Archive for November, 2011

Benicia, California – day 1

Friday, November 18th, 2011

It was a nice day getting here to Benicia. Up this morning, we had breakfast at the motel and then we took a walk up Pacific Avenue to see a bit of Santa Cruz’s downtown area. It was OK, but I think some of the other towns we’ve seen outshine it. But, we found a good coffee shop and had a bit of the old Java to get us going.

Then, back at the room, we both spent some time on our computers before we checked out. We left the car at the motel after checkout and walked across the street and rented two cruiser bicycles and went for an hour’s ride along the coastal bike and walking trail that goes west from the wharf area. A coastal fog was around but not too bad and it was a good ride.

Later, on the way out of town, we took a ride out Bay street and up into the Univeristy of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). It was interesting, to say the least. I’ve never seen a campus quite like this one. It was widely and sparsely spread out through a hilly and forested area. All the roads quickly turned onto small twisty turny things that dead ended into unlikly parking lots. It was all quite beautiful. But without a map and some study, I don’t know how anyone would ever find their way around the place.

The ride from Santa Cruz up to San Francisco (SF) on Highway 1 took us through some more isolated and beautiful California coastal scenery. Miles and miles of it. Towards the end, as we approached SF, we stopped into Pacifica where I’d come with Dave on my last visit to the area last April. We had a cuppa there and I sent Dave an E-Mail so he had someidea of our probable arrival time and then we were off again.

SF was only 16 miles up the road but still, to get through the city, over the Golden Gate Bridge and then across the east side and up to Benicia was a business of nearly two hours.

The aproach through SF was fun as always and also a bit nerve wracking as it is not a city I am deeply familiar with. But, the roads towards the Golden Gate Bridge wre well marked so for the most part, I just followed them and enjoyed the ambiance of the citygoing by. I was conscious of reading one of Amy Tan’s books recently, “The Bone Setter’s Daughter”, in which a lot of the story unfolds in SF.

Finally, the bridge appeared and it was up and over. Colette and I are planning to come back into SF on Saturday (I’m describing Thursday’s journey here and writing from Dave’s place on Friday morning). We’re going to see if we can noodle out how to use the BART System which will be anadventure in itself, I think. C’s been on many of the world’s large city transport systems (Paris, London, etc.) so I think she’ll be good at it. So, when we return, we’ll BART in and go to SF’s Fisherman’s Wharf and, if possible, walk over to the Golden Gate Brige and take a walk over it and back which should be fun.

More about my friend, Dave, and his place soon. Today, we’re just laying about, washing clothers and enjoyed some down time and some chat time.


About Colette

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

This blog’s normal content has changed strongly these last two weeks from a long running examination of all the things going on in our world that I group under the ruberic, “The Perfect Storm”, to a blog which is primarily focused on my personal life.

This came about because Colette and I, my New Zealand partner and roommate (I’m living at her house since the earthquakes), have undertaken a two-month trip to the USA to tour the westcoast from bottom to top and back again. This blog then, dear readers, has morphed into my personal record of that trip.

It will, I strongly suspect, revert to its previous focus soon after the trip’s completed. In fact, it will do so and also split into two Blogs where there once was one. will be giving birth to a progeny blog called, It exists now but it’s not yet populated with posts. If you were to select the Category, “Cyber-Chaos” from among those in the Categories area of this samadhisoft blog, you’d see that I have collected a lot of stories in the last few months that I’ve tagged with this new “cyber-chaos” category. All of these stories will move to the new blog because I think it is a topic that deserves a blog in its own right.

But, after this long teaser, let’s move into the proported subject of this post. I.e., “Colette”.

A good friend and a reader asked me who this ‘Colette’ person is that has been so prominant in all my posts since this trip began. So I thought I should say a few words about her here.

Colette is a New Zealander of Irish extraction. Her mother was born in Ireland and her father’s grandparents came from there as well. She was born and raised along with three sisters in the southeastern coastal town of Oamaru on NZ’s South Island. She went to University in Dunedin, New Zealand and has an honors degree in English and three post-graduate degrees in teaching, counselling and technical communication. She married after university and had two sons and has lived in Christchurch, New Zealand for the last 34 years. Her boys both graduated from univeristy as well and work now in the legal and banking sectors; one in New Zealand and the other in Australia. All this time, she’s worked for the New Zealand Ministry of Justice; first in probation and more recently in victim services.

She’s seven years younger than I am and very physically fit. She’s slim, tall (5’8″/173cm) and pretty. But, best of all, she’s an intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful person who is easy to get along with. I think a good way to describe her would be to say that she’s a person who deeply understands and lives the ethic that we should give away the very things we would like to receive in life.


