place the Valentine stamp on your letter if you mail the letter with a stamp, of course, to her in an envelope:

United States Post Office
Attention: Postmaster Valentine Stamp
1901 Johnson Avenue
Kingman, AZ 86401

The town of Valentine is a broken heart of the Mohave these days.

We head 8 miles down the road to Peach Spriongs, Arizona which is the tribal headquarters for the Hualapai Reservation.

In the early 1880s, the railroad established a water station on these lands and called it Peach Springs, for the many peach trees found around the spring that fed their steam engines. Soon the small settlement reportedly had ten saloons but no churches or schools. Later it would also boast a roundhouse, several shops, a stagecoach line, and a Fred Harvey Restaurant. Nothing is left of note to this history is evident on Route 66 now.

Before we arrive at the Hualapai Lodge however, there is the crumbling historic Osterman Shell Station which was most recently put on the National Register of Historic Places. For a closer look, give these a click.

Shell StationShell Station 2Built in 1932 by Oscar or John Ostermann (depending on who you talk to) to accommodate the increasing number of Oklahomans traveling this road to California because of the “dust bowl” conditions in the plains during the depression (migration peaked in 1937 – 1938).  I can’t help but feel the terrible desperation folks must have had to pack up their meager belongings on 4 wheels and head to parts unknown because they had lost their farms or were dependent on the farms for their living.  Those less fortunate lost their lives. I lost an infant aunt and uncle to these dust storms in Oklahoma, my Grandparents chose to stick it out.  I ended up in California for different and more modern reasons (my parents divorce).

Dust Bowl

Woody Guthrie was the voice of that time through music and wrote such songs as “Highway 66 Blues”, “Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues”, and “Oklahoma Hills”, with such lyrics as;

                    Rain quit and the wind got high,
                    And the black ol’ dust storm filled the sky.
                    And I swapped my farm for a Ford machine,
                    And I poured it full of this gasoline – 
                    And I started, rockin’ an’ a-rollin’,
                    Over the mountains, out towards the old Peach Bowl.

How many desperate Okies and Arkies stopped by this station in hopes of replacing a flat tire or broken spring with the little bit of money they had left?

dust_truck

The Grapes of Wrath immortalized the plight of these people who were met in California with prejudice, poverty, and hopelessness. They had no money to go home and made due in migrant tent cities created to accommodate the arriving hoards who increased California’s population by 20% in that era.

dorothea-lang-migrant-mother-tent

Here is a photo of the Osterman Shell Station during the 1950’s and much happier times;

Shell Station 3
The Hualapai Tribe (the current owners) was given a grant to restore it in recent years. I have to call out that they also know how to pace themselves. It hasn’t been touched. Things don’t happen in a hurry in these parts that’s for sure.

The Hualapai Lodge is lovely and modern. It is the primary starting point for travelers looking to explore the raw Grand Canyon West landscape via white water rafting, off-road touring, hiking, fishing, hunting and more. The Hualapai Lodge is the gateway to the breathtaking drive on the only road leading to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Please note that a permit from the Hualapai is needed to drive on the road into the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Hualapai Lodge

I shall return since seeing Havasu Falls (located in Grand Canyon West on the Reservation) is on my bucket list. Can you blame me?

Havasu Falls

On down the road just a few miles is a little place we found long ago when returning from the Grand Canyon. It’s called the Grand Canyon Caverns and has changed a bit since we were there last. Well sort of.

These caverns are not in the Grand Canyon but air comes into the caverns from the Grand Canyon through 60 miles of limestone caves, thus the name Grand Canyon Caverns. The temperature is a constant 56 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is only 2%. Because of this, there is no living thing, either animal or vegetable in the caverns. Not even insects. Germs are virtually non existent. Bacteria brought in by humans does not survive because there is no food chain.

This is a fascinating place and a must see, I am so glad we did. The Grand Canyon Cavern system is the largest dry cavern system in the United States and possibly in the world.

Funny story from our tour about 10 years ago. We arrived and were the only car in the parking lot, and after entering the gift shop and check-in desk for the Caverns tour we decided we wanted to see it. We paid for the next tour which was set  in about 30 minutes and set about browsing the shop. Nobody else ever came in.

When the time came for our tour we moved back over by the check-in desk so we would be ready to embark. The attendant (about 3 ft away from us) that had taken our money and given us our tickets got on the PA system and announced to the empty store that the tour was about to begin and would all ticket holders please assemble and form a line.

We still laugh about that. Gotta love somebody who takes their job serious eh?

During the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Government deployed enough water and food rations to the Caverns to support up to 2,000 people for up to 2 weeks. These supplies remain today and can be seen by all visitors who tour the caverns. Because of the constant cool temperature and lack of humidity, these supplies are still as good as the day they were put here 50 years ago.

Military Supplies

Another testament to it’s ability to freeze it’s contents in time is the discovery of the remains of a giant ground sloth. This giant and extinct ground sloth lived during the Age of Mammals when the woolly mammoth and saber tooth cat lived more than 11,000 years ago. The study of the remains indicate it stood over 15 feet (4.6 m) tall and weighed near 2,000 pounds.

The claw marks it made trying to get back out of the hole it fell into are still perfectly preserved 11,000 years later.

Giant sloth marks

The tour is well worth the fee and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but this time I was more amazed by the transformation the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn had taken since our last trip out here a decade earlier.

Clearly they were trying to capitalize in the Disney movie “Cars” and their similarity (historically anyway) to the demise of the Route 66 of old. I had to get a closer look.

The dinosaur was there before. Route 66 kitsch remember?

dinosaur

A life sized representation of the characters from the “Cars” movie is new though…

Radiator Springs

Tater

We had never been inside so how could I not check it out after this very blatant leech on Route 66 fame? Gosh how I love it.

Switchboard

The Grand Canyon Caverns Inn is lost in time. An old switchboard sits at the check-in desk.

 

Cafe

 

 

 

 

The café was closed (evidently February is not considered tourist season, though I would beg to differ since the summer is too HOT for us boomers). But like as with most places along Route 66 we were free to roam the sites as we wished.

The back patio was not updated to attract customers off of the road and I would have to guess 50’s or 60’s here. My hubby is a serious backyard BBQ guy so he had to inspect the grill accomodations while I sat and drank a soda from the gift shop. It was flat. Probably a couple of years old. I drank it anyway.

