Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Summer Vacation :: PhotoPalooza!

Unlike last year's mega adventure, when we went to foreign countries, ate ice cream in front of the Notre Dame, and drove through the Swiss Alps... this year's vacation was definitely more scaled back, mellower. I have no regrets. I have good memories, and since I am aging and even good memories can fade, I find it very helpful to snap photos, take notes, and make a record. This is why I blog. I have a place to stash all the good memories.

Day one: Drive, drive, drive. As a rule, I am a 101 girl. The 5 is good to L.A., like an old friend. In L.A. my allegiance splits, and I gotta stay west. The 101 is scenic, fast enough, and it's never failed to make me happy.

My second rule for road trip bliss: Stop, run, inhale, then move on. We made one such stop at El Capitan State Beach. I can make a sixteen hour drive, so long as we have these beauty breaks... sometimes it's even a ten minute nap, or a slow stretch... the pause refreshes.

We drove to San Francisco and arrived at the terminal with two minutes to spare. Alex's flight was on time, and so were we. It was so good to see him, and I squealed with delight having my complete family together again.

We have ways of economizing... and that is all I am saying about that. We had a great place in the city, with an awesome view of Coit Tower, to the Bay, and with stomach seducing aromas from Chinatown.

Kung Fu Tacos... I love cultural cohesion. It's beautiful.

Brrrrr... it was cold in the city, and even colder in Marin, late in the evening, out in the wind. We drove around, taking in sights, catching up, remembering Autodesk days, Geoff's Haight place, the path we almost took. We even managed to get in to the Tower before closing. And the ride down Lombard street, in the dark, was extra fun.

Funny story: For breakfast I was fantasizing that I could somehow direct our car to the exact bagel shop we stumbled upon when we were last in S.F.... yes, I even mentioned the "freakishly delicious bagel" in a post lol.

Well, having no idea where that place was, we just drove around, got lost, waited in one absurdly long line, got cranky, then turned to the GPS. Geoff plugged in "bakery" and we followed directions to 2300 Polk Street. Russian Hill. La Boulange. It was vacation breakfast heaven.

Remind me to thank the GPS, to forgive it for failing 99% of the time, but for redeeming itself so utterly well on this occasion.

And when we strolled out of the bakery, satisfied and content, I thought the neighborhood looked familiar. I asked Geoff to drive one block west on Polk Street, and there it was, the place with the freakishly delicious bagels!

Polk Street, Russian Hill = Good Breakfast.

Road trip rule number three: Bring paper and pencils. In the car. In my purse. In backpacks. Art, sketches, ideas, plans, blue prints, schemes, doodles, rainbows... these need paper and pencils, pens, crayons, chalk.

Alex keeps a book.

There is a nice hotel on Kearny, and in the parking lot, level A, lives a kitty. Her name is Mimi. She has food, water, a pillowed box, and a scratch-box, and even a kitty Beanie Baby for company. She cannot hear, but she knows when friends are near, and she comes out for a scratch and affection. She is the sweetest free-range city kitty I have ever met.

My next rule for road trips goes something like this: Make a plan, and then change it.

Our next stop was to see Bill and Alison, and so we ignored the GPS when she said to take the 101 to Santa Cruz. Instead we made her extremely agitated and confounded and we took the 280. The 101 is great between L.A. and San Jose, but then it's all about the 280. Definitely.

And then I gave up the 280 for the little road called the 92, which promised to drop us off at Half Moon Bay. I have always wanted to follow the road to Half Moon Bay. So, we crossed the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir, and enjoyed the twists and turns of the scenic San Mateo Road.

And then Yee-Haw! I caught sight of Lemos Farms, with the promise of pony rides, and road side marvels.

This is still under the jurisdiction of rule number four: Make a plan, and then change it. Do something unexpected, unplanned, weird, new, different, fun, and it also supports rule number 2: Stop, run, inhale, then move on.

I bet this place draws a huge crowd on the weekends, or during pumpkin picking season, but we caught it when it was quiet, and still fun. Our stay was not longer than twenty minutes. We pet the goats, then Maria road a pony, Chief was his name. We looked at the ducks. We admired the flowers. We did a little business and washed our hands.

Maria got to run around and make big plans for her return visit.

And after I ran through the "Do Not Enter" ghost tunnel, we got back in the car, and continued on our way! Tee hee... I make rules, and I break rules.

In the meantime, Bill was probably wondering "Where are these people?"
So, I called him. Let him know we were on vacation, not to worry about us. I didn't want them to make special plans or bother about rearranging things for us. I was loving this ~take it easy trip~, and I wanted to share the love.

Good thing I warned him we were being flaky taking it easy, because Highway 1 is full of beauty and distractions, and my next pull over! moment came at Pigeon Point Light House. Another quick visit, with satisfactory results. We saw seals, met interesting docents, took in some fresh air, stretched, and enjoyed a few moments imagining the life of a light house keeper.

