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Archive for October, 2013

The Whale Watch Inn doesn’t have a breakfast room. At eight AM, according to my Timex, a discrete knock on the door announced my breakfast’s arrival. The time I selected the previous evening. I opened the door to find a wicker tray waiting for me. There was a tasty omelet, homemade corn meal muffins, coffee, juice and fresh fruit. I couldn’t eat it all but Charlize was happy to clean up the omelet and muffins. I polished off the coffee and fresh fruit on my own.

We continued north on Highway 1 trying to concentrate on the road rather than the distraction of one magnificent view after another. Less than pacific waves crashed against stark dark rocks sending plumes of white water and spray into the salty air. On the beaches the waves retrieved grains of sand and carried them back to the ocean floor only to replace them with the next tide.

We stopped to stretch at Manchester State Park where Charlize made friends with blonde, sixteen month old Chelsea and her proud parents. Chelsea conducted a long conversation with Charlize who was in a “down/stay”. I had not a clue about the information and/or wisdom being communicated but Charlize was completely focused and responded to probing fingers and baby pats with licks. I asked Chelsea’s parents if they understood anything the little girl was telling Charlize but they told me my guess was as good as theirs. Charlize was totally engaged but uninterested in sharing any of Chelsea’s secrets with me.

We said our goodbyes, Chelsea crying about being separated from her new best friend.  Charlize was thankfully content to stay with me.  Her loyalty is sometimes incomprehensible.

We meandered on north to Mendocino. I don’t know why that small town seemed so familiar, I can’t recall ever being there previously but it is quaint, a throwback to Hippie times. Mostly old buildings, many of them decorated with street art. I found a coffee shop, of course.  After collecting my two Splenda latte I had a short conversation about German shepherd dogs with a couple of seriously un-bathed, heavily bearded, philosophers who were occupying the sidewalk in front of the shop. Charlize sniffed each of them once and indicated she was ready to leave. I avoided getting close enough to challenge my olfactory senses content to trust her judgment.

Charlize stayed in Old Blue while I took a quick -self-conducted tour of the Mendocino Art Center followed by a slow drive-through tour of the town. Inside the art center the volunteer docent on duty indicated that there were a lot of writers living and working in the area, along with many local visual artists and musicians.  I spotted an open real estate office and went in to chat about local housing prices with one of the agents, just curious to see what living in that mecca for artists might cost. Half a million buys a thousand square foot, or less, fixer-upper without a clear view of the coastal scenery. I thought California real estate had been hard hit, apparently not in Mendocino.

Back on Highway 1 the road swung east to Drive Thru Tree Park where the road magically converted to Highway 101. We continued northward, inland from the coast and experienced several groves of Redwoods including the Richardson Grove State Park and the Humbolt Redwoods State Park. The highway was now identified as the Redwood Highway offering tantalizing samples of once many hundreds of square miles of Giant Redwood forests. Once again I wished I could have travelled with Jedediah Smith to be one of the first Americans to experience that time and place. Charlize, Old Blue and I crossed and re-crossed the Eel River continuing north past Humbolt Bay and on into Eureka where we had reservations at the Carter House Inns.

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We found the place, actually three separate buildings on the north end of Eureka’s Old Town. Our room was on the ground floor of the Victorian Bell Cottage building with a private outside entrance to the room.  I was trying for an “artistic” view of the building framed by the setting sun, didn’t get it. Our room had wood floors, a bathroom with Victorian fixtures and a large bedroom with Victorian furniture but a comfortable bed. There was an extra charge for Charlize but came with a flannel blanket and a stainless steel food bowl as mementos of our stay.

After dinner Charlize and I went for a walk past the marina where we encountered a middle-aged man riding a bike outfitted with a single wheeled trailer stacked high with his possessions. A pit bull dog was comfortable on top of the collection. We were never closer than twenty yards or so but Charlize strained against the leash and the pit bull rose to his feet, both of them with hackles up. I presume both animals were just defending their respective pack leaders. I put Charlize into a sit/stay and blocked her line of vision to the other dog. I made her pay attention only to me by touching and talking to her whenever she tried to look for the other dog. She calmed and the bicycle man and his dog pedaled away without incident.

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Charlize and I stopped at yet another vista, this one full of cars, trucks, campers, RVs and a lot of folks. The signs for the place identified it as Elephant Seal Beach and the attraction was a lot of Elephant seals sunning themselves on the sand and a few frolicking in the water just off shore.

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They aren’t dead but are mostly motionless. Every now and then one of them digs up some sand with a flipper and flings the grains up into the breeze, covering its body with a thin crust. I have no idea what that accomplishes, maybe the action distracts some biting flies or other pests. I’m certain they wouldn’t do it unless it accomplished something, and all of them seem to participate from time to time.

