Archive for December, 2011

San Luis Obispo, California

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo.

Rough nite, last night.   I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep.

After some discussion this morning, it was decided to strike for San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria or even Santa Barbara – depending on how far we got before dark. We also decided to take the inner highway 101 route as we’ve already done the slower, coastal route 1 on the way north.  

We have breakfast at the motel and then ride downtown for coffee at Starbucks.

After coffee and back in the room, I spend some time thinking about the fact that we’ve been in a fender-bender earlier with the Budget rent-a-car.   Then I call them to see if my thoughts on how to handle all of that and how to sequence the different parts is OK.   It is so now I know what to do and when and that’s nice.   I’ll turn the car in at LAX with the accident report and then sort out the forms the credit card company needs back in New Zealand a few days later.

We’re free after all this so we pack up and get on the road like we have so many times in these last 50 days or so.   Bummer though.   I forget my 2nd and last A/C wall charger cable and plug in the room.   Now the only way I can charge my iPhone and IPad is in the car.  Ouch!

The drive’s nice.   The inland route is fast.   We make a few stops along the way.   We check out a small town called San Ardo.   Tiny.   Probably put the ‘dunk’ into the term ‘podunk’.   We also stop at one of the California Missions along the way.   It’s small but pretty and monks/friers are still living and working there.

About 4 PM or so, we pull into San Luis Obispo (SLO) and elect to stay there.   This time we look at a map and plan our trip into the town.   Works ever so much better!

The place we stayed before for $69 now wants $99 but will dicker down to $89 but no further.   They say it’s because it’s a high volume time between Xmas and New Years.   Yeah right.   We go directly across the street and get a perfectly fine and equivalent room for $59 with no quibbling.   (When we came in later this evening, the original place across the street still has the ‘vacancy’ sign lit.   We laughed!).

After checking in, we took a walk downtown which is about 10 blocks.   It was our lucky night similar to what happened in Monterey when we were there just over a month ago.   There was a Thursday Night Farmer’s Market being setup.   Cool.

We sat out, in absolutely fine tee-shirt weather, at an outside table at a Japanese Fusion Sushi Restaurant and ate Sushi and people watched.  And the crowds in the street just kept getting bigger as the time wore on.

When we were done eating, the street market was on full bore and we walked up and down digging it three times before we walked home and settled in here after a most excellent day.


Santa Cruz, California

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Benicia to Santa Cruz

After our last night at Dave’s place in Benicia, we got up and headed of towards San Jose to meet my friend, Kael, there.   He’s getting into a business where he’s going to need to build three greenhouses for growing herbs and he wants to get together for a visit and to talk about the theory of greenhouse building.

We decided that even though it might be more direct to head straight for San Jose, we’d rather go the longer way around and cross the Golden Gate Bridge once more.  So, we’re off on exactly the same routing we took yesterday with Dave except this time we won’t stop at the Marin Headlands but will, rather, go on over the bridge to the San Francisco side.

It all goes to plan and soon we’re to Highway 101, turned south end then over the bridge and into San Francisco.   We see a lot of the streets and place we walked just a day or two ago when we came in on the BART System.   And, we’re getting a better sense of the layout of the city, itself.   As we drive, I’m keenly watching the signs that indicate that we’re still on Highway 101 South.   These, finally, begin to talk about San Jose and then I’m into following them instead.

As we go, I’m adjusting our plans via instant messaging with Kael as to when we’ll arrive, approximately, and he with letting us know where he wants to meet us.

Kael has us come directly into the new heart of San Jose.  A beautiful new downtown section of three blocks or so built as a walking street.   It’s all pretty high class stuff the likes of which we haven’t seen since Rodeo Drive in early November.

It’s also a bugger to park in and to locate the specific restaurant.   But, eventually, it’s all done and we’re all gathered on a nice sidewalk table in a good Mexican Food Restaurant.   I have Civeche de Pescado and it is excellent!

We talk over a number of subjects including greenhouses and his new business among others.  I give him the notes I’ve written on basic greenhouse construction.   He and his friends, who’ve bought a 5 acre place in the Santa Cruz Mountains, are going to grow Chinese herbs to obliviate the need to import them from China.   They think they’ve got a ‘sure’ market and it sounds like a good plan to me.