PatioWe bid our farewell to Grand Canyon Caverns and climbed onto the bike for the ride into Seligman. I had never been there so was looking forward to the visit. The road was empty as we made our way. I’m good with it.

bike

We pulled into Seligman and into the first gas station to fill our tank before finding a place for lunch. We sat behind a Shelby Mustang and a new Camaro SS rented by two young friends to travel Route 66 and then on to Vegas. One was from Ireland and the other from Scotland. I pointed them to my favorite Ghost Town along the way (the topic of a future post). They were satisfying their own bucket lists by living the Route 66 dream. I discovered later that they had indeed visited my friends in Chloride.

Seligman is a wild little town of 456 people! Seligman founded in 1895 and the birthplace of Historic Route 66, is a small, unincorporated town named after a banker of the Santa Fe Railroad. 1987, the State of Arizona dedicated old U.S. Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman as Historic Route 66, due to the efforts of the Seligman Chamber of Commerce. The dedication will assure the preservation of the longest remaining stretch of old Route 66 left in the United States.

We stopped to walk around this iconic town as there was so much to see it almost had me on a sensory overload. The old Territorial Jail from 1860 is on display with a sign that reads;

1860 Arizona Territorial JailAt one time held such notorious outlaws as Seligman Slim, Three Finger Jack, Jim Younger, and many, many more.

In 1866, four Navajo Indians made a successful escape by tunneling from this small cell to the basement of the O.K. Saloon. Four days later they were recaptured after a blazing gun “battle” with Marshall Carl “Curly” Bane.

This is my very own Wyatt Earp admiring the accommodations from afar.

Jail

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We parked our pretty blue steed alongside others (who ended up being from Canada, they store their bikes in Vegas and fly down here whenever they can to ride Route 66 and enjoy the weather, they were on their way to the Grand Canyon this day and then on into the Texas panhandle) at the Roadkill Café 66 and went inside to enjoy the fare and wet our whistle for the ride back.

Roadkill cafe

I certainly hoped these guys weren’t on the menu. Creepy.

Roadkill cafe2

Across the street at the Rusty Bolt and Thunderbird Indian Store is a big surprise and possibly my all time favorite Route 66 display. Honestly…does it get any better than this?

rustybolt2 Rustybolt And with that I leave you dear diary, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Until next time.

 

 

 

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Buy a Harley Davidson

 

Dear Diary,

I am an excellent driver. Excellent driver ( I can never say this without thinking of Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man). But I am, especially when compared to my husband.

He uses the braille method of driving, letting the raised roadway markers do the work for him. I believe we are the only people on Earth who have been pulled over for swerving at 9:00 in the morning.

And what was my hubby’s response to the nice highway patrol officer who asked him why he drives in such a manner while sober? “It’s my lane, I like to use all of it”. Oh God help us.

So why would I climb onto the back of a two wheeled machine with Mr. Magoo at the helm? It was too late to reason it out…I was already hooked on the ride.

While still in the afterglow of surviving my death sentence, my amazing coastal adventure, and my first Harley experience…when he said let’s go to the Harley dealer I gleefully obliged.

We were just going to look, that’s all.

I know my husband better than he knows himself. When he says he is going to look at something, what he means is he is going to buy something. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of commitment, but when I climbed onto the back of the Night Train and it roared to life…my reservations evaporated into pure adrenaline.

It was a 45 minute ride to the dealer, and when I got my head out of the clouds I noticed a strange new phenomenon. Whether it was a nod, a hand motion or sometimes only a couple of fingers….every biker acknowledged us and we back.

Not my photo but says it all…

just-ride-292x300

Oh My Gosh….it’s like being a member of the cool kid club. I’m in for the new bike now…I’m all in.

When we walked into the Harley dealer I felt like a full fledged Son of Anarchy, I mean stepson of Anarchy, er stepdaughter of Anarchy…well something of Anarchy, but not Gemma Teller, definitely not Gemma.

ANYWAY, we walked around all those new shiny metal steeds with the Hub as my tour guide, and like any other herd of volatile horses…one stood out. It turned out to be a 2014 Street Glide FLHX in Daytona Pearl Blue. Other bad asses might like the matte black…but I must pop with color. That’s just how I roll.

Daytona Blue

After hours of waiting for my hubby to finish squaring off with the sales manager, we say goodbye to the Night Train…Hello bagger.

Wait…what? Bagger? And to think up until now I have always battled saddle bags.

This bike is quite a bit larger than my husband’s softail (I just learned that, I don’t know what it means but it sounds cool) so I immediately run into my first rub.

I have no idea how to get on it. Thank God I have long legs and my ridiculously clumsy mount is not as bad as it could have been (I guess).

My hubby starts the engine and we are ready to ride off into the sunset on our new stallion.

Oopsy…not so fast.

He accelerates but fails to fully make the turn and we stop just inches short of running into a parked truck. A parked truck I say.

Had I not put both of my feet on the ground when he did, we would have dropped the bike. It took all of our four feet to keep it from falling over.

What happened to my ultra cool Harley husband?

Evidently a bigger heavier bike handles much differently than a smaller lighter one. How clever of us to get that out of the way right off the bat.

We still laugh about that. Well…I still laugh about it, it’s too soon for him.

I was fine with backing up and trying again, no harm no foul…but I’m afraid it was a fatal blow to my hubby’s confidence, what with that 21k price tag and the grimaces of his fellow bikers on the line.

I dismounted (really, really not a pretty sight) and he backed up the bike and finally executed that turn. Needless to say I was hesitant to get back on, but I did.

I kept my feet on the ground for insurance when he took off again, and clever me found out it wasn’t a good thing when they flew behind me like a rag doll’s. I had to use my nonexistent thigh muscles to get them onto the pegs without touching the fast moving ground under me.

Crap, we had a lot of turns between the dealer and home. The adrenaline was all gone and replaced with fear bordering on terror now.  What had I gotten myself into? How had we turned from Jax and Tara to Ricky and Lucy?

I don’t normally drink alcohol, but when we stopped at a restaurant to eat I bellied right up to the bar. Three shots of courage and I was all good again. Real good in fact. I’m a cheap date.

Maybe it was the Fireball, but our new baby sure looked good under the street lamp just waiting to roar.

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I hope it has patience while we get acclimated, but I carry a flask now for good measure. I don’t normally imbibe, so when we get stopped by a friendly highway patrolman and he finds my flask…how will I explain?

I guess we’ll cross that bridge of irony when we come to it. Meanwhile, I’ll be having the time of my life.

When was the last time I was a flask carrying rebel? Um, never.

Don’t tell my kids.

This is the stuff that bucket lists with value add is made of, and I’m all in for wherever the wild ride takes us.  I still can’t believe it.

