Friday, September 25, 2015

West Coast Vacation: Santa Monica to Carmel

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

This morning we were up and out by 6:30am.  California Highway 1, aka The Pacific Coast Highway, was accessible a few blocks from our apartment, and that's where we went.  It was a gray and overcast morning - not very "scenic".  We moved with traffic north from Santa Monica and into Malibu.  We could see the ocean much of the time, but there wasn't much to see - gray water, gray sky.  It didn't matter though - we were up and moving.  It would get better. 

After Malibu, the scenery became more sparse - fewer people and developments, more open space.  The ground around us looked alternately like the surface of the moon, the landscape in Afghanistan (based on what we've seen in the news), or some other barren landscape. 

We made it to Oxnard and began to see a difference.  We were now in commercial agriculture territory.  We saw acres of fields neatly plowed into raised beds with taut plastic covers over them.  We saw row after row of plants on trellises under white covers.  After a few miles we figured out these were grapes.  We saw fields with many different kinds of produce being grown - tomatoes in one area.  Row after row of lime trees in another.  Long, multiple hooped covers with shrubbery - probably destined for back yards in the east and Midwest.  Everywhere we looked the ground seemed brown and dry - reflecting the drought that has affected California for several years.  Many of the farms had irrigation systems in place - long slender pipes running parallel to the beds, with an occasional upright leading to a spigot.  Many farms appeared to be using drip irrigation - a method that uses tubing with small holes that lay on the ground throughout the bed.  It drips water into the soil - a more efficient method than spraying water into the air.

We saw lots of equipment - tractors, trucks, pumps, generators - all the tools of modern, large-scale agriculture production.  But we also saw people - small groups in the fields, many wearing broad-brimmed hats, bent over, picking the produce that will end up on our grocery store shelves for our consumption.  We guessed that most of the people doing this work had brown skin.  We saw the rough houses they lived in along side the fields.  We saw them walking to the fields.  We knew they live a hard life and hope they find some sense of satisfaction and reward in what they do, for we are dependent on them for our food.

And we made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.  We naively thought that Highway 1 would be clearly signposted, but apparently it was not.  We stopped for coffee in the town of Moorpark and realized we were off course.  Cursing, we asked Siri for redirection and spent an hour or more on Highway 101 getting back on track.  We looked at our road atlas and decided to stay on 101 for a while to make up lost time.  It didn't seem to matter much, since the morning was so gray.

We passed Santa Barbara on the 101.  We had stayed there are few years ago and enjoyed the town.  Today, we couldn't tell it from any other place that an interstate highway bypasses.

After awhile we stopped at a rest area outside Govita.  When we got out of the car, we were surprised by how windy it was.  The terrain looked like much of what we had seen all morning - dry, brown, windswept.

Then the first amazing thing of the day happened - we drove through the tunnel, around a corner and BANG! - we went from gray, overcast skies to clear, blue skies with the sun shining!

Within a few miles we were in the Los Alamos area and saw acres of vineyards.

We stayed on Hwy 101 to San Luis Obispo, then reconnected with Hwy 1 to proceed up the coast.  The scenery got progressively better as we continued north.

We stopped often. see the sea lions lounging on the beach. look at the road ahead.

We began noting a change in vegetation - seeing the Cypress trees that are a prominent symbol of the central California coast.

The coast changed - becoming more rocky, and more colorful.

And when we looked back, we could see how the ribbon of road paralleled the ocean.

We stopped to appreciate the small details which were easily overlooked in the context of the grand landscapes we saw.  (We learned later that this flower is Anise.)

As we proceeded north, the landscape became rockier, sharper, more well defined.

And then, at the end of a long day of driving, we arrived at The Secret Garden.

More to come!


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