There is nothing romantic about raisins. That is what I thought as we drove down 41 through Fresno. Earlier we had stopped at a picture perfect fruit stand in Madera, California. I tasted some wine (so-so) while Corey and Henna stocked up on strawberries, apricots, and dried vegetables. Just a little bit past there it was raison country and we spied field after field of raisins (we knew they were growing raisins by the Sun Kissed raison lady sign). The mostly Hispanic crews working those fields looked hot. There were no raison ranch tours, raison tastings, or other raison related goods. Why? Who deemed the grape cool but its cousin lame? These were the thoughts I had while moving through the dusty and flat scenery of the greater Fresno area. Oh and it was hot too, mid 100s for most of the trip. After a while we reached the endless brown hills that separate the valley from the coast. More twist and turns and suddenly the temperature plunged and the ocean was ahead of us. We had made it to Moro Bay.
The night before our dash to the coast found us camping in the low Sierra foot hills. Our neighbors were some sort of travelling teen camp from Holland. There were maybe 25 kids and two counselors; the counselors looked to be in their early 20s. Most of them smoked; counselors and campers together bumming smokes from each other. And they were not very friendly. Corey was weirded out by the many holes in the ground by our tent so at night we drank our wine in the middle of the dirt road. We would smile and say hi each time a camper walked by but they never returned our greeting. Weird.
Our first neighbors on the coast were not any friendlier. Although their kids played with Henna, the parents ignored our smiles and good intentions. Later that night the dad took out a remote control brightly colored flying object that involved a serious green laser being shone into the sky. Up until around midnight he fiddled with his toy while his kids walked around with glow in the dark hats. It was like camping next to Blue Man Group.
But we do enjoy the coast. So far we have combed a beach for smooth and colored rocks, enjoyed the cool temperature, and saw a colony of Elephant Seals. We also toured the Hearst Castle. After seeing Monticello last year it was interesting to compare and contrast the two dwellings. Both were built by prominent Americans but Jefferson actually designed his house (WRH necessitated an architect). Jefferson also filled his house with his own inventions and created a space uniquely his own. One gets the sense from Hearst’s mansion that he was more of a collector; of celebrities like Charlie Chaplin as well as French tapestries and sarcophagus. At the same time both President Jefferson and W.R. Hearst fancied themselves gentleman farmers or ranchers. The president was content to oversee slaves growing traditional crops, Hearst preferred zebras and kangaroos grazing alongside his cattle.
Going up Hwy 1 we also spent some time at the Henry Miller Library. After shelling out big bucks to sit on another crowded bus in order to reach a walking tour, I enjoyed the calm and peacefulness of this coastal refuge. There was no admission, coffee and tea were free, and the curator allowed me to charge my camera. Most of the “library” was outside and a group of quasi-hippies were weaving something in an outdoor courtyard. Vintage posters of Miller were everywhere and featured him at all stages of his life. There were some tents clustered in the corner of the yard and I made a half-hearted attempt at joining the campground (they never really said yes or no). There also was a poster advertising an all kid production of Robin Hood for later that night.
For the first time this trip, however, our lack of reservations seemed to be working against us. Unlike in other western areas, national forest campgrounds were few and small. They, as well as all the state parks, were also completely filled up. As HWY 1 moved into more spectacular and soaring scenery, we felt a considerably amount of anxiety over where to stay. Corey called a KOA near Santa Cruz only to find out that a tent site was $90. Thirty minutes later I called again and there were no sites left at all. It looked like we were going to have to hotel it.
In Monterey we found a nice, not too overly priced hotel. We ordered pizza and swam in the indoor pool until almost ten. It felt good to be clean, fed, and halfway up the Californian coast. I also reconnected over the phone with an old friend in Santa Cruz and hope to see and stay with him and his family tomorrow. Life is good on the coast.