Until next time dear diary, Route 66 here we come. Be afraid, be very afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

Bucket List Gone Wild

Dear Diary,

As a baby boomer, I remember when we didn’t live in such a risk obsessed society. When there wasn’t printing on a dry cleaning bag that said “this is not a toy” (and yes we used it as a toy….and lived). When I could ride my bike (with the banana seat) without a helmet at top (one) speed trying to beat the ice cream/helms bakery man home to get money from Mom. When we drank water from a hose instead of a bottle. When face time was actually face time. When we used to fall asleep in front of the TV on Sunday nights watching The Wonderful World of Disney (or was it Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?). When hashtag meant it was your turn to take a hit off the bong (I just passed it….for real). Those were the days.

When did it all get so complicated?

The Pacific Coast Highway trip had provided me with countless subtle priceless experiences and awakenings (and one big ghostly experience) which I still have available to relive when I want or need to. But they were mine alone. I needed something that wasn’t just mine if I was going to make my marriage work.

When I got home with my new outlook, I realized I couldn’t remember when the last time my hubby and I had done something just for the fun of it. I don’t mean a vacation or a weekend away or a ride in our boat fun.I mean spur of the moment, caution be damned, catch us if you can fun.

Had we ever?

Even my bucket list was safe.  How could I ever hope to capture the thrill of that “just being alive ’cause it’s fun” feeling I had when I was a kid? I gave up on it, maybe it isn’t possible after we grow up and life gets mean, and hard, and heavy.

I tried not to think about it.

Isn’t it funny when we least expect it, when we aren’t looking for it or thinking about it, life just hands us what we need most? Hands us that freedom, that live in the moment, that pure joy, that breathlessness from being a part of something so big we are just happy to be along for the ride experience?

And this all happened on a whim. A simple letting go of the tether that kept me flying under the radar and I accidently soared. Something I never even dreamed of putting on my bucket list.

That was the moment I climbed onto the back of my hubby’s Harley Davidson motorcycle and went for the ride of my soul.

He’d always owned one, but I never rode it. Ever. I always considered it sort of an unwritten rule that we could never ride together because somebody needed to stay alive to raise the kids.

Kind of like the President and the Vice-President never riding in the same plane together rule.

Then came the day when I saw the Harley Davidson motorcycle sitting in the garage like an adventure waiting to happen while I was putting out the trash. Just like that I had that thought.

Who am I and where did that come from?

When I walked into the house and suggested to my husband that we take a ride on his Harley…I only wish I had taken a photo of the look on his face. It was like he had won the lottery and Pamela Anderson offer him a lap dance all rolled up in one.

I didn’t even own a helmet. What was I thinking? But it was too late to turn back, how could I crush the look he had on his face as he rushed around to get us ready before I could change my mind?

He offered me his safest helmet and I put on my ankle boots ’cause that’s the only thing I had to even slightly protect me from road rash. They were cute anyway.

Of course we can never do anything easy. As he rolled the Night Train Harley out of the garage, he hit the tire of the Jeep and broke off the passenger foot peg that had never before been put down.

Crap.

My pride would not let me tell him that it was not possible to balance the weight of my left leg on a tiny toe hold since I had lost those thigh muscles somewhere around 1995.

So I said a prayer that ended with “let your will be done” to God and climbed on, swung my right leg over a very small piece of seat, and sat down on a cushion that was about half the size of my butt.

If he didn’t say anything about me taking up too much of the seat, I sure wasn’t going to. I’m not crazy.

Then it happened.

He started the engine and it roared to life and it took me with it. How long had it been since I had given everything up for adventure? When I’d given up safety and predictability for whatever was in the stars?

What had I been waiting for?

As we pulled out of the driveway and I held on for dear life…I was transported into a whole new world. A world I never knew existed.

Freedom.

Freedom from worry, freedom from the mundane, freedom from the future or the past. All 5 senses on overload at once.

I had never been so close to God, in a good way. He was telling me….”see, this world was always just yours, I have been waiting for you to notice.”

I held onto my husband with my hands, my long lost leg muscle was holding onto my left foot, and my soul was holding onto pure joy. How long had it been since I gave up control for a leap of faith?

We rode to the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona, but we could have rode to heaven and back for that matter. I didn’t care where we went. I was a little kid again and everything was new and it was all there for me.

My husband had given me a face mask to help keep my face warm, and when people looked at me from their safe little cars they saw a helmet and a face mask. That’s all. I was…ageless, timeless, and BAD ASS!

Steppenwolf…how did I not know how right you were?

We were all born to be wild…eventually.

Next time dear diary…Ricky and Lucy buy a Harley Davidson for two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 8 – Cannon Beach to Seattle/ Trip Conspectus

Dear Diary,

To be more accurate this post should say; Pacific Coast Highway – Cannon Beach to Astoria, because it was there I decided to head inland and catch the 5 freeway to Seattle, which I easily made in 4 hours.

My reasons for hightailing it to Seattle?  After 7 days on Pacific Coast Highway I was tired and longed to be at my destination where I would spend more than one night, I had finally found the answers I was looking for and more, and finally the Astoria Bridge.

Have you ever seen that bridge in Astoria over the Columbia River? Yikes! Truthfully, that was the tie breaker. If I had just started out on this trek I would’ve said “hell yeah let’s do this”, but I was 7 days into some pretty challenging driving solo.

In short…it scared the crap out of me. If I wanted to drive on water I’d ask Jesus to take the wheel, but I don’t. ‘Nuff said.

Astoria Bridge

Now for the good part of this story…Seattle.

I pulled into town with the usual metropolis view of high-rises and traffic, traffic everywhere.  Any big city can be so intimidating, especially when you have absolutely no idea where you are. But when I finally landed…

Oh. My. Gosh.

Seattle is so much more than I imagined. It reminds me of this coast’s most southern city (San Diego) for how clean it is. Like a sparkling gem between the blue of the sky and the blue of the water (the weather was on it’s best behavior while I was there).

I was a shameless tourist from that point on. I spent time at Pike’s Place Market which has been continuously in operation since it opened in 1907.

PikesMarket

I spent all day here and in Pioneer Square. Just a few words that come to mind when I think of this place…

History, people, coffee, wine, cheese, fish, art, books, music, blue sky, white clouds…never mind, too many wonderful words come to mind and I’ll lose you.

I took a photo of this totem pole, and what is most prevalent is the unbelievably beautiful sky, I just couldn’t get enough of it.

Seattlesky

…and yet another of Pioneer Square…

Seattlesky2

Which sits on Elliot Bay…

Seattleport…and as a shameless tourist how could I leave out the Space Needle?

