A Bike Ride to 17 Mile Drive

You can’t go wrong biking along the pristine Pacific Coastline through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in California. It is free to cyclists and a perfect way to spend an entire afternoon.

There is a long history to this area starting in 1602 where it was mapped by Spanish explorers. Pebble Beach was left to a widow by the name of Carmen Garcia Barreto Maria. It has changed ownership several times and was eventually purchased at auction for 12 cents an acre by David Jacks. Fast forward to the future, this beautiful coastline was acquired by the Cypress investor group in 1999, which was led by Clint Eastwood, Arnold Palmer, and Peter Ueberroth.

Biking along the coast you come across such attractions as Cypress Point, Bird Rock, Point Joe, and Lone Cypress, an image that has been trademarked and cannot be photographed and the photographs used commercially. That bothers me to no end! You bike along both the coast and the golf course and meander through neighborhoods that are obscenely wealthy. I try to look the other way and focus on the natural beauty of the place and not dwell on the disparity of the working class and the rich.

Michael, Fred and I headed out from the Monterey County Fairgrounds and took the bike trail all along the coast to the 17 Mile Drive. When we biked past the wharf, we turned out to the Coastguard pier to check on the sea lions that make so much noise with their barking and arguing for a prime spot in which to rest. The quiet harbor seals have claimed the sandy beach next to the Stanford Research Center, and they can be seen rolling along the shoreline as small waves toss them back and forth across the sand. These seals look so well fed that when they bask on rocks with their webbed feet up in the air for balance, they look blown up to capacity and can hardly move.

We stopped frequently at Pacific Grove and Asilomar to enjoy and appreciate the view. The coastline is rugged and there are jagged rocks with white sandy beaches. The wildlife is abundant and somewhat tame because of the wildlife reserve status. Who wouldn’t want to live there? We saw harbor seals basking, sea lions barking, a red-tailed hawk sitting on a rock. And when it took to the sky, it was harassed by crows, (at least I think it was a red-tailed hawk) even if it didn’t have the distinctive red tail, it may be going through a dark phase, correct me if I am wrong, lots of pelicans, cormorants, seagulls, whale plumes, and the list goes on.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a moderate temperature of only 63, and this at the end of December, and with no wind. We hung out all day and ended up eating a late lunch at The Fishwife which is close to the entranceway to 17 Mile Drive. The food was delicious enough but not as good as The Sand Bar and Grill, but it did have the benefit of being less expensive too.

After 26 miles of biking for 6 hours on and off, we trudged back up the hill to the fairgrounds pretty wiped out and windblown, exhausted but happy. Our cheeks were rosy and glowed with health from a day in sunshine and out in the elements. My eyes are fried though! I promised myself I would limit texting and photography today. So much for that promise!

And since I share this blog equally with the subject of travel and our princess cat- Callie, her life as a traveling cat couldn’t be finer. She sleeps a lot during the day, goes on several walks with her leash and harness, and rides on the dash when we hit the road. Her litter box fits neatly in the bathroom all the way in the back of the RV, and her food and water are placed on the shower bench for her enjoyment. This is really a perfect life for her and she adds so much to the overall enjoyment of our trip.

The coastguard pier provides a place for sea lions to rest.

The harbor seals are smaller and have found sanctuary at the Stanford Research Center

Stages of a Sunset

On Christmas evening, and after a lovely meal served by the City of Monterey Food Bank, Michael, Fred and I biked over to Monterey State Beach to watch the sunset tuck itself in for the night. It took some negotiating to find a spot where we could all sit and not have a building in the way, but once we did, we settled down and enjoyed a quiet moment.

There were not that many people at the beach, but the few that were, had plump little dogs panting after them and enjoying some free time out on the sand. The waves rolled in on a direct trajectory and would crash all at once in a long line that covered the entire stretch of the beach. A large flock of what looked like plovers wheeled and spun right over the water and reminded me of a swarm of flies. They flew in unison and would all land at once for just a second before flying off again.