The water was an unbelievable blue and, despite all the people, it was another amazing experience to add to my journal.  Many of the folks stopped to chat and pet Charlize. I never cease to be surprised about how easy it is to open a conversation with strangers using her as the “ice-breaker”.

These seals are the Northern Elephant Seal, sea mammals that spend from eight to ten months per year out in the open sea. While out and about, so to speak, they are able to dive from a thousand to as much as five thousand feet down searching for a meal. That is an amazing statistic, as any scuba diver will tell you. Each sixty-three feet below the surface of the water is equal to one atmosphere of pressure.  That means they can withstand almost 80 atmospheres of pressure, enough to crush almost anything made by man and they can stay down for as long as two hours.

Only about one out of six of the seals manage to survive to adulthood. The pups, especially, are vulnerable to a variety of predators, including man. They were hunted almost to extinction, their oil being second in quality to only that of the sperm whale. By the early 1970’s there were only about a hundred of these animals breeding on Guadalupe Island off Baja. Before the U.S. government did anything the small colony was protected by the Mexican government. Our then functional government finally managed to pass the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. By 1999 the total population of these amazing creatures was estimated to be about 150,000 with the Piedras Blancas rookery home to about 18,000. Every now and again we do manage to do something right.

Heading north again we went past Tomales Bay State Park and any number of small towns with somehow familiar names; Cypress Grove, Ocean Roar, Valley Ford, Bodega Bay (something out of a Steinbeck book?), Jenner, then an extremely winding road and passing the Salt Point State Park campground where we spent a night in Frog on our first trip. Eventually we made it to Gualala and checked into the Whale Watch Inn, a charming place with a charming hostess, a great view of the water from my room and Charlize was welcomed and allowed to stay in the room with me. We both prefer that!

 

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Charlize and I are on the road again. We spent two weeks visiting my son and his family in their beautiful new home in Carlsbad, California. Rosalie would have loved the house and the neighborhood, both idyllic.

The trip south from Edmonds was made in two and a half days traveling I-5, fast but boring, even though the drive was a new one for us. Freeway speeds and heavy traffic don’t equate to enjoyment of the experience, at least not for me.

Coming home we left early Sunday morning and managed to clear the Los Angeles traffic before eight AM.  At Santa Clarita we left the I-5 and worked our way west to US 101 and Santa Paula. Then we headed north along the coast. At about ten in the morning we arrived in Gavita and joined CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Lompoc we found a coffee shop and I got my two Splenda latte but only after Charlize found a suitable location for a long overdue pee. Since we were in no particular hurry I occupied a table in the sun outside the coffee shop. Charlize was content to lay in the shade I created. Within minutes a lady stopped and asked if she could pet Charlize, who is always open to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I found out she had two German shepherd dogs who were also rescues.

She noticed the Washington plates on Old Blue and it wasn’t long until I found out that her father, in his mid-eighties, lives in Edmonds where she was raised. Her Dad recently had a stroke and she had to move him from his home to a private elder care home. She said the family that owns the place is very nice, very experienced in caring for the elderly and that her Dad had his own little suite in the house. She told me he seems to be happy with his situation but I had the feeling that she was trying to convince herself. After she left us I turned to Charlize:

“You see what we have to look forward to girl? Hopefully you won’t be around when that happens to me. I need to keep my act together until you are ten or twelve, I suppose.”

Charlize looked at me with the quizzical expression she gets when trying to fathom what on earth I’m talking about but only responded with a tail wag. I suppose that is about as much as I can expect in response to a morbid thought. She was happy to leap back into Old Blue.

Back on the road we made our way, twisting and turning, rarely reaching speeds of fifty miles per hour mostly slowing to twenty-five or thirty for the curves. On our left were spectacular ocean vistas, one after another. We found a place for lunch in San Simon and Charlize made friends with an adorable four-year old sitting with her family at the table next to us on the patio.

Matilda’s mother told me it was impossible to keep her away from any dog, she just had to pet all of them. I offered some grandfatherly advice about being too trusting of strange dogs but it was clear that my warning had little effect on either mother or daughter. One more thing on the long list of things I have no control over.

It was a spectacular afternoon driving on the coast highway, stopping every half-hour or so at an overlook just to gaze at the waves coming in and the surf breaking. Eventually we arrived in Monterey. After settling in to the historic Munras Hotel Charlize strolled while I limped to Cannery row where Charlize introduced me to some more friendly folks. Charlize is impatient and fickle though. If the conversation lasts more than three or four minutes and nobody is paying sufficient attention to her, she is anxious to be off to find another new friend.

That evening Charlize and I ate tapas on the dog friendly patio at the hotel and she made friends with all the service staff. I was just along for the experience, and to pay the bill.

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