Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Came, We Saw, We Shopped

We're home again after our five day adventure to more northern parts of California. I must say, we really enjoyed the cooler weather of the Salinas micro-climates. It's going over 100 here in the San Fernando Valley today and we got a DWP alert by e-mail this morning at work asking us to cut back on our power use today.

We had a great trip up to Salinas, and a bit beyond. The drive from Paso Robles to Salinas took less than two hours on Friday and we were able to check into our hotel and head up to Gilroy for a pilgrimage to Garlic World
and the Gilroy Factory Outlets before we were expected to meet with friends for dinner at The Fish House in Santa Clara.
We bought a bottle of blue cheese stuffed olives and some garlic olives at Garlic World, along with the requisite garlic braid. The Garlic Festival was a few weeks ago, but the town does smell of the stinking rose. It's wonderful. Garlic World is a large roadside shop and the 101 is not a freeway at that point, so getting back on the road is an adventure.

The Oneida outlet store at the Gilroy Outlets is no more, so I was very disappointed. I wanted some more serving pieces for my stainless flatware. Len was disappointed because he was hoping to get some additional pieces for our Correlle everyday dishes and the Corning outlet store had sold all but one of the Frost White pieces to some people who got there an hour before us and bought $2000.00 worth of it. Fortunately, there is a Corning outlet shop in what we call "The Assyrian Temple" just south of downtown L.A. It takes about 40 minutes to get there on the weekend, so we might just take a run down Sunday.

Dinner with old friends was great. Len had met Chuck and Jewel about 8 years ago, but had never met my friend Steve, one of the physicists I hung out with at Stanford a million years ago. Steve's wife couldn't make dinner, but Christy and Randy rounded out the party. We saw Christy last month at Comicon, but hadn't seen Randy since they moved up north last year to go to work for the game company. As the evening wore on and the restaurant emptied out, we were able to hear each other a whole lot better. There was a good deal of laughter.

Saturday was our busy day. We had reservations for the Elkhorn Slough Safari at Moss Landing, which is midway between Monterey and Santa Cruz. Breakfast took a little longer than expected, so I felt like we were racing across the Salinas Valley to get there on time. The instructions for getting our parking pass were a little confusing, but we took care of that and still had enough time to use the facilities before getting on a pontoon boat for two hours.
It was quite overcast and damp, but that might be better than a day where the sun beats down. The boat seats about 30 and has a captain and a naturalist aboard. We saw something between 2-3% of the entire population of California Sea Otters on the ride. There was a huge raft of them at the beginning of the tripand a number of solitary hunters as we rode up the slough. It is a very rich feeding area for mammals and birds.
There were hundreds of sea lions and seals,
many brown pelicans, a great blue heron and snow egrets.We saw lots of people in rented kayaks (which we might try sometime) and even saw a boat of fishermen land, and then pitch back, an orange ray fish.The wind was stronger as we went back toward the landing, and that's when we found out why they recommend wearing hats that are attached to you in some way. When we docked, there was a woman selling fresh fish from her boat next to ours. If we'd been closer to home, we would have made a purchase. As it was, we bought the cutest stuffie of a brown pelican. I have a good collection of California Sea Otter stuffed toys already.

We went back to the hotel to get showered and changed for the surprise party and managed to beat the guest of honor's arrival. My friend Terri was duly stunned by everything and kept walking around the room calling out people's names as things clicked. She was stunned that we would drive up from Los Angeles for a few hours of party time. Her son Sam was still a teenager when I left Washington, D.C., and now he's 6'8" tall, with degrees from Tufts and NYU, married, and in his thirties. He used to keep Michael amused when we went to Terri's for dinner, even though he is seven years older than my son.

I enjoyed meeting some of Terri's other friends, about whom I had heard much during the many years we've known each other. We got together for brunch on Sunday with Terri, Sam, Rachel and one of Terri's college classmates and her husband, who had flown up from Orange County for the party and were staying in Carmel. Here are Terri, Sam, and Rachel at the party.
Len and I headed for the Steinbeck Center in Salinas for a few hours before starting the trip home.
John Steinbeck was raised in Salinas (his family's home, below, is now a restaurant where I must go for tea sometime) and so many of the locations in and around Monterey County play a part in his works.In fact, the road Terri lives on is plays a part in The Pastures of Heaven. I bought that book to read next, followed by Travels with Charlie. In the exhibit, Steinbeck is quoted as saying he went on this 10,000 mile drive around the country with his dog and was not recognized once. I think that would be impossible today. Writers are recognized, as we have often experienced. Someone like Steinbeck would definitely be noticed.

