California

As we shuffled priorities and abilities in creating our bucket list, a trip to our own little homeland was in order for a number of reasons, that place nestled along the central coast of California, the former gateway to a media mogul’s monument to himself. I booked flights and a rental car, and four months into remission, we set off to the Golden State to begin our journey in San Francisco, wind our way down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to San Simeon, and then on to Los Angeles to visit our boys and fly out of LAX. All during the seemingly downhill-side of the pandemic. 

Born in Santa Rosa and spending my formative years in Livermore, the left coast has always been home to me. Its native iceplant ground cover and eucalyptus trees were constant surroundings saturating my olfactory memory with powerful links to instances and moments and years that wove in me a foundation that I call home. As a teenager I remember recognizing my luck being a Californian, from its ubiquitous classic cars to its mild seasons expressed in the foothill vineyards of the Livermore Valley. Weekend Summer trips to Pescadero, Santa Cruz, and Monterey before my senior year in my ‘67 Buick Skylark convertible locked Highway One into the top tier of my favorite places. It still reigns there even after traveling around this planet, and is and always will be my preferred route to San Simeon, no matter the extra hours packed on to the trip, especially during the Summer. And The City. Wow. The Golden Gate, too, holds the top spot on my list of favorite cities with stiff competition from Florence, Paris, and NYC. It’s more than an aesthetic evaluation, it’s memories with my dad in the Presidio, my prom date dinner at Hugo’s at the Hyatt, the best day ever with Berrett at the Palace of Fine Arts, and a thousand more. 

We had an early flight out of SLC to SFO, giving us the day in The City. I reserved a mid-size rental car, but at the Hertz counter I asked if there was something a little less boring available. Contract in hand, we were directed to a numbered parking stalls in the sea of rental inventory where our arrest-me red Chevrolet Camaro awaited.

The only thing better would’ve been the Skylark itself. It took us to old haunts around The Golden Gate and her Bridge, and lit us at Fog City for lunch, after which we picked up the PCH through Pacifica lined with Eucalyptus trees whose fragrance was carried on the midday fog. AC/DC’s Highway to Hell played on the FM station and I tempted the Camaro’s color through Pedro Point without any protest from my co-pilot. All was right with the world, a new moment seared into my gray matter, as California as it can get. 

To travelogue this trip seems to do it a disservice, its nature too sacrosanct to exploit, even for this memoir. I will say we made it to San Simeon, to her cove on the cusp of the Hearst Ranch, for one good look in determining where my ashes will go.

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