SpaceNeedle

It was an absolute pleasure to walk this part of town (the only part I got to see actually) where even the alleys were clean and lovely…is it a law to maintain them this way? LA might want to think about incorporating it if so…

Seattlealley

They say there is 697 things to do in Seattle and I’m a little mad at myself that I only did about 4 (I really really wanted to take the underground tour but ran out of time), so I have much work to do when I go back someday. That’s the only way I could bear to say good-bye to most of the places I landed on this trip…to promise myself I would be back (sorry Eureka and Gold Beach, you didn’t make the cut) and soon.

When I finally headed home I was changed. This trip had cleansed my soul and enabled so many truths to bubble up to my sphere of awareness over the 3,000 miles I traveled. The foremost of these is one truth that I have made my mantra.

Guard Your Hope…Not Your Heart.

I had been given the heart of so many and given mine as often on this trip. With the care of God and strangers (including the ghostly friend I made) I was lifted up to see above and beyond the physical, emotional, and soulful pain I had started this journey with.

I was healed in every sense of the word.

Our hearts are meant to be given with abandon to whomever would take or even steal it. Naturally along with all of the rewards of giving your heart, there will be those that break, betray, and reject it…but those are the exceptions, and the heart will recover (even when it seems it never will).

Love is the greatest gift of all, and although it sounds existential, I believe you really do get back what you put out there. So give it wantonly and without limitations or conditions.

But hold onto your hope. Guard it jealously and never let it be lost or stolen. Feed it with the good times to sustain it through the hard times when hope is all that is left. Hope and faith seem so fragile, but they are stronger than we know and are able to guide us through anything.

And I mean anything.

There would be much work to do after I got home to repair the damage done to our relationship…but both my husband and I had been changed by my solo trip and we would start that work as soon as I landed at my front door.

If I ever forget to not be afraid of an uncertain future, how strong I am with only God to guide me, or what it feels like to be very far away from my comfort zone…I shall again hop into my trusty steed and head out to horizons unknown.

As should you, if you don’t know the answer to…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE?

I now know the answer for me, but you need to find the answer for you.

Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible Mustang GT by myself Bucket List Item – check.

This is not the end of my journey dear diary, after returning home we purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle (I know riiiiiiiight?) and the adventures started anew…

‘Til next time.

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 5 – Trinidad CA to Gold Beach OR

Dear Diary,

Setting Gold Beach as a destination was an afterthought. I had held off deciding to go there until well into this trip. I don’t know why I had such a hard time committing.

I suspect it was because I really didn’t want to go there. For my sake anyway.

Let it be a lesson to all when we do something because we think someone else would like it, things are bound to go awry.

But it started out magical.

Waking up in Trinidad was as good as going to sleep there. I had breakfast in the dining room of the B&B with the lovely couple I had met the day before at Patrick’s Point.

Back into my Mustang, and I was off to parts unknown. Well not unknown, just unfamiliar. I was armed with my maps and sketchy AT&T wireless GPS app service.

If I was on the East Coast, I would have been through 7 or 8 states by now, and finally today I would be leaving my beloved California.

But not before paying homage to my favorite trees, the California Redwoods. I set off for the Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway which was 30 miles north of Trinidad off of Highway 101, 10 miles of old growth forest. Heaven on Earth.

Just before I reached the Parkway, I saw a sign that said Elk Meadow, home of a large herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Why not? I had plenty of time.

About a quarter mile down the road I had turned onto, I came upon the vast meadow. Gorgeous, but no elk. I went on to the day use area and parked the pony to take a look around.

My car was the second car in the parking lot. There was a group of people mulling around (obviously with the other car) that eyed me suspiciously. Well now…wasn’t that a switch? I was only wearing my pink Monterey wind breaker, not the whole Hello Kitty ensemble. It had to be because I was traveling solo, that was a kind of triumph itself.

An inviting path lead to an old growth forest. It was calling my name.

I grabbed some water and headed out. The first thing I came to when the path led alongside the meadow was this sign.

Wild ElkI really would like to meet the person who needs to be told; Danger, do not approach wild elk on foot.

Maybe I don’t want to meet that person, ’cause even a dyed in the wool city girl knows better. Besides, I make it a habit not to approach animals bigger than me – wild or not.

I followed the path into the forest, where I happily followed it along until I was completely surrounded by ancient redwoods.

Anybody who has stood in a Redwood Forest can tell you it renders one reverently speechless. When able to speak again, it is only while fighting the urge to whisper.

I had no need to talk. I listened while they talked.

As the breeze high in the treetops rustled their leaves, it’s as though they were whispering their thousand year old secrets to each other in a language that we mere mortals are not able to understand.

I was an audience to Ents in Lord of the Rings, except better because these are real.

There are some trees in what’s left of the old growth forests that are thousands of years old. It boggles the mind to think that they were here before the birth of Christ.

The carpeted forest was silent under my footsteps. Only the sound of the trees could be heard. The noise in my mind and the rest of the world disappeared.

I continued down the path and was rewarded with trees larger and taller. A few photos might help illustrate their size…or not.

The trail is about 3 feet wide.

Redwood1

I felt like Alice In Redwoodland (after shrinking) next to the roots of this fallen monarch.

Redwood 2

The trail is still 3 feet wide winding around the tree base.

Redwood 3

I came upon a small waterfall and babbling creek that was as surreal as the centurions surrounding it. I had to stop and breathe in it’s enchantment. Really breathe.

Redwoods4

I couldn’t help but think about how cavalierly I had pulled off the road to see this place,  no inkling at how magical all of it would be. No elk? No problem.

As I stood there lost in the moment, I heard a long, deep, and nearby GROWL.

Well now, didn’t this day just get value added.

The brain in fight or flight mode is amazing.  In a millisecond I had already (belatedly) established some alarming facts.

  • I had no weapon.
  • I had no cell coverage.
  • I had no idea how far away from the trailhead I was.
  • I had seen no sign of any other human being for at least an hour, so nobody would hear me scream.
  • Nobody would miss me in at least a week.
  • I do not have survival skills outside of the ability to find parking in LA.
  • I do not own a whistle.
  • I have no idea what kind of animal would make that sound except it is not small.
  • If they are a carnivore (what else would growl), they can already smell my terror so pretending to be a bad ass would be moot.
  • I must run for my life.

I also remembered my Mom telling me to never, ever turn and run from something that is challenging you. Good job brain indexer, you pulled that out from deep in the annals of time. I backed up slowly for about four steps and abandoned all good advice.

I turned and ran like the wind.

Did I say like the wind? Within a minute I was gasping for breath, my knees and ankles were protesting so loudly I was sure it was audible. Let’s face it, if whatever had growled really wanted to eat me, I’d already have been a Scooby snack with pink icing.

I made haste (I wish I could say I ran) toward the trailhead and the protection of my pony. I was outta there.

