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June Swoon - Mostly at Home
June 9-25, 2017Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Written June 17+
The last diary told the story of our guided tour to Yosemite, one of the best one-day travels we've had. At the beginning of that story, we had learned about "rock falls" and how dramatic and sudden they can be. In the news this week, we saw the lesson again as another rock fall closed the El Portal road we had just driven on. We missed the mid-day crash by just a couple of days. Good timing.
Speaking of timing, we have canceled our long-planned, six-week tour of the Pacific Northwest in favor of more time with Marianne's mom. There will be time for Portland, Seattle, and the Olympics later. Priorities, you know.
Other than that, we have been getting end-of-the-school-year news from the kids and grandkids. Ava is moving from 2nd to 3rd grade, Sam from kindergarten to "real" school. Back in Maryland, Sean graduated from preschool, while big brother Ryan moved up a notch to 5th.
Around home, things are normal, more or less. We did have a trip to the Emergency Department for Marianne's heart complication, the first in two-and-a-half years. Not life-threatening, but disappointing after all that peaceful time. A new regime of medication should keep this from complicating life.
Fresno summer arrived this week. Of course, heat is expected around here, but when it first arrives, it is discouraging. Just like the arrival of the first snow storm in winter climates, I suppose.
At least we have air conditioning, now that we have had three days of service calls by technicians. One call was preventative maintenance, but two calls were corrective, including one correcting the work of the first "corrector". Hopefully, our new "smart" thermostat will now perform at least as good as the old, dumb, one. Technology, bah humbug.
This heat has brought back "PG&E SmartDays" when, for five hours per day, electricity becomes far too expensive to use for anything but the essentials, certainly not for air conditioning. We have a variety of coping strategies from going out to movies and meals, visiting Marianne's mom and her pool and air conditioning, or just traveling to the mountain or coast. On Friday, we opted for an afternoon swim in Mamo's pool and a cool overnight. We repeated on Sunday. These visits work for us and for her.
On Monday we left for Cambria on the almost-always-cool Pacific coast. I think it was about 95F at 10am when we drove out of the garage and it proceeded to get hotter as the drive proceeded. By the time we were crossing the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, the dry end, it was 106F and still going up.
Out of the valley, we hit the vineyard-covered hills around Paso Robles, expecting lower temperatures and prettier driving. Nope. It stayed above 100F and, to make things worse, we crawled through almost an hour of construction traffic. I do mean "crawl", since we covered only about three-and-a-half miles! I don't know how the locals manage.
Fortunately, the highway from Paso to the coast was fine; gentle curves, pleasant hills, spectacular views of the ocean, and dropping temperatures. By the time we reached Cambria, it was just 68F, almost 40 degrees less than our peak on the drive!
We arrived at the Cambria Pines Lodge, a place we have used three or four times before. We take advantage of a special they periodically offer in the Fresno Bee for a $149-per-night room, including breakfast, dinner, and wine. The bad news this time was that, despite our long trip down, our room was not yet ready. Darn, we would just need to wait in the bar. This sort of delay was much easier than than hour in Paso Robles traffic.
After a couple of drinks and happy hour chips and salsa, we made it into our room to rest before dinner. Travel is tough. As usual, the room at the Lodge was large, clean, and relatively modern, considering the establishment was first opened in the 1930s.
Dinner, salmon for me and scallops for Marianne, was good and the free house wine was ... adequate. The whole meal was probably more calories than our normal dinner, but we were on vacation after all.
After the meal, I went out to see what pictures I could find on the hotel grounds. The coastal fog had filtered into the surrounding forest, a very Pacific Coast look. The flower garden was filled with quiet little offerings, fun to photograph. Here's what I saw:
Tuesday. Unplanned, or rather only planned after a slow breakfast. The real tourists all harvest the breakfast buffet and move on to required attractions, most often nearby Hearst Castle. We have seen the required places, and we are only here to enjoy the cool weather, something that we can do anywhere near the ocean. Our big plan: visit the garden nursery across the street and then head north, as far as Highway 1 can take us.
The nursery is part of our hotel complex, but a pretty big endeavor all by itself. They have a huge selection of both plants and garden gee gaws. As guests of the hotel we get a 20% discount, but that only works if we see something we need. We didn't, so we headed north.
This part of the California coast may be as beautiful as it gets, not long sandy beaches, but a mix of low headlands and rocky tide pools. Dramatic in its own way. About eight miles north of Cambria is the village of San Simeon and its pier that was used to land material for Hearst Castle, high on the hill overlooking us. All the fields are filled with yellows and golds and reds of wildflowers, nice contrast to the rugged brown and black beach rocks.
We stopped along the way to watch the waves break and also to see what wildlife we might spot. (I'm not sure the squirrels qualify as wildlife, since they are always at this particular parking area, generally performing for tourists.) The elephant seals were enjoying beach life, while harbor seals stayed on rocks farther out. Sea gulls zoomed past us in the wind currents and this one little song bird added its part of the show.
Our goal was Ragged Point, the current end-of-the-line for Highway 1. Between there and Carmel there were four separate places where the road is not-passable, three places where the hills slid down over the road and one bridge whose base slid out from under it. It's not earthquakes that will push California into the Pacific, just normal erosion.
We took time to wander around the grounds at the Ragged Point Inn. The 400-foot drop to beach access was too challenging, but the wildflowers offered a nice view. The path along the top of the hill was easier and, with the road closure, there were no tourist crowds.
back story of founders who found their dream location and gradually grew it over the years. The family continues to run the place, including the hotel, restaurant, gas station, and trinket shop. The grounds were scattered with plantings, not exactly a perfectly manicured professional setting, but one more like a gardener friend's work-in-progress. Maybe we need to book a future stay in one of the ocean-view rooms. Maybe.
From Ragged Point, we headed back to our own Cambria family-owned Lodge and rested before dinner. I asked why we couldn't do that on normal days and Marianne reminded me that it was because she needed to spend that "resting time" cooking in the kitchen. Oh, yeah.
After dinner, we drove down to Moonstone Beach to see what the evening light provided. The light was pleasant, although the wind was cooler than we might have preferred. Oh well, we did come down to Cambria to cool off.
While Marianne waited in the relatively warm car, I looked out toward the Pacific for birds, waves, and whales. My fellow tourists got all excited when they spotted "a whale playing in the ocean". With the unaided eye, the spot did look like something swimming, but a closer look revealed a whale-profile rock. I'll bet we were not the first to see what we wanted to see, rather than what was really there.
Friday was all business, from the buffet breakfast, through packing, and the return-to-Fresno drive. It was 58F when we left the Cambria Pines Lodge and 42 degrees warmer an hour-and-a-half later as we crossed the flat and dry San Joaquin Valley. Back home in Fresno, the house was over 90F and we cranked up the air conditioning, glad it had been serviced and was working (good enough, any way -- it is still an old, leaky, house.)
No more plans for now, but who knows.
John and Marianne
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