Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lest We Forget...

Yes, there are many beautiful things to see and do in California, but if there was one thing I took home from that trip, it is that we need to guard our environment. Although many people speak of the west coast as a hotbed of liberal tree-huggers, the oil platforms that looked spitting distance from the beach begged to differ. What California has is a bounty of nature and an over abundance of people. The photo here is what I saw on the beach at Fort Cronkite park just north of San Francisco. The water was a nice clear blue and people were all about, surfing, jogging or just getting sun. I'm standing there looking at different kinds of dead animals and wondered just what it would have taken to kill them all. I've never seen anything like this in Florida, except for after an oil spill. Is this what Florida is destined for? Environmentalists have been worrying about the Florida ecosystem for over 50 years, and I'm not sure they slowed things down much at all. To think that John D. MacDonald was bemoaning the beachfront condos back in the 1960's. If only he knew what was coming after...or perhaps he did.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cali - Some things that left me slack-jawed..

One morning last week, we were driving up the southern California coast and I felt like I hadn't seen the ocean in a bit and pulled down a side street to get a look at the conditions. It was a short drive down a little neighborhood road to a dead-end and I saw a couple of cars with surf racks there, so we parked to get a look at the break. The photo here is what we saw. What's more difficult to convey is how the people there saw it versus how we saw it. I saw these as epic waves in an unknown spot with few surfers. In front of us were a few people in their 30's and 40's, some pausing mid-jog for a look at the surfers and one 'soccer mom' sitting there with her paperwork on her lap, cellphone to her ear, talking about how she dropped three kids off for a photo session and now she has one out in the water. To our right is a gazillion dollar glass and concrete 50's mansion with a young teenager with a towel around his waist, wondering if it was worth getting wet..
I have heard jokes that you could always spot a Florida surfer in California, "because they will paddle for anything". I'm beginning to think that is not as much a joke as I thought it was....

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cali Trip 11: Oceanside

One of my must-see spots was the Oceanside pier and we made it there on our first day. By the time we got there, the wind was on the waves and we felt like we may have already seen the best of the day down at WindandSea in the morning. But...the waves were still big and there were some expert surfers out of the pier taking on these giant (to my Florida eyes) waves. What it looked like to me from the pier was getting through the waves and mastering the takeoffs was the skill part. Once on the waves, the break seemed very predictable, the guys were pumping their boards to gather speed and I didn't see a lot of fancy manuvers.That takeoff however, was tricky and more than a few of these guys would be bounced right out of the wave on takeoff. I felt the adrenaline rush just watching the swell pop up right next to the pier. Some of the guys surfing were older and didn't even look in shape enough to get out, but they knew HOW to get out and they didn't look worried. Oceanside had a nice vibe to the pier area. Buskers, crazy people, skateboarders, plenty to keep you entertained. The water was cold, but no worse than Rock Springs here in Central Florida. I did have many locals tell me that the water was much warmer than usual..."like bathwater, mate," said one guy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cali Trip - 10: Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a little town on the side of the road between LA and San Francisco. We passed through many small towns and they all seemed to have a distinctive flair. The strange claim to fame here is a easily recognizable landscape. There is a giant rock sitting right there on the edge of town and three giant smokestacks of a power plant nearby. There are T-Shirts that say "3 Smokestacks and a Rock" for sale in the town. We caught the place early in the day on off season and got to enjoy the scenery without a crowd, but from the looks of things, they are very used to crowds of tourists. There is a great surfshop and many gift stores and eateries on the main drag, which looks to be made for parking your car and walking the rest of the day. This is all right on the water of a small harbor with fishing boats, rental kayaks and paddleboards, and your pick of seals to gawk at. We almost immediately upon arrival heard the signature barking of seals and had to go take a look at a extra large one that was posing for photographs. I started getting very interested in the social life of seals as it seems like most of them will fight for rights to the best rock in the middle of 100 seals, and then you find one or 2 seals just laying by themselves...is this something similar to people? And the big ones that come right up to the edge of the dock with people all clustered around and then just strike poses. Wanna-be movie star seals? I don't know enough yet, but it's hard to watch them for any length of time without wanting to know more...meanwhile, the local people give them about as much attention as we give squirrels...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cali Trip - 9: Big Sur

