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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Central Coast



Two years ago I made my first drive south of San Francisco in many, many years. I remember wondering why it had taken me so long, because I was really taken by the beaches just below San Luis Obispo (where I am writing this before I head out for Sacramento and Tahoe). It's really all about family for me in California and, at that time, everyone was up north. My nephew had lived in the Napa Valley or the East Bay of SF for years. My in-laws have been in Tahoe forever and my hometown is so far north you could call it Oregon. Now that Phil has relocated to Orange County (OC to the locals), I am going to be spending a lot of time in the area that I have just been visiting during the last few days - the Central Coast of California.

Spend the day at the beach or do a winery tour. Enjoy some fine dining ( I ate at one the restaurants used in the movie Sideways). A highlight for me was hiking on the Sedgewick Ranch, a 6,000 acre area that has been deeded to UC Santa Barbara for research. Google it. I'm sure that you could also get the lay of the land on horseback. I went into an old feed & grain in Santa Ynez that made it pretty obvious that a lot of folks are into horses and chickens around here. It's all rolling hills and oaks and it can get pretty warm, but the marine flow is nearby and tempers that heat. Take a drive on a curvy, mountain road and watch vistas of the Pacific. It's great!

I'm missing Bill. He knows what I mean about the light. Last evening I was in Santa Barbara at their waterfront with our old friend, Paul Rail, and he and I both felt like we were looking at a scene from a French Impressionist painting. I'm not sure that I captured it on my camera but at least I'll have a memory. We had been at a beach a little farther north for the afternoon watching people hang gliding off of the bluff. Oh, those teen-aged, bikini-clad surfer girls.

Once again, I am spending time on this blog when I should be getting on the road. Today I am driving up to Sacramento where I will stay with Bill's old college roommate and his wife, dear friends that we try to connect with every time we are close. Good cooks, too. Their son, Alex, and our Katy were born a few days apart. I suppose their house was built in the 50's, maybe older, in a typical Sacramento neighborhood with lots of big trees for shade because it is so frigging hot all of the time, although they might poo-p00 that. I can take a day or two of the valley heat and then I need to climb to a higher, cooler altitude and commune with the Sierras. That's where I am heading on Friday and will hang with Bill's sister and her husband for several days. I will read, cook, go to Fallen Leaf Lake for a swim and see the latest work on the landscaping at their new home. I'll share my latest tunes from my iPod and we will dance in the living room. It is my second home and I can already smell the pines.

Monday, July 19, 2010

If I Could Just Get Off Of This LA Freeway


I-5 to 605 to 210 from Laguna Niguel to Pasadena on a Sunday afternoon proved to be somewhat harrowing plus I needed diesel and ice and it's not like being out on the open road where you can see the gas stations well before the exit. My first try proved nil on both counts so I kept driving until my wonderful information unit in my car said that I only had 30 miles to empty and I was trying to keep up with the traffic and starting to maybe worry a little bit when I saw this really faded Mobil sign and I took the exit and got lucky. I don't even know how many towns I went by on that drive but I ended up at my Aunt Zella's sister's house in Altadena and all was good in the world. Yvonne and I are in-law relatives but I have know her since childhood and I have known about her house for almost 50 years. What a pleasure to finally visit this incredibly lush and beautiful place. I am amazed by the succulents in Southern California and Yvonne's were no exception (I took this photo from my bed when I woke up this morning.) If I hadn't just been swimming at my nephew's that morning, I would have jumped into her pool immediately it was that inviting. She cooked a delicious dinner and we played Tile Rummy, which I used to play with Zella, who I grew up next door to. I could write an entire blog on Zella and Yvonne who are icons to me. Let me just say that you would be amazed to find out Yvonne is 90 years old.

This morning I set out for Santa Barbara thinking that it would be straightforward because it was just up the coast aways and I could do it on my own without my GPS lady and I don't even have a map of California except for my road atlas because, hey, I'm a Californian. Oh, man. First I got turned around in Pasadena but that was cool because it is a tremendous old city with the most beautiful architecture and landscaping. I finally found the freeway ramp and I was off... kind of like playing a video game. Fast and furious, lots of lane changing, lots of splitting off to different freeways on the right and the left and I mostly was on the wrong side for where I probably should have gone and then I'm going north on 2 and I'm pretty sure that's wrong so I turn off and then there I am on the Glendale Freeway up on this hill looking down on the San Fernando Valley on one side and the very smoggy skyline of LA on the other and I am like in Los Angeles and I could go to Beverly Hills or Sherman Oaks or all kinds of places just like that. I am driving where Bill grew up. That's when I saw the Ventura Freeway sign and I thought that rang a bell so I took it and then decided to get off and look at my map and call Bill so I took the Forest Lawn exit. Forest Lawn? There was a sign that said Zoo so I turned in to find a parking lot and it was Griffith Park. Amazing! When I got Bill on the phone, he told me he fell out of a tree there when he was a kid and that his grandmother was buried in Forest Lawn. They used to go there on Sundays. He also confirmed that the Ventura Freeway would become Hwy 101 and I would be in Santa Barbara in about 90 minutes.

Oh, yes. Soon I was looking at the coastal mountain savannah of brown grass and oaks that runs all the way up California and a big smile was on my face. When I came around a bend near Oxnard it was suddenly all fog - I was home at last. Farther up the coast there were a lot of surfers out and the scenic beauty just got more and more tremendous. I went to summer school at UCSB in 1966 when I was still in high school and I have not been back since. I had forgotten how lovely a town it is and how stunning the scenery is with those mountains as a backdrop. I also had reunions with two brothers that I went to high school with and I will relate more about that later because I am going to bed now, ladies and gentlemen. I am in Santa Ynez at my friend Jolie's and you will read about this spot, too, in a later edition.