Monterey, CA (2012): Point Lobos, At Last!

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, August 31, 2012

I had an awesome 3 weeks -- both work and play!  After spending a week in Tampa, FL surrounded by thousands of very passionate protesters and strict multi-jurisdictional law enforcement officers, I had to get away to find respite so that I could reboot, recharge, and refresh myself for the post-Labor Day work. Taking advantage of my friends’ visit to San Francisco, I flew there to meet and host them at the Berkeley House, which we used as an HQ to plan all of our activities especially those areas east of the city.  My adventure began at a car
rental agency where a senior citizen beat me to a minivan that I had reserved.  With few options for a large-size car, I chose the one next to it with a Colorado license plate, the 2012 Subaru Outback which I quickly dubbed “The Pleiades”.  The Japanese word “Subaru” refers to the famous 7 Sisters; its emblem is the star formation that constitutes the Pleiades open star cluster.

My friends Cindy, Dany, Thinh, and Watky suggested that we drive around and visit the touristy sites including Fisherman Wharf, Coit Tower, the crooked Lombard Street, Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Our group walked across the famous suspension bridge to the first of two vertical piers and decided to return.  I told Watky that I would proceed to the 2nd pier before turning around. When I arrived, I precipitously decided to finish crossing the bridge to Merin. I’ve been to SF on multiple occasions, but this was the only time that I made any effort to visit the area.  It became the 1st time I had walked cross any suspension bridge; I’m glad it was the Golden Gate.

The cool Pacific breeze triggered my memory of being “late” in life. I was late for my birth, making the debut at 2 in the morning instead of midnight. I was late visiting Yosemite National Park where I could have met campers who would have been Old Friends by now. And I was late following one of my favorite journalists’ footsteps to Monterey Bay; but I had an excuse for that as I had to be in Washington D.C. for a graduate internship.  Finally, I was late in “googling” Steve’s new residence after his return from Thailand; I thought Pebble Beach is a few miles north of Santa Barbara, a place where I frequented more than any other small town combined due to my love affair with the a French-Australian redhead.  It turned out that Pebble Beach is 228 miles away via the windy Pacific Coast Highway that hugs California.  She giggled when I texted her.

At my request, Steve took us to Point Lobos. After listening to my imaginative descriptions of that place where I had never been, he said, “You might be disappointed.”  I was not.  With its gnarled and twisted Monterey cypresses and the wind-blown yellow grasses, the most majestic meeting place of Land and Sea in North America stood before me as I looked out into the endless blue-green Pacific and the infinite darkness of the Universe above it. On a hike in the park, Watky pointed to a place that looked “peaceful” and I rushed to sit among its trees and those yellow grasses. I wished I could be there for a few more decades to watch the pelicans take flight, the sea lions resting on the rocky shores, and the migrating whales go by. One had passed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium the morning of my arrival…I was late to see that one too.

I did not get to see John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in Monterey. I guess I’m a century late for that; the canneries are gone from the waterfront because the sardines that used to be canned there have disappeared from the sea.  Fortunately, concerned citizens and visionaries like David and Lucile Packard of Hewlett-Packard have given more than $200M to create a world-class underwater research center and an aquarium with the world’s largest jellyfish collection
from moon jelly to sea nettle. I did not get to visit a place on a steep hill that overlooks a curving beach that Father Junipero Serra chose for the most important of the California missions, San Carlos Borromeo del Rio de Carmelo. Charles Kuralt wrote of this hill in his
America, “the Mexican fishermen eventually took over from the friars, then the artists and writers took over from the Mexicans, and then the corporation presidents and rich retired folk took over from the artists, and the spot became a town too pretty to be true. The name was shortened to Carmel.”

Of all the times I’ve spent in this amazing state that singers had sung about, that writers have glorified in their odes, California never disappoints. I will surely devote more time to this rugged
western coast.

Next Stop: John Muir's signature park, Yosemite.

Enjoying jackfruit ice cream at UC-Berkeley
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