Tuesday, August 31, 2004

California coast



C and I have been on the road in The Whale for about three weeks now, and it's been a lot of fun. Traveling up the coast of California, I get to drop in on one friend and relative after another. First we visited my aunt V in Corona Del Mar, spending a couple of hours amusing her new kitten, which she has actually named Pookie. (That is going to become the most neurotic cat on the planet, mark my words.) Then I cooked dinner for my grandfather in Newport Beach, and he made a pass at C -- something involving her feet I think -- as we were leaving the next morning. Heh. He's incorrigibly dependable.

Then we continued northwards to the yet to be solidly christened Ranch of R, E, and D. (Hmm, hey, the primary residents' first initials spell RED, and R is particularly attached to "Rhino" as part of the name, so maybe it should be the "RED Rhino Ranch"?) We went to hikethegeek and hiked up one of the hills near the Hollywood sign. It was good to talk with A a bit, and we also encountered Roman Legion VI. Encountering a uniformed legion, even if it was only of six, must of put us in a mood for a fight because back at the RRR a vicious naval battle ensued for the amassment of pool noodles. I think A had to be declared the victor purely on the basis of enthusiasm. Much fun. Afterwards J and M snuck off into the bushes... heh.

We stayed at the Ranch for a couple of days, and went to see the Body Worlds exhibit. It was fascinating to see plasticized, dissected corpses on display -- it gave a very visceral feeling for our mechanical nature. Fascinating and slightly revolting, but we still had a cheeseburger afterwards.

After leaving LA, and enjoying more of our hosts' good food than we should have (doh!), we drove up the coast to Santa Barbara and stayed with my grandmother at her beach house for a few days. We kayaked with some dolphins, dug up some unusually large sandcrabs, and played and goofed off -- with C working on some artwork for the van and me mostly reading and losing at scrabble to my grandmother.

Further up the coast, we visited B's father, S, briefly at his intensely chaotic house in Arroyo Grande. He borrowed $100 from me, told me an incredible story about his recent plane crash and subsequent adventure in Costa Rica, and paid me back the $100 a couple hours later. Then we were on our way up the coast again.

I don't remember exactly where we slept that night, but I think it was in a parking lot somewhere along Big Sur (which C pronounces as "big sewer", heh, hardly appropriate, but kind of cute) with the tail of The Whale hanging off an impressive precipice over the ocean. Sleeping in the van has been surprisingly comfortable. It's been feeling more and more like a home, and gotten to the point where in most cases, even if we're visiting a friend with a spare room, it's more comfortable to sleep in our own space. Odd, but I guess I did put a lot of thought and work into making it homey. So, anyway, we continued up the coast. We stopped at an absolutely beautiful beach, just south of Monterey. The ocean was wonderfully blue and clear, with decent sized waves pounding directly onto the sand, and we spotted a sea otter paddling around and floating on his back out in the kelp beds a little off shore by some rocks. I couldn't help doing some bodysurfing, but could only stand about five minutes at a time between coming back out to warm off. I guess the water was about 60F -- a beautiful beach, but not Maui. None of the other handful of beach visitors went in the water -- I guess the combination of waves and cold water keeps away the sane. I lost our car key in the sand, but pulled the spare out of the hide-a-key -- phew! Then we left the beach and headed through Monterey. I softly mentioned the Monterey Bay aquarium, and knew we'd have to go, even though it would be crowded on a Saturday. We got by the aquarium, and parking was $12. But I thought to myself "I'm a hippy living in a van, dammit! No self respecting hippy is going to get caught paying to park or look at fish!" So I dodged the pay lots and found a big grocery store next to the aquarium. We loaded up on some groceries, filled the van cooler, and snuck past the parking lot guard and down a small hill to the aquarium. The ticket line was around the block, and the tickets were $16. Eeek! C and I were both flinching at the prospect of joining that line. We walked around back to the balcony overlooking the bay and I hatched a plan. I saw a large crowd enter the special "Aquarium Members" entrance, and C and I walked in behind them, since I knew the desk attendants would be busy with the crowd. C spotted the bathrooms across the barrier and headed right for them. Heh. Smart and sneaky girl, nice improvisation. I went in after her, and a few minutes later we were looking at lots of pretty fish. The yellowfin tuna were especially impressive.

That night we drove up to Santa Cruz, showered off in an incredibly cold shower above the ocean at Steamer Lane, next to the surfer statue, had dinner at The Thai House, which was quite good, and parked The Whale in a random spot under the redwoods up above UCSC. I wanted to park and sleep on campus, but there were guards posted to keep out hippies at night. Drat. But, we woke up and cruised around the campus a bit in the morning, encountering many MANY oblivious dear. Then it was off to the ABL for game day.

S hosted a fun event, and her and P taught us how to play a bunch of games: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Puerto Rico. I think I liked Settlers the best -- kind of surprised not to have played it 'till now. It was also good to meet tanjent, and I'm sure we'll run into each other again in a couple of days. We graced the street in front of the ABL with our sleeping presence, their neighbors none the wiser, and left for my sister's place in Alameda the next morning.

M recently up and moved from Oakland because she found out the hard way that her house there wasn't so safe. So she just got an apartment with her boyfriend in Alameda, and needed help moving in after backpacking a couple of weeks in the Sierras. She turned into quite the studmuffin after her hike, and impressed me by hurling around heavy boxes and their backpacks. We ferried a couple of loads over from her boyfriend's parents' house in Berkeley, and mostly hung out with her in her new place, walked along the Alameda "beach," and got horribly lost looking for groceries. I always seem to do a lot of walking when my sister's around. Even after hiking forty miles through the mountains, what's she want to do for fun? "Lets go for a walk!" Yikes. Guess it will prepare me for the playa.

The next day, "Dude, where do you live? Can we come park in front of your house?" Heh. We drove into the pleasant suburbs of Danville and cooked dinner for CA's mother, whom I swear has an Italian accent even though CA said she was mostly middle eastern in background. She's even named Paula, and likes tons of garlic -- I mean, come on. I really should have taken pictures, because her house was stuffed full with pink things: dolls, lamps with porcelain flowers, little doily things... and there was CA, huddled into an air conditioned room in front of a computer, just like his little brother. I could tell they had each carved out a dark little niche in that pink world because the bandwidth was high and the good food kept coming. Paula's fridge was very impressively stocked.

We woke up and started the drive out to Tahoe and the Sierra Leisure Research Institute, home of R and family. We stopped and had lunch and a swim in the Truckee river (an obligatory hippy activity), which seemed a bit low, even for this late in the summer. R has graciously put us up in his guest house, the same one I stayed in for several months a few years ago, but it's having some serious plumbing problems. But, at this point, I'm not so unhappy with warm weather and showering from a hose. C's been working on Burning Man costumes, taking breaks to jump in the lake, read, and walk a bit, and I've been thinking a little more about physics, as well as preparing for the Burn. I think I've sufficiently distanced myself from the physics I was working on that I should be able to back up and try a couple of new fresh paths. Will see. But, tomorrow, we're off to the playa -- which should be a local maxima in our hippy living experience.

It's funny, looking back over this entry, to see just how many of my friends I keep in touch with primarily over livejournal. I just know better what's going on in their lives. It's not as effortless to stay in touch with non LJ friends, and they tend to drift away, which is a shame. I need to work on remedying that. It's odd to think of it as a problem, but LJ makes it too easy to just keep in touch with LJ friends and their lives, at the expense of others.

Ah well, have to go prep The Whale to survive the dust storms. Yip!

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