The sunset was not colorful, but rather filled with silver and gray and unfolded softly. Heading back on our bikes in the fading light, and with me, all dressed in black, was a little unnerving, but we managed to get back to the fairgrounds in one piece.

The True Meaning of Christmas

We have currently camped out once again at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, because unbeknownst to us, Christmas is a very popular time for RVing. We wanted to stay at New Brighton or Sea-cliff in the Santa Cruz area, but everything was filled up.

Callie loves it here and as I write, the murder of crows is cawing and cackling overhead high up in the oak trees, and Fred and Michael are listening to the Warriors game in his RV. During the game, Michael and I took a quick break and ran over to the “free Christmas meal” provided by the city of Monterey to those in need. Restaurants and local chefs team up to provide a hot meal on Christmas Day to those less fortunate. We were immediately humbled by the large turn out of both hungry people and those helping the hungry.

The Community Holiday Dinner meal was served in one of the large warehouses on the other side of the fairgrounds, and Michael and I practically ran over there because it was almost 2 pm and that was when they would stop serving. The dinner was sponsored by the committee named after this event and the Food Bank for Monterey County. This special event has been hosted for 25 years and Thanksgiving for a whopping-35! We were told about the event from Ray, the host of the RV Park because he has been going to it for years. We were met with raucous Christmas music being played live by 2 musicians dressed up in Santa Claus outfits, and about 100 people or more eating merrily, while others were being served by volunteers lined up to help.

Smoked turkey, a roll with butter, dressing, yams, broccoli, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, donuts, cupcakes, coffee, and sodas were placed on long tables and served with enthusiastic and kind volunteers ready to pile up your plate with as much food as you wanted, and the food was absolutely free to those in need!

There were also tables filled with gently used clothing that people could pick through and select whatever they wanted to keep. Jackets and warm sweaters, shoes, and socks, pants and shirts for both men and women. There were a fair amount of homeless people pushing their carts with all of their belongings in them, and opinionated dogs guarding the carts. Many of the homeless appeared to know one another and were talking and laughing amongst themselves.

We were served our holiday meal and fit right in with most of the crowd, but we were more fortunate in that we could leave a donation and didn’t need free clothes or food. I also tried to compliment as many of the volunteers that I came into contact with and thanking them profusely for giving up their time over Christmas to help. This is what Christmas means to me, GIVING, and I was so happy to see this side of humanity being played out with dignity and respect toward the poor. Next year I want to be one of those helping to serve.

The Crows in the Oak Trees

While camping at the Monterey Fairgrounds this summer, we would take Callie out for walks on her leash so that she could explore her surroundings. The oak trees were protected and couldn’t be cut down and had grown quite massive in size. The crows would fly in as a flock of 50 or more to feed on the trees in the late afternoon.

Dusk was just starting to fall and the light was fading. You could hear them long before you saw them. We would look up at the sky at the sound of caws in the distance and see specks of black dots moving toward us like a darkening cloud of locusts. Soon they would descend on the oak trees as a mob and peck at the bare branches and the plump acorns in a frenzy of feeding. The acorns would crash down noisily onto the aluminum roof of the livestock showing pens, and plop with a crunch on the dried up leaves at the base of the tree.

The sound was deafening and the birds would be screaming and shouting at one another the whole time they fed. It sounded like a version of happy hour for these birds, and it was really quite the sight to behold. The clicks and caws and screams could be heard all over the campground and there was a special alarm call when they spotted Callie! Three crows, in particular, stayed put and kept looking at us from up above in astonishment that a cat was down below. When we got too close, rather than fly away in alarm, they shouted obscenities at us and hurled insults like a gang of misbehaving children. As Callie passed underneath their particular tree, I swear they made an effort to bomb her with debris. Callie would have liked nothing better than to climb the oak tree and give them a piece of her mind.

