Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stymied by a Heat Wave

     My butterfly ways are caput due to an "excessive" heat wave inland southern California all the way to Arizona. Foggy 55 degree mornings like this . . . 

. . . are in the past.

I've been meandering (stalling too) on cool and beautiful coastal roads near Santa Maria, California.

     I had planned to visit more inland California, such as the Sequoia National Park, but the heat wave resulted in switching to Plan B.

     Route 166 from Santa Maria to Maricopa, California "The Golden State" is Plan B and it's another golden land of beauty.

     Thousands of acres of crops, grapes, berries and orchards of fruit are grown in this valley. When I passed by at 10 AM it was 95 degrees in the shade, and there were many workers out on the fields.

     Plan B is to avoid the excessive heat wave while enroute to Phoenix  where it's 110 degrees. Tehachapi, California (near Bakersfield), is only 93 degrees so I spent a night at a campground there, and it rained with 25 mph winds . . . 

. . . . with pea-size hail!

     PS: This is a quicky post. I depart temporarily from posting for the next week or two but not to worry. I'm meeting SCUBA folks in Phoenix for a week's adventure in the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). We'll be shuttled to Puerto PeƱasco, Mexico via two vans/trailers to board a boat.

Monday, August 28, 2017

From the Monterey Peninsula through the Santa Lucia Range to the Vineyards

     A recent road-trip (click here for map) from the Monterey Peninsula . . . .

to Lovers' Point . . 

. . . . to the many vineyards on the east side of the Santa Lucia Range was spectacular!

     I don't play the lottery but I found myself dreaming of what I'd do if I won $500 million. I'd buy a historic cottage in Carmel by the Sea, a cattle ranch in the Santa Lucia Range, and a vineyard on the other side of that mountain range; all within the wonderful Mediterranean climate. I suppose that makes me a fair-weather bourgeoisie?

     The touristy areas of the Monterey Peninsula are the well-known Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, and Aquarium. I didn't visit those places (lots of traffic and tourists). Instead, I drove on tiny little streets in the village of Carmel by the Sea. This historic village is trendy, walkable and bikeable. Each little home with its incredible landscaping is an architectural wonder. Unfortunately, I was driving a large van on busy tiny streets with no parking available (couldn't stop to take photos). But to understand my fascination, click here for a satellite street map and use your mouse to walk your way down any street to view these homes (use lower right icon to change left/right views).

     The Monterey Peninsula also includes the cute little village of Pacific Grove which has a "Carnegie Library" (above photo). Between 1883 and 1929, many towns received a Carnegie grant to build or update a local library. During the past three years of my travels in La Lair, I've visited quite a few of Carnegie-funded libraries and they're architectural wonders. Delightful hours doing travel research, catching up on emails and writing these posts via free WiFi are spent at these beautiful libraries. But, back to my road-trip.

Carmel Valley Road is a bicyclist's dream. I saw more bicyclists than vehicles on this road.

The road twisted and winded around the Santa Lucia Range.

I parked several times along the road to savor the view.

   What is this beautiful yellow grass? I emailed that question to the Monterey County Extension Service and they replied it was mostly wild oats with a bit of soft chess, and probably some annual fescues.

     These golden fields are just stunning. Click here for one of my favorite songs written by Sting, but Eva Cassidy sings it the best, "Fields of Gold".

Saw lots of turkey and quail.

     This cattle ranch has a small vineyard planted on the hill (photo below). A homemade private wine collection?

I'd be sipping my homemade wine at 7 PM when the sunset turns the yellow grass golden.

Over a one-lane bridge . . .

. . . to admire outcroppings.

Around another bend . . . 

to another spectacular view.

Too much beauty!

I beg the sun to please don't set yet, I want more!

But my perfect road-trip ends too soon.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Loverly Days In and Around Santa Cruz, California

     Maybe Santa Cruz has crime and homeless problems (click here for the city's Wikipedia page), but I enjoyed my two-day visit to this seaside town (population 63,000) with a wonderful Mediterranean climate. The most impressive amenity is their half-mile long Wharf which is downtown and 100 years old. I visited close to sunset.

This seagull on the wharf's railing has one foot but it seems healthy.

     The wharf is lined with dozens of shops and restaurants, parallel to a 2-lane road; there's a $5 vehicle entrance fee, but I parked free far away and walked there. The wharf is a busy place but in a good way.

Under the wharf is a platform where harbor seals hang out.

     Here's a video (no sound of seals barking, sorry, operator error). Storyline: a little seal tries to hop on the platform to join his buddies.

     From the wharf, I can see the city's Amusement Park and the Boardwalk. That too was a busy place and in a good way. Judging by the many pedestrians I passed, Santa Cruz is more family/resident oriented than touristy.

To the west was a lighthouse, and that too was a busy place! See the people along the fence?

     On my walk back to La Lair through neighborhoods, I saw this immense flower which is about 12 inches long (includes stem).

Also passed by this church and huge tree.

Earlier that day I had visited the city's Neary Lagoon.

It's a great place for people and waterfowl to relax their pace.

Red-winged blackbirds and water plants enjoy this place too.

     Just north of Santa Cruz is the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The 20-mile park road is a wonderfully scenic narrow road (no center line, opposing vehicles take turns where possible).

More huge redwoods!

This ranch was established first by a Russian fur trader who married a Spanish woman during the early 1800s. This is the Bolcoff's adobe home.

     In 1854 the Meders foreclosed on the Bolcoffs' property, now USA property (following the Mexican-American War), but about 20 years later the Meders sold the property to the Wilders (click here for official webpage). The Wilders expanded a dairy business (producing and delivering milk and butter, their signature milk bottles are antiques), hired many employees, and built this "modern" Victorian Home in 1897 with an electric chandelier and phonograph.

In front of this Victorian home is an unusually large Western Red Cedar.

There's also a pretty row of "Naked Ladies" in front of the house.

     When the large dairy business began to falter, they switched to beef cattle.

     But in 1969 the Wilders' farm income (expenses included many local employees' wages) couldn't pay the property tax and farm operations ceased. Influential folks convinced the state of California to buy and preserve this ranch which fronts the Pacific Coast. 

Outhouse perhaps?

     This ranch tells the sad American story of the demise of the family farm; first hard-working immigrants, then expansion and great success, and eventually failure. The park makes no attempt to "update" the buildings.

No attempts to polish the old machinery . . .

For display there is a flock of chickens and this rooster. See his claws?

     Those claws (close-up photo below) bring back memories of my family's chicken farm (another story of the demise of the family farm).

     When I was about 7 years old I joined my father gathering eggs in a large barn of about 500 chickens and a dozen roosters. Back then, all poultry was "free-range" as they could walk anywhere. The roosters would ruffle their feathers and strut sideways toward me (attack mode) and my father would chase them away. One rooster jumped up, feet forward and up to attack me with his claws! I dropped my basket of eggs, and my father kicked the rooster very hard with his boot (heard a great thud). The rooster died of internal injuries!

     The nicest part of the ranch visit however, is the seaside cliff walk along the ocean. Above photo shows how flocks of birds stick together; the terns (left), the pelicans (center), and the seagulls (lower right). The cormorants have a special place too (lower photo).

I visited the seaside "Fern Grotto".

On the beach, a eucalyptus log (distinguishable grain) had washed ashore.

The harbor seals have a special place too; seems they're always sleeping!

The two-mile walk around the cliff is isolated and peaceful; no crowds, no traffic noise, not touristy at all.

It was hard to leave Santa Cruz.