Oh, yes, and we found one of these rare, old timey artifacts. The children hardly know what to make of these tiny rooms with the clunky talking device wired to a coin box.

Still waiting...

Pigeon Point was our last stop, but unfortunately we did hit traffic in Santa Cruz. Bill was very patient, and very obliging. He welcomed us in with a huge Taqueria Baja variety dinner. He offered us every burrito and taco option on the menu, and then proceeded to entertain us in his usual humorous fashion...

with stories, card, tricks, magic, and pranks.

I love Bill.

On the card tricks: He is good. Seriously. He does amazing stuff. It cracks me up. It's a little surprising anyone will agree to play poker with him. And it's no surprise he wins at poker. Consistently. He is good.

We would not have stopped at Gayles, as well fed as we were, but there is no place near home where the boys can get their favorite berry, so... we stopped for Olallieberry turnovers. No regrets.

I am trying to think if I have a fifth rule for road trips... take pictures! Lots, and lots, and lots of pictures. It's so wonderful to have all of those reminders of the things you saw, the funny stuff, the beautiful moments and sights, even the challenges can be worth preserving, so you can revel in surviving. Of course I am glad no one took pictures of me and the forty two naps I took on this six day excursion.

The Big Sur Coastline could never be over-photgraphed. This was taken from the balcony at Nepenthe. I read My Nepenthe, last winter. And yes, I harbor romantic, dreamy notions about traveling back in time and being at one of those parties, or helping prepare a Sunday dinner. I do wish it were my Nepenthe too. I love places that nurture art, and creativity, where the land cultivates beauty and inspiration.

We had a day of swimming! Surrounded by redwoods, and visited by big Steller Blue Jays, Max and Maria were especially thrilled to have this long and leisurely pool time.

Not quite twelve years old, and already five feet and seven inches tall. His feet are bigger than Alex's! Oh my.

All of that time in the sun, swimming, and playing, was the perfect precursor to an early dinner at Nepenthe.

We watched whales. And more blue jays. And I imagined those late night patio dances, and the Fassett children watching from the bedroom windows.

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story..." Bill Fassett.

Yes, that's Kaffe Fassett's print I used when I made Maria's dress. And yes, it would be so la-de-da to pretend it was a happy coincidence that she wore just that dress, there, in Nepenthe. But, I guess I do tend to let the truth get in the way of a good story. I knew all along that I wanted her to wear that pretty Fassett print in this pretty place that I love so much.

There are places that make you want to be creative, where making good food, or painting, or writing, or dancing are irresistible. I feel so fortunate to have been in such places.

Maria borrowed my camera. She took everyone's pictures. I do hope some will email and ask for copies. She took some very nice pictures.

Pictures of me, and her daddy, her brothers, the birds, the coast, the plants and planters, the beer bottle on the railing. I just love digital.

Then I got my camera back and took even more pictures.

Dinner was superb. Relaxing too. We dined. We shared key lime pie. It was my first key lime pie, and I will never try another, except at Nepenthe. I always want my key lime pie experience to be as perfectly delicious as my first.

Geoff made a kinetic sculpture from the wire and cork from our Duvel, and with two forks... and he balanced it on the handle of a basket, then we kept it spinning on the top of the ketchup bottle. Picture? No good ones... too much Duvel, maybe. But believe me, it was really cool.

This the spot where Geoff, Maria, and I gathered in the mist and had an outdoor breakfast. Look at this garden. I love the cattywampus fence and the delectables growing in their boxes, overflowing.

The boys, back in the cabin, were still snoozing. They missed veggie quiche, and steamy, creamy coffee, the local talk, the morning magic. We missed snoozing... but it was worth it.

Every time I set down my bowl of coffee and looked over my shoulder, this is what I saw. I really enjoyed this view. I am so glad I took a picture. It's just enough information, to bring back the cold chair, the hot drink, the smell of pine, the anticipatory energy I felt, and to make me glad we were in Big Sur for two nights and two mornings.

The snoozers still got breakfast. Lucky boys. Wild and fresh blackberries in a cloud of sweetened cream in a handy shortbread carrier.

Next time we want to stay longer. See more. I like it when there is incentive, motivation to return.

Uh. No way.

I did not let him finish this trail. It was in the plan, but once we were there, at the top of Jade Cove, I could see that taking the unmarked cliff trail down to the beach, was probably not our best plan. It was seriously narrow, steep, and really, really high up. Really. Not to be a doggy downer, but there wasn't anyone around to hear our cries if anything were to go wrong, and I am not sure there would even be "cries" if we dropped off from there.

But the hike to the bluffs and all around looking for the descent trail head was lovely. Lots of wild flowers and coast views. It was invigorating. We really enjoyed feeling like lone explorers of a lost coast.

