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!

Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

Monterey is such a fun city to get around in by walking and biking! Ditch the car and see the city in a whole different way! The coastal recreation trail is incredible and you can bike from one end of town to the next without jostling your position next to cars on the road. We biked all the way to Asilomar from the Fairgrounds- approximately 16 miles round trip and I really enjoyed myself. The trail is relatively flat and whenever you cross an intersection, people that are driving cars, appear to be super considerate of your right of way. They almost always stop and wave you through. It feels really good to have a city that caters to bikers, walkers, and runners.

The trail was designed and built over the existing railroad tracks of years ago and winds along the coast, passing the wharf, Aquarium and over to the 17-mile drive; which in of itself is another spectacular place to bike. You pass groves of mature eucalyptus, Monterey Cypress, and gigantic hedges of aloe as you bike along the jagged rocky, shoreline. Right after you pass Fisherman’s Wharf, you will see bloated and content Harbor Seals that have learned to bask in the sun along shallow submerged rocks. They almost look like cartoon characters because their heads and tails, while being super tiny, are arched as they rest on their very fat, bellies. Pelicans and seagulls, otters, terns and other shoreline birds swarm the sandy shoreline too, calling and screaming loudly to one another.

After about 45 minutes of biking, once we had left the fairgrounds, we arrived at Asilomar. Michael and I then got off of our bikes and parked them along the wooden rail fence, while we investigated the tidal pools. We have been coming to Asilomar for well over 40 years and it has changed very little. The difference being is that we are now carrying our house on our backs and can take our belongings with us. We use to stay at a motel called: The Andril, but haven’t stayed there for many years because it has gotten so expensive.

All and all, we are very pleased with the location of The Monterey Fairgrounds RV Park and have only one complaint- the noise of the airplanes and fighter jets that take off and land starting at 6 am in the darkness of early dawn. The fighter jets (F-14’s) are the loudest I have ever heard and actually set off car alarms and shake the RV as they pass low overhead. It certainly is a display of awe and power, so I won’t be complaining directly to the pilots any time soon!

Callie is still wiped out from her guard duties yesterday and is moping around on the top, loft, bunk, and eavesdropping from her little peek-out window. She loves this loft and I believe she personally feels like it was designed especially with her in mind. She has a bird’s eye view to all that is below and can stare at everyone without being detected.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Michael and I have been visiting Point Lobos State Reserve in south Carmel for almost 40 years now. The reserve was designated a world heritage site in 1967. It is only one of two sites where the Monterey Cypress grows in the wild. Point Lobos is one of our favorite places to explore and to hike in and I have taken literally hundreds of photographs throughout the years. It is a beautiful place that is filled with wildlife, Monterey Cypress, Monterey Pines and old California chaparral. The hikes are not strenuous and the trails hug the coastline with each bay offering another spectacular view.

The Whaler’s Cabin is a must see and offers the viewer a glimpse into the violent past of the whale hunts and the irresponsible overfishing of abalone, sardines, otters and all the marine life that once called this place home. You can touch whale bones and otter pelts and see the cauldron’s that boiled the fat of whales and stare at old photographs of whale hunts. The primitive weapons and harpoons that were used had to inflict an agonizing death for these intelligent and gentle giants of the sea, and at least for now we can look back and feel some remorse.

While hiking along the Carmelo Meadows trail, we watched 2 whales frolicking and hunting in the shallow bay while pelicans by the dozen soared overhead. I can remember when DDT had decimated their numbers and that of the bald eagles too! It is lovely to see these birds once again making a come back. There were rocks offshore where fifty or more were roosting.

We had to park the RV outside the park because they don’t let motorhomes inside, and it was the first time we walked in. It is free if you park outside and the foot trails were well marked and easy to follow.

Our last hike of the day was to Cypress Cove- one of the most photographed and artistically painted groves in the Reserve and I was saddened to see how ill the trees are. The moss and lichen have taken over and the trees are dying in great numbers. What was once a beautiful forest of mature trees, is now almost a graveyard of dead gnarled branches as far as the eye can see. It came as quite a shock to me and I am mourning for what once was. We had brought our daughter to see this beautiful Reserve for the first time, only to discover that the peak of beauty and health of these magnificent trees is behind us. These trees need fire in which to reproduce and thrive in, and because the forest is protected, no new growth has occurred. The California drought has added insult to injury and further decimated their numbers even more. Insects are plaguing them too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 10 years something drastic will have to be done to save what trees are left.

We still had a fabulous time though and I took photographs and got in another long day of hiking. It is unseasonably warm and I have never visited the grove in the summer. It has always been in fall or winter and that might have made a difference to me. Wildflowers usually carpet the meadows and this time it was brown, dead and dried out grasses. I will have to plan on coming again someday soon in order to see how the trees are doing after some rainfall has fallen. Until then, I will just have to hope that climate change doesn’t cause further harm.

Callie spent the day in the RV parked along the roadside and she takes her job of being guard kitty quite seriously. When we finally got back to the RV, she was exhausted and ready to take a nice, long nap. Her relief at having us back was noticeable and appreciated. I made sure to thank her for her guarding skills and she got in a walk and had her beautiful coat brushed before she went to bed.