I will go back someday, but not without an Eagle Scout or equivalent flanking me.

I made my way back to PCH (here known as Redwood Hwy 101) and got back on track. I crossed over the Klamath river, and finally back to the coast.

My pony and I stopped for a north coast photo op and to put up the convertible top. Not sure why, maybe because I still felt a little exposed after my near encounter with who knows what.

No Cali PCH

I headed into Crescent City which was just as quaint as I had always imagined it. I used to daydream about opening up a B&B there (a guilty pleasure of mine is dreaming of opening B&B’s in places I choose on the map, don’t judge).

That was until I learned of the tsunamis. It happens to be the tsunami capitol of the US and was nearly wiped out in 1964 as a result of the 9.2 Alaska quake.

Crescent City 1964Poor Crescent City is basically at the mercy of any quake occurring in the Pacific Ocean. The topography of the sea floor near Crescent City creates a “funnel” that proves problematic for this place. Since 1933, there have been 31 tsunamis occur.

I would have loved to stay and explore the city’s lighthouses and other points of interest, but the only thing I stopped to enjoy is Starbucks. As if my poor little ticker needed any more stimulation after the events of the morning, but it was necessary to restore my sense of civility.

25 more miles and I bade farewell to California and hello to Oregon.

Norcalicoast

Southern Oregon is stunning. I am not accustomed to seeing the magnificent sand dunes transitioning into rocky shore line and back. It’s untamed, and this stretch of highway plays peak-a-boo with the sea behind groves of trees. The beaches are littered with drift wood, grass, dunes, and trees. Simply Gorgeous.

And cold. I’m used to temperate weather year round, and admit I’m spoiled rotten in that regard.

I passed through Brookings and headed still northward 30 miles toward Gold Beach.

Brookings, OR

and another stunner…

Brookings 2

I had an issue getting gas in Gold Beach. I didn’t know that you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon. The last time I saw a gas station employee pump gas in California I was barely old enough to see out of the window of the car in the back seat, so when I stopped and some little man came bounding out of the office and demanded my debit card, naturally I balked.

“Why do you need my debit card?” I asked, “I can pump my own gas.”

He replied with his hand still out, “Not here you won’t.”

By here I thought he meant this gas station. I groaned at the thought that I had picked a quirky place to fill up, but I had to go pee too bad to find another.

I handed my debit card over to a stranger…and for a moment I couldn’t let go even after I held it out and he took hold of it. I told you we in LA have trust issues.

I literally ran to the restrooms (this means I ran twice in one day…kind of a big deal for me), and as I dried my hands on my pants instead of the 50’s style cloth loop that went round and round over the sink (Ew), I was chuckling to myself about him not having my PIN so he couldn’t use my debit card. Silly rabbit.

When I came back to my steed, he handed me my card and told me to have a nice day. My tank was full and he charged my debit card without my PIN or signature? What episode of Twilight Zone was I in?

The lodge I booked was inland along the Rogue River. I didn’t necessarily have a burning desire to stay there, but my hubby has always been fascinated by the Rogue River mail boats of renown. I told him I would check it out.

Not the Rogue River mail boats was I checking out mind you, I have no desire to spend the day speeding up the river at 110 mph (not really, just seems like it) with my hair on fire. That is something we do regularly in Arizona on the Colorado River when Mr. Energizer Bunny is at the wheel of our boat.

I would check out the Rogue River on it’s shores from the room I had booked at the lodge. I had high expectations as this was the most expensive accommodation among the seven on the northbound part of this trip.

I checked in and was of course wowed by my room. I knew I would be, as I had seen photos of it online. Of course no photo is as good as the real thing. Tututon RoomAnd there it was, the object of my instantaneous obsession…the real fireplace with real wood for a real fire.

I suppose I should explain. I have only ever had a very rare occasion to have a fire (other than duraflame logs), and when we do my hubby insists upon doing the honors since I am fire-starting challenged.

Not this time kemosabe. The fireplace is mine, all mine wahahahahahaha.

It even had the firewood and kindling all set up ready to be lit. I just had to wait for nightfall.

The meal plan is quite pricey and a big deal at this place and most guests indulge since there is no place near to eat. Not me. Being in close proximity to strangers is exactly what I was trying to get away from. The gourmet meals and wine are served “family style” and just not my cup of tea. It seemed a little pretentious, and when I looked in while it was happening, I was right. But to each his/her own.

I enjoyed my PB&J with trail mix and water on my own veranda overlooking the river. It was beautiful, but not as placid as I had thought. There was a road just across the river (hidden by the trees) and I could hear logging trucks downshifting and Jake braking. The little dock in this photo is where the mail boats pick up guests for the adventure.

verandaview

The couple next to me had a small outside Jacuzzi and although I couldn’t see them, I could hear them just fine. They were enjoying a romantic rendezvous away from their respective spouses.

Awkward.

I took the opportunity to walk along the river which was lovely. I achingly missed my hubby for the first time in 5 days. He would love this place (except for the pretentious part). I got a little melancholy and went back to my room.

Rogueriverwalk

Since I had opted out of the meal plan, the office had given me a paper to fill out with what time I would like the complimentary coffee delivered to my room, which I was to fill out and hang on my doorknob where they would pick it up by 6 pm. Nobody ever picked it up.

I was starting to feel invisible.

I decided to take a nice hot bath. I had time to burn until sundown and was feeling a little sore from my “runs” earlier in the day. The drain plug wouldn’t work. Dang it all.

At least I had the fire to look forward to. I sat on the veranda and watched the sun set while it got colder and colder outside. Perfect. Finally.

I put flame to fire. I probably was licking my lips or something equally as compulsive while I sated the pyro in me.

The fire blazed into existence and my room started to warm up. I finally had phone reception and talked to my family sitting next to the warm fire overlooking the cold Rogue River outside. Queue the deer and bald eagle.

As the conversations on the phone wound down, so did my fire. I had exhausted the wood in the fireplace as well as what was provided in the little basket on the hearth. No matter, the receptionist said there was a wood pile on either side of the stair case.

I filled my arms and returned to my room and my fire where I stoked it back up and settled down in my comfy bed to check my bank activity, check in on social media, and my email.

I was appalled when I saw the $150.00 charge on my debit card for gas. I KNEW IT! My first day in Oregon and I get ripped off at the gas station? I was really mad. I couldn’t wait to call the bank in the morning. Argh.

After all of my online activity I stoked up the fire again and shut down the lights for a well earned nights sleep. The smell of the fire and the shadow of flames on the wall were delicious. I would have to stay in a room with real fire more often.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep when I awoke to the unmistakable ear splitting sound of the smoke alarm. It took me a second to get my bearings and jump out of bed to try and figure out what was wrong. There was definitely smoke in the room, so I threw open the floor to ceiling glass veranda doors and propped open the entrance door to get fresh air flowing.