After lunch (thanks, Kael!) we buy him a coffee just down the way and talk some more and then he’s off for business meeting in S.F. and we’re off on the road for Santa Cruz where we’ve decided we’re going to stay this evening.

Getting to Santa Cruz is a nice drive.   I enjoy going through the mountains and thinking about Kael’s new venture there.

Once down into Santa Cruz, we find the downtown area and park the car and go walking.  

When we were here before, we saw the downtown busy and full of people, briefly, as we pulled into town and then we checked into a motel and did not return that evening.   In the morning, when it was quiet, we went back and walked around and had a coffee and a look around.

Oddly, as we walk around today in the warm evening and late afternoon light, I find I can remember almost nothing of the first visit and what we saw on the original morning’s walk.   Too many intervening memories and cities?   In truth, I’m wondering if we’ve actually walked through all of this until Colette leads me to the place where we had coffee last time and, suddenly, I recall it.  

Memory’s a scary thing sometimes.   So full of all the stuff you remember and yet you have no idea of how much you might have forgotten.

Just a bit after dark, we depart the downtown area with a vague idea to locate where we stayed before and then find something else (just for a change) in that area.  

I should know by now, after all of our two month’s of adventures, not to go off with a vague plan in the dark in a town I don’t know.   But no … off I go clueless that I am clueless once again.

Later, when we finally get to the original motel and check in out of sheer exhaustion and a good measure of frustration (we abandon the idea of finding a new place), we’ve spent an hour to an hour and a half trying to orient ourselves as we drive around trying to make sense of the maps and the street names.   When we finally can see where we’ve been, I realize we started off from downtown; not three blocks from the motel we ended up in.   Jeez.

Colette and I have never had a fight or even a mild disagreement in our relationship.   But, by the time this adventure’s over, we are both frazzled and stressed out though, thankfully, not taking it out on each other.

I have a lot of trouble sleeping this night and, in the end, she’s awake as well so neither of us can claim a good night’s rest.

I suppose any trip of this length will have a few days that are stressful.   This adventure on the dark and confusing streets of Santa Cruz is probably our best of this category.   Even entering Portland and Bandon Beach in the dark and the rain don’t really hold a candle to it.

Ah well, it is what it is.


Benicia, California – day 5

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A ride to Sausalito

Today’s our last full day here and we’ve enlisted Dave to go with us on a jaunt over to Sausalito for a look around.

The ride begins foggy and we’re despairing that we’ll see anything but, when we get over onto highway 101 south; heading towards San Francisco and the Golden Gate, it suddenly clears into a beautiful day.

Sausalito’s fun.   We drive around and look at the houseboats and the yachts moored.  Then we go down into the old downtown section to look around and maybe find lunch.   Parking’s tough so we pull into a $5.00 an hour lot and park (a valet parks us, actually).   Once we’re on the sidewalk, Colette notices that all the street parking’s free today.  Yow!   The street’s full to the maximum but still that attendant must be laughing.

The shops are cute and Colette sees an art studio where the artist specializes in shattering glass and then reassembling it over an underneath painting.   And the net effect is quite stunning.

We eat in a small bakery/delicatessen.   Then we drive further north towards the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge and discover that there’s a road that goes around to the other side; to the Marin Headlands.  Yippy!   We’re off exploring.

On the other side are many interesting and scenic roads.  Some look back onto the bridge with huge views.   A ship is exiting the bay and passing under the bridge and that makes me remember my exit this same way in 2003 on the Direct Tui on my way to New Zealand for the first time.   Other roads continue around the the WWII coast/harbor defenses of the time.   The old gun emplacements are still there just as they are in Lyttleton Harbor in Christchurch and up in the Puget Sound area on Whidby Island.   We climb around on them for a bit.   Then we follow yet other roads further around to more military facilities until we, finally, think we’ve seen most of it.

Back onto Highway 101 with a short visit into Tiburon for a look about and then on the road for Dave’s place in Benicia.

Back home, Dave take us out and treats us to a nice Mexican dinner in Benicia.   Very nice.

Then, home again, we watch “The Blue Brothers” which Colette’s not seen.  That was a lot of good fun.


Benicia, California – day 4

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Boxing Day

26th of December and we decided to go down into San Francisco again.   We’ve got two missions; one to see the art store, Flax, that our friend, Kathy told us about and the other, to return to the FillMore District and further explore the area.

