Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Zen on the road of life

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. Robert Louis Stevenson
We landed in LA at noon. Were at the garage where the car was waiting for us by 1 and on the road by 2. Straight west to the coast. "You can't go any further," Georgio, the man who sold C.C. the car said. "You'll either have to turn left or right. Turn right." We drove through LA traffic, the lemon yellow 1978 Mercedes sedan humming along. Past malls and houses. Business parks and freeways overlapping each other. Everywhere we looked civilisation was laid out in concrete and stucco. Palm trees swayed. Bougainvillea filled the ditches, a riot of deep red and fuchsia.

And then we saw the ocean in front of us. Tumbling surf and glistening waters. Surfers and beach babes. Families and dogs frolicking in the sand.

We turned right. North. The road passed through beach towns of 90201 fame. Santa Monica. Malibu. Venice Beach. We kept travelling north, looking for a restaurant over looking the water that was off the beaten track. 'Ventura. Visit our pier.' We turned off the highway, got lost and then found at Brophy's on the pier. Boats bobbed in the marina. Seagulls and cranes bobbed on the water. Strutted along the pier. Sat like statues on the pylons. A seal poked his head up. Looked around. Dipped down into the water.

The restaurant was quiet. We ate swordfish and seafood salad and watched the world around us.

We kept going north, not sure where we'd stop. We'd see when we were tired. For the time being, just being able to see the water, smell it, taste it in the air was enough to keep us both intoxicated.

Santa Barbara. Santa Maria. The road turned inland. Vineyards marched up the hillsides into the horizon. I liked the name of the town, San Luis Obispo. "Let's stop here," I said. It was 8pm. Dark. We left the Pacific Coast Highway 101 (PCH), traipsed into the town. Busy. Streets were blocked off. People were milling about. There was a sense of festival in the air.

"Look. There!" I exclaimed. "That looks great. A B&B."

Established in 1902, The Garden Street Inn was that. Great. We got a room and headed out to the main street. "It's a suite," C.C. said. The only one on the main floor." No stairs. Antique furniture. White comforter. Giant jacuzzi tub. Not particularly practical with my foot in a cast, but lovely to think about for another time. "The next visit," C.C. said.

We asked the hotelier about the activity downtown, a block away. "Every Thursday night, all year round, except during Christmas break, there's a farmer's market downtown," he told us.

We set out to explore. Walking the streets, smelling the freshly popped popcorn, the Mexican tortillas, the produce. Fresh figs. Olive oils. Fruits and vegetables. Heavenly. Divine. Intoxicating.

We wandered about until 9 when the stalls started to close up and then found a Brew Pub. Local ale. Local folk. Local musicians performing. Heavenly. Divine. Intoxicating -- and it wasn't just the ale!

And so the trip began. Every moment a continuation of the last unfolding with ease and grace. Zen and the art of driving the PCH.

We drove north. Around every bend an exclamation point. An entire highway filled with WOW moments. Startling vistas of vineyards rolling mile after mile into the east that gave way to sand dunes and sparkling waters rolling endlessly into the west. Sunlight. Fresh salty air. Sea breezes.

A stop at a couple of vineyards in the San Luis Obispo area -- we didn't know central California had so many vineyards. Pleasant people. Delicious tastes. Food and wine and local lore all mixed up into a delightful ambrosia that filled our senses with the wonder of being alive, the joy of being together, the thrill of discovery.

It was hot inland. 102 degrees Fahrenheit. We ditched Hwy 101 and headed west, back out to the coast. The road dropped down amongst towering pines. Windy. Circuitous. We found Hwy 1 hugging the shoreline. The temperature dropped 40 degrees and fog wafted in and out.

We headed north. We drove and looked and chatted and sat comfortable with the silence. The old Merc hummed along, she's a fine old gal. Her radio was irregular. Her air conditioning non-existent -- but other than that, she was in top form. We nick-named her Betsy as we coaxed her to give it her all going up the hills. She's a diesel. 31 years old, and though she's been around, she wears her years well. Pristine condition. Only driven an average of 5,000 miles a year. One owner. We imagined him. An older gent. White hair. Mustache. Liked to take her out to the corner store and home again. Took the missus to church every Sunday morning and then out to lunch at the golf and country club. Nothing too harsh. Nothing too arduous for the old gal. Treated her well. She was his 'other woman'.

We kept driving north.

Lunch at Nepenthe. Egyptian for, 'Without Sorrow', Nepenthe is all giant beams and glass, over looking the ocean rolling in against the surf below. Blue birds flittered in the oaks. Sun glinted off the waters. A divine Heirloom Tomato salad with Boccocino and Basil vinaigrette for me. C.C. had the best burger he's ever had, he said.

Northward again.