The alarm was so loud I am sure I woke everyone in the entire lodge up. The damn thing just wouldn’t stop. I was so embarrassed I could’ve died right there. I certainly wasn’t invisible anymore, not in a good way.

After the alarm finally stopped chirping, I closed the entrance door to my room but was afraid to close the big glass doors to the veranda, so I left them open. I finally went to sleep with my teeth chattering hours later, not too long before dawn.

I still have no idea what I did wrong. When I told my husband about it, he laughed saying the flue probably needed cleaning or something. I still cringe at the memory.

I had a short driving day so I waited until all of the cars in the parking lot were gone to check out. I used that time to call the bank and raise heck about the troll that ripped me off. Customer service explained to me that the $150.00 was just to hold funds until the actual fee of $50.00 came through.

Oh geez, I’d wrongly accused that poor man. I still feel bad about it.

After I slithered down to check out (sans complimentary coffee), I felt compelled to confess to the receptionist while I waited for my receipt, “I was the one who made the fire alarm go off last night. I hope I didn’t disturb any of your other guests.”

She laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry about it, it happens all the time.”

God bless her.

Until next time dear diary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.

giants1

I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.

Canopy

I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.

PatrickPointweb

There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.

ViewfromBB

As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad

Pacific Coast Highway Day 3 – Monterey to Gualala, CA

Dear Diary,

I planned on navigating San Francisico on a Sunday because I have been there often enough to know that traffic, like any other large city, can be a headache.

I didn’t want any headaches.

What I didn’t plan into this little scenario of mine was Mother’s Day…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was reluctant to say good-bye to Monterey. It is a destination unto itself, and although I’ve been here twice before, I feel like I have only scratched the surface. The surface of the water I haven’t even begun to touch yet (Monterey Bay is so special).

I will be back Monterey.

I headed north on Highway 1 going inland once again.

Let me say this about Highway 1, what the rest of the world knows as Pacific Coast Highway. Every county through all three states has renamed highway 1 as if by putting a different name to it they can lay claim to it’s notoriety. But they can’t change the number!PCH SignI still had my convertible top down and although I feel like I might be close to the shore, I can’t see it. This is a pretty unremarkable stretch of highway that widens as it goes through the marsh lands and sand dunes.

This was one of the places I was tempted to take 101 as it would have cut off a considerable amount of travel time, but I stayed true to my plan. I wasn’t in a hurry, and my bucket list said Highway 1, not 101.

I am aware that I am only slightly more than halfway through California, yet if I were on the East Coast I would have already gone through 3 states.

45 miles north of Monterey I reach the other end of Monterey Bay where lies the city of Santa Cruz. I wished I had time to stop and play here. I have never been here before but feel like I have after hearing all about it from friends who attended UC Santa Cruz.

It’s beach, boardwalk, seashore amusement park, pier and other unique qualities make it another destination, but I have an unfamiliar and the longest drive day ahead of me so I wistfully move on. I had the feeling I would be sorry, but as it turned out…I wasn’t.

The tundra between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay (another 50 miles north) is all the same; rolling hills, grasslands, marsh, farmsteads, and brush. At least I got to play peak-a-boo with the Pacific Ocean along the way.

The highway meets up with the sea again and it is glorious between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco. The road isn’t challenging, instead it rather lazily follows the shoreline which affords me the luxury of staring at the water and clouds. It is Mother’s Day, and I see families at all of the local beaches picnicking.

This makes me homesick for the first time since I started my lone trek.

I stopped at a beach and had what had become my daily meal “on-the-go”, a PB&J with trail mix. The weather had turned from sunny to grey. I noticed my mood would change accordingly.

I don’t know what came first, the grey or the homesickness, but they did not compliment each other.

I pressed on to what I both adored and dreaded, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here would be the last place that would be familiar to me. I have spent time in San Francisco on many occasions, and I love it. I didn’t necessarily leave my heart there, but very close.

Over the last 40 years of my life I have been to Chinatown, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Wax Museum, Pier 39, Golden Gate Park and Bridge, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Street and various other absolutely fantastic points, and again there is so much more I have yet to see, but not today.

As I approach the city, what I dreaded the most happened…gridlock. The sky had grown foggy and misty, and I regretted leaving my top down (you KNOW I mean convertible), but I dared not get off of highway 1 lest I not be able to get back on. The traffic would move just enough so that I couldn’t put it up in traffic, but it wasn’t so bad. Much better than entering the city from the 5, and sitting in traffic there.

I finally reach the Golden Gate Bridge, and as fate would have it, I couldn’t see it. It was shrouded in fog, but I still took a photo from where my car top would be if it wasn’t down. Traffic was bad, so I didn’t take my eyes off of the road, so let me apologize in advance for the dicey photos.

This was what the bridge looked like as I reached what I assumed was the midway point.

Golden Gate 1 And another dicey photo taken from over my windshield…

Golden Gate 2

But this is what it looked like when I disembarked…crazy huh? Notice the traffic at the bottom of the photo. Yeesh.

Golden Gate 3

But the fun was not yet over. It took me another hour just to get to where the 1 and 101 parted ways again.

Then came the most challenging part of the highway that I would encounter. From where the 1 and 101 split to Stinson Beach was another 2 hours.

This is the only stretch where I felt road rage welling up. There was a sign before the hair raising turns started that clearly said “NO VEHICLES OVER 23 FEET ALLOWED”.

Pretty straightforward to me. I didn’t know why just yet…but I would take note, if I had a vehicle over 23 feet.

Evidently others do not take note, and let me add if they were in LA, they would have been set straight pretty quickly. Tour busses would get stuck on those hairpin turns and the road would have to clear in order for them to execute the turns. Not just one or two, but what seemed like at least 20 of them.

The lesson here? Patience Prudence, patience. I am not patient, which is why I’m a Mad Baby Boomer, not Patient Baby Boomer. ‘Nuff said.

After Stinson Beach (which looked like an adorable little beach town, but crowded (which is something I had already grown accustomed to NOT seeing in the last 2 days) so I pressed on through.

I was terrified more than a couple of times along this stretch of road, and quite frankly my nerves were frazzled by the time I reached level ground again.

I nearly got out and kissed it. Silly me, I had no idea what was in store for me later in the day.

Oddly, the next 50 miles to Bodega Bay was lonesome. I had very suddenly been abandoned by all of the traffic at Stinson Beach, and in addition to the grey conditions again (Stinson Beach had been awash in sunshine), I felt insecure.

