California Dreams

Before we move on to a new spot, I wanted to share a few more photos of the gorgeous Monterey area. We’ve got a bit of WiFi now, with bandwidth to burn, so here’s a bit of California eye candy. It truly is a magnificent area. Also, if anyone’s interested, I found that the video of the elephant seals in the previous post was not the one I had intended to insert. The one there now is different, so go back and look, if you are so inclined…..20160312_10540920160312_11115420160312_12295220160312_12321020160312_13025420160312_13100020160312_13245520160312_133054Without really leaving the Monterey area, we moved on to a new campground north in the Laguna Seca Recreation Area. The campground there is located near the Mazda Laguna Seca Racetrack. We had a choice of being in a site nearer the track, or one nearer the shooting range. We decided that Jezzy would appreciate racin’ more than shootin’, and picked a site accordingly. Our front row seat was run for a couple of days. Loud, but fun.20160315_094709The first day was motorcycle racing. These guys are nuts! The fastest time we clocked was 1:37 around the 2.3 mile track. Day 2 was two guys running practice laps in Ferraris. Equally nuts. The high point for us? On the evening of Day 2, it was bicycle night on the track! A mere $10 got us and our bikes on the tracks for as many hot laps as we could stand. What a hoot! The track has a very steep climb, followed by an equally steep corkscrew downhill – first an inside turn, then an outside turn – into a long straightaway, and a couple of hairpin turns. Yowza – we had a blast.20160316_18013420160316_175748The LSRA is bordered by the Fort Ord National Monument, so there were miles and miles of gorgeous open trails for hiking and mountain biking. From our start point, the trails were beyond my mtb capabilities, in addition to being horribly washed out by the torrential rainfall of the previous week the start was STEEP! But, Jezzy and I enjoyed strolling along – even though we occasionally went ankle-deep in mud.20160315_091835Nearby Salinas is the home of the National Steinbeck Museum. I decided to pedal the 15 miles there,, and it was a rewarding ride. I passed acres of farms, which still hand ponds of standing water, even though the last rainfall was four days prior. One fieldhand was hand-shoveling soil into pools of water between strawberry rows. I could see many ripe strawberries buried in mud as I cycled past. What a mess.20160316_115201The Steinbeck Museum itself? Not so interesting. We really didn’t find much to catch our attention for more than an hour, although we did decided to hoof it over to the cemetery to see Steinbeck’s burial site. A plain marker. Ha – joke on us. It was a four mile round trip on foot. Loved the little sign pointing to the burial plot, though….20160316_133841Two days was enough time camping at a racetrack, especially since there was a big sportscar race coming up for the weekend. We headed north to Sunset Beach State Park, quiet and beautiful. The Fireball is right in the middle of this photo…20160317_14022120160317_19002220160317_19074120160317_191736_HDR20160318_11214620160318_11310620160318_113449We rode our bikes down, and pedaled along the sand for miles each way. For the most part, we had the entire beach to ourselves. Such a pity that Jezzy was not allowed on the beach to join us.

The pine trees there have an unusual cone formation – they grow in clumps, as well as individual cones. Perhaps, they were just rainsoaked, but some of the clumps were surprisingly heavy. I believe these are Monterey Pines, but am not certain of that.20160318_172900This  State Park is in Watsonville, which seems to be the strawberry capital of the world. Bordering the campground were acres of strawberries – again with some severe water problems. For the days that we were there, the farmer had pumps and generators running 24/7, trying to remove the excess water from the fields.20160318_11130220160318_111128We’re now camping in San Francisco – time to move our bikes and boots into the city. This segment of our adventures will require its own separate post, but let me just say that our rain gear isn’t getting any rest. Enough!!

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Coastal Crawl

Seems like forever ago since we were picking oranges in sunny Bakersfield, but it’s only been a week. A rather long one, actually..

We were excited to get to the California Coast.  Morro Bay State Park was our first stop. The campground looked like a tornado had ripped through it – damage from a storm the previous night. Eucalyptus tree bark and branches were everywhere, and several campsites were closed because of debris.20160307_154523The damp air was intoxicating with the astringent scent of these massive trees, but what a mess. Puddles everywhere, and tall grass and weeds didn’t make a great first impression.20160307_154232 During the three days we stayed there, nothing changed or got cleaned up, so we were left to deduce that this is the normal state of affairs at this park. The showers had only cold water – what an unpleasant discovery that was!

But, what a beautiful setting. A boardwalk along the estuary provides the perfect place for birding or wandering.20160307_17481420160307_175116 We found nearly perfect fish tacos at the small café next to the kayak landing.20160308_110241 The tackiness of the campground faded a bit in such a gorgeous setting. We cycled to explore tidal pools nearby.20160308_15270420160308_153419 I wasn’t able to get any decent photos – this was the first day of camera/phone problems that have vexed me since then. (Five days later….problem fixed. New battery. But, damn! I sure missed lots of great photo ops in the meantime!)