After breakfast at Dave’s, we’re off by car to Concord where we catch the BART to Powell Station in the SF downtown area.

Bart’s a good system; comparable, I think, to the system we saw in Vancouver, B.C.

First, we strike out for Flax, which is at Valencia and Market, by walking down Market.

It’s an interesting walk.   Some rough areas to walk through.   Lot’s of bums and such but it never felt actually dangerous.

Eventually, we reached the store and it turned out be everything that Kathy had said.   A huge art supplies store that has apparently been there since the 1930’s.  Colette shopped for hard-to-find paper materials and I bought a small sketchbook and fine pen which I’ll use in the next few days to prepare sketches of how to construct a greenhouse for my friend, Kael.  We’re going to meet with him in San Jose on December 28th.

After the art store, we struck out for the Fillmore District.  Another interesting walk through some semi-rough neighborhoods.   We struck Fillmore pretty far south of the district we remembered.   We walked Fillmore for a long time going north before we hit the area we remembered.

It was nice; much as we remembered.   We had lunch at a small pizza place, Inferno’s, and then walked up and down the area.  Temptations to buy things were everywhere but we’re being quite wary about this as each of our suitcases home can only weigh 23kg.

After Fillmore, we took another long walk back to Union Square.    That area was fun.   It was thronged with people.   Must have been after-Christmas sales.  Colette and I actually rearranged our bags to hold them in front of us due to the possibility of pickpockets.

We caught the BART back to Concord.   It’s a 30 to 40 minute trip.   Very nice since all I had to do was look out the window and not drive.   Cost was $5.20 USD, if I’m remembering correctly.   Dave says BART can be a rougher experience though on rush-hour regular workdays.   I wouldn’t doubt it.   The Bay Area is a big place with zillions of people.

Back at Dave’s, Colette and I have a small Sushi pack from the local market and some left overs from yesterday’s feast and chat with Dave about his day. An that was another fine day.   No movies to night.


Benicia, California – day 3 – Christmas Day

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Christmas Day.

Mellow day all around.   Up about 8 AM to one of Colette’s nice breakfasts of fruit and yogurt, which she made after her morning run.

Then Dave and I kicked around doing various things while Colette prepared our mid-day Christmas meal in advance.

Once that was done, it was still too early to eat so we settled down to watch a film I had called, “When are we going to eat?”.   An hilarious holiday tale of a slightly dysfunctional Jewish family’s gathering.   Funny and highly recommended.

After the movie, we sat down to a most excellent though intentionally light meal a la Colette.   

For openers, we had Miso Soup and Spring Rolls with avocado and crab meat in them.  These were  dipped into a soy sauce and wasabi blend.

Next, we had a bed of rice; both white and wild, over which we placed shrimp cooked up in a chili-Lime hot sauce.   We squeezed limes and sprinkled Cilantro over all this.  And there was a salad made of feta cheese, sliced almonds, sliced strawberries, spinach and a vinaigrette dressing.

Finally, for dessert, we had sliced strawberries, blueberries mixed with low-fat diet cake and yogurt all in a tall glass to be spooned out.

A very pleasant and good for us meal.   Colette and I wanted to go out and enjoy some of the most excellent weather outside and Dave elected to just hang out at home so, after sorting out the dishes, off we went.

We went down to the Benicia State Recreation Area which is a bit west of the central part of Benicia and we took an hour and a half walk out to the point and back.   Very nice.  Lots of folks out trying out their new bicycles and roller skates.

We’re back at Dave’s now.   During the day, we’ve all made contact with our various loved ones to send them our holiday wishes.

Colette’s talking on Skype now with one of her sisters and Dave’s lost in a TV series and I’ve been writing this.  A mellow day and a very nice way to spend Christmas.

Tomorrow, Colette and I are going to retrace our steps into San Francisco on the BART System; similar to how we did it a month ago when we came through here heading north.   We plan to hit an art supplies store and revisit the Fillmore neighborhood.   Beyond that, I think we’ll just let the day unfold.

Merry Christmas to all!


Benicia, California – day 2 – Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Quiet times in Benicia on Christmas Eve.

In the afternoon, we two and Dave went for a ride up to the town of Napa for a look around.   It’s another nice wine-country town.   We had lunch at a place by the river and walked about a bit.   I bought myself a hat that says, “Napa – General Store”, that I especially liked.