Had I taken a wrong turn like Day 1?

I had no phone coverage to consult my GPS, no hubby to reassure me, and the road signs seemed very far apart. Tomales Bay was grey, desolate, and downright depressing (and seemingly never-ending). I didn’t even feel jealous of the occasional homestead along it’s marshy shores.

Back inland, and after Bodega Bay I got my wish to be back to the seashore, but I didn’t anticipate how challenging this stretch of highway 1 would be. It certainly didn’t look that bad on Google maps!

I was getting tired, I had been driving now for 6 hours, and I was completely off track as far as where I was with regard to my destination…Gualala.

Had I passed it?

Finally! I came upon something I could easily pinpoint on my paper map (like old school) by way of the Russian River. It was still a little grey, but there was no denying the distinction of this waterway. It meandered beneath me on the highway, but it wasn’t until I crested the mountain and caught site of the estuary that I was left breathless.

Russian River

I looked closer at what I initially thought were very tidy logs along the sand bar, but when I looked closer I realized they were more of my friends the elephant seals. Very smart of them. I’m not sure what the big birds are, city girl remember?

Russian River Elephant Seals

After stretching my legs and breathing in the incredible beauty of this place, I moved on with a much lighter heart. I was exhausted though, and I didn’t know it but the most challenging and treacherous part of this day’s road was still ahead of me.

The next 33 miles would take me another hour to navigate, and by the time I saw Ocean Cove General Store, I was nearing tears at the thought that I had passed Gualala and would have to go back through what I had just endured.

I parked my pony and went into the General Store to confer with someone…anyone…where I was with relation to Gualala.

As I entered the store in my near hysterical state, I could tell the four men inside were enjoying a Sunday rhythm that they must practice regularly. They stopped their easy conversation and looked at me. All four faces.

The one behind the counter said, “Can I help you little lady?”

I replied with a dry mouth and even though I tried to control it, my voice was too high and betrayed me., “Have I passed Gualala?”

They all turned around at that point to fully face me and the same gentleman replied, “No ma’am, it’s another 20 or so miles down the road.”

I replied “Oh thank you so much” with such relief, that one of the other gentleman asked, “Are you driving these parts alone?”

“Yes” I said. I added, “I’m traveling highway 1 to Seattle”.

They all walked toward me while the original gentleman (coming out from behind the counter} said, “Well God Almighty, do you know how long it’s been since we seen a lone woman purist along here?”

“No” I said, “I don’t know how long and I don’t know what a purist is…”

“A purist is someone who sticks to highway 1 to get here. It’s been a long time since we seen a lone female do it. You got guts girl!”

With that, they all took turns patting me on the back and high fiving me.

This did more for me than I can adequately express. I will be eternally grateful to those men. They gave to me a renewed sense of pride, strength, and determination. Never underestimate the power of encouragement and a kind word. Thanks boys.

Ocean Cove

I finally made it to Gualala, and this time I enjoyed the scenery. It reminded me of Colorado, if Colorado was on the ocean. In other words…just beautiful.

I checked into my small room (because that’s all they have in Gualala), but the view was breathtaking. In spite of the fact that I still had no phone reception and would spend the only Mother’s Day to date without speaking to my kids or hubby, I could breathe again.

I found peace here.

I cannot end this day without speaking of the most incredible woman (and her husband) I met on this little path outside my window.

Gualala

She was in her 80’s and was a transplant here in Gualala from her home in South Africa. I asked her if she missed her home, and if she was willing could she tell me about it?

She said, “Yes, I miss it every day of my life” and proceeded to paint the picture with both the good and the bad of the world she had to escape to survive so long ago.

What an incredible gift.

Her last words to me were, “Be careful on your travels my dear, you are rather special.”

Thank you God for sending these incredible people my way, and making both the landscape that I see, and the landscape of those who have indelibly touched my life…so special.

Until next time dear diary.

Pacific Coast Highway Day 2 – Pismo Beach to Monterey

Dear Diary,

For me, there is nothing more peaceful than being lulled to sleep by the sound of the surf. Being awakened by it is just as good, which made bidding farewell to Pismo Beach difficult. I would happily be a beach bum there.

Onward to the day’s destination…Monterey, another favorite of mine.

I didn’t plan a long driving day as PCH to Monterey would present some of the most challenging driving on this trip. I had been over this stretch of Highway 1 before, so I knew what I was in for.

I didn’t hurry. That is one of the perks of traveling alone, no coordinating with who takes a shower when, who is and isn’t hungry, who doesn’t want to get out of bed.

It was entirely liberating to sit on my own deck with a cup of Keurig coffee and let the rising sun kiss me hello and good-bye at the same time.

I packed the pony, put the convertible top down, and began my journey anew. This is the only selfie I have ever taken because the joy of an epic journey in a convertible Mustang must be recorded….right?

189578_4702845049457_1802890220_n[1]

The 1 and 101 converge in Pismo Beach and head inland to San Luis Obispo where Highway 1 splits off again toward Morro Bay. I love Morro Bay and have spent plenty of time there as a destination, so I don’t tarry. I would miss watching the sea otters though. I can’t get enough of them and they are plentiful here.

Highway 1 here is only for locals and pilgrims. There is a certain esprit de corps among travelers on this road, as we are all here for the same unique experience.

This place is special.

There is no way to adequately describe the splendor afforded by following alongside the Pacific Ocean in Cali. The sea provides an endless blue heaven while the sun plays all day on the water, the cliffs, the mist of pounding surf, the horizon, and occasionally behind lazy clouds.

big-sur

In spring, there is the added bouquet of flowers and blooming shrubbery. Surely God was in a particularly good mood when he created California.

Onward through Cambria and San Simeon.

San Simeon has been a destination in the past. Hearst castle is a place to be savored over more than a day, although the decadent display of wealth is troublesome, especially in the era it was built. It would be criminal to pass it up if I hadn’t already seen it though.

Hearst Castle

As a side note to anyone planning this trip, when they say that San Simeon is the last place to get gas, they mean it.

Onward to a new adventure…the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, 7 miles north of San Simeon. I was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to see these magnificent mammals up close. They were thought to be extinct, hunted tirelessly for their blubber, but a small colony of 20 survived the carnage in Baja California. Protected by Mexico, then by California, this colony started in 1992 with the birth of its first pup, and is now thought to be 8000 strong, though not all are ever on the beach at the same time.

The males arrive in late November and fight for dominance in anticipation of the females arrival in the coming weeks. I wasn’t too sorry I missed the violence, these guys can weigh 4500 pounds. They spend the rest of the year at sea.

