From Costa Rica and beyond

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Foggy State of California

Since my last entry, I have dashed through barren lands and past alkali lakes in eastern Oregon, swam in the deliciously blue and refreshing waters of Crater Lake and overnighted off the beaten path in the Siskiyou National Forest, also in Oregon.  California and the Pacific Ocean were just miles away.

California!  What a fabled land.  It's known for glamour, for sun, for geeks, and for dudes.  One lasting impression I have had of this electoral college powerhouse is the fogginess.  It could be argued that these are foggy times for California.  It faces an economic crisis and political gridlock.  Its current governor has been recycled out of the 70s (California loves to recycle) and its past governor was living in a fog of delusion thinking he could hide a past affair and love-child.

The fog I write of though is the literal kind.  It first greeted me in Crescent City when I greeted the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  I accompanied me to the redwoods where it was kind enough to grant me a reprieve for some sunny viewing of those ancient giants.  It also joined me as I first twisted and rolled with the countless corners and arcs of the first miles of Highway 1.  The chilling effect and premature darkness also urged me to take the first campsite I could find - it was a good one, though, with nice RV neighbors and a short, but impressive view overlooking the beach and the pounding waves.

The next day the fog clung to the coast and made my ride to San Francisco a little less remarkable.  Where the road hugged the cliffs hundreds and hundreds of feet above the rocky shores, all I saw was a steep hillside plunging into white.  When Highway 1 deviated from the shoreline, the fog released me and allowed me to enter Sausalito on a busy but sunlit highway 101.  As I approached my sister's place though, the fog was rolling over the hills from the Ocean and kicking up remarkable gusts of wind that battered me as I rode by.

Hanging with my sister, Gayle Ehrean, was great fun.  She took a number of days off from work so we could enjoy our time together.  In the following days, we explored San Francisco's different quarters and ate some great food.  I found SF's Little Italy much more charming than New York's.  Chinatown was bright and musical and filled with bargains of all sorts.  Haight-Ashbury was...well, I'm not sure that place will ever change much.  We had an amazing lunch in the nearby Zazie's (as in Zazie Dans le Metro) on Cole Street.  If you're in SF, it's a must.  Gayle and I explored the parklands around the Golden Gate Bridge and drove up to the Twin Peaks' overlook.  We also just enjoyed drinking an occasional brew together and eating very well in the evening with her boyfriend, Chris.

Another highlight of the stay at the bay was visiting Jess Xu and Wonhee Lee at UC Berkeley.  It was very fun to meet up with these former students and new frosh at Berkeley.  They are two bright and fun young women who are going to shine among the multitude of UC students.  We enjoyed some Indian food and some yogurt, which is all the rage out here.

It was sad to leave my sister and SF, but it was time to explore Highway 1 south of San Francisco.  Well, the fog was there waiting for me.  It was not as dense this time, but it was still mighty cool.  I put on extra layers and motored south not knowing how far I would drive this day.  When the fog finally lifted and I came across a campground right on the Ocean, I seized the opportunity and claimed a site.  The campground host turned out to be a biker.  He went home, got his bike and took me on a ride up the mountainside.  We reached about 2700' above sealevel and enjoyed amazing views.  I think I was most stunned by the sight of redwoods that had been totally charred, even their limbs were gone, but they were still alive.  Green shoots were sprouting out everywhere along the tree stem, making them look like rather phallic Chia Pets.  That night, I had the good fortune to meet a super nice guy who had been biking for two months, having started in Virginia.  We shared a lot of stories.  I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten his name.  Academy friends can picture him well as he reminded me a lot of Duncan Bond with his white hair and beard and tall, but slender frame, not to mention his keen mind.

The next morning did not disappoint.  The fog did not abate.  That's ok though.  I was pushing south and looking forward to arriving in Malibu where I sit right now.  I am staying with Sheri and Brooks Hilton, whose elder daughter was with me in Stuttgart this summer.  This was not planned, but since it's Labor Day weekend, Sheri returned home from Saint Johnsbury with her daughter's exchange partner, Sophia, who I last saw in Stuttgart.  I'm having a great time.  We have been out walking the beach, hunting for beach glass (also a popular Michigan pastime), and watching the exceptional surf crush all but the most skilled surfers.  We have also cruised around on bicycles and then checked out the kaleidoscopic scene that is Venice Beach.  Little did I know that I could simply walk in a sidewalk office, meet briefly with a 'doctor' and get a prescription for some medical marijuana (I did NOT do that and isn't all marijuana medical???).  Last night we also visited the carnival.  It's not really any different from the carnival at the Caledonia County Fair or the Fruitport Old-Fashioned Days, except that there are paparazzi outside the gate and the people are all so damn good-looking.  It struck me that of course people resort to plastic surgery here.  When everyone looks as good as you do and when everyone is as fit as you are, how do you set yourself apart?  I should note though that the people I've encountered here are not shallow, souless people.  Everyone has been really nice and kind...even Pamela Anderson.

A couple more days here and then I'll dash to San Diego and then across the border to Mexico on Wednesday.

Oh, and no, I did not meet or even see Pamela Anderson.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Glenn! I'm sorry I missed your phone call a few weeks ago when you were just shoving off into the (mid)west from MI. This is going to be fun following you on your adventures and tracking you in your eloquent prose. Mach's gut, mein Kumpel.