Night 19: Tale of 2 Wharfs

Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Monterey Fireside Lodge
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, July 8, 2012

Night 19: Fisherman's Wharf

Today we drove 130 miles down the coast along CA-1. The weather was cold in the morning, but warmed up in the sun as the day went on to about 65 degrees. It felt warmer than the thermometers were reading. Night was cold and foggy.

We began the day in San Francisco after what was, for me, a sleepless night in a loud neighborhood. We began by checking out of the Riyal Pacific Motor Inn, having made use if the showers and tv. What a wonderful surprise when u saw the huge municipal occupancy tax on the bill. California costs a ton of money.

We drove up to North Point, where we got good street parking on Bay Street right between Fishermen's Wharf and Pier 39. We were also surrounded by convenient grocery stores. The meters took credit cards, making parking a snap.

We walked up to the shore and tried unsuccessfully to get breakfast at McDonald's. Thus was a blessing in disguise since we would have a much better brunch than McDonald's could ever offer at Fishermen's Wharf. The street near the Wharf is lined with t-shirt and souvenir shops. Emarcadero cable cars whiz past the growing crowds. At the Wharf is a line if restaurants. One can either eat inside or outside. There is hardly a place to sit down, probably to discourage SF's numerous homeless from taking residency on benches as they do in the city parks.

We took our fish'n'chips and clams'n'chips to go and walked to a very special place: the San Francisco Maritime NHP. Here the National Park Service jeeps a floating collection of historic boats and ships. Here also, seven years before, I sat at the helm of a 19th century cargo ship and asked Jessica if she thought it would be good to set our own course and get married. It is a long story for another place, but here we were just oast our sixth anniversary with memories if this place floating around. And here was the result if that question I asked on this ship: little Andrew eating my clam strips and Jessica's fish on the beach.

Every one in a while a Western or Glaucus Gull would cone in close to our sandy meal, so I sent Andrew after them. It took a while, but they learned to leave us be or else face the wrath of an unpredictable preschooler.bEhold eating, I watched in amazement as a few people braved hypothermia to swim laps in the harbor.

The ship was still there. Andrew had the time if his life exploring every available deck if the old sailing ship. We went down to the cargo hold, the helm, the bow, the captain's quarters. After that we toured an old ferry boat full if vintage cars. It was the Eureka, which served as the city's connection to Marin County before the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in the 1930's.

We walked on to Ghirardelli Square, the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Here Jessica and Andrew shared a sundae and a dew squares. The factory has been converted to a tiny shopping mall.

We raced back to our meter, fed it, and walked on to Pier 39. This pier has been refit much like Chicago's Navy Pier. It has all the tourist traps that cost way too much money. It does have a few free things to do. There are always street performers here. There are great views of Alcatraz and the activity in the bay. The best thing, though, is to go down to the docks on the west side of the pier where a team of California sea lions have taken up residence. They arrived shortly after the big 1989 World Series earthquake and have yet to leave. In order to keep them off boats, the pier placed a bunch of low platforms in the water specifically for them to lay about.

There was one big one who really wanted to sit up on the boat docks. He kept jumping up only to be met with the dock workers hose. Strangely it seems that sea lions don't like getting wet, at least when they intend on taking a nap. He would get sprayed and jump in the water and approach from another angle only to get sprayed again.

We went grocery shopping near the van because we were in need of non-Dorito snacks. So we picked up cherries and corn and apples. Then we drove west across the city, passing the Haight Asbury District and Japantown. Since SF is a compact city, we quickly reached the other side of town at the Pacific beaches. Colorful boxy houses meet the seaside, which is a public park most of the way. It was foggy here and colder.

We left the city on the Cabrillo Hoghway (CA-1) and drove through some of the seaside suburbs of San Mateo County. Not too much time passed when we were separated from the hustle of the Bay Area by the Coast Mountains and headed past the good smelling outskirts suburb of Half Moon Bay.

Past Half Moon Bay the area gets more remote. We passed a handful of little vegetable farms and then CA-1 began twisting and turning as it likes to do.

The next city was Santa Cruz, at the north end of Monterey Bay. It was sunny when we arrived. It was also Sunday and residents seemed extremely happy about the warmth of the California sun. Many took their Sunday drives to the beach. We spent dome time at Arch Beach, so named because offshore rock formation had a natural arch in it. The sand here was the best we have seen on the West coast. We explored the table rocks at the edge of the beach, but the tide didn't permit us to see much tidepool life. Afterwards we played in the sand and took in the relative warmth.

Santa Cruz is full of happy young people and happy young-looking old people. It is also home to an incredible boardwalk covered in roller coasters and rides. The beach was full of surfers, as mist beaches on the California shore have been. Santa Cruz, though, is the only city that seems to welcome surfers with open arms. There is even a huge monument to the surfer along the highway.

After Santa Cruz the Cabrillo Highway leads into John Steinbeck country. The vegetable farms abound around Watsonville. The area is also home to a hulking power plant. The somberness of the scenery contrasted with sunny, happy Santa Cruz. In fact, the fog and clouds began rolling in furiously to really dampen the mood.

We arrived at the affordable town if Seaside and we searched for a motel. I knew I couldn't afford anything for hundreds of miles to the south. We found one for a mere $50 (not too much more than pricey state camping) and headed into the city of Monterey for a look around.

Monterey is a great city because of its proximity to nature and its history. After passing the Navy's post graduate school and Defense Language Institute and Coast Guard headquarters you are in the wharfs. Here you can grab a bite to eat, but I drove into the parking lots to scan the harbor for the amazing sea otters that I remembered seeing the last time I was in Monterey. I was not disappointed. An otter was playing in the harbor, swimming through the kelp eating mussels. Sea otters eat while floating on their backs, turning their belly into a table and freeing their claws. They are huge animals when compared with the little otters of the Chicago River. I would guess they are 4 to 5 feet long. They are covered with the soft waterproof fur that was the reason they were hunted to near extinction.

Night fell and I drove around the shore to Lovers Point. About halfway we spied a large gathering of harbor seals on a small sandy beach. The pups were hopping around playing and annoying their sleeping mothers. There were dozens of quiet seals hauled out fir the night.

We returned to the hotel, got tacos from downtown Monterey's only fast food place and went to sleep in a much nicer room than we woke up in today. And it was 1/3 the price. I did have to reprogram the remote control so I could watch the local show on the Alameda County Fair's history.

Tomorrow I have no idea where to go and have no plan.
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