In the evening, Colette and I bought a package of Sushi and Dave come up with something else and after we all ate, we sat down and watched a movie he’d rented on NetFlick called, “A Christmas Story”, about a boy that wanted a BB Gun for Christmas.   It was a fun Christmas movie and we all enjoyed it.


Benicia, California – day 1

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Santa Rosa to Benicia, California.

Colette went out for a run in the morning and then when she returned, we packed up and went over to the Starbucks across the parking lot for coffee.   But, they were jammed up ten deep so we bailed on that and drove into downtown Santa Rosa and had a second look around and a cup of coffee.   After coffee, we drove up and down in the old section and checked it out.   Beautiful old houses there.

We dropped into the small town of Cotati next where my friend, Gertraude, lives and dropped a card and a note at her door wishing her a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From there, we went onto Petaluma and again sought out the old downtown area to explore.   That seems to us to be the part of town that best represents the whole.

We stayed and had a sandwich at a deli and then it was time to scoot over to Dave’s place in Benicia.   I took a quick look at the map services on my iPhone while we were in the deli’s WiFi cloud and then we were off.   And, true to previous experiences, having the route planned made it all so easy.   We drove straight to his house.

Dave lives in a beautiful house in a nice town, Benicia.   It was a pleasure to find him extending a warm welcome to us there.  And the prospect of several days of relaxed ‘downtime’ in the same place is very appealing, as well.

Colette had planned a meal to make on Christmas day before we’d arrived.  So, once settled in, we all went down to Dave’s local market and bought the materials for our Christmas afternoon meal.

After that, it was some laying around, some clothes washing and some visiting.   All good fun. 

And the weather?    Clear and dry.   Mount Diablo, which we all went up in November and couldn’t see anything from the summit because of clouds, was visible in the distance clear as a bell.


Santa Rosa, California

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa, California.

We’re sitting here in Santa Rosa tonight absorbing the news from New Zealand about the latest series of earthquakes there a few hours ago.   What a bummer.   Everyone has been hoping, since it’s been relatively quiet since last June, that it might all be winding down.  But it doesn’t look like it now.

Colette’s sons, who are both in Christchurch just now, are OK and her house is OK as well so that’s all good.

All this is a bit disconcerting for all concerned.  What a bummer for everyone there with respect to Christmas.   I should think this will put a major crimp in all the last minute shopping. given that it happened on the afternoon of December 23rd, New Zealand time.

My wishes and thoughts are with everyone there.

We arose early this AM and had a good look around Fort Bragg before we took off.  I spent some time looking for a friend of mine, Bruce, from my military days.  He was born and raised there in Fort Bragg.   I didn’t manage to contact him but I think I now have the information to track him down by E-Mail later.   Apparently,  he’s living now in a town north of Fort Bragg called ‘McKinleyville’.

We drove down the coast enjoying the beautiful sea views all along the way.   We came to Mendocino and I remembered my friend, Katy’s, advice that we should look in on a place called Cafe Beaujolais.   We found it but it was closed until later in the morning.   I took a fun photo there, however, under their sign which I’ve posted on Facebook.   Mendocino was a very cool town and we strolled and looked at real estate postings in the real estate office windows.   Always fun to dream.

We drove on south from there until we decided to cross over the coastal mountains as we wanted to stay in or near Santa Rosa.   

We chose to cross on a road called, Skaggs Springs Road.   It was a small and lost sort of road.   Just asphalt – not even a center line for a long ways.   But, it eventually got us over to highway 101 and that fine highway took us down to Santa Rosa where we are currently ensconced in a fine establishment near the south end of town.

And that’s my story today – and I’m sticking to it.

Night all.


Fort Bragg, California

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Port Orford to Fort Bragg.

A nice clear and bright day for a drive down the coast.   Sea stacks, huge waves and immense vistas interspersed with winding roads through huge forests (Redwoods, sometimes).

We came across Trinidad, California, and I remembered that a friend had grown up here so we stopped and had a nice drive around town and then sat on a bluff overlooking the bay.

I’ve looked at many places on this trip through my ‘what if I lived here glasses’.   It seems to be a traveling hazard with me.   I cannot help but try to see every place we go through in this light.   Trinidad certainly got favorable marks.

