Monday, September 17, 2007

Vacation '07, Chapter V

After a lazy morning with Alex and Davey, we stuff our stuff back into the Honda and head south, over the hills of Marin County to the Golden Gate. Funny, you can't get to the visitor center on the North end when you're heading southbound, but we manage to take the road to Sausolito far enough for some fog-laced pictures. The City is what it always has been, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, a wistful gaze at the Buena Vista. Sam and I split some scampi and linguini for lunch, followed by the requisite purchasing of the refrigerator magnet at one of the wharf's fine stores. After grabbing some chocolate, Vicky and Sam take a cable car ride, Emma and I follow in the car. We enjoy some traffic out of town, and encounter some on the road to San Jose; an accident renders our shortcut moot. We get to our room in Monterey about 8 and enjoy delivered pizza.
Monterey Bay. The Aquarium. There's about 3 blocks of complete renovation going on near the Aquarium, so we are forced to take our midday nutrition inside the attraction, which turns out to be a frustrating, noisy affair. Finally negotiating our way to the dining room, the kids don't eat the overpriced stuff we bought them. It's the family moments like these that make it all worthwhile.

The Aquarium - I think this is the 3rd time we've visited - is not the *wow* that if first was, but it's all presented so very well. Sea Otters. The jellyfish exhibits can entrance you for hours, if you let them. Watching a huge sunfish loll its way around the tank. The tidal exhibit that dumps a thousand gallons of water over your head every 20 seconds or so. The aquarium is built out over, and into the bay, just off the balconies seals bask on rocks with birds coming and going. We spent 5 hours there.
Back to the room after finally finding a grocery store. The indoor pool at the motel is kinda icky, but we manage to make a good time of it. Nothing like a nice soak in the spa after a day of watching fish.
Keeping to our rigid schedule of leaving by 11, we head south to Point Lobos State Park. This lovely spit of land is just south of Carmel. There are lots of trails along the rocky coast, and tidepools to die for, if one pines for tidepools. If you've ever wondered what a huge rock covered in cormorant and seagull poop smells like, then this is the place for you. The views are spectacular, including a few fog-shrouded manses to the South. We leave Point Lobos for a late lunch at Subway and a lunge down highway 1. It's mostly cloudy, so the views are dramatic when revealed. Highway 1 is probably one of the most dramatic drives that this country has to offer, in any conditions. Today, the fog is boiling up the cliffs, but the roadway is clear, a path through the swirling clouds jumping the roadway and grabbing the hillside over us. Briefly stopping for some obligatory seal pictures, we glimpse Hearst Castle on the way to the restrooms of Cambria (shoulda skipped the refill at Subway). Cambria is one of those lovely little towns (I spent a week here, one weekend) where gas is always a dollar more than it is in the real world, and, while they'd love for you to stop and buy some paintings or antiques, please keep moving down the road and leave us alone, thank you. We oblige, and find our way to San Luis Obispo, Mexican Take-out, and air conditioning. It's humid, and we're treated to a lightning storm at 2 a.m., with cracking thunder and fat raindrops.
The last day, we manage to stretch a 5 hour drive into an 8 hour one, not much to say except LA traffic stinks, but so does San Diego's. The LA delays put us into the 805 merge at the right time to enjoy the added burden of a truck overturned just down the road. It took us an hour to go about 5 miles. In our absence, Paco the kitten expressed his frustration and loneliness by unraveling the toilet paper from two bathrooms, the house is otherwise just musty but fine. It's hotter here at home than anywhere we've been. We managed 1500 miles, 22 miles to the gallon, thank you very much, and only 2 pairs of headphones were broken. All in all, quite a successful trip.