Fri. Mar. 22, 2013:
Apparently my horrible nightmare, from which I sprang up in bed horrified, did not wake Brent seeing as the next morning he had no idea what I was talking about. Thankfully there was coffee in the lobby, but more importantly: they actually had milk!! For once I did not have to settle for whitener or fake creamers.
As we drove north I noticed that the trees had changed, they were no longer all palm trees, and they sort of looked like redwoods, but not as big, at least not big enough for the hawks, as I saw one sitting on a wire instead. We passed the cutest road sign I had ever seen, it showed a pig and a piglet crossing the road. Another sign informed us that we were passing over an old bridge from the 1930s, we drove over a few. It was really odd to see a sign that said Monterey was 25 feet above sea level, it seemed so incredibly low.
We got to Monterey early, and rather than waiting in line at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a million screaming school children, we opted for walking around Cannery Row. From the pier you could see (through a free telescope, a true rarity) sea lions basking on rocks near the shore, far off in the distance. There wasn’t much else to do, despite how tempting the wax museum dedicated to the book Cannery Row was. Apparently everyone else thought so too, because when we got to the aquarium there was a huge crowd of people waiting to get in.
We had half an hour before the penguin feeding (for once we were actually doing something from the aquarium schedule, another rarity). We watched a hilarious situation unfold before us in a giant exhibit. There was a hammerhead shark that would circle the tank and then cut through a school of fish, you could watch as the school reformed into a different shape to accommodate the shark. And he kept doing it over and over, almost like a dog herding sheep. And of course I got my fill of jellyfish, I could watch them all day- and I almost did were it not for the penguin feeding.
The penguins were adorable, they saw the crowd and knew that it was feeding time. A few of them even lined up by the door, they knew the drill. They don’t so much eat, as pig out, swallowing the fish whole. Eventually the feeding became unbearable when the school children started asking questions. We headed outside to the viewing deck in an attempt to get a break from them. We were wrong; you cannot escape school children, ever. There was a log book that said dolphins had been spotted the previous day. I looked out over the vast ocean while sneakily eating my Pop Tart. I saw no dolphins, no whales, and no sharks. Just blue: blue ocean, blue sky.
Back inside there was a sting ray trying to escape from his enclosure- except on the other side of the glass was a petting tank. He kept flopping up against the glass; I guess a petting tank is better than bratty school children? There were some baby seahorses and baby jellyfish on display as well, if you can call it that. They were impossible to see, a magnifying glass should have been provided. In one of the seahorse tanks there was a giant shrimp swimming in circles in the middle of the tank, he was followed along the bottom by a horseshoe crab. In another tank I was entranced by a crab eating a piece of kelp, it was so cute how he held it up to his mouth and nibbled it.
In the middle of the aquarium there was a tank that was supposed to be a kelp forest. At every window we would see different creatures, more interesting than the ones in the previous window- yet all in the same tank. It all culminated with a giant sea bass and a shark that looked like a sting ray. We ended our trip to the aquarium with the jellyfish exhibit. The jellyfish mentioned earlier were part of a general exhibit; this one was specific to them. I can never get enough of watching jellyfish floating about and this was no exception. It really made me want a pet jellyfish, they are just so cute but also calming, floating so peacefully with those fake bright coloured lights. There was one exhibit were you push a button and see what they really look like- I do not recommend pushing that button, it might ruin your day. But you can always just backtrack to the brighter of the tanks.
A couple hours in an aquarium can leave one rather hungry; thankfully we walked by a Pinkberry. However a few doors down we passed a Nestle Tollhouse Café, I could not resist going in. I must have looked like such a glutton, contemplating cookie choices while eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt. The choice was easy: you can never go wrong with white chocolate macadamia. It was one of the best I have ever had, the cookie had hints of cinnamon (I had been debating the snickerdoodle cookie, but I got my cinnamon fix anyways). Brent’s triple chocolate cookie had a hint of peanut butter in it. Walking back to the car we were accosted by a sneaky fundraiser. He threw me off guard when he said something about my smile, the Blue Jays and then he handed me a sticker. He was too friendly and I ended up listening to him talk about homeless women. The only reason I gave him money was to make him go away- it was so awkward and I was terribly uncomfortable.
I was so happy to be back in the car and away from that too-sneaky fundraiser. Besides we were now on our way to the Mission San Juan Bautista, the actual mission from Vertigo. The night after we went to the Santa Barbara Mission, I Googled it out of curiosity, and lo and behold: it was not that far away. A cop tried to pull a guy over on the highway, but the guy kept going, ignoring the sirens. The cop even had to call it in, but then we saw that the driver was motioning for them to both pull off the highway, not nearly as interesting as a get-away chase. I did see a shotgun house though, that was sort of interesting?
