My wife has faithfully typed my blogs for the past three years, being 95 blogs in total, because I was too inexperienced with the computer or in too much pain due to fibromyalgia to do it myself. I am in less pain while typing now and would like to do it myself. I need to become more experienced with the computer at any rate and finally move into the twenty-first century. So my many thanks to my wife for doing this task.
I am just completing a family history, which revolves around the story of a general store which my great-grandparents began in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1900 and four generations of the family ran it as a department store for ninety years. My parents had given me all of this memorabilia which they had saved on the store and I felt I had to do more with it than just let it sit in a cardboard box in the garage. The story is an interesting one in its own right, and I weave many other family stories of unique individuals and occurrences into it while linking it to the history of our country during that century. I hope to find a publisher and publish it this year, so keep a look-out. I will let you know when it is published.
A second thing I am completing is a small volume of poetry, comprised of poems I have written for the past 41 years. It is only 54 poems, most of them short, which I only wrote during a few periods of my life when I had the time and felt inspired by something. I will seek to have it published either through a contest or by query letter to a publisher. The chances of getting published are very slim, as few people read poetry. I published a number of these poems on this blog, but then withdrew them upon learning that typing a poem on the internet is considered a form of publishing, and traditional publishers do not like to publish poetry which has already been published.
I will close now and would like to thank the handful of people who actually read this blog for your support. Hopefully I will be more faithful to this in the future and my typing skills will improve.
On our way to our final destination of Palm Springs, we drove through the northern suburbs outside of Los Angeles. We could see the scars from the fires and mudslides in Montecito. Palm Springs was chosen as a stopping point because it was closer to the eastern border of California and would enable us to have a decent amount of time to get home. There are no pictures because it was not a very scenic place at all. It is a place where people go to have fun, like Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
Our hotel was nice, and they had a nice breakfast spread in the morning. After a morning walk, we were ready to head home. We decided that we would drive via I-8, which would take us past the Salton Sea. My brother Tracy usually travels past this area, so it would be nice to see what it entailed. It is a rather large body of salt water (third largest saltwater lake in the U.S.) and is the site of the 2,200-acre Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, so you could see it as we took the southern route toward I-8, but we did not stop to take a closer look.
As we headed towards Yuma, we were suddenly in a barren desert with cream-colored sand. Fran thought that somehow we had been transported to the Sahara desert. We discovered that these were the Imperial Desert Sand Dunes, or Algodones Dunes, which are the largest mass of sand dunes in California. We also learned that these were a part of the “Star Wars” movie locations (think Tatooine dunes). Very interesting!
We stopped in Yuma for lunch and a chance to stretch before heading on our way home. Needless to say that the scenery along I-8 was interesting and sparse of population centers but a little anti-climatic after seeing the Pacific Coast and Yosemite. Our 18-day journey to sights unseen had ended.
Continuing south towards Santa Barbara we took a scenic route through Los Olivos. We stopped at the Bradbury Dam-Lake Cachuma vista point. Across from that was the view pictured above.
We entered Santa Barbara and stopped at the Mission Santa Barbara. There appeared to be chalk paintings in front of the the mission chapel. The inscription reads: “The washing basin was completed in 1818. It served as the original mission laundry. The Native Americans soaped the clothes on the sloping sides and rinsed them in the center pool.” There was a steady stream of traffic during the short time that we were there.
We had a picnic lunch in a park overlooking the bay with ships in the background and sailboats in the bay. Homes in Santa Barbara are nestled close together as the dwellings rise up the hillside.
You know that song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”? Well we were humming a different version of it on the way to San Luis Obispo in the evening after our Hearst Castle visit. The landscape was decidedly more suburban as we traveled along Highway 1. Outside of a town called Morro Bay, we caught sight of this monolith in the bay. It is Morro Rock, a volcanic plug, a State Historic Landmark and a designated bird sanctuary. Our hotel clerk in San Luis Obispo told me that it was a “dormant volcano”.
It happened to be college graduation weekend at Cal Poly, and all of the hotels in the area were booked. Even though we had booked a couple of months ahead, our hotel proved to be less savory than the ones that we had enjoyed throughout our trip, though the staff were nice enough. The hotel will remain nameless even though we were encouraged to write a recommendation. I don’t think that they want people want to know about the broken bathroom window!
