It’s a long way… across California

Day Four – Drive to Carmel by the Sea.

Yep! It’s along way across the San Joaquin Valley. 200+ miles. But time goes quickly when you’re in a car with good friends, and it’s especially helpful when the route is pretty straightforward. It’s definitely an eye-opener for New Englanders whose entire state is about the distance we are driving today to realize just how vast California is. I think every American should experience this drive once…to truly appreciate the abundance that fills their pantries and refrigerators from this place that has been called the food basket of the world. A patchwork of fields fling themselves across the landscape in all directions. I had to do a little online investigation to figure out what we were seeing. The vines of course: grapes, for we were in the land of Sun-Maid Raisins (what fun their web site is!). There were fields and fields of different grains, each with a different shade of green, or brown or gold: winter wheat, alfalfa, corn, and other kinds of hay. Countless orchards fill this valley; in the area that we traversed there are mostly nut trees: pistachios and almonds. We drove right through Gilroy, the “garlic capital of the world.”

Please note: I drafted this piece before the horrific events of July 28, so my original comment end to this sentence was: “and let me tell you, there was no doubting the crop in that place! And Castroville: the “artichoke capital of the world,” which smells a lot better!” Now, I’m stunned to ponder the black cloud of grief, anger, and despair that becomes permanently attached to a place name every time a crazed man–isn’t it always a man–decides to express his rage, confusion, and hopelessness, depression, nihilism (what can it be?) by slaughtering others in the process of obliterating himself. But that topic must be a lengthier essay for another day. This one was intended to be “for fun.” And yet, real life intrudes…even in an innocuous blog posting.

There are vast ranchlands in this valley: both cattle and sheep are major industries. Yet it wasn’t until we left the valley and began wending our ways through the coastal hills that we realized we were surrounded by ranchlands, golden hills studded with stony outcrops.

Our big surprise was coming upon the San Luis Reservoir in the hills at the western edge of the Valley. We first wondered at the giant walls then as we climbed the roadway we saw the expanse of water. Built to store the runoff from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that would otherwise flow into the ocean. Only after the fact did we discover this place has a Visitors Center, which might no doubt would have been an interesting stop.

But clearly we could not possibly expect to see all of California, or even a large chunk of it, in just seven days. And our goal this day was Carmel-by-the-Sea. We strolled the town, walked down to the legendary beach. It is gorgeous. No question. I had looked on line and made dinner reservations at one of the three restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. Yet despite the fact that the dinner decision was made, I was compelled to pick up and save not just the restaurant’s little brochure Domenico’s On the Wharf, but also somewhere along the way a 96-page Dining Guide. In addition, of course, we needed to hang onto the free Carmel multi-fold map  that listed many downtown shops, restaurants and places to stay. And so the collection of paper that inspired my written report describing this road trip, continued to grow.

Day Five (Part One) – Back north to Monterey before turning south

After an early morning stroll through Carmel and back to the Beach for a while, we hopped in the car to continue on our way. North to the legendary 17-Mile Drive. At  the entrance, upon paying our fee, we were handed a map/brochure, which informed us that the Gate Fee of $35 would be reimbursed with the purchase of $35 in any of Pebble Beach’s restaurants. What more incentive did we need? And so we stopped, did a bit of gift shopping (don’t all grandchildren long to own Pebble Beach pencils; don’t all son-in-laws desire Pebble Beach ball markers?), and enjoyed lunch overlooking the legendary 18th hole and the seascape beyond. As far as the rest of the 17-Mile-Drive, Cypress Point is the most famous stop on the route, but we dutifully saw them all. What a brilliant con: build an exclusive enclave for multi-millionaires then charge tourists to drive around and look at the scenic peninsula along with teasing peeks of the homes of the Uber-rich.

Enough of that! At the exit, we turned south to the beautiful California Coast and a healthy dose of reality.

Note: Photo above is the view from our the table where we enjoyed what was, in fact, a quite delicious lunch: Pebble Beach’s legendary 18th hole.

Paper collection total for Day Four and the Morning of Day five: 4 items–5 1/2 ounces. Not bad.