Archive for the '1. Malibu to Eureka' Category

Really Starting Out – Days 1 and 2

Allan & Muriel at the Los Olivos Inn Day-1

Dinner Day 1 Overlooking Monterey Bay

Dinner Day 1 Overlooking Monterey Bay

Wednesday August 6, 2008 (Muriel)

Allan and I finally got our luggage packed and crammed into my car, along with bags of AAA tour books, maps, a backlog of unread magazines and books, birding optics, walking sticks, hiking boots, computers, cell phones and assorted other electronics, driving away from our townhouse just before noon. It’s not easy to pack for a three-month trip!

Once we were on the road we had the chance to notice that it was a beautiful mid day, sunny with just enough ocean haze to soften the horizon over the ocean. We drove up the coast through Santa Barbara before turning inland and taking an alternate route past Lake Cachuma and on to a late lunch at the Los Olivos CafĂ© in the charming and – since the movie “Sideways” – famous town of Los Olivos.

After we had been served and each taken a sip from a glass of white wine and Allan had taken a bite or two of his Pacific chicken salad and I had taken the same from my favorite curried chicken salad, a photographer walked over and told us she was taking pictures for a wine and food magazine. I was sure she wanted us to move out of the way so she could get a better shot. We were comfortable and just settling in to enjoy lunch. In other words, we dreaded having to interrupt our delightful state. Much to our surprise, her request was to take our picture. We didn’t have to move out of the way. So perhaps one of these months our picture may be in a magazine for wine fanciers. In any case, there is a picture of the two of us on Allan’s camera that was taken by a professional photographer on Day 1 of the Kotin Big Trip. An auspicious beginning!

The rest of the drive to Monterey was uneventful. Outside temperatures reached 100 F. By the time we neared the coast, we were cooled by a low cloud layer to the 50’s.

The Lexus GPS was disappointing. Our Lady of the Dashboard tried to confuse us several times on the way by her voice’s poorly timed correct instructions and also not getting quite correct whether we were just following the road or turning. Fortunately the map pictured on the display was more accurate than what The Lady told us. We had asked the GPS to route us its short route. It had us travel farther north and loop back south as we neared the coast, following much of the strange way it routed me and a friend to Audubon California Conference at Asilomar last fall. Instead of our traveling through the scenic areas to the south, we drove along the edges of abandoned barracks and other buildings of the closed Fort Ord, the back of California State University at Monterey Bay built on part of the former fort, and semi-industrial areas of Seaside. It was rather interesting, but not a route we would have chosen. We decided that we would try not to rely excessively on Madam GPS.

We settled in at the Portola Plaza Hotel, next to the Monterey Conference Center where Allan will be teaching a class on real estate to members of IEDC (International Economic Development Council) tomorrow and Friday. We made dinner reservations, spruced up and got directions to the restaurant we picked, about a mile away from our hotel.

We discovered that the bellman must have given us directions for driving, not walking. The sidewalk disappeared. Then the shoulder disappeared. Fortunately the one lane, limited access road was wide enough to keep us out of traffic. Fairly soon we came to a sign saying no pedestrians allowed ahead, that pedestrians should take the path to the nature walk. Apparently we weren’t the first crazy pedestrians to walk to that point. We were delighted to take the path down to a walkway/bikeway along the bay. As we walked along we were serenaded by Western Gulls and sea mammals. Cormorants and Brown Pelicans rested on crags rising from the luminescent gray water, and sea otters scooted around on their backs.

As we neared Cannery Row we found the street that would take us to the Duck Club Restaurant. We were seated by a window. We watched Western Gulls below us, saw a large sea otter zoom past on its back, and identified the cormorants that flew by as Pelagic. Dinner was delicious. We didn’t want to walk back in the dark, even with possibly better directions and got a lift back to our hotel.

Thursday August 7 (Allan)

Even though this is a vacation, I taught most of the day. There is a national economic development organization known IEDC (International Economic Development Program) of which I have been a member for many years as well as former vice president and board member. They have a certificate training program that I help design many years ago and one of the required courses in real estate development as it applies to economic development. IEDC asked me to teach it this time in Monterey and since it was on our way I agreed. The class was too large and the room an acoustical challenge but the students, (all economic development professionals) seemed interested and engaged so the day was tiring but fun.

Muriel spent the day catching up on email and taking a short walking tour of the fisherman’s wharf part of Monterey where we had dinner with a fine floor show of gamboling and honking sea lions.

Day 3 – Teaching over—vacation starts in earnest

Friday August 8 (Muriel)

After a quiet day yesterday learning how to get my computer to talk to the internet from a hotel and exploring historic Monterey on foot while learning my way around here, I set off on foot for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Going the right way, it was a short easy walk past the historic district to the pedestrian / recreational path along the bay. Quickly I regretted that my binoculars were in the car but was grateful to be wearing a mid weight fleece jacket. After the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a marina or two, a beach and park, and the hotel whose restaurant we had so much trouble getting to on Wednesday evening, was Cannery Row and finally the Aquarium.

On this August Friday the aquarium was crowded but I still had good views of the wonderful exhibits. Lunch in the restaurant came with a bay view and usable binoculars on the table. Brant’s Cormorants rested on the rocks, swam, and dove. One pair played king of the rock, bill wrestling each other off the rock and into the drink. They were accompanied by mainly snoozing harbor seals. From some of the deck areas of the aquarium I watched Pigeon Guillemots and Pelagic Cormorants flying and making watery landings.

