This past weekend marked a special occasion for a J and I. To celebrate, we left the bay’s hobo-infested waters for Monterey County.
Early Friday, after a caffeine and carbohydrate breakfast, we walked to get our Zipcar. It wasn’t in the lot, and a quick call reserved a replacement from a few blocks away.
We took the 101 south, diverting on the Half Moon Bay highway to avoid snarled traffic. We followed semi-familiar scenery along the coast all the way to Watsonville.
The town was awash in produce, including mostly strawberries, artichokes, and greens. J stopped at a farm stand and bought two pints of dusty and red-to-the-core berries. From there, we took back roads through the farmland until we hit PCH 1 again.
The sky was blue, the air clean and scented with dust and manure. Migrant labor was out in force to tend the fields. Berries and artichokes were ripe and other vegetables ready to plant.
At noon, many were taking a lunch break from taco trucks that pulled up to the fields.
Oceanside was ugly suburban homes and strip malls on one side of the highway, sand dunes on the other. Monterey was ugly too, at least along the road to Pacific Grove.
Luckily, our stop was beautiful. The area around Lover’s Point was almost Mediterranean. Families celebrated outside, others played in surprisingly clear water. The aqua ocean and white rocks sparkled in the sun.
J and I sat near the swimming beach and ate a pint of strawberries while dozens of well-fed and aggressive ground squirrels approached us. Some would beg on two legs, while others would climb his mark’s legs to distract while a companion tried to bite through the paper sack.
The squirrels were cute, but stressful. We moved farther down the ledge to where the rats hung out.
Only for men men.
Lover’s Point Beach.
One of hundreds of aggressive, begging ground squirrels.
No, you cannot walk into the ocean.
A fresh strawberry, red to the core.
Our next stop was tide pool heaven: a vast expanse of coastal rocks that trapped millions of hermit crabs, regular crabs, anemones, and small fish. We saw no sea stars.
All the sea life made us hungry for fish and chips.
We checked into our room at the Asilomar Conference Grounds. This conference center was built for the YWCA in 1913 at Asilomar State Beach. Julia Morgan designed and built 16 of the buildings on the property, of which 11 are still standing.
Our building was one of the originals, and the interior felt like a cabin. Our room was small but tasteful. The bathroom wasn’t timeless.
We rested in bed as a man learned how to play his pan flute outside the window. Fragrant smells from the wood burning fireplace drifted in.
Before dinner, we walked to the beach to look for more tide pools. The only thing we saw was a sea otter surfing on his back.
After dinner, we walked around the old central neighborhood of Pacific Grove and admired all the beautiful victorian homes and well-maintained everything.
A woody hallway.
A non native boardwalk in restored sand dunes.
This man had it figured out.
My dream house.
A spot to channel ocean ambience.
Night falls on Victorians.
Our Saturday breakfast felt like a cruise ship: large amounts of a limited selection of items eaten at a table with total strangers. Through the common ground of the weather and California geography, I struggled to converse between bites.
In Monterey, we walked both Piers. The fishing pier was empty and nearly choked us with bird poop odor. The tourist pier was mostly empty too. We saw a nest of baby seagulls and enjoyed watching sea lions playing alongside sea otters.
We drove south to Carmel for a hike along Carmel River State Beach. I peed behind a crystal-coated boulder.
For lunch we brought deli sandwiches to Carmel City Park Beach. The sky was overcast. The sand white. The squirrels were smaller but equally annoying.
That evening, we hung out in the main room of the lodge playing cards, pool, and reading. It was warm and comfortable. If not for the smartphones glowing by the fire, it could have been a scene from a century ago.
Before 7AM on Sunday, we were on the road back to reality.