Whether to visit Hearst Castle or not has been one of our big debates. Neither of us was particular rabid about going, but it seems to be one of those ‘must do’ things when you’re in the area. What a spectacular setting – the Hearst estate ranges for miles in every direction, and the views are mesmerizing.20160309_11215220160309_11071220160309_112510 - CopyI would have been content to stay on the patio and absorb the atmosphere. Although we had a great guide, we couldn’t wait to get through with the tour and get back on the road to explore. Hearst Castle is an astounding display of excess by a very rich man. Ick. (But, I have to admit that I was tickled to pass a herd of zebras sharing pasture with a bunch of cows – descendants of some of the exotic animals Hearst kept on the property).20160309_095203Soon we were once again rolling up this amazing coastline.20160311_110818 Next up was the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery just north of the Castle. We’re lucky to have visited at this time of year, since the big bulls (weighing up to 5000 pounds), the females (up to 1600 pounds), and the pups are all laying on the beach in their splendor.20160309_13141020160309_130244 I could have stayed all day just to watch these curious creatures. The only movement came when a few of the big males got aggressive with each other, or flopped a short way down the beach. 20160309_131535Some of the pups flipped sand around, covering themselves and their neighbors. Otherwise, it was just a crowded day at the beach. Fascinating. If you follow the link above, there is a 24HR seal cam you can watch. I have to wait until I have some WiFi that somebody other than me is paying for before I can check this out!

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was our next destination. The same storm that had wracked Morro Bay dumped inches of rain at Big Sur as well.20160311_100623 The campsite we had reserved was mired in mud inches deep, and we were lucky to find another that John could shoehorn the Fireball into – some of these sites are really tiny, and others were underwater. Not only did our new campsite have our own private redwood grove, it also had a fragrant bay tree. No photos, unfortunately. There are lots of hiking trails in the Park, and the Big Sur River roars through the middle. With the storm, it was really rolling – we could hear it at night, crashing down the mountains.

We enjoyed a hike, including our first glimpse of the big California Redwoods, and a campfire, and all was well.20160310_104555 A big storm was coming, but we had our awning up and the campsite generally secured. Then WHAM! What a storm! The wind kicked up, and it rained like mad waking us up in the darkness of early morning. We were cozy inside, reading. John casually said, “How’s the (broken) window holding up?” I looked over, and that’s where the madness began. Water was not dripping, but streaming in through the window (from a crease in the duct tape), directly into the mattress! We grabbed t-shirts and towels to mop and sop, and a bowl to collect the runoff. Happy campers? Hardly! After an hour or so, the rain subsided, John retaped the window, and I went out to explore. We deployed our small battery operated fan (which we keep on hand to dry out our bathroom after using the shower) in an attempt t dry out the bed. I had my shower sandals on, since the road was inches deep in mud. One of the friendly Park Rangers stopped me, and told me that the entire park was being evacuated because of flash flood potential. We were told to pack up and leave NOW! Are you kidding me?? John had to wade out to the picnic table to pack up the grill and campstove. Our dripping awning and sodden patio mat were stuffed into the back of the truck, and we truly plowed our way out of the Park.

On to Monterey, where we checked into Veterans Memorial Park. This is a beauty of a City Park, with about 30 rustic campsites.20160314_125812.jpg Each night, precisely at 10pm, we hear Taps being played by a trumpeter from the nearby Monterey Presidio. Reveille at 7am. Retreat at 6pm. That’s the best part of being here. The Park is a great location from which to explore the area – just a couple of miles from Cannery Row, the fabulous Aquarium, and the 17 Mile Drive. Saturday, we cycled along Oceanside Drive, stopping every few feet to clamber out onto the rocks, catch a glimpse of the seals, or watch the surfers in the enormous waves.20160312_130254.jpg20160312_131126.jpgOur very rainy Sunday afternoon is spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Plants, birds, sharks, penguins, sea otters, and hundreds of fish species dazzle your eyeballs.20160313_123200.jpg20160313_113648.jpg I loved the jellyfish most of all, and was crushed that I really couldn’t get any photos. John took a few, including this amazing one.imageIn the meantime, we’ve got a bit of sunshine peaking through for the first time today. We’re in dire need of a dryout – everything we own is soaked. Our solar panel has not generated any power for days now. Time for a bike ride – we’re going to roll along the famed 17 Mile Drive, which connects Monterey to Carmel. Bikes travel free – cars are $10. We passed Lone Cypress Point, the Ghost Cypress, Pebble Beach and Spyglass Golf Links, and some amazing coastline. My phone still hadn’t been fixed by then, so photos are credited to John.imageimageimageimageimageimage

We’ve overstayed our welcome here (limit is 3 days, but we begged a 4th). Tomorrow we move to Laguna Seca Recreation Area, about 12 miles away. I understand that this campground is part of a racetrack (car) complex. We’re hoping for a quiet midweek stay, but who knows how these things turn out?

Coastal Crawl Continues….