Santa Cruz, California

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Up this morning in Monterey early for a quick breakfast as provided by the motel and then we walked into town for coffee at Peets.

Then we walked on looking for the Mission in Monterey. After wandering a bit, we found it and had a good look around.

I’m really starting to like looking at these old California missions. Lots of interesting history there from well before Mexico owned California. As always, lots of photographs were taken. Colette’s been a lot better about posting them on Facebook than I have been.

Then we returned to the room and checked out and drove down to see Cannery Row in Monterey. John Steinbeck would not, I’m sure, have recognized it. Shops and restaurants everywhere and, scattered about, a few photos and memorabilia of the days he wrote about. There was a huge aquarium there, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as well but time was pressing us and these folks wanted $25 each for admission – so we passed. I think I can find it all on the Science Channel or rent the video.

After that, we retraced our steps back to Carmel to see the Mission there. We’d arrived the previous night just as they were closing up so we wanted to return for another look. I was surprised. This might be the nicest of the missions we seen in terms of beauty and preserved artifacts and good explanations. It was a beautiful place.

Nearby was a shopping center where we’d gone into Safeway the day before. We returned there again and bought a little tray of sushi for lunch and then went next door to an area with a collection of small shops called the Crossroads Shopping Center. That place was a sleeper. Very cool and upscale shops. Carmel is a bit higher on the wealth food chain than I’d realized.

While we were sitting having a coffee, a camera crew came by and did a take just in front of us. Depending on which of the three takes they use, we may be on local television in the background. Not that we’ll ever know since we’ll be gone but it’s fun to think about. The shoot had something to do with the shopping center and the things it offers, I believe.

All sorted and caffienated, we started north now up the 101 towards Santa Cruz (SC). Not a lot that was interesting to see along the way. Once into SC we did our normal routine and found a coffee shop with free WiFi, went to and looked up motels and scanned for the ones with good rates ($59 to $69), with free WiFI and with a complementary breakfast. Bingo! They’ve been easy to find thus far and we’ve been pretty happy with what we’ve found. I’ve even limped around once or twice and gotten us another $10 off for my being an elderly fellow (smile).

So, we found a nice one here only three blocks from the waterfront and the SC pier. We got in quite early since Monterey and SC are so close together so by 3 PM, we were checked in and ready to go adventuring.

We took off walking and went down to the wharf and walked all the way out too the end. It is long! Big Sea Lions out there sleeping on the under-pilings of the pier, diving, and calling out. It was big fun to watch them. Then, we walked back in and took off west along the shoreline on a bike/walking trail.

The view was beautiful. Monterey Bay is quite large but, when it is clear, you can easily see across it to the southern side where Monterey is. Today, it was partially foggy but we could see the hills above the far side quite well.

The coastline where we were walking turns and twists and is mostly a cliff about thirty feet high and fairly steep. At one point, down near the lighthouse. there was a place where stairs went part way down and where you could climb over the big rocks the rest of the way. A dozen of so teenagers were carrying down oversized surfboards which they slipped into the water between waves and then mounted two-by-two until there were four boards and eight kids out there. All laying belly down on the board one in front of the other. They were having a great time while another 10 or 12 folks watched them from above chase around a rock and through the incoming waves. It’s pretty obvious that kids here grow up eating and breathing the surfing life.

I was really tired when we got back. Thinking over it, I realized that we’ve talked long distances day after day now for four days and it’s a bit more that I’ve been used to. One of my knees was talking to me a bit so I’m thinking it’s time to give it a rest. Tomorrow, we’ll rent bicycles and get a different kind of exercise. We’re going to ride out along the long boardwalk that they have here in SC – which we’re looking forward to.

This evening was lucky for us. The restaurant down at the base of the wharf has whole, live, Maine lobsters on special on Wednesday evenings for $11.95. And today is WEDNESDAY!

So, down we went. Big lobsters all in their shell; complete. We had fun breaking them apart – yum! Lot of work though and a messy business.

Now we’re in for the evening and just hanging out. This time tomorrow, we’ll be at my buddy Dave’s place in Benecia in the San Francisco area jusy north of Richmond.


Monterey, California

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

In Monterey now at the El Adobe Inn. Just got back from a walk down to the fisherman’s wharf. But, the wharf was not the big attraction tonight. On the way, on Munras Avenue, we encountered a four block stretch blocked off from cars and set up for street vendors and there were many of them there selling everything from jewelery to sushi. It was packed and fun to stroll through looking at everything.