The females arrive in December and give birth  to the pups they conceived the year before, then are impregnated again before the males depart in February. Both males and females fast while they are on land, and lose 1/3 of their body weight during this time.

In May when I was there, the pups had grown fat and strong, and both juveniles and females had returned to molt which I don’t mind telling you is a smelly business. The females argue constantly, grunt and complain when moving or turning in the sun, and male pups “mock fight” in anticipation of adulthood. It’s quite the cacophony of sound.

Elephant Seal Rookery

This little guy was the epitome of life on the beach.

Baby Elephant Seal

I hated having to leave. I still have the “elephant seal live cam” as a favorite on my laptop so I can check in from time to time.

With the increased health of Pinniped colonies all along the California Coast, the downside is the return of their chief predator, the Great White Shark. They say attacks on humans have not increased, but in light of what I had seen the day before at Surf Beach, I might argue the point.

I noticed only juveniles were in the water, and they were in the rocky shallows. Smart. Aviary Photo_130585125991232806 (800x533)The road gets challenging after San Simeon. I was mentally prepared for it, but not for the cyclists I encountered on every turn. I’m a little mad about the fact that they would ride 2 to 4 abreast on a road that is hardly wide enough for two lanes with no guard rails. Evidently they were competing or practicing or something in the “Tour of California” and oblivious to automobiles trying to navigate the treacherous turns, so consequently I didn’t get to ogle the vistas as much as I would have liked to.

tour of california

I had already planned to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Although I had seen it before, this piece of highway 1 is both visually stunning as well as historically fascinating.

The McWay Waterfall (or more accurately “Tidefall”, named for its first resident Christopher McWay in 1870) is probably the most visited and photographed image on Highway 1 in the Big Sur area. The 80 ft tidefall used to poor straight into the ocean (one of only a handful in the world), but a massive fire in 1983 and subsequent landslide forced enough debris into the cove to create a beach. The water now only falls into the ocean during high tide. This is not my photo, the fog was rolling in when I took mine.

mcway-falls-julia-pfeiffer-burns-state-park-7325-1680x1050

McWay Falls preslide. No beach.

preslide cove

This cove in December and January plays host to migrating whales that come very close to shore here. I intend to sit and watch them someday (maybe only in my dreams).

Most tourists fail to notice the ruins of a house directly behind where they stand to take their waterfall photo at the overlook.

Waterfall HouseThe stairs, terrace, and non-native palm trees are all that is left of the “Waterfall House” built by Lathrop and Helen Brown in the 1940’s (who bought Christopher McWay’s Ranch). The house and rail car to the house (tracks can still be seen by the ruins) was powered by the Pelton Wheel which can also be seen on this trail.

Helen Brown and Julia Pfeiffer Burns were unlikely but fast friends in this remote area of Big Sur. Helen was a New York socialite where Julia was a hard working second generation pioneer of the area. When Helen Brown deeded the area to the State of California, she stipulated that the Park be named after Julia, and the house become a museum by a specific date or be torn down. The State did not meet the deadline and the house was demolished.

Perhaps Helen knew that she would be remembered for her wealth, but Julia would be lost to obscurity if not for the Park named for her. If nothing else, this place stands as a tribute to an enduring friendship.

There is something magical about the Redwoods meeting the sea, which makes it very hard to leave this place.

Onward to one of the only points on Highway 1 that made me just a tad nervous. I can’t tell you why it did, but perhaps being suspended this high in the open air of the convertible over ground that I (as a resident) am suspect of moving at any given time, could have contributed.

1024px-Bixby_Creek_Bridge,_The_Big_Sur,_California

Since it was built in the 30’s, the Bixby Bridge has stood its ground, and lucky for me continued to do so as I crossed it.

I had already spent time in Carmel by the Sea. I am a little mad at the people who get to live here, but not Clint Eastwood.

The Carmel Mission built in 1771 is marvelous and having stood the test of time, should not be missed.

carmel-mission-basilica-founded-in-1770-carmel-by-the-sea-california-usa

I have been here before to enjoy Carmel’s beach, shopping and history, so I continue on Highway 1 inland (bypassing the peninsula and snooty golf courses) to Monterey.

Fishermans WharfI checked into my hotel and set out on foot to Fisherman’s Wharf. I had been here before when my youngest was small, so many fond memories flood my mind as I walked the wharf. It was crowded with tourists and I was missing my family, so after fortifying myself with clam chowder in a bread bowl while watching the harbor seals, I headed out for parts unknown. For a first timer, I would recommend renting one of the pedal carts and traveling down the coast to cannery row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I was not a first timer, so I headed down the back streets to Old Monterey. This is a brave move for skittish me.

This was where I had the most delicious moment of traveling alone thus far. I could shop and not have at least 3 other people (my kids and husband) telling me to hurry up or no we don’t have time.

I bought a delightfully bohemian skirt (that I have yet to wear, but I’m gonna) in one shop and a touristy fleece lined, pink, hooded wind breaker at a deep discount. I indulged in salt water taffy at a candy store, don’t tell the dentist.

Does it get any better?

I had a few hours until sunset so I languished here among the locals. I savored the Saturday rhythms of life here in the shadows of glorious architecture. Guitarists at an outdoor cafe, folks in line at a theater with their excited anticipation of what was ahead palpable, transients at every corner exuding a certain quiet desperation (but I didn’t feel threatened) mixed with the obviously wealthy patrons of restaurants and specialty stores.

 

I had to hurry back to my hotel to make it before the sun dissolved into the ink of night. I’m not so brave as to loiter after dark in an unfamiliar city. Even in a familiar city for that matter.

This is the only place on my Pacific Coast Highway trip that my accommodation was not seaside, but there was a pool and Jacuzzi just below my room that was calling my name. I suited up and headed down to soak my aching feet, and met one of the most interesting of the many fantastic women I would encounter during this adventure (even one that was specteral, see A Ghost in My Room if you can’t wait until day 6 of this trip).

This soon to be college graduate confirmed what I suspected about Monterey. It is a city made up of haves and have nots, with no room for the middle class.

She was melancholy because she was moving back home to Hollister California instead of Maui where she really wanted to start her life. Why wasn’t she pursuing her dream? Turns out, she just needed permission. As a 55 year old woman who had not pursued her dreams, I gave it to her. The 3 hour conversation we enjoyed altered the course of her life, and I can’t help but believe was meant to be.

I returned to my room, stoked up the fake fire in the real fireplace, and drifted into a tranquil sleep (despite the absence of surf).

Huzzah Monterey.

Until next time dear diary…day 3 takes us over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to Gualala California. The longest (and what would become the most challenging) drive of the 7 day trip.