Friday, October 8, 2021

Two Months in California

Hiking Wilder in Santa Cruz, one of California's many gifts.

After three restful months in Hawaii, we kicked off our California travels in the Bay Area.

San Jose

We spent a couple of weeks with Mark, whose place is a kind of California home base for us, always comfy and inviting. We had fun watching the Olympics together and did our usual Jeopardy binge, enjoying Matt Amodio's brilliance. Also, the guys went to a Giants game and watched them beat Houston. What a great season it's been.

Mark, Dave & Steve at Oracle Park

Beautiful day at McCovey Cove

Fortune smiled on us in the gathering of family nearby, even though most of them don't live in the Bay Area anymore. They were meeting up to celebrate my niece Jenna's start of college at Indiana University, and to wish my other niece Hailey best of luck upon her return to University of Tennessee, Knoxville. My nephew Evan was also there, as were my sister Crystal and her boyfriend Kristian who now live in San Diego. 

the clan

We did some hiking at Alum Rock Park in San Jose, and took a day trip to our old hometown, Santa Cruz, for a delicious walk along West Cliff. Little did we know we'd be back in Santa Cruz shortly.


We were happy to score a two-week housesit in Monterey, taking care of two cute little pups. The house looked out over the ocean, so every day we walked the short path to this beach. 

Dave with Jack and Mario

The owner let us use her e-bikes, which we cruised along the inviting path that goes through town and along the coast. We've ridden e-bike a few times now, and the technology just keeps getting better and better. 

The Monterey Bay is a national marine sanctuary, alive with sea creatures. Our friends Kelly, Terry and Laurie came down for whale watching and lunch at Dust Bowl Brewing, an outdoor place with great beers and a taco truck. (And yes they offered vegan tacos!)

We also met Daisy and Tung for lunch at the iconic all-vegan Mexican place, El Cantaro I was thrilled to finally get to meet Danni and to see Luc again before he's as tall as his daddy! I love this family so much. 

Lunch with Daisy, Tung, Danni & Luc

One day Mark came down, and he and Dave went to a car show, as it was Monterey Car Week. (We caught glimpses of cool cars all over town.)

One afternoon we headed to nearby Pacific Grove to meet with my former colleague, Susan, and her husband Gilly. After an invigorating walk through the Pebble Beach dunes to the beach near Spanish Bay, we hung out in their back yard, talking about stuff we love: the ocean, the outdoors, travel, books. 

Dune walk to the beach


Next we headed to another housesit in the Berkeley Hills in a charming neighborhood with steep, winding streets. We fell in love with Billie, an energetic yet well-trained sweet Rottie who enjoyed chasing her ball at the nearby park.

Billie digs her toys

The meetups continued. Dave, a Cal alumni, spent time with two old fraternity friends. And my former colleague Persis invited us to her sweet home and made us a delectable dinner. 

A joy to spend time with Persis.

One day I drove up to the Sonoma coast to meet the delightful powerhouse April Hirschman and chat on her podcast about memoir, bisexuality, self-love and wanderlust (listen here). 

Can you tell we had fun?!

We had a gap of a few days in our itinerary, when my friend Stacey invited us to come stay at her home in the Santa Cruz mountains. So we loaded up all our stuff (did I mention our car is jam-packed with things to handle warm and cold weather and months on the road?)--and minutes from the house, all the dash lights started flashing on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, our 10-year-old Subaru.

All the dash lights.

It was a Friday afternoon. 

We had a three hour drive ahead of us.

We found an open garage where the doom-and-gloom mechanic claimed Subarus suck and we'd probably need a completely new transmission that would take an armload of cash and a long time to fix.

The idea of hauling all of our stuff to a hotel room and waiting who-knew-how-many-days to get the car back on the road sounded as inviting as an ice pick to the eyeball. Dave pointed out the car was driving fine. It would...probably...make it. And if we waited any longer, traffic would be hell. 