Big Sur was a bit of a surprise for me, because I expected it to somehow suddenly begin and end, and it doesn't really do that. You are just driving along seeing great stuff and after a while you realize that you are in the middle of this 90 miles of road. The parks aren't really much better than just driving along the highway, although we did stay the night at Pfieffer state park. The cabins were expensive compared to a hotel along the interstate, but you don't get deer hanging around your back door on the interstate! I'll have to give a plug for Fox Car Rentals here. This was the 4th time I've used them and we always end up with a good, fun car. This time we started off looking for an economy car and found ourselves with a Camaro convertible. We almost always had the top down and the heater on. AND...this was during a California heatwave! I got to the point where I forgot about trying to not look like a tourist and just let myself admire nature's beauty. So many miles of the clearest blue water and mountains, and the least congested part of the state that I had found. We did go the week after labor day, so I'm not sure how bad things are with crowds in the summer. Most places near cities seemed like they had people circling for parking spaces, so I'm guessing that we were fortunate to be there when we were.
We took a week to drive from San Diego to San Francisco, just stopping whenever we wanted and that felt just right. We had plenty of time to enjoy everything, even though you could spend a whole week in any number of places we drove through. Unfortunately, California's popularity also leaves them with some ecology issues: The persistent drought was bringing wildfires to the national parks nearby and a constant concern about water usage everywhere we went. Although the water was clear and blue, at one beach I saw 4 dead birds, all different species, all laying near each other. Californians are worried about their water quality and the dead birds gave me pause. I had only seen that before with oil spills. The parks seem to struggle with money enough to keep them up and this is an area where Florida can be proud, but will we someday end up with the problems California has now?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cali Trip - 8

San Francisco was not the kind of place that I was excited about traveling to, but it turned out to be a blast. The only thing that we did wrong was hiking too long. We started off learning how to use the mass transit to travel from our hotel in Oakland to the waterfront in San Francisco. Even just figuring out how to get the tickets was a challenge. Then, we started the walk along the docks and decided to have lunch up in Chinatown. We hiked up the streets, while just about everyone else rode the trolleys. It wasn't long before I was winded.
The night before, we had driven into town and actually found a parking place near the fisherman's wharf. The driving I did was only possible because of the woman's voice in google maps...I'm driving straight up into the sky and she says "turn right in 500 feet" and I just obeyed. I still amazed that people can ride bicycles up and down these hills.
We stopped for lunch at a random Chinese place in Chinatown. Most of the stores we went by were similar to our dollar stores, only with much nicer stuff. I really enjoyed the walk and seeing the stores. The lunch we had seemed like it was going to be more expensive than I'm used to for Sweet and Sour pork, but once the food came, we were spoiled for good. It seemed like every time I've had Chinese food before was just a pale imitation of this. Even the rice was something special. I'm still remembering how good that was...A trip to Chinatown just for the food was worth it!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cali Trip - 7

Thursday morning, we arrived at Santa Cruz and walked out onto the pier early, before the crowd showed up. Nothing much for waves, but we did see a few seals playing in the water. Then, off in the distance I saw a wave breaking against a cliff and suddenly the figure of a surfer on the wave. We jumped into the car and drove off to the cliff. There we found a a large group of surfers and onlookers, many with dogs and jogging outfits. The group of surfers in the water was small and the situation looked dangerous.
There was a statue and a memorial to all of the surfers who lost their lives surfing this point. I saw one guy about my age trying to get out of the water with his longboard and saw how just getting out could cost you your life. There were jagged rocks all along the store and the only way out appeared to be weaving your way through the rocks between waves. If a big wave came while you were there, I'm not sure how you would survive it. The waves, however looked great and the surfers put on a good show, especially one older woman on a longboard that made it look effortless.
Once again I asked a surfer for the name of this place that I accidentally came across...Steamer Lane, was the reply...one of the famous spots I had heard of as a kid..and that's what this trip seems to be, us just finding these cool places!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cali Trip - 6

Why do we take photos? For me, it's the only way I'm going to remember anything. Plus, it's exciting to capture what you see. This day at Blacks, was the only way I was going to do anything but look. It was a 30 minute climb down the cliff, ignoring signs that said DANGER do not do this! The waves looked scary and huge even from this distance. I was happy taking pix and then walking over to the glider center and watching the parasailors glide up and down the cliffs. This was yet again an accidental stop. We were just driving along and saw some cars parked in the middle of nowwhere at a college on a weekend. First we saw the glider stuff, and then started noticing kids with surfboards jumping out of their cars and heading down the cliff. One thing I learned on this trip, many people just go surfing for a short time. I think this is how they deal with the cold water. They don't really plan a whole day surf trip, maybe just an hour in the water is all they want. I even heard of people that just go out to be social and don't even try to catch waves...I cannot imagine that!