We got to the Mission right at high noon, when all the school children were on the lawn playing. There was a giant lawn between the stables and the Mission. As it turns out they are two separate properties. When we tried to enter the barn, so I could fake a flashback by the carriage, a park ranger came by and told us we had to pay a $5 admission fee if we wanted to enter. We cut across the grass over to the Mission instead. There was no bell tower, but the rest was real. Well the exterior anyways, I did not feel like paying admission to go inside, given I had already seen inside of one, and you could see most of this one anyways. Curiously there was no mention of the movie anywhere.
We stopped at a gas station before getting back on the Pacific Coast Highway. The bathroom there was the third worst one I had ever encountered. The first was the one in Massachusetts where the floor had been freshly bleached, and the second was in Shipshewana, Indiana that did not have door stalls, just shower curtains. As we drove we passed by many farms. One drew my attention; I had to stare at the animals for a bit to figure out what they were. They were goats it turned out. The beautiful scenery was interrupted by an out-of-place power plant. We also passed by Bonita Drive, which made me slightly giddy.
Given that we were driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, we stopped at the first McDonald’s we saw: we had no way of knowing if there would be food up the road and nothing is worse than being hangry (hungry and angry) on vacation. There was an insufferably annoying girl seated near us. She was telling a fake tale of a “boyfriend” and she kept flip-flopping, “yes he is real, no he is not” and at some point she explained why she brings a pillow to school. I ate as fast as I could just so we could get out of there. You may ask why I did not just eat in the car. It is because I wanted a sundae for the car ride and it would have melted before I got to it, or I would have to eat it first which is never fun. While at McDonald’s I found out that the quarter pounder comes with two slices of cheese to the one burger patty- and it goes great with a 10 piece chicken nuggets. I was ready for In N Out burger, for the 4×4.
We drove by a sign for Rockaway Beach, so at least the Ramones did not lie about that. As we drove further north, I saw an antenna atop a hill. It was a dead giveaway that San Francisco was up ahead. And just like that we were stuck in traffic, no more scenic highway, and just bumper to bumper cars. We drove through Golden Gate Park on our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We were paranoid that the GPS might try and take us on a faster route, but thankfully it complied with our wishes. The drive over the bridge was quick. Not so for the other side, they had fewer lanes and were just crawling across the bridge. Just over the bridge there was a sign saying Redwood High. That might seem like a boring sign, unless you have played Cruis’n USA where there is one race through a redwood forest (arguably the hardest track in the game). I was beyond myself with giddy joy. I had always wanted to see the redwood forests (it was even on my list of Life’s Goals).
The anticipation was growing as we drove over a mountain and down into a valley along narrow winding roads, the signs pointed to Muir Woods National Monument. It is a cleverly constructed park. You cannot really see the redwoods from the parking lot. You have to pay admission to get in, and then you can see them. It was well worth the fee, it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. You hear about these trees being enormous, but it is nothing until you see them for yourself, when you have to tilt your head all the way back- hurting your neck in the process. And even then you can’t always see the tops of the trees, just the sun breaking through the top. For some reason I had it in my head (not sure from where) that there is a tree that is hollowed out, with a tunnel so you could walk through it. There is no such thing, as far as I could tell anyways. So it turns out, there is such a thing, but it is in Yosemite National Park, the Wawona Tree.
Throughout the forest there were downed trees and burnt trees, which only showed how giant they were. Some were leaning precariously, threatening to topple over. As we walked back I remembered a sign showing the different types of wild life found in the forest, one of which was the banana slug. We had just listened to a podcast (Stuff to Blow Your Mind) about slugs on the drive up. I was now determined to see a banana slug and photograph it so I could email the podcast host. There were no banana slugs. In fact, we saw no wildlife whatsoever.
We stopped at a 7-Eleven for some snacks and soda to hold us over as we drove to Berkeley. As it turns out grapefruit is not all that bad when it is in Squirt soda, I guess it is drowned out by all the other citrus flavours. And coconut makes for a nice addition to Three Musketeers chocolate bar. We passed over a double-decker bridge over San Francisco Bay.
Given that our evening plans were cancelled, we walked over to Chez Panisse just to see it (as we had done in Chicago, when we walked by Charlie Trotters). We were not the only ones surveying the fire damage, there was a small group of people who appeared from all sides, almost like a pilgrimage to mourn. I was still sort of hungry, alas it was a Friday night so everywhere was packed full of people. I settled for a pepperoni slice from Papa John’s by the hotel. Settled is the wrong word, it was disgusting. They did not even heat it up and it was rubbery and half-cold and just outright gross. Hungry, tired and disappointed by a lack of Chez Panisse I could not sleep. Also there was a guy on the street outside yelling at passersby. I thought about digging the pizza slice out of the garbage and throwing it at him, or at the very least yelling back.