At the end of the day, not having packed toys for Callie, she had to make do with a paper bag in which to work out her pent-up aggression!

The Sky is Falling- The Crows are Calling

Callie has become quite the darling wherever and whenever she goes out for a walk with me and Lara! People are always fascinated that a cat can and will walk on a leash. She takes it all in stride though and tries to keep her cool in most situations.

Everyone walking a dog marvels at her calm disposition and the dogs cannot believe their eyes, ears, and nose. The smaller ones always want to touch noses with her, and if they go about it in a smooth and controlled manner, she will allow it. Otherwise, she lies in wait at the end of her leash, and I have to warn the owners that she will get the better of the dog if they get too close. Callie is wickedly fast with her claws and before she rakes the poor dog swiftly over the nose, she will let out a warning shriek that sends most dogs running in a blind panic!

But today we saw a different beast altogether! This afternoon we had several crows following us high up above in the oak trees and they would cackle and crow and make all kinds of clicking noises as they jumped from branch to branch. It was almost like they too could not believe that there was a cat walking on a leash below them. They both peered down at us intently and with keen curiosity, tried dropped acorns on our heads to see just how we would react to the taunting. I looked up at them in return and mimicked their sounds right back at them and that set them off even more. They flapped their wings and cawed even louder and flew off muttering to themselves about the impossibility of a cat walking around on a leash. This caused Callie to drop down into a fake crouch position, but because they were so much bigger than her, there was very little threat in her posture. I think the tables would have been turned if the Crows called her bluff and it would have sent her running in a blind panic.

We are having a lovely time staying at the Monterey Campgrounds again, and Callie has her favorite oak trees that she loves to rub up against. I wonder if every dog that has ever been walked on a leash in the area, has lifted its leg and peed on the trunks of these trees. She gets this weird look on her face and then drops and rolls at the base of the tree in total ecstasy and rubs her back and face along the base of the tree. And if owners neglect to pick up after their dog? Why she goes about burying all the exposed poop with dirt and dried leaves and you can tell that it bothers her that dogs are so sloppy and thoughtless. She is the most fastidious cat I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and can’t stand it when others are dirty and leave a mess!

So Callie and I will ignore the crows that hop from branch to branch and taunt us high up in the oak tree. And I will let them wonder just how it was that I taught a cat to walk on a leash in the first place. It must be a first for these ravens to observe and for most people to witness too, but I believe that Callie has opened the eyes of everyone that sees her out walking to the distinct possibility that their cat too, could walk on a leash!

Words Cannot Describe

Yesterday morning, we headed south again for the Monterey County Fairgrounds in order to make the return trip home. We have been on this road trip for a month now with our daughter Lara and sweet cat, Callie, and for the most part, we have all had a wonderland time. The places we have visited and explored have been beautiful and the experience, priceless. Having our daughter join us this time has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will always be grateful to her for joining us. Hanging out with her parents can’t always have been easy for her. She is a joy to be around though.

And the truth has come out about Callie! Callie loves Lara! I think Lara just might be her favorite human of all time, even though she still has to depend on me for daily walks, brushing, cleaning up after her and food. But Lara has definitely become Callie’s desired bedtime companion and slave in the middle of the night on this trip! I sleep up in the loft and am way up against the wall and Michael sleeps on the edge of the loft which bars me from easy access to getting down on the ladder. So it is Lara that is below on the ground floor bedroom that has to cater to Callie’s nighttime desire for snacks, petting, and playtime! Lucky for Lara! Smile.

Last night, due to the steroids that Callie is taking for her cough; her cough has returned because the smoke from the fires has irritated her lungs. She decided to play rough and tumble in the middle of the night, and she takes out her excess energy on the wool rug that rests on the couch. She drags the rug up into a tight embrace with her front paws and kicks and bites the hell out of it with her back paws. It is so funny to watch her try to destroy the rugby attempting to disembowel it! It also means that Callie is interrupting Lara’s sleep! Too bad! This also reminds me once again that I really must pack some toys along next time we take a trip so that Callie has something to play with besides iPhone power chords and rugs!