Today’s drive was really nice. The stretch from Morro Bay to Monterey is glorious. Mile after mile of rugged coastline with spots to pull off and take a look;, which we did many times.

We stopped into the visitor center at Hearst’s Castle and looked through it. I think we got thee drift without going up the hill for the big tour.

At a stop not long after, a lot of seagulls, both full grown and fledglings, were just lying about in the parking lot like they were too casual to move – even for a car. We got out and we’d walked a few feet for a better look at the sea and the cliffs when Colette noticed small animal standing up on a rock looking at us. It was a squirel.

We walked over for a better look full expecting it to vanish as soon as it saw us getting closer. Instead, it jumped off the rock and ran right over to her and at that point, she began to back up pretty briskly! She said she was afraid it was just going to keep coming and run right up her leg.

Indeed, it came within 18 inches of her foot. And, everytime she backed up, it would charge again. I was laughing so hard I could hardly speak.

Finally, she got a bagel from the car to appease it and then all the seagulls leaped to life and began to swirl and kaw. It was all great fun. Soon a second squirrel came out and the bagel didn’t last long.

We stopped for lunch at a small place called Gorda at a cafe with a nautical bric-a-brac theme. Food was a bit expensive but the views were nice.

When we got to Carmel, we took a trip through town on the side streets. A pretty but expensive place, I think.

Then onto Monterey and here we are settled in for another evening. Tomorrow, onto Santa Cruz, which we are really looking forward to.


San Luis Obispo, California

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

We’re in our room here in San Luis Obispo (SLO) after having had a nice walk into town to see the SLO mission and to see some of the downtown streets in the early morning. It’s a pretty univeristy town with a lot to recommend it. I still think Santa Barbara’s at the top of my list, however.

Yesterday, after a great tour of Santa Barbara with our friends, Marcia and PJ, we took off north on 101. All pretty country in a part of California where I have not, previously, spent much time. We took a side trip to Solvang, a Danish enclave out here in the middle of Spanish heritage, California. Interesting and different. Doesn’t seem much different than I remembered it when I last visited in the 1970’s with my first wife, Rose.

From Solvang, we found a market in the next town up the road, Buellton (sp?) and gathered a few things to eat in the car.

The weather along the coast had been bright and clear but the California coastal fog seemed to be waiting for us futher inland though it burned off as the afternoon advanced.

From Solvang, we drove up and through Santa Maria and then back out the the coast again at Pismo Beach. We parked there briefly and had a walk on their pier. Pismo Beach was interesting because of its isolation. Yet, there were many fine houses up on the bluffs with spectacular views and I found myself wondering if all of them were retirement places or if people found a way to make a good living in such a spot. Truly, the long California coast hides many worlds and opportunities and I’ve been privy to seeing many of them through new eyes since we walked in San Clemente and then began our slow trek north.

We’ve already talked a bit about perhaps shortening our time in Utah and Arizona in favor or spending more time in this area when we make the return down this coast from San Francisco back to Los Angeles and Irvine prior to flying back to New Zealand.

Two months seems a long time for a vacation and yet, and yet, I think that every day we have to pass by something we would have liked to spend more time investigating.

Colette continues to be an excellent travelling partner and an excellent partner in general. Calm, thoughtful, reflective, intelligent and interested in everything around her. I am finding the views of my homeland through her eyes to be one of the joys of this trip.

My own memories of all the years I spent in California are also firing as we move from place to place. Sometimes I fear that I’ve been far too self absorbed and too much of a vagabond and a sensualist in this life. But then, as we travel and I remember, I find I am recalling and reliving a life with so much experience and joy in it. I can only hope I haven’t been too hard on some of those who have shared parts of the journey with me. But for me and what I’ve lived and can remember, I have few regrets. Que bellissimo.

So, we pulled into SLO as the twilight was gathering and had to search through the tree laden streets to try to find the heart of the town. Then found, it proved to be full of people and motion. Coffee shops, students, trees, art stores. All such a pleasant mix. It made you just want to get out and stroll in it.

We criused until we found a Starbucks and parked and went in to use their free Internet and located where SLO’s motel row was. A few possibilities were found and off we went to engage a room for the night.

For the first time since we landed, we were in a room alone with some quiet time. Please, this is not a complaint. We have loved everyone’s embrace of us as we’ve come into their homes. But here, we could finally sort our suitcases, write up things on our laptops, Skype a few friends, take long showers and simply sit and relax for a bit in relative silence. It all has its place.

