Journal and photos of our travels in the West.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cambria, California
We have spent the last two days in Big Sur, camping first at a small, private campground in the redwoods near the town of Big Sur, then last night in a much nicer campground near the ocean. I used to be enchanted by Big Sur. Not only the wildness of ocean, cliffs, redwoods and sea life, but also the people who lived here created an atmosphere that was a respite from the frantic pace of L.A. We hung out on the beach below Bixby Creek bridge, explored the redwoods in Palo Colorado Canyon, listened to Big Brother and the Airplane on radio stations from San Francisco. We thought places like Esalen, Nepenthe, Big Sur Inn, etc, were the epitome of the big Sur groove. But eventually the place became a caricature of itself, the gentle artists replaced by burned out hippies, rednecks and Angelino emissaries after the buck. beatniks out to make it rich. The last time I stayed at the big Sur INn, in 1978, the concierge, leading us to our musty room littered with the dust bunnies of bygone pretensions, whispered, "this place is magic." Right, if you can stop sneezing long enough to enjoy it.
Then, yesterday, we happened across the big Sur Bakery and Zocalo art galleries. Staffed by 20- and 30-something people not wearing tie-dye rags or reeking of patchouli, the place felt a lot like the old scene revitalized by a younger generation who loves the landscape and wants to create a fun, inspiring place in it. The espresso and pasteries were excellent, the gardens beautiful, the whole place clean. The Zocalo galleries are a collection of outdoor and indoor spaces for displaying artwork and for workshops for kids and adults. They are currently working on dioramas for a party celebrating Dia de los Muertos. It was nice to see that Big Sur speaks now to a new generation, for whom it is neither cliche nor phony disneyland dollar-grabbing version of itself.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

San Francisco

We have spent the last several days in the Bay Area with the kids and my sister, Pat. We celebrated several birthdays, and Lissa treated us all to a fantastic meal at her restaurant, Town Hall. She also hooked us up with some winery tours in Sonoma County. Here are some photos Corey took of fire dancers at the annual Pirate Ball at Roshambo Winery in Healdsburg.

We ended up or tour with a visit to the little town of Bolinas, which is on the coast in Marin. We took a long walk on the beach and through the town. A place frozen in time, I like it because of the beautiful setting and its bohemian attitude. They put a moratorium on issuing new water meter permits in 1972, effectively controlling growth. Whenever the DOT puts up a road sign indicating the turnoff to the town, the locals tear it down. I think the DOT has given up now. The kids all agreed that the town gave them the willies.


After my Eureka trip, we re-united and spent a few days in Fort Bragg, a little north coast town north of SF that we really enjoy. Jack needed a break from camping and I was (am?) still tired of camping, so we stayed in motels and ate out. What a fun time. Great fresh seafood, nice people, good sunny beaches and long beach walks. The only bad part was the stable horse who tried to buck me off and leave me bleeding on the beach. I stayed on, thankfully, but she was a little Arabian mare in heat – why would they rent out a horse in heat? She was so crabby she was trying to kick and bite everything in her way, and when we were told we could canter then the wrangler’s horse wouldn’t due to being a bad horse as well, my horse exploded.

Well, there went the budget, but San Francisco showed us a great time. We just finished up the main part of a family trip to celebrate Pat’s birthday. She flew in from Minneapolis, Corey flew in from LA, and Arian took the train from Sacramento, all on Thursday night. (Too bad Ben was out of town and missed the fun.) Everything worked, thanks to cell phones, and we gathered everyone up for a great long Bay Area weekend.
The weather was almost too hot, and therefore gorgeous. The city was exciting and beautiful as always, and the kids are amazing and loved by us beyond words. Town Hall gave Lissa and her entourage an incredible meal Friday night, which went on for hours due to the vast amount of too-good food and drink. This was my first time to Town Hall and it’s really, really good. The space is a big, beautiful earthquake era red brick building, meaning the building stayed up in the 1906 earthquake, and used to be a car manufacturing building I think. The food is New American/Creole and the jambalaya and everything was cooked and presented absolutely perfectly. Go there if you ever can. Gotta love eating out in San Francisco, where there is enough competition that you really have to be good to succeed, and they are. Bay Area restaurant people are gifted with amazing ways with food and I love eating out here. Her company had just opened another restaurant down the street and we went there afterwards for their opening night and met yet more people who work with, love and respect Lissa. She’s the manager of Private Dining, the big room they have for private parties which is booked every day and night and is a very important part of Town Hall.

The next day we piled in to the van that Lissa had rented for us from Zip Cars. Zip Cars is a cool San Francisco company that rents cars to people really easily; they have a few cars in many parking lots all over the city. You set it up easily on line, walk to the neighborhood spot where the car is, scan the card on the windshield of your car to activate the rental, and drive off. No forms, no personnel, no waiting. I wish I’d thought of that business; it’s genius. Keeps people from having to buy a car when they only need one occasionally. Lissa and Ben rent Zip cars when they need to do grocery shopping or out of town trips etc.
Off we went to the wine country. The sommelier she works with had set up private tastings for us up near Healdsburg. What fun that was. 3 very different types of wineries. Roshambo, very hip, young and cool. Ferrari, too weird and commercialized for us so we left. Lancaster, way out of our league but we stayed and enjoyed their hospitality and very exclusive high, high end winery and sipped fabulous wine we all knew we couldn’t buy. But the guy was very nice to us anyway, because of Lissa’s position, and we had a private tasting room in the “library” which is walled with wine not books. This was in a room built in to their huge, architecturally wondrous cave where the wine ages.