But on a more somber note, and one that words cannot describe, we had to drive through Santa Rosa and Petaluma again and are further horrified at the sheer devastation the fire has inflicted on this beautiful area of vineyards, oak trees, golden grasslands, people, wildlife, horses, pets, and cattle. The fire actually jumped over the 101 freeway and guard rails were still smoking as we passed on through so somberly. Thank goodness the fires are moderately contained today, which is a Saturday, and because the winds did not pick up as was thought, my friend did not have to evacuate! Catherine, who lives in Petaluma, was told to pack up her essentials just in case the winds shifted and an evacuation order was put into place.

Fortunately, it looks like the winds have died down over the weekend. The fires may have been caused by downed PG&E power lines that weren’t able to withstand powerful winds- these winds, with gusts of upwards of 45-75 mph, were not hurricane force winds though, and this is a wind strength that PG&E claims their lines should have been able to endure. Weather reports indicate that they were not, in fact, hurricane force winds when the lines fell down! In their defense, they may use the old excuse of – ACT OF GOD and this may prevent them from being held accountable. I hate big businesses that are too big to fail and that are above the law and just plain, common, decency!

Reading the harrowing stories of people that jumped in their swimming pool to ward off the searing heat and flames that consumed their house, and the family whose 14 years old did not make it out alive is heartbreaking. We spent the night at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in July and have read that it is now an evacuation safe zone for evacuees with their pets, including horses, sheep, llamas, etc. What a tragedy and one that is difficult to wrap my head around. The hills are scorched and many buildings have been burned down to the ground. Some of the residents that we saw while passing through town were wearing masks and the skies are still filled with heavy, acrid, dark smoke. The stench of everything that was burned fills the air and it is difficult to breathe!

It is one of the worst fires in California history, and with 17 fires burning out of control at one time, one of the largest. We are so appreciative that the fires are almost under control and that hopefully Santa Rosa can rebuild. California went through a 10 year plus drought and with heavy rains during the winter months, grass and brush proliferated and grew abundant during the spring. These were ripe conditions for a wildfire when the long, hot summer, dried them out! The entire coast looks like it could go up in flames too. I love California and can only hope for the best.

As we head back home to the desert, I will think fondly of this RV trip with my family. It was a once in a lifetime event and we had such a fabulous time together. I will count my blessings and I am so appreciative that I was able to write down my thoughts and take photographs of the places we visited and that I have readers like you who are taking the time to read my blog. Thank you all so much! It has been quite the experience and as I get older, my memory isn’t what it use to be. So keeping a diary of sorts of my travels with Callie will help me to remember what I did, and where I went, for many years to come. I am hoping to turn these musings into a book when all is said and done! So, once again- thank you all for taking the time to read my travels with Callie adventures. It certainly has been quite the adventure!

Callie’s Awesome Catwalks!

When I first started Callie out on the leash and halter, she would always stop, drop and refuse to go forward. It took a little getting use to, but once she realized she would be able to explore new places and have me around to protect her, she picked it up with ease. Callie now goes on a minimum of 2 walks a day, at 30 minutes per walk. My daughter is helping me out too and taking her for a walk every once in awhile. When Michael walks her, she pulls out of the harness and makes a run for it.*She treats Michael with just a touch of disrespect. When he is resting on the sofa, she runs right over him. We are working on that little habit of hers. She also shouts at Michael as if he is hard of hearing. Such a funny little cat she is.

*Cats can pull out of the harness by going backward and tucking their elbows and shoulders in. If they start to pull backward, let go of the leash and don’t create resistance. Speak calmly and try to relax your cat enough to continue moving forward.

