Monday, February 15, 2010

Highway 1 Revisited ...

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

... In which I continue my travelogue from my recent expedition to L.A. and San Francisco.

On Tuesday morning, Tatine and I bid farewell to the rest of our party, which scattered to the far corners of the country: Mary to Utah, Frances to Santa Fe, Ricki and Dan to Memphis, Andrew and his bandmates back to Brooklyn.

We had another five glorious days in California to spend. The plan was to drive Highway 1 up the coast for a couple of days, then spend three days in San Francisco, where I lived for a while in the 1970s. Back in those days, I hitchhiked Highway 1 numerous times. This was the era when you'd seldom stand more than 15 minutes on the side of the road before somebody would pull over, open the car door, and hand you a joint as you climbed in. I have many wonderful memories of camping and hiking along the California coast. (I'd probably have many more memories if I'd smoked fewer joints. But I digress ...)

Tatine, who was born and raised in France, had never been to California, so I was looking forward to watching her reactions to the spectacular beauty that lay ahead. For the first few hours out of L.A., Highway 1 rolls through farmland, more specifically, vegetable-growing land. We saw acres and acres of broccoli, artichokes, cauliflower, and other produce items. Finally, at Morro Bay (with its famous rock) we hit the coast.

Morro Bay
  • Morro Bay

Further north, we saw a beach turnout with several people taking pictures, so we pulled off to see what the fuss was about. It was elephant seal mating season, and they were everywhere. See if you can find four animals in this picture, including a seal:

A little wildlife.
  • A little wildlife.

And if you looked south from that last picture, you can't even count the seals, they're so thick. A few babies were dead, but many were alive and suckling. The few mating encounters we saw were, well, rather laid back. They seem to prefer to cuddle and spoon for a while before getting the "action" started. This was probably more a function of the enormous energy required to move such massive amounts of blubber than romantic foreplay.

seals.jpg

As the day wore on, we began discussing where we might spend the night. I was holding out for somewhere in Big Sur, where I'd spent many nights and days three decades before. Using my trusty iPhone, I googled "lodging" and came up with a number of options, including Ventana, which I knew to be a very pricey spa resort. I wasn't ready to spend the $400-$500 a night cited on the website, but I figured it was off-season and mid-week, so why not call and make like William Shatner, the Negotiator? We got a fireplace room, with spa access and breakfast included for about half the stated price. Check this place out.

Ventana is spectacular, by any measure, nestled 2,000 feet above the Pacific in a redwood grove. We had a splendid dinner, then hit the "clothing-optional" Japanese baths and pool. We're not shy people, but we were apparently among the only guests there and were the only people using the baths and pool, so it didn't really matter. Put swimming naked under the stars in Big Sur on your life's bucket list, my friends.

The next morning, the sun came over the mountain, giving us this view from our room.

ventana_window.jpg
We ate yogurt, granola, and fruit in the serene lodge, then took off for a hike on the trail above the resort. The views were glorious.
mountaintop.jpg

Afterwards, we hit the pool once again, and once again had the whole place to ourselves.

pool.jpg
It was with great reluctance that we drove down the mountain back to Highway 1 after lunch.


Next: San Francisco ...

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