It’s Always Better

We’re establishing a tradition in the family where upon graduation from college we take our now grad-student on a road trip to the Pacific Coast Highway, California’s Highway 1, the greatest road in the world. You can see our last adventure for Katie here.

First stop, though, on this multi-purpose adventure was The International Culinary Center in Campbell, just outside of San Jose, Ashley’s next stop on her academic journey. She spent the morning there on Monday attending a class and getting a feel for the institute. After we found a camp in Half Moon Bay, Mindy and I made it back to the Center for a tour, including extraordinary tastes of student prepared cuisine, and an orientation to how this is going to work for Ashley. This is her element, her portal to a long and successful career in the culinary arts.

We left the Center and made for the City for a quick visit with my nephew. He’s been storing a box of family history, slides and 8mm film from my father that I’ll be digitizing over the summer. Thirty minutes later we were out of the City and back on the beach.

Half Moon Bay was a mainstay for me as a teenager. Most my weekends were spent here, Santa Cruz, and Pescadero.

We camped at HMB’s Kelly Road campground. Just beyond the Subaru in the background is the ocean. This trip stretched the Montero’s capacity, where we dubbed it the Full Monty. Along with the roof top tent and awning, it hauled our sixteen-foot ocean kayak on top, along with our full camp kit plus another tent for Ashley. Tehachapi was probably the biggest test for the Thule racks’ integrity, but we made it through without going pear-shaped.

At HMB just short of the PCH is a seafood shop. The only other car there was a late model Ferrari. After our experience there I deduced it must belong to the man behind the counter because by the time we were done shopping we could’ve sprung for dinner at Ruth’s Chris. But what we got for the getting were two fabulous salmon steaks, more crab legs than we could eat and an incredibly over-priced flat of strawberries. They were organic, though. Our camping neighbors would be happy campers indeed that evening once we shared our bounty. Got a cold Corona in return so I think we came out even.

The salmon was at my nephew’s suggestion, and he was right. Formidable. We had left overs for Salmon salad on sour dough the next day.

Dishes after dinner, the ordeal made easier with our kit. We slept cozy in the RTT.

Tuesday morning we had a mixed breakfast of oatmeal for the girls and cream of wheat for me along with JetBoil coffee, having remembered it this time. By noon we were on the PCH, southbound to Pescadero.

Pescadero was my favorite beach when I as in high school. My old Skylark made this pilgrimage to the then-secluded beach with a wonderful surf and a fresh water confluence from the Pescadero Creek.

California’s shoreline is becoming more densely populated with seals and sea lions. Past Santa Cruz south the beaches were amazingly packed with them.

We hoped to camp at a spot we’ve been passing by for years on our motorcycles, Kirk Creek Campground, between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and San Simeon. We got in late afternoon and snatched up one of three remaining spots. Ours was on the edge of Kirk Creek, a steep decent to a beautiful fresh water creek with moderate falls and incredible vegetation.

Once camp was set, we mounted the Kirk Creek trail.

The decent brought us into a narrow lush valley.

We couldn’t keep count of the varieties of wildflowers over growing the path.

The trail follows the creek’s path to the ocean.

This is a magical place, one where all our children need to go.

There were a number of cairns stacked by previous visitors. While Mindy and Ashley worked on their contribution, I stacked this one above.

This granite surface pooled a trickle of fresh water from above along with enough silt to bed this bloom.

A friendship rock with deep-running veins.

We had no worn out phrases of the day. The little hike left us quiet, making it back to camp to watch the sun set.

We had left-overs of salmon and chicken for lunch and chicken noodle soup for dinner. We left a cup full of strawberries out on the table that night, knowing full well what they’d attract.

Our camp became a raccoon-Disneyland; they climbed Ashley’s tent and slid down the other side, tried out our shower, played in the kayak, used the shower bag of water on the hood of the Full Monty as a waterbed, drunk on strawberries.

Wednesday morning was glorious enough to not be dulled by the mess of the partying raccoons. I enjoyed coffee from my trusty JetBoil (thanks again, Matt) while taking in the view from the RTT. It doesn’t get much better.

Okay, so I’m a poseur.

On the road we navigated the twistiest parts of the PCH, ambling through a number of one-way construction sites where some major improvement is underway.

After Ragged Point the PCH calms down and comes down to sea level where any can get up close and to personal with sea lions. We didn’t. Instead we made our way to our holy ground, the cove at San Simeon. We checked out the surf, relatively calm compared to what we had seen along the rest of the coast, and decided to make our way to the San Simeon camp ground, get a spot, unload and change, and drive back to the cove.

I put in here while Mindy and Ashley drove in to Cambria to shop.

If my universe had a center it would here right here. And I’m not sure why.

A lifetime previous upon leaving this cove I wrote this poem –

Dip into this liquid epidermis and

Navigate the passage of this ocean’s soul

When inside half I feel,

Outside again I’m whole.

Ashore gone blind has wont to see

At sea beyond liquid refraction.

Only to mine eyes is known my island’s

Gross infraction

Of not discovering thee ’till now.

Grateful to now ‘stead half I feel,

Outside with you on water whole.

I had a spectacular yard sale coming back in. I had a straight line to the beach, caught in the rhythm of the surf and just when I thought I was home a roller lifted my stern and punched the bow right into the sand, the wave then turning me and the kayak sideways and tossing me out. The boat made shore before I did. As I walked out of the surf there was a Japanese tourist smiling huge, taking pictures of this great white whale who got knocked off his big yellow kayak.

Not long after, the girls arrived back from Cambria. We lounged at the beach for awhile and I emptied what seemed a yard or two of sand out of the belly of the yellow beast.

I was wrong back at Kirk Creek, it gets better. This is better. It’s always better.

My bell still rung a bit from the yard sale, Mindy got behind the wheel and we waved our good-byes to the cove.

This would be the last night of camping for this trip. I laid out my gear to dry and spent most of the evening cleaning out the kayak while Mindy and Ashley made dinner of hot dogs, mac and cheese, and chili.

After dinner we made our way out to the beach from our camp and watched the sun leave its day behind.

We made a fire, did the s’more thing and talked. The day’s ocean trek was settling in on me, but it didn’t matter.

Thursday morning we made breakfast and I tore into the Montero’s suspension. I had installed H&R spacers to give it a wider track for off-roading, but with the oversized tires, I couldn’t dial in a balance at highway speeds. So, for the trip home I decided to remove the spacers smoothing out the ride for the next 561 miles, a third of our fifteen hundred-mile journey.

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