The Wine Country was in its gorgeous autumnal wardrobe, and the colors everywhere were radiant. That night, Jack and the kids went to a huge party where everyone dressed as pirates, at the hip cool Roshambo winery, in costumes we’d bought in the city. Pat and I went to see The Departed – during this trip I’ve been missing movies. It’s way too violent but the acting and the plot are great. In sleepy little Santa Rosa, we had to literally wake up the cab driver parked out front to get a ride back to the motel. In an effort to save money we stayed in a fairly bad part of town and shared the neighborhood with hookers and their friends; I had to ask the motel manager to call the cops to get them to quiet down from their fighting in the parking lot right outside our room, and the cops were there when Jack and kids got back from the party. But no one bothered us.

Now I’m in Sacramento with Arian for a couple of days while Jack and Cookie are taking pictures north of the Bay Area. We’ll hook up again in San Francisco on Friday. Cookie had fun staying at Ben and Lissa’s apartment and used the time to recover from the torture we put her through when we washed the truck at one of those self service washers. She was so calm with everything else we were doing, that we really thought she’d be fine, but she freaked. I think she was so mad at us she was glad to be rid of us for a weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"I cannot create but that I have a woman with me..." -D.H.Lawrence

That is a scary position for an artist to be in, and a terrible burden for the woman involved. Poor Frieda.

Nancy, choosing not to be my Frieda, took a couple of days off at the Eureka Red Lion hotel and luxuriated in doing exactly what she pleased while Cookie and I tooled around the back roads of western Humboldt County, looking for images. I camped near the Rockefeller Grove, which is a collection of the tallest redwoods in the world.
I drove many back roads along the King Range and down to the Lost Coast, to the black sand beach. Here I gathered a few pebbles, one a pretty little heart shape which was black with white veins. Being autumn, the poison oak is bright red and orange, thereby revealing how ubiquitous the plant is in this area. It may grow as a large bush, or as a bright, colorful vine climbing a redwood.
I visited the little towns of Petrolia, Honeydew, Shelter Cove. Not a lot to say for any of them, except to note the sticker on the front door of the store in Honeydew that asserted "We Vote Pro-Gun"

Now we are back together, a bit further down the coast near Ft. Bragg. Hving found no very compelling images worthy of the view camera in Humboldt County, I was happy to find a beautiful rock formation on the beach here in Mendocino county. Sunset through an arch in one of the larger rocks is doing some some nice effect with the light, which I hope the film sees the way i do.

Tomorrow we head down to The City (San Francisco, Frisco, whatever) to meet up with Pat, Arian, Lissa and Corey for a big family.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Oct. 15 Nancy:
Photos aren't cooperating, but I'll try again.
Humboldt County, land of immense Redwoods, ferns, and fog. Actually the first two days were sunny and warm which almost never happens here. Then the normal drizzle and gray set in. I have a huge love for this area because this is where I came when I left home, and it's beautiful still. Arian was born here in a trailer -- call me trailer trash if you so desire. At the time it was a nice new trailer on a pretty little lot in the country and I loved it, baked bread, sewed baby clothes and took walks through the Redwoods. We drove by and the current residents don't quite have a pride of ownership - it's scary! We got out of there quick before we'd get shot or bit.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bandon, Oregon, on the coast south of Coos Bay. Pretty town on a spectacular coastline. We like this area more than Florence, mainly because the Florence beaches are full of off-highway-vehicles (OHV's). Boy are they noisy and annoying.

This area is more enjoyable because the OHV's aren't allowed here at all, and the town is fun, too. It's one of those Oregon towns that is getting discovered by Californians who are willing to pay $300,000 for a house that was worth $100,000 a couple of years ago. Consequently, there are countless for-sale signs. People are hoping they can make a killing by selling now. We're not sure where they'll go once they have this money but still need to live somewhere.

The beaches here are great, with good access everywhere, good healthy cold sun, and not many people to share the beauty with. We had a glass of wine in a little wine bar and got to chatting with a young couple who had just finished hiking the entire Pacific Coast Trail - thousands of times tougher than me, that's for sure. They'd backpacked through everything from snow drifts to hot desert. I tell Jack we can backpack as soon as he can carry ALL my stuff as well as his. This couple was so kind, they even offered that we could park the camper in their driveway here in Bandon, a block from the beach, and use their house at will. We didn't want to impose so we haven't taken them up on it yet, but we might. I know they meant it, it just feels funny when we barely know them.

Cookie is the best traveling companion ever. She is having a great time with all the new places, smells and sounds. I could go on for ever but I'd bore most of you... the short version is that it's goiing great having her with us.

We'll be beach bumming for a while until we get to see the Arian (again) plus Lissa, Corey and Pat in 9 days. That will be a fun time.