Today, We are going to drive one of the most intense and isolated bits of the California coast. We’ll go from SLO to Morro Bay and then up highway 1 all the way to Monterey Bay. We’ve decided that we going to skip Hurst’s Castle. It was a temptation but we’ve decided that we prefer to the the ‘life’ of cities like SLO and the reality of the raw coastlines over the preserved and lifeless (now) treasures of yester years. We can always rent the video about Hurst but we can only experience the coast we’ll see today in the living now.

Love to all who are reading these words,


Santa Barbara, California

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Great drive up the coast yesterday. First we went to Whole Foods in Irvine and grabbed some apples and stuff and then we were off. 405 freeway zoom up to the San Pedro 110 and then south.

Whoops! Bit of a detour as I’d forgotten that I wanted to take Colette over the bridges from Long Beach to San Pedro, so we cut back over to Long Beach at Pacific Coast Highway and then followed the LB freeway south until it promised to take us to the harbor and San Pedro.

Then up and over the bridge to Terminal Island and then up and over the Vincente Thomas Bridge and into San Pedro.

I took her by the early San Pedro home of the Nichols Institue and then we embarked to take the road around Palos Verdes to the beach cities; Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan and then up past Venice Beach, Santa Monica and out onto the coast up to Santa Barbara.

It was a fun and mellow drive. Lunch at a small Mexican place in Oxnard, then a stop in Carpenteria to shed our shoes and take a walk in the sand.

In Santa Barbara, we had a coffee and a little walk about and then connected with our friends, PJ and Marcia at their house. They are residents of New Zealand as well as U.S. citizens and that’s how I met PJ about four years ago. They’ve lived in Santa Barbara now for 30 years. What a lovely choice for a home town they’ve made. Just beautiful.

A nice evening out for more Mexican food (working hard to catch Colette up on a lifetime on not having it) and then a good catch up back at their place.

Up in the morning and out for coffee and a tour of downtown including the city’s spectacular courthouse. Then some good byes and now C and I are in a Starbucks here on Main Street catching up with our electronic friends before we’re off to San Luis Obispo.


Irvine, California – day 4

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

This has been a more laid back day than the previous days. We’ve seen most of what I wanted to show Colette about SoCal and it was good day (Saturday) to spend some time at home with Dan and Ann and Cody and Eden.

Ann made us pumpkin pancakes in the morning which were delicious.

Then we just goofed around until around lunch time, when we all went to a market called, “Whole Foods” which Dan told us is a 100% employee-owner enterprise. It was a huge place and I commented that if we lived around there, it would take us about six months to sample all the good stuff they had there.

After lunch, Ann took off with Cody and Eden and Dan remained with us and I asked him if he’d give Colette a tour of the Costco, which was just beside the Wholefood Market and he did.

For someone from New Zealand, with only 4.1 million people, Costco just has to be seen. So, it was interesting to take a walk throught the place.

We dropped Dan off at the house and Colette and I took off to San Clemente again. I thought that since We’d only seen it by night, it would be good to see it by day as well since it is such a pretty place. We drove down and had a nice walk around on a rainy afternoon and then a coffee.

After that, we returned to Dan’s place and spent the balance of the day with them. There were some grand kids there that needed some tickling 🙂

That evening, Ann’s parents, Sally and Bernie, came over which was an excellent surprise. Sally brought a pumpkin pie which we all enjoyed.

Then, off to bed to sleep and prepare for the long journey up the westcoast.

Love to my sweet family and thanks for your love and hospitality.


Relationships – Fire & Ice

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The other day, I recounted a discussion between my son, Dan, and myself on the subject of relationships. The subject was relationships in which fighting is a constant component vs. relationships where fighting is a rare part of the day to day.

I found the conversation a thought provoker. Dan’s POV was that people who fight a lot and who stay together must genuinely love each other and must both deeply believe that the relationship is strong enough for everyone to be able to fully air their opinions with out the risk of implosion.

My view is that I don’t understand such relationships and I, personally, prefer a calmer situation with low-key discussions and people giving each other lots of leeway and the benefit of the doubt.

He said that people who don’t care enought to argue may actually just be luke-warm about each other and thus the passiveness of their relationship’s interactions.

I still don’t know what to make of these ideas but I did want to say and acknowledge that it provoked a lot of comments both pro and con from my readers here.



Irvine, California – day 3

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Today, I wanted to take Colette up to the Long Beach area and show her where I grew up.

First step was an American breakfast so we retraced our steps down to Dana Point because there’s an excellent diner there, the Harbor House Cafe.