As Dave drove the winding back roads, I called the Subaru dealer in Santa Cruz and made an appointment for Monday. When we pulled into Stacey's driveway, I exhaled, realizing I'd held my breath most of the long drive.

Santa Cruz Mountains

Stacey's gorgeous house nearly burnt down in last year's fire. But fortunately it still stands, and there's evidence everywhere of new growth around the singed redwoods. It reminded me of a poem Stacey one wrote that witnessed my rebirth after a horrible divorce. It includes the lines, "blackened rubble ... / old decay / now new food / for interminable roots."

new growth

It was sweet to spend some time with her and her twin sons who are now in college. We took a walk at Wilder State Park along the bluffs, past a herd of harbor seals. We had an incredible sushi dinner in Scott's Valley.

In the midst of all this, the dealer said our car wouldn't be ready until Friday. We had to drive three hours on Thursday to get to our central coast housesit. Dave was resigned that the next day he'd have to drive six hours round trip to return the loaner and retrieve our car. But miraculously, our car was ready early. Santa Cruz has always been good to us.

Santa Maria

Next up was a housesit in Santa Maria, a city of 100,000+ a bit inland from the Central Coast. We spent a day with Andrea, the homeowner, and enjoyed a meal together hearing about her interesting life. I was especially intrigued by the fact that she'd trekked the Camino twice in her sixties. The first time she did 500 miles, a month of walking. 

Simon, our roommate at Andrea's house

That night we curled up on her couch with wineglasses in hand and watched Martin Sheen walk the Camino in The Way, a movie new to Dave and me but one Andrea has seen many times. What a cool thing housesitting is, that a stranger invites us into the intimacy of her home and becomes an instant friend. 

I could have stayed in that area a month or longer, there was so much to do and see. One day we rented bikes in Avila and rode the Bob Jones Trail. 


Great Blue Heron at Avila Beach

On the Oso Flaco hike along the boardwalk, we saw fish jumping in the lake, and birds swooping around. From the dunes, we gazed out to the ocean. Also spectacular was driving through Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, impressive dunes that are protected nesting areas for plovers. We ended up at a vast, beautiful beach where humpback whales were frolicking in the distance.

with Laurie at Oso Flaco

It just so happened that Laurie was staying in an Airbnb for a month in nearby San Luis Obispo. Having recently sold her home, she had now joined our nomadic tribe--although she fell in love with the area and may end up planting roots there. We hiked together and went wine tasting. We also spent a day wandering around the sweet downtown of SLO and had lunch at super yummy Bliss Cafe.

with Jill at Leticia Winery

And we got to meet up with Jill, the cousin of Dave's beloved long-time friend Mark who died recently. As we communed in this lovely spot, his energy was with us.


Our last California stop was L.A., to spend two nights with my longtime friend Nancy and her husband Andy. We made the plan to get there while her art show, "Family Reunion," was up at bG Gallery in Santa Monica. 

the artist with one of her creations

I'd been talking to her for months and watching her progress on social media as she made sculptures and paintings--and as she sorted through family stories and photographs. The show's stunning centerpiece is "Roots," 256 individuals that illustrate the mind-blowing number of people required over only eight generations to make YOU.

Nancy with Roots

close-up of Roots

The other art pieces and paintings in the exhibition all resonate with ideas of family, ancestry and the biology of becoming. 

While Nancy and I were having lunch and gallery hopping, Andy and Dave were on a quest to buy Dave a new camera. With the stock of everything low due to the pandemic madness, they drove hours all over L.A. It's a long story...and was a long day...but they finally scored one. And that is the kind of thing friends do for each other.

That is what this time in California turned out to be mostly about: spending time with people we love. I'd thought being nomadic would mean seeing our friends and family less. 

But it has turned out that when we're in town, we're not under the illusion that we can meet next week for lunch. We grab the time now...because now is all we have.

Dave and me hiking, photo by Laurie


Malama said...

Loved every word Kate. I’m finally starting your book!

Linda Lappin said...

a much more elegant Nomadland. Love your posts!
Linda Lappin