Elephant seals dot the coast at this protected rookery in San Simeon near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. At the top, a lone elephant seal makes its way towards the group. Another group of seals gathered around a water hole with their heads inward, flipping sand in the air to cover themselves. Two seals were having a conversation, first one then the other bellowing to each other. A beautiful way to end the day and to leave the Big Sur country.
This is also known as Point Piedras Blancas, where there is not only the elephant seal rookery but an old lighthouse that is open for tours. Fran remembers being terrified by a movie she watched with her dad on TV when she was young (he had warned her) about a monster at Piedras Blancas. Sure enough, when she searched for it on the internet, she found that the name of the movie was “The Monster of Piedras Blancas”, which was a take-off of the movie “The Creature of the Black Lagoon”. Needless to say, Fran was not interested in seeing the lighthouse!
Our next destination was the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, where the opulence was unbelieveable! We were part of an ADA tour and our tour guide and driver/guide were both excellent. William Hearst hired architect Julia Morgan build “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill) in 1919. There were few female architects during that time, and for Ms. Morgan to be actually hired was nearly unheard of! They collaborated on this project until 1947. The castle was never completed mainly because Mr. Hearst kept changing his mind and continually expanded the project just because he could.
We were allowed to take pictures inside the house but not allowed to publish them on public websites, which is why there are only a few photos of the outside here. But suffice it to say, “All that glitters is indeed gold”!
Historic Carmel Mission was built in 1771 as the second in a chain of 21 missions constructed by Fr. Junipero Serra prior to California’s statehood. His remains are buried on the mission grounds. A copy of Tremors in the Cloister was donated from us for their library.
The trip to this mission wound up our tour of the Monterey Bay Area. We spent the last evening in our Carmel-by-the Sea lodging, the Horizon Inn, which was spacious and comfortable, and was on the corner of 3rd and Junipero Streets. They delivered breakfast to us (and each resident) each morning in a picnic basket with all sorts of treats, including cereal, fruit, milk, juice, and various rolls and condiments. We had a scrumptious dinner at one of the many cozy restaurants. We didn’t have time to scope out Clint Eastwood’s inn, though we weren’t too far away. Maybe another chance if we have the opportunity to return.
We decided to take a day to drive down to Big Sur. The scenery on the way was breathtaking! Henry Miller, an American writer who has a library named after him in Big Sur, said that this place was “the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”
The Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Bridge, is one of the most photgraphed bridges in California “due to its aesthetic design, graceful architecture and magnificent setting” (Joe Lourenco, California’s Famous Views on Flicker).
Wildflowers filled the hillsides and a military outpost was seen along the drive.
Having been warned by the tourist information bureau in Monterey not to travel past the town of Big Sur (because of the road closure about forty miles south) we stopped just a little past the entrance to the Julia Pfeiffer State Park where we could see the winding road continue along the sheer cliffs (and no guardrails). We now understand why travel brochures recommend taking the drive north instead of south!
Pebble Beach is known for its many golf courses and is the site of many PGA tournaments. We drove along part of the 17-Mile Drive which began as a carriage road in the early 1880’s. Along the way we saw golfers and golf courses juxtaposed along rocky shores (no sand traps here!) and tsunami hazard signs. One of the more interesting sights was The Lone Cypress, a 250-year-old Monterey Cypress, which (in the words of the tourist information brochure) has survived against all odds to become one of the planet’s most photographed trees.
There were lots of mansions along the drive that obscured some of the scenery. In addition, unfortunately for us, a couple of tour buses were traveling the route at the same time. The tourists were from another country, and a few of them were oblivious to the fact that others were trying to enjoy the same sights of which they were so taken. With cameras in hand, they chased after birds and anything else that moved. Fran was so disgusted that she decided that we just needed to go straight to our inn, which we did (after a few wrong turns on roads that didn’t connect)!
After having an early lunch in Santa Cruz, we headed to the Monterey Bay Area. Monterey is famous for Cannery Row, which John Steinback made famous in his novel of the same name. We walked along Old Fisherman’s Wharf and had dinner at one of the restaurants where we could watch the sea otters playing in the bay. We spent two nights at Carmel-by-the Sea.