It’s a fun place. An older place, well kept right on the main highway north through Dana Point. Inside are the classic booths and on all the wallls and ceilings, Movie posters. One thing here is that the portions they serve you seem pretty huge by New Zealand standards.

After breakfast, we drove north up the coast highway. This took us up through Laguna Beach where we’ve been previously and then further on towards Long Beach, which was all new coastline for Colette. I really love the SoCal coastline so it’s always a pleasure to drive this section for me.

When we got to Long Beach, I went first to my uncle’s house in Lakewood because it was the first place my mother and I ever lived in California.

After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon tracing forward in time looking at houses and schools and with me recounting histories and stories. Colette was a patient and interested listener.

Once we’d done most of the houses and history, we went to my University, The California State University at Long Beach (CSULB). We parked across the street and bought some stuff for lunch at a Ralph’s Market and carried it over to the campus and sat out on a bench near the library and ate it.

Lots of memories for me on this campus. We walked around for a couple of hours and then took off back to Irvine and Dan’s place.

Dan’s Band, “Bunch of Guys” was playing that night in San Clemente. Colette and I hung out at the house for several hours and then took off to where he was playing, “The Shore”, to have a meal and a listen.

We got home about 10:30 pm that evening after another excellent day.


Irvine, California – day 2

Friday, November 11th, 2011

On day 2 in the Irvine area, we drove down to Laguna Beach and walked around the town. Beautiful, as always.

Then we drove down the coast to Dana Point and drove around there. It’s changed so much that I had a problem finding a place I’ve loved down by the breakwater. In fact, I never did find it. Later, I mentioned it to Dan and he said it is still there so I guess I just missed it.

After Dana Point, we drove up Del Obispo into San Juan Capistrno and I showed Colette where the condo was that I owned from 1980 to 1990. Then we walked over and took the mission tour which I’ve loved and done over and over again through the years. THe mission has the oldest standing building in California and there’s a lot of great history and pretty places there.

We’d agreed to meet Dan at Mugs Away, a bar off Crown Valley where Ann, his wife works sometimes and she was there today. It was fun. A funky little bar mostly patronized by regulars, I think. Lots of memorabilia tacked onto the walls. Dan arrived and Ann made us all Chicken Sandwiches (yum) and we sat and talked and enjoyed the place.

When Colette and I left, we still had some time and I suggested that we drive over the Ortega Highway and take in the view down over Lake Elsinore. She thought it was a good idea so we were off. It’s a drive I’ve done many times over the years and I always enjoyed it.

Of course, I had to retell the story of why I had an involvement with San Juan Capistrano and this area in the first place.

And, the reason was because of the Nichols Institute for Endocrinology which I’d been working at in the San Pedro area at the end of the 1970’s. They’d decided to shift everything down to San Juan Capistrano (SJC) and wanted all of the employees to come along. Orange County was then, and still is today, a much nicer place to live than the Long Bearch / San Pedro area and so they were doing those of us who came along a big favor in terms of the environment we would be living in and the world our kids would experience growing up.

I was one of the ones who thought it was a great idea (most did) and I ended up buying my first property in SJC. We moved and our lives were forever changed for the better.

Nichols Institute located itself then (and still) about ten miles outside of SJC along the Ortega Highway. So, as Colette and I were driving over the Ortega, I was teling her this story.

Working at Nichols Institute forever changed my life in many positive ways. SJC was one. Another was that they gave me my start in computers there. I’d been a research chemist helping to develop new laboratory assays but my interests had been strongly towards computers and when I asked to take over running their data reduction system, they agreed which was a major turning point for me.

At the end of the drive over the mountains, just as you are about the go down the backside into Lake Elsinore, there’s a Cafe (The Lookout Roadhouse, 32107 Ortega Highway, 92530 – 951-678-9010 – 33-39-15N, 117-23-41W) that overlooks the view there and we stopped in for a cup of Java. The lady that owns and runs the place made me a fresh pot of coffee and came and talked to us for a bit. Said she’s been there for 40 years and loves it. Another fun and funky place.

We drove back across the mountains and cut back up to Irvine. Both Dan and Ann were working and the kids were at Ann’s parents place so were were ‘home alone’ . Kind of fun. We were going to go to the restaurant where Dan was working (I’ve been there and the food’s great) but we decided to go out locally for Mexican Food so we went over to the local Super Mex place and tried Colette out on some authentic Mexican Food. Nice. I think she liked it!

Home and some reading and the day was one.

Another nice one.