Fisherman’s Wharf

My daughter and I walked to Fisherman’s Wharf this afternoon from the fairgrounds- which is around 2.5 miles one way and meandered around the silly, touristy, trinket shops before deciding that we were in need of sustenance and decided that The Old Fisherman’s Grotto fit the bill.

We have seated right away, on a Sunday afternoon, and had a window seat overlooking the west side of the bay. We watched kayakers taking lessons on how to roll completely under water and back up again, with pelicans, seals, and jellyfish bobbing in the calm, blue, water. It was a lovely, cloudless day, and the temperature was only 67 degrees. I am still appreciative of the cooler days after having lived in the desert this past year and a half. Green is now my favorite color and I prefer anything to 110 degrees.

After we sat down, the waiter brought us delicious sourdough bread and water and we ordered lemon, chicken piccata, a poached pear salad and we shared a bowl of clam chowder. The food and ambiance were delightful and we had a fabulous time.

I decided to take home more clam chowder soup for Michael, my husband because it was so delicious. They stuffed half a loaf of bread in a bag for me too and I lugged it all the back to the RV and to the fairgrounds. I was pretty tired when I finally made it home! Nothing like working off a good lunch with a long, walk afterward.

When we headed out this early afternoon, one of the F-14 Fighter Jets took off and 3 car alarms on the street started wailing simultaneously and on the return trip, a jet roared past us and then headed straight up vertically into the sky while twisting round and round like a rocket ship! What a show of technology and power! They are also really, really loud. It has scared Callie every time they have taken off. I won’t miss all of the noise!

Callie spent a lovely day resting in the RV after watching the sunrise from the sofa and taking a nice, long walk with me. Her walks on the leash have improved daily and the fairgrounds have been a perfect place for her to explore all the horse stables and climb the oak trees. We are leaving tomorrow for Mariposa and will head to Mammoth Lakes next. Monterey has been a great place to park for one whole week.

Photographs of the Monterey Coastal Bike Trail

If you visit Monterey and are a biker or like to walk or jog, I highly recommend you take this fabulous, nicely paved trail that crosses from one end of Monterey to the other and can be continued all the way to Carmel. The old railway tracks were used to determine the route as it hugs the coastline. It is a good alternative to driving a car around the city.

And an afterthought! If you want to go out to a really good restaurant- The Sardine Factory has been around for over 40 years. I have been there twice and my husband, three times. It is one of our favorite, upscale restaurants and is located on Cannery Row.

From Stardust to the Mighty Oak Tree

It has been such a wonderful time here in Monterey, that we have decided to stay an entire week. The weather has been perfect and there is an endless supply of fabulous things to do and see. The County Fairgrounds are spacious, the bathrooms clean and Ray, our host, has been very helpful and accommodating. We have full hook-ups and are using our shower now after I remove Callie’s litter box. We have had the RV since December and are only just now using the shower! Everything must be done at its own pace and time.

My daughter Lara and I have been exploring the Fairgrounds and we came across some interesting murals and sculptures that are up against an art building that must offer art classes periodically. The murals are from an era when clowns and county fairs were very popular. You can almost feel the ghosts of 4-H and FFA animals: chickens, cows, and pigs that have perished from another time when agriculture was closer to the hearts and minds of all individuals. We have become so removed from the animals we eat, and from the soil that grows our food.

We are parked under massive oak trees that are protected and can no longer be cut down without city approval. I have mulled over the idea that when I die, I would like to be part of the new craze of planting a tree and your ashes are used as fertilizer. I love the idea of having a mighty oak sapling planted in my honor and supporting the young trees early growth with the nutrients used from my remains. There are too many cemeteries taking up much-needed space, and too many people buried in them. I want to become a tree that provides much-needed oxygen and gives something back to the earth. Why not? We are all made of stardust anyway! Let the cycle of life continue instead of being placed in a coffin after having been exhumed.

So I have let my daughter and husband know of my wishes- that I want to become a tree after I die. The only problem that I can foresee for the future, is where to plant me so that I don’t get cut down!