Through rolling hills skirting the ocean. Inland for a bit. Back out to the coast. The tarmac like a ribbon unfurling before us, winding along the coast. Up and over, down and in and out.

We drove north.

Night found us in Sausalito. Another beautiful B&B -- a block up from the ocean. Dinner at Horizon, sitting out watching the harbour. SF across the bay glittering in the evening light. The lights of the Golden Gate Bridge twinkled in the night. And then, the fog rolled in. Slowly, inexorably, the bridge lights were extinguished. And then, SF disappeared. We sat and watched the world grow smaller beyond the bay and were in awe of the beauty of the mists caressing the waters off in the distance.

Rain in the morning. I won a bet and C.C. had to buy me a kite. We continued north.

To Jenner and the Russian River and a restaurant called River's End. An amazingly pleasant waitress told us all about the river and its history. She pointed out the sandbar created by the ocean's constant piling up of sand, the mouth of the river pushing up against it. She told us about the ocean's tendency to block the river off with sandbars every year. "It will open up sometimes twice a year. Sometimes fifty. You never know. Right now, it's opening up again," she said. "It's never boring. Every day is different." She's lived there all her life. Goes to college nearby. Studying Wine Management and Marketing. "I couldn't imagine living anywhere else," It was easy to see how.

And we drove north. The days rolled into one continuous flow of magic unfolding with every mile covered.

We spent the night in Eureka. I texted the girls -- 'Eureka. We've found Eureka!' Darkness descended. We found a hotel. More mainstream than the B&Bs of the nights before. But, it was worth it. A beautiful courtyard outside our room with a pond and water lillies and flowering plants.

We kept going north, the sun burning through the evening's mist. Redwood's towering above. The ocean rolling in at our left.

Port Orford. "Griff's on the Dock". We followed the sign off the highway. Down onto a dock. Boats in dry dock. Boats in the water. Machinery. Workers clamouring in and around the boats. Fisherman hauling in their loads. A shack. Ramshackle. A crooked sign over the door. 'Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Museum. Gallery.' The 'Breakfast' had been crossed-off with a streak of black paint.

We entered. The gallery part was first. Tacky souvenirs. Shell motifs. Wind chimes and door signs in the shapes of dories and lighthouses. Wine for sale. Beer. Trinkets and gadgets all with a sea motif. The museum was in the back. The size of a small bathroom it chronicled a confusing history of the area -- no theme. No start to end of time. Just an array of pictures and artifacts about the area. Down a stair, through a wooden archway, we found the restaurant. Ten tables. Windows facing the dock. Wooden table tops. Metal chairs. Ah, but the food didn't care how rustic or simple its surroundings. Whole Crab with melted butter. Cioppino -- to die for.

And we continued north.

We looked for a place to fly my kit on the beach. We found a spot. But getting down to it was tricky with my foot in a cast -- I had to cover the cast with a plastic bag as I did not relish getting sand in amidst my toes! Slowly we clamoured down. I sat on a log and watched C.C. run down the beach, the colourful tail of the kite streaming behind him. There was no wind. The sun was setting. Golden and rose and peach. Water shimmered. It didn't matter that the kite never got more than ten feet off the ground. The whole event was grand. We laughed and laughed. The surf roared. The evening air whispered against our cheeks. It was divine.

It was time to travel inland. More easterly as we had a date at the border on Monday. Another town. Another quaint hotel. Another amazing meal on a rooftop deck that I climbed four stories to reach only to discover -- there was an elevator. We laughed and laughed some more.

It was a wonderful trip. An amazing journey. And all of it is captured in our memory banks as neither of us remembered to take a camera! We didn't care. Perfection can never be captured on film. It's always there for us to cherish though as we recall the ease with which we rode together. C.C. at the wheel. Me on the passenger side, foot up on the dash. Map laid out on my lap.

It was the two of us alone on the highway immersed in the Zen of driving the PCH, immersed in the joy of being together with nothing more taxing than deciding when to turn off and take a break, when to eat, when to call it a night, when to start the new day.

And home again. Life unfolds and time marches on. Like the ocean. Ebb and flow. Constantly recreating the shoreline. Carrying in sand and flotsam. Carrying on.

Life. A wonderful flow of moments carrying in with them new and exciting adventures. Joy and laughter. Sometimes pain and sorrow. And always flowing onward.


S L M Moss said...

Welcome home. I'm so glad you had an enjoyable trip. Looking forward to catching up with you.

Hugs & Beans!

Anonymous said...


Great piece .. I can feel the salty wind in my hair (Ok, if I had any) . .


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time! How relaxing to just drift :)


Anonymous said...


I've republished this piece as 'Turn Right' on 360boom e-zine .. http://livingbetterlonger.net/featurearticlesbd09.html