After leaving Death Valley, we headed north toward the Central Coast of California. We had to re-route ourselves as a result of the slides that have closed the section of Highway 1 south of Big Sur and north of Gorda. A new slide occurred just as we were leaving Death Valley, confirming the closure of the national forest campground at Kirk Creek, where we have camped the past two years, gloriously perched over the Pacific. Our return will have to wait for another year.
The disruption in our plans pales in the light of the chaos created by the winter storms and the road closures. Stretches of the precarious highway have been so severely damaged and bridges so compromised that CalTrans is not sure when this stretch will be safe enough to re-open. Closest to our hearts is the isolation of New Camaldoli Hermitage where the tiny community of monks have, over the years, disproportionately filled our hearts with their love and grace. Their ministry of hospitality, welcoming guests to silent retreats that heal and nurture the soul, has been completely shut down with the closure of the road, cutting off their main source of revenue. They are taking to online fundraising (gofundme.com) to raise a portion of the estimated $500,000 they will lose with the closure of Highway 1. Check it out if you find yourself so moved.
We have spent the past three weeks visiting friends up and down the Central Coast, parking T2 in driveways and along the curb in lovely neighborhoods from Fresno, to Windsor, to Palo Alto to Davis. During this time, we visited wineries, walked along the craggy and rainy coastline of the Pacific Ocean, ate in amazing restaurants, toured what may be the most beautiful gardens I think we have ever seen, celebrated my birthday, visited a Chinese temple, and attended a workshop in Pasadena recommended by a dear friend.
Our weeks were marked with bookends of repeat visits to two places we found last year. First we stayed at Anthony Chabot State Park which sits on the east bay, high in the hills that provide the backdrop for Oakland and Berkeley. The lush condition of the park provided testimony to the immense amount of rain that they have received here. Some sections remained closed due to super-wet conditions, but full hook-ups sites and some dry camping sites are available. The morning we left, we saw a bobcat cruising one of the hiking trails, an example of how these remarkable animals have adapted to our presence in their habitat. Be aware.
In the closing four days of our time in southern California, we returned to Tapo Canyon, a Ventura county park. This tiny park, with less than two-dozen campsites, it tucked up the canyon and removed from the hustle of I-210 and the greater Los Angeles area. It is a haven of quiet and peace and we relished our closing days in California.
And in between these serene bookends we had wonderful experiences exploring new parts of California. Some of the highlights include celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with wine tastings and fabulous soda bread sliders at Sbragia Family Vineyards just north of trendy Healdsburg, CA. On a completely gorgeous spring day, we enjoyed the amazing views with dear friends. On my birthday, we visited Bodega Bay, a place on my short list of places to check out and even in the cool and cloudy day, the majesty is revealed. We checked out a couple of the local campgrounds and state parks for future reference.
Peter’s love of trees brought us to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. The grove is about 850 acres and features the glorious 1,400 year old redwood, Colonel Armstrong, named for the lumberman who decided to preserve this portion of the park in the 1870s. Thank you, Colonel Armstrong.
We are blessed with amazing creative friends and for my birthday, my friend Carol introduced me to paper collage, an intense artistic expression that starts with creating and printing paper using a gel plate and it goes from there – tearing, printing with templates, mixing in printed photographic images – whatever I could imagine. I loved it and my birthday present to myself is now mounted on a masonite board and it holds a place in T2. You will have to visit us to see it.
The central coast is awash in wineries and we have friends who know the drill. Near Davis, we hung out on a glorious afternoon at the Old Sugar Mill, a boutique tasting room near Clarksburg, where we could sample the output of fourteen vineyards with award-winning wines and fun shops with memorabilia of things having to do with wine. A joyful day.
Peter’s love of gardens coincided with that of our friend from Palo Alto who introduced us to a place call Filoli, a Georgian-style home built between 1915 and 1917 for William Bowers Bourn II, owner of one of California’s richest gold mines and president of Spring Valley Water Company, supplying San Francisco’s water, and his wife, Agnes Moody Bourn.
The principal designer, San Francisco architect Willis Polk, used a free Georgian style that incorporated the tiled roofs characteristic of California. We toured the house but it was the 16-acre formal gardens that blew us away. As many pictures as I took, none does justice to even a portion of these fabulous gardens. If you ever have the opportunity to visit here, just 25 miles south of San Francisco, please don’t hesitate! This time of year, the tulips and the fruit trees were in full glory. Every Monday morning, docents refresh the bouquets in the main house selecting choice blooms from the riches of the garden.
We made a quick overnight stop in San Luis Obispo and met up with a fellow full-timer who we met last year in Florida. Our friend has been on the road for five years and now is hanging out in the central coast.
We met up at a place that he recommended and dined on Japanese food at a restaurant called Goshi . The food, as you can see here, was beautiful to look at and even more delicious to taste. We had a sample of sushi, tempura, teriyaki salmon, and sashimi. I had some sake that our friend ordered. It tasted like a fruity brandy and was just as potent.
We traveled lastly to Simi Valley in southern California and met up with friends at a day-long retreat at All Saints Church in Pasadena. The retreat was food for the soul (focus on Francis of Assisi and Thomas Merton led by Fr. Dan Horan) and seeing friends from my past spiritual studies in Chicago and Los Angeles was deeply satisfying. After a full day we wandered over to the Norton Simon Museum and as the sun went down, wandered the sculpture gardens where monumental pieces by Moore and Rodin captured our attention.
Inside, I got up close to Degas’ well known bronze the Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer. It was done about 1881 and features a young student of the Paris Opera Ballet dance school, a Belgian named Marie van Goethem. I always wondered about the tulle skirt that the dancer wears, and the satin bow that I have always seen tied to her hair. The docent told me that this tulle skirt is actually over 100 years old (based on the date of the casting) and the bow is replaced every few months by the museum, per the director’s instructions, to keep it looking fresh and current. Now I know.
We are now officially beginning our eastward bound trip, leaving California for Arizona and some familiar places and many new ones, as we wind our way toward the rising sun.
Peter and Liz head east now in their Airstream, chasing the sunrise and exploring new places as their pilgrimage to here continues.