Cali Trip 5

We keep calling this, the trip of happy accidents. We made almost no plans, except to fly into San Diego and fly out of San Francisco. The rest was going to be just whatever happened. And some really cool stuff happened. Avery, my surf guide had told me we would have a hard time making Big Sur in one day if we stuck to the coast and he suggested we stop at Pismo Beach, a kind of college break town. We ooohed and ahhhed at the coastline until Pismo beach, where it pretty much looked the way Avery described. We found a reasonable hotel room and Pam got the girl at the desk to help us find a good place to eat. She spoke of a pizzeria about 10 minutes down the road. We went and almost didn't get out of the car. It didn't look like much and wasn't crowded. 40 minutes later, we were stuffed with some of the best Lasagna either of us have had in our lifetimes. Del's Pizzeria in Pismo Beach, check it out...I'm not even gonna talk about the rolls....mmmmmmmm.
We pulled out of Del's and Pam suggested we drive down a side street to take a last look at the ocean before hitting the hotel room. We came to a tiny park in a subdivision of ordinary houses and saw the view you see above. 4 couples were sitting there on benches watching the sunset. I remember one young woman saying, let's make like a tourist and take a photo! And I'm thinking, the day I know my life is over, is the day when I can look at something like this without wonder....

Cali Trip - 4

On Monday morning, we found ourselves in Ventura. We stopped to check the waves, and once again, got the last good parking space..at 7:30 in the morning on a weekday! The waves looked doable for me, but the crowd looked tight and I didn't feel like this was something I wanted to try without good local knowledge. I called a company called Ventura Makos Surf Camp and they offered me a guide, wetsuit, and board for 2 hours for $100. This seemed like a great deal, especially since he showed up at my spot in about 45 minutes. He told me where the rocks were, how to find the channel, and most importantly, guided me into the lineup to get some waves. Even with the big crowd, no one seemed unhappy that I was there or kept me from getting waves. The scary part for me was the waves seemed to popup at the last minute. I mean every ride was a late takeoff. First wave was one of the biggest I had ever ridden and I immediately flipped out..I saw rocks on the shore and it was high tide! We then moved a few feet over to where Avery said we could pick off waves all day long instead of waiting for the occasional big set. This was more like my element, and I started having real fun. Now I know how my clients feel. When you are in a strange environment, not only are you doing something different, you have an adrenaline rush the whole time. This was truly an unforgettable experience and Avery was someone that made it seem easy...I would definitely use that company on my next trip here.

Cali Trip - 3

Truthfully, I was fully prepared for a big disappointment. Instead, everything has been off the chart, as if California wanted to prove to me what the big draw was..why property is so expensive, why gas is so expensive. If there was ever a reason for foreigeners to come to the states, California seemed to have it.
One thing to know is that parking is a premium. Everywhere we went, we were surprised if we found a parking space. As east-coasters, our big advantage was that we were still biologically 3 hours earlier than the locals. We were both up and at 'em way before anyone else. So it was that when we arrived at Huntington pier Sunday, even though we had to pay $15 to park, we had one of the best parking spots. From what I have seen here, I'm sure people were waiting to get in later in the day. The waves were big and not perfect. The guys had a hard time catching the waves and I noticed that almost everyone was riding boards that were so small that they were about a foot underwater when they were sitting still. Lots of older men and some guys that didn't look in great shape were out, even though the situation was way beyond my abilities. I noticed some young people trying to get out that looked like they had no business in the water that day. I had a hard time understanding that. We sat on the pier for hours, people watching and watching the surf action up close. Then we took to the beach and it was then Pam spotted two guys on SUPs doing crazy stuff, like shooting the pier. This shot is of one of the two, and I'm pretty sure it is Laird Hamilton!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cali trip - 2

Sometimes in life, the really interesting things just happen. On Saturday, we decided to drive around the boat harbor in Oceanside. We had stopped earlier in a park in La Jolla that had a big place where sea lions hang out..what the photos don't show is the smell...which is about as bad as a zoo.
I thought that was it until late in the day, when we stopped to take a sunset photo, and heard that same familiar barking sound and saw this sea lion, striking a pose. He was fending off any other sea lions that tried to come on to the dock with him, and they kept trying. About two dock over there were a pile of sea lions just snoozing, but one of them would bark, and the big guy would bark back. The people that had boats there were laughing and telling us that the big guy comes up on the dock for a photo op...it really did seem like that with about a dozen people snapping pix and trying to get their best shot while the sea lion preened to show his best side...this trip is just plain full of happy accidents...

The Cali Trip

This is one of those trips where you just go and see what happens. So far, it has been amazing. There is a hurricane down by Baja, and it is causing sizeable waves up and down the coast. Our very first morning, we thought to get up from our hotel room in La Jolla, and just drive to the beach. It was almost 7am and this little street was lined with cars and people getting boards off the cars. We found the very last empty parking spot and sat on a park bench for an hour watching the most incredible waves and surfers. I found out by asking someone that this was actually, WindandSea, a famous surfing spot. Far from worrying about localism and getting beat up for trying to surf here...it looked like a place where you don't get in the water unless you know what you are doing...I get that feeling a lot here. There are places like Huntington Beach park, where it looks like you could learn to surf, and then there are places like this where it looks like you could die out there. Sometimes taking photos sounds like the best thing to do!