Thursday, August 20, 2009

California to Florida - a gradual start ...

We left Silicon Valley on Wednesday the 19th, heading for Santa Cruz and Highway 1 down the coast of California.  A gradual start is the best way to describe it.  We stopped in Los Gatos for breakfast at Lou's, a hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot that I discovered several years ago.  Then we drove slowly through Los Gatos, so I could show Pen one of the nicest little villages in what now is known as Silicon Valley (actually, the Santa Clara Valley or "Valley of Hearts Delight" from the days of orchards and farming), and finally began our climb over the coastal range to Santa Cruz. 

Driving down Ocean Avenue in Santa Cruz, I called my friend Tony Kirk and we arranged to drop in on him briefly after we went down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, California's last real seaside amusement park.  We got there to stand in the cold morning waiting for the Big Dipper roller coaster to open.  When it did we had the tooth-shaking, rattling, thrilling ride on the 1924 wooden roller coaster.  Really a blast!  And, then we drove up to Tony's and visited for a few minutes before heading off to Monterey.

I called another friend, Kent Seavey, in Pacific Grove, as we drove south toward Monterey, and we arranged
to meet for a late lunch.  Kent and I have know each other for thirty years, and we had a wonderful visit, catching up on his life and ours, and having lunch at a first-rate little taco place in Pacific Grove.  After lunch, we drove over the "hill" to Carmel, stopped and walked a bit on that village's Ocean Avenue and down to the cottage on Lincoln (2 blocks off Ocean Avenue and 8 blocks up from the beach), which my mother sold in about 1962 (for about $22,000 ... today it's probably worth $2 million).  Looks the same, as quaint as can be ... I wish my mother had never sold it.

We drove around the scenic road tracing the ocean side of Carmel, and then headed south down Highway 1 along the beautifully rugged coast line to Big Sur.  After a long ride past artist colonies, spa resorts, and Hearst Castle, we reached Morro Bay and eventually found a Best Western in San Luis Obispo.  We went to dinner at a little Thai restaurant I discovered with history friends a year or so ago in San Luis, and we had an incredibly good meal. 

Our first day ... we went 236 miles.  Not a great start, but what fun!

Thursday, bright and early ... well not too early, but early enough ... we rolled out of bed, had an "American hotel breakfast" (nothing like the rest of the civilized world), went to the super for munchies for the road, put ice in the cooler, got Starbucks and hit the road.  Our trip led us through what Pen called some of the most beautiful country, rolling hills along California's route 101 (the historic El Camino Real), through Pismo Beach, Halcyon, Santa Maria, and so on down to Buellton, the home of Andersen's Split Pea Soup.  We stopped for soup, and we both loved it! 

Then it was on to Santa Barbara, where we visited the mission and grounds, and I regaled Pen in the story of the water system of the missions, complete with artefactual visual aids: the aqueducts, filter house, lavenderia, fountains, and so forth.  The mission's reservoir, built in 1806, is the oldest extant and in-use municipal water reservoir in the western United States.  Following the walking lecture, we drove through Santa Barbara, and Pen decided that this is the place she wants to live!  Hooray.  Now, if we can only find a hovel we can afford.

The road then led us south through Ventura (not as good as SB but acceptable), and then Los Angeles, which we skirted and headed as quickly as possible to Palm Springs. 

Hmmmm.  Neither of us had been to Palm Springs, and we both agree.  Who in their right mind would want to live here, or for that matter visit?  Of course it's summer, low-season, hotter than hell (108 today), and maybe the winter has some redeeming quality, but it is clearly not our idea of a pleasant place to be.  But, Pen was struck by the amazing wind farms that dot the landscape heading in, and it's really quite something to see them along the highway.

Tomorrow we head out for Phoenix, where we'll spend a few hours and a night with my old high school friend John Mueller.  It should be great fun, and maybe we will have made a total distance in three days of 800 miles.  As I said, a gradual start to our California-to-Florida road trip.


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