But then, so have many, many of the places we’ve passed through or stayed in.   It makes me wonder why so many of us simply stay with what is familiar and known to us.   The world is so huge and the possibilities so many.   To get up in the morning and look out in a city scape from 20 stories up, to wake to the smell of the sea breeze and the look out and see the vast ocean pounding against the continental shore, to walk out and find your house surrounded by deep, mystical woods.    Vancouver, Port Townsend, Santa Barbara, the list is very long and everyone of them contains a new life.

We’ve been keen to see the redwoods and at one point we wandered for 30 minutes on a trail through a deep forest of them and shot some photos that made us look so small.    

Later, just as I was about to switch from highway 101 to coastal highway 1 en route to Fort Bragg, we saw a come-on sign for the ‘drive-through tree’.   Whoop!   We had to go.

What fun.  Colette was like a little girl in her excitement about the ‘drive-through tree’.   She really made me smile.   A couple of fellows on Harley motorcycles were there too taking photos and I shot pictures of them on their camera coming through and they returned the favor for us.  Inside the gift shop, we bought a couple of ice creams and drove off quite happy with our small adventure.

From there, we took the road to the coast and it was a long, twisting, two-lane road through the coastal range that took over an hour to traverse.  As we began, it was deep twilight and long before we emerged to the sea, it was dark.   It was one of those roads you don’t want to make a mistake on.

But, it all worked out and soon we found ourselves in Fort Bragg where we found a nice room for the night and had another of Colette’s evening salads with materials gleaned from Safeway.


Port Orford, Oregon

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Lincoln City to Port Orford, Oregon today – along the Oregon coast.

After a nice breakfast in our room of granola, yogurt and fruit, which Colette made us, we paid a visit to an expresso stand just beside our motel and then we were off down the highway; coffees in hand for a new day.

And it was a nice leisurely day of driving; no pressure to be any particular place by any certain time.

Along the way, I put in an audio recording of Carolyn Myss’ “Spiritual Madness” talk.   It’s one I’ve listened to several times and I always find it rewarding.   I was hoping Colette would find it interesting.   One never knows if one’s own passions will appeal to others.

I was deeply pleased to see that she listened and  absorbed it with deep attention.  And, it resulted in several keen discussions as we paused it to talk.  

Colette and I have quite different takes on the question of meaning and purpose in life so our discussions are interesting as we each try sincerely to understand the other’s thinking.   

I think that much of what I’ve come to understand through a spiritual lens, she’s come to understand through her own ways of understanding the world.  

Indeed, more than anyone I’ve known in this life, she’s taken all that’s happened to her previously in her life and learned from it.  And she brings all that learning forward with her into her next encounter with great self awareness and the best of intentions.   Admirable.

For me, Carolyn Myss’ talk in “Spiritual Madness” reminds me in words of so much that circulates in me at wordless levels.  Things I’ve understood and forgotten many times in this incarnation.  And, it reminds me that I am doing well.   I have made some progress.  I have understood some of what is to be understood as my life has left its scars on me.  I have learned to say ‘yes’ to so much; I feel deeply blessed.

We stopped at the Devil’s Churn and had a nice walk and a look at this interesting place.   

I found my self wishing I was there, present, when a big winter storm rolled in.   And this thought is not unrelated to the ideas and feeling that Myss’ talk has been arousing in me.   

I want all the experiences this life offers and I’ve said plainly to God in my prayers, to bring it on.  I’ve invited the lighting to strike me rather than to live the quiet life.   

There would, I am sure, be days at the Devil’s Churn, when I would feel and see that power of the sea played out like the raging passion that music can sometimes create in us – and I want it.

From there, we drove further south to Bandon where we stayed on our way north.   A beautiful place and we drove around taking it all in this time.   On our first visit, it was late, dark and stormy when we arrived and finding our accommodations was a hassle.   Today, we were much better able to ‘see’ the place and its beauty.

The place has another significance for Colette.   Her former Husband, Bruce, the father of her two boys, owns a beach house in Bandon.   It was at his place that we stayed on our trip north.   So, there’s that overlay that gives it all another flavor as well.   Her son’s have been here with their father in years past and I think she (and I as well) see it all through their eyes as well. Many lives cross here.

From Bandon, we continued south until Port Orford where we found a nice place just as the sun was setting and now we’re settled in for another evening here out in the wilds of America.