Monday, August 29, 2011

Drive up the Coast, Part 1: Having faith

So there we were, driving up the coast.

We'd stayed overnight in Santa Barbara, which is barely like Southern California, and also just barely not. We were somewhere in between … After breakfast at Tupelo Junction, we headed North, determined to get to Carmel / Monterey. We weren't sure where we'd stay, but knew that we wanted to get at least that far on our first official day of driving...

Driving up the coast with Pooh Bear (circa 1988)

Not having a plan seemed a looming challenge for me. I'd driven up the coast in about 1988 and the challenges that I encountered then seem so far away: not having cel phones (ie, they didn't exist) and losing FM radio signal as I meandered along. I had a plan, a destination, and more importantly, a reservation. If I didn't show up, someone would take notice. And I had plenty of quarters - - there had to be plenty of pay phones along the way. I have memories of curvy roads along the coast and small towns that I stopped to say hello to.

In Harmony, CA (circa 1988. Note the perm and fanny pack!)
I stopping at Morro Bay, checked into my room and breathed a big sigh of relief. I remember that I stayed and settled in long enough to sketch the rock and had a nice dinner by myself.

During that trip, not only was I often outside of FM signal range, I remember very distinctly that my tape deck stopped working as well. It was unnerving, driving alone, without music, curving up a particularly steep hill. At that point, leaving Morro Bay, I was impatient to get closer to my destination already. Having the ocean off my left shoulder, down steep cliffs, was immediately less romantic.

So this time (2011), we drove through Pismo and Shell beaches, as perhaps everyone does when one drives up the coast. We stopped at Morro Bay and spotted otters, a sure sign that we were indeed well outside of Southern California. Although we'd both made the drive before, separately, neither of us realized that you could drive up to Morro Rock, so this time, together, we did. We took another look at the otters, wished there was less fog, then headed on.

Further up the coast, my notes say we stopped at San Simeon, surrounded by bright mustard blooms. J took photos as the fog cleared.




We'd tried to work through some of the small challenges that we could imagine during the trip to Kings Canyon –  got new camp beds, figured out a better way of making two cups of robust morning coffee, expanded beyond our very basic camping cooking repertoire. Slightly bigger challenges during that trip - -  keeping our site bear-safe and outsmarting mosquitos - - those will always remain challenges.

The challenges in 2011 seemed to revolve around having faith. What do we depend on: our intuition or the safety blanket of technology? I'd just gotten a smartphone. I wanted to be able to stay in touch without lugging around a laptop. I didn't expect this battle of wits –  J wanted to find his own way and I needed the security of knowing where I was, what direction I was going. The information was there and I wanted to be able to use it. Ultimately we found compromise: We found that using my smartphone we could check traffic, navigate us through the traffic jams in small and big towns, properly identify upcoming landmarks and geography without having to unfurl paper maps, and could find the nearest gas station as our tank ran precariously low.

But as the daylight grew more and more dim, no amount of descriptions and reviews could help us as we read signs that read “Campsite Full” as we passed by them, closer and closer to Carmel. It was the exceedingly low-tech guide, though, of alternate campsites printed on a handout that a ranger at a (full) campground gave us that steered us into Carmel Valley, where we found a campground with plenty of room. We were the only tent campers that night (lots of RVs though) and the host looked at us sympathetically as it started to rain as she took our information.

Night #1 helped us know that we could find our way and have faith that we could find our way home and be able to keep in touch both ways. And not strangle each other in the process.

In Carmel Valley, we also knew this: We had made our way, with a little bit of low-tech help and had a place to rest. We could set up camp in the rain and the tent stayed water-tight.

We slept deeply through passing showers.

All the photos in the '2011-07 Drive up the Coast' set, here.