Take lots of pictures. Such a good rule.

We got back in the car and drove on to Willow Creek.

This California State Day Use Park was a great place to stop and walk around. We watched kayakers come ashore with fish they had caught, we met the world's happiest bull dog, Missy, who was reveling in the surf. We looked for pretty rocks, criss-crossed the creek, and watched the fishermen as they cleaned their catch.

I am hoping Steve will email us and tell us how much he thinks it weighed.

His buddies were definitely impressed. I am no expert, but that looks like a lot of fish tacos!

By now Alex had finished his latest drawings, added some color. He is the one on the left. Detailed, fantastic plans. He and William spent a long time discussing what's under the top hat.

We saw them two years ago, the elephant seals. They were just as impressive this time, and far more active. They were noisy, two of them were battling. They are big animals. I didn't mind being a safe distance from them.

The morning of Ruth's birthday, Geoff called his mom to wish her a happy day. He told her about some of the places we had been, where we were headed. We happened to be on our way to a vacation grand finale breakfast... a place we felt certain would make Maria's fanciful and pink imagination go wild with love: The Madonna Inn. It worked. Breakfast was good and sort of ridiculous in its over the top setting and we enjoyed the amusement. I have been coming here since I was a little girl, not because I love ornate and gilded dining rooms, or cherubs floating over pink tablecloths, but because Phyllis Madonna obviously loves to play, to have a good time, and it is fun to see her creation, and share in her interesting vision.

San Luis Obispo has more than one visionary. The boys asked to go to Tom's Toys too. It's been a favorite rest stop and play land since we first discovered it in May 1996. Back then the shop window displayed a customized Star Wars scene made completely out of Lego bricks, before Lego was making licensed Star Wars sets, and it was epic! We were so in awe. Any way, we never miss a chance to cruise the aisles of this two story, brick and mortar fantasy world.

Wait is that all?
That sort of was a long post.
A lot can happen in six days. I wanted to be sure and hit the high points.
We came home and Becky was here to greet us, which was really quite wonderful. She took very good care of our home, and she gave me an extra dose of comfort too. And Alex got to meet Ferris. Our tomatoes were bigger, and there was that ridiculous leak, which, thanks to Geoff's last two days of vacation, is repaired...

I am glad we are home. I felt this terrific surge of gratitude and amazement seeing our home... this is an awesome place to live. The vacation is over, but there is still so much to enjoy.


Anna Banana said...

no wonder chickenblog is a blog of note. Brava!

Laura Jane said...

That sure was a photo-palooza! And I enjoyed every one of them.

Thanks for the pic of the lighthouse :)

What a wonderful roadtrip, and such joyful togetherness you all share.

I love the sound of you being so happy. Fulfilled. better than well-housed, you are HOME.

Love x x x x x x x

Tiglizzyclone said...

Love your pictures Natalie!! I am glad you changed your minds about taking that cliff path!!!!

Dallas said...

Fantastic recap! Great travel rules. :) Love Maria's dress, and Alex's drawing are very creative. The food throughout your trip looks so delicious. This really makes me look forward to some of my upcoming adventures on the West Coast.

judy in ky said...

Delightful photos! I love Nepenthe, too. It's one of my favorite places, and we manage to visit there about once every twenty-five years!

I had my first key lime pie at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, and have loved it ever since. I'm going to try it next time we make it to Nepenthe.

Alison said...

Wow...took me almost as long to read as to live it!

Love the pictures from your Big Sur breakfast. Maria is so photogenic (though it helps that her mom is pretty handy with a camera). That courtyard looks like a good place for chickens, don't you think?

CarrieMarie said...

Amazing photos! I love Maria's red dress. I love vacations, and agree with all your rules! : )

thank you for sharing your trip!

Unknown said...

Love how you stop, run, inhale, and move on. Stopping along the way yields some of the best finds! Hans and I need to do more of that. I love that trip, love the places you went, especially Nepenthe, love the pictures of Maria, love her dress. Hope to make that same trip sometime this fall.

Tracy said...

WOW... this was a photo-palooza, Natalie... and I LOVED every minute of it! Wonderful vacation... I feel refreshed just visiting here! Love how Marie has flowers in her hair... And LOVE the peek in Alex's notebook--he is one clever, talented young man. Thanks for taking us along. :o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

natalie said...

WOW. totally amazing. Stunning. Thank you for sharing as you always do. Much love, Natalie

warren said...

Tell Alex his work is awesome! I esp like the colored versions...just little hints of color == perfect!

Jennifer said...

While we've no hope of meeting the excellent road trip standards you've set here (yet again!), you're inspiring me to try to slip some kind of a little road trip in before summer waves goodbye....

Yusuve said...

I love Alex's drawings! :D