It did not take long to go thorough all of the exhibits at the Steinbeck Center, so we used the remaining time on our meter to check out an antique shop before getting on the road again. It was a short walk down a wonderful street in old town Salinas, a reminder of Victorian days.
We were in San Luis Obispo before 6 p.m. and checked into the hotel before going in search of dinner. We had no luck in finding a movie afterwards (we had similar bad luck on Saturday night in Salinas) because they started while we were eating and we weren't up to a late show. We did get a good night's sleep, finally, because we didn't have a loud fan blowing all night nor motorcyclists revving their motors at ungodly o'clock in the morning.

After a light breakfast, we loaded the car and headed into town for a stop at the olive oil shop where we had an oil tasting on Thursday night. We did a second tasting (the owner seemed to so want to do one) and bought two bottles of what he called "finishing oils" to take with us. One has a blood orange infusion, which would be bad for both my son and our friend Lorien, who are very allergic to orange. It was just too good to pass by.
I also found some really nice horse socks at the sock store. Since I've gone through the toes of a number of my older socks, these were great finds.

We headed to Buellton, where Len could satisfy his jones for Pea Soup Anderson's pea soup. There used to be a Pea Soup Anderson on the way to San Diego, but it is no longer. This is the only one left that is relatively close to us, but we don't get up that way very often. The soup is good (mine is better) and we ordered it, even though I think of pea soup as a winter dish.I got Len to stop at Flag Is Up Ranch, Monty Roberts' home base outside of Solvang (and only a few miles down the road from Pea Soup Anderson's.) Monty was in Australia, but the ranch is open to visitors every day. We signed the releases and walked around. On my last visit, I went with a group from Pierce College. The now-retired head of the horse program is an old friend of Monty's, so we actually got to see Monty work with a horse. Len and I did watch a young man work with a quarter horse in the round pen and now I've got some questions to ask Gayle tonight about some of the equipment that was used. Shy Boy was at home, but it was impossible to photograph him behind the lattice of his stall gate.We went into Solvang and realized we had reached the end of our ability to walk around. We groaned a lot as we got out of the car and started down the street. Solvang is a Danish-themed-and-designed town, with faux windmills and lots of bakeries and gift stores.
There was a "Jule" shop, which we went into, and I bought a carved wooden horse for our Christmas Tree and a gold-toned horse with rhinestones pin for my collection. We sat drinking water and the man from the visitors' center came out and chatted with us about the antique car show that had been there on Sunday. There was a trolley pulled by a pair of Belgian draft horses going down the street and a group of tourists peddling a multi-rider contraption with a canopy. It was quite laid back.We stopped at a Hallmark shop and discovered several ornaments we wanted for this season. Rather than risk being unable to find one in L.A., we grabbed this year's Star Trek prize: The Trouble with Tribbles ornament. David Gerrold, who wrote the episode, is the person who introduced Len and I to each other. I'm planning to have David autograph it, to go with the Harlan Ellison created "Guardian of Forever" from several years ago.

We managed to drag ourselves back to the car for the ride home, stopping briefly at the Camarillo Outlet Stores where we discovered that the Lenox outlet is no more. I'll just have to wait for the Christmas china to go on sale at Macy's, I guess.

It was really nice to sleep in my own, not too soft and not too firm, bed last night. But I'd be just as happy to be back on the road again today.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Wow, when you go on vacation you go on vacation! Sounds like you had a great time though. I'll bet you're happy to be home and can take a small rest from the activity. I'm sure Ace missed you.

M. C. Valada said...

Arlene: Ace may have missed me, but I bet he liked the time off to recover from his tweaked back (we think he cast himself, based on the tell-tale scrapes and swelling on his back right leg), just like I did (I've got a problem with the "ergonomic" chair at work--it is killing my back.)
We had a great time and Len has promised we can do it more often. We aren't sit-by-the-beach types at all. I'm pretty amazed at what we were able to fit into five days and four nights and about 900 miles. I keep aiming for a trip to Yellowstone (I was there in '74 & '75 for a total of almost 2 weeks), but we'd need more time for that.

Cheryl Ann said...

Oh, I would LOVE to stop at the Roberts farm! Don't you just love Solvang? Do you need an appointment to stop and see Monty?