Life of Callie

I am so pleased that Callie has taken to a life on the road so well. She is the perfect animal companion for a small RV because the litter box fits perfectly into the base of the shower, she doesn’t need to be taken outside to go potty, and she loves to go on walks with her leash and harness. I receive compliments every time I take her for a walk, and she has learned to request them by reaching out and giving me a soft meow and a hook with one claw. After breakfast, it is my duty to introduce her to the great outdoors and if I forget, why she will remind me quite forcibly. After her morning walk, Callie is now calling my daughter’s bed, home. It only took a week to wheedle and charm her way onto the bed!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

This morning we walked from the fairgrounds, which was 3.7 miles one way, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium- one of the best aquarium in the world. My daughter and I were able to take the bus (Jazz- B) back to the fairgrounds when we were finished viewing all the displays around 5:00. Michael had taken his bike but it was too far for us to walk back after 4 hours at the aquarium.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers asylum to sea otters that have been injured and they have a chance to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild once they are well enough to be released. The ones on display seem so happy and energetic that it exhausted me just watching all their antics. Ice cubes are a favorite for the 4 girls housed in the main center, and toys with hidden food keep them endlessly entertained. We were informed while watching a short movie about the Monterey Bay Aquarium, that they have to be careful what kind of toys to use because the otters smash them against the glass just like they would do in the wild on rocks. If the toy is too hard, the otters will scratch up the glass so bad that soon viewers would be unable to see the otters inside the enclosure.

The Aquarium also services injured shorebirds, and if at all possible, they too are returned to the wild. One little spunky, male, Snowy Plover had lost an eye because “he was just a little bit of a bully” the volunteer docent explained to us. He would never make it outside again and will have to live out his life in the petting reef display. He seemed pretty happy picking on all the other birds though. I recognized the Black Oystercatcher that I had painted about 3 years ago. He looked older but was having a good day preening his lovely, purple-black feathers.

The scientists are also doing stellar research on jellyfish that are changing our understanding of them. The Box Jellyfish has just recently been able to reproduce and thrive in captivity. One of the local research scientists, a young woman, has developed a food source that is keeping the jellyfish alive for the first time.

The population of jellyfish in the wild has exploded and some scientists believe it may be due to climate change. Jellyfish aren’t as sensitive to temperature changes and it just might be a negative sign for the overall health of the planet’s oceans. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is doing a fabulous job of igniting the curiosity in children and educating them to the wonders of our deep seas.

The introduction of plastic in the 50’s has caused grave damage to the ocean, and there are displays showing the negative effects and what we can do about it by choosing to recycle and reusing plastic products while saying no to plastic bags. We had a fabulous time and spent all day there. Though expensive, I highly recommend a visit to this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness just what is going on below the surface of the water. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. It is wise to go midweek too, as it can become uncomfortably crowded.

Monterey Fairgrounds RV Park

Yesterday afternoon we left beautiful Santa Cruz Upper Harbor for Monterey, California. We are parked at the county fairgrounds and are facing a golf course with horse stables behind us. Military jets are flying low overhead in the sky, and information and are frighteningly loud. The whole area shakes and the RV rumbles. Campers have raced to the tops of their RV’s to film the procession with their iPads and iPhones. My daughter watched while inside the RV as a fighter jet roared passed us. She could see the silver underside of the jet as it flashed by incredibly close. The RV shook and rattled as Callie crouched down low in fear and alarm and she looked at me with eyes wide open!

Warning- I am about to rant and rage against President Trump. If any of my readers are offended by anti- Trump rhetoric, I would suggest you not continue reading. I try not to interject my political views very often, but in this case, and with war drums beating, I feel no choice but to vent.

What a show of force and power to watch the fighter jets coming and going! It is really something to witness the incredible speed of these pilots that have gone through rigorous training and are now showing off their skills by flying overhead. And the fighter jets are extraordinarily sleek and streamlined and look so powerful and dangerous. But with Trump thumping his chest and ranting about “Rocket Man” and Kim Jong Un returning insults that Trump is a demented old man, how did we get to this place? The thought of another nuclear bomb going off, or another WWIII starting up, fills me with dread and foreboding.

I am of the opinion that the Russian investigation is heating up and that Trump would like nothing more than to confuse and distract the attention away from HIM and on to other things. Like the NFL players just as an example that is kneeling during the anthem. Our first amendment rights protect exactly that! The right to protest peacefully about something that you believe is wrong. Racism is prevalent in this country and the backlash after President Obama held office for 8 years has been ripe with the hate and anger that has festered during his 2 terms. I am appalled and disgusted, to say the least with the people that voted Trump into the Whitehouse and with Trump himself. He is a sick egomaniac bent on doing as much damage as possible to Obama’s legacy. Or worse, he is intent on starting another war, even though he himself had been excused from serving at least 4 times due to heel spurs.

So I have mixed emotions about being parked next to a military fly zone. I am in awe of the sinister beauty of these airplanes but sickened to think that humanity has evolved this far, only to have two such sick and obnoxious leaders as Trump and Kim Jong Un in power at the same time. They should be locked up together and forced to duel it out on their own. Why drag the rest of us into their petty show of mean-spirited and cruel force of wills? I feel like Trump is tying his horse to a fence. You never want to tie your horse up to an unstable barrier. If a horse spooks, it will destroy the fence and possibly injure itself and have to be put down.

Callie, on the other hand, is enjoying herself and hanging out on the dash. She was able to walk around the oak trees and horse stables and to pretend that she was a barn cat for a bit. Having shown horses in the past, it is wonderful to be in the vicinity of jockey quarters, show rings and stables. I can almost hear the whinny of my deceased, beautiful, chestnut, Arabian- Champagnne Flight, as he searched for me and I for him at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Time is flying by so fast. Here I am with a grown-up daughter who use to show this horse as an 8-year-old and a husband who is now retired, and we are now traveling around the country in our 24ft RV. It almost makes you feel old and wise. I wish I had an answer for the United States/ North Korea dilemma though. Now that would make me feel wise indeed!