By the time I walked back to our hotel, Allan was back in our room, just finished with the two day class he was teaching here. He got less formally dressed while I got a bit more dressed up. Then we walked to a wonderful dinner at Fresh Cream, a California-French restaurant and back to our hotel.

Day 4 – Visiting Friends and Sloughs

Saturday August 9 (Muriel)

We had breakfast with an old friend, Jeff Finkle, the president of IEDC (International Economic Development Council), the organization for which Allan spent Thursday and Friday teaching a course on principles of real estate. After catching up with Jeff, we packed up our stuff, loaded up our car, and began the vacation stage of the Kotin Big Trip.

On this much sunnier day in Monterey than the rest of our stay there, we set off up the coast to Elkhorn Slough. Although we had visited the slough before, we took a docent led tour with two English couples on vacation and a family of three adults from India who live in the Bay Area. We saw a number of egrets and other expected birds, including a few sandpipers, probably recently returned from their nesting grounds in the far north. We learned much about the water and history of the slough. `

View of Elkhorn Slough

View of Elkhorn Slough

Leaving our tour around 3:00, we drove to our motel in Palo Alto. After freshening up, we walked to a Doctor Seuss for President rally at the Peabody Gallery a few blocks away. We weren’t quite certain what sort of event my Palo Alto cousins Gordon Lewin and his wife Hilary Rowen were sending us to. It was a fun opening of an exhibit of art by Theodore Geisel who wrote and drew the Doctor Seuss books. There was a competing campaign for Daffy Duck since the gallery also featuredthe work of Chuck Jones, the animator for that cartoon.

Platform of Daffy Duck for President

Platform of Daffy Duck for President

We were joined there by my cousins and their son David Lewin, a senior at American University in Washington, DC. David had just arrived in Palo Alto too, he on a summer vacation trip home. We moved on from the “political” event to dinner at the sidewalk tables of a restaurant a bit up the block.

It was a treat to catch up with Gordon, Hilary and David! It had been a few years since our last visit.

Day 5 – More Visiting Friends and Family

Sunday, August 10 (Allan)

Sunday was a day for visiting, catching up with family and friends with little time for nature or scenery. We slept in, almost to the point of missing the 10:30 deadline for the hotel’s complimentary breakfast which actually was more interesting than most with breakfast burritos. Then into the car, up the backbone of San Mateo County, through San Francisco and Golden Gate Park and the always exhilarating experience of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a sparkling clear day.

In Mill Valley, we visited two of my cousins, Maria Alex and her son Philip. Maria, who was very close to my mother, is approaching 80 with truly remarkable grace and elegance. Her son Philip, a psychotherapist like his father, remains a gentle and thoughtful soul who always makes me feel somewhat calmed and restored just by talking to him. We had lunch at a delightful Italian restaurant in Mill Valley to which we walked from Maria’s home near downtown Mill Valley. En route we encountered a storefront sign that is so quintessentially Marin County that I had to photograph it as shown below along with another photo capturing two elegant ladies, Maria and Muriel on the street.

Store Window Sign in Mill Valley in (Where Else?) Marin County

Store Window Sign in Mill Valley in (Where Else?) Marin County

Two Elegant Ladies Walking in Mill Valley

Two Elegant Ladies Walking in Mill Valley

From dinner we went to our hotel and checked in and, after some confusion about phone numbers, I connected with my old partner and colleague Terry Margerum. He and his charming wife Christina picked us up and took us to a wonderful nearby restaurant, Buckeye. Terry has recently resigned from the company he joined when we merged my old firm with a San Francisco firm in a merger which failed after two years. Terry, understandably, stayed with the SF merger partner rather than run a small satellite office for our LA-based company.

As two guys working on our own with no further institutional encumbrances, we much enjoyed revisiting past friends and enemies with both a perspective and a candor that comes only when you are not that focused on the future. With Christina and Muriel we also talked about many other topics, ranging from politics to travel to food and so on.

Day 6 – The Actual Touring Begins

Monday, August 11 (Muriel with some help from Allan)

In some ways, Monday was really the first day of the vacation that focused on seeing nature in new places which we hope will be the main theme—or at least one of the main themes—our trip. The trip from Mill Valley to Fort Bragg was started late both because we slept in again—this is, after all, a vacation.

Once we were on the road, our first stop was at a shopping mall in Corte Madera for a battery for my cell phone (ordered to be shipped to our friends in Pt. Townsend) and decent coffee. The coffee was from a Starbucks in a Barnes and Noble. We were still in territory that looks a lot like Southern California mall land.

Then we were really on the road. After a stretch on US 101, we headed for Highway 1 and Bodega Bay. After a good seafood lunch overlooking the water we headed up coast on Highway 1. The scenery was spectacular, similar to the same highway through Big Sur. The marine layer began to send tendrils, then masses of white clouds toward us. Eventually we were surrounded by grayness. We stopped at an overlook where we followed a trail to get close to the bluffs over the picturesque rocky shore.

Mendocino Shoreline---Beautiful even in partial fog

Mendocino Shoreline---Beautiful even in partial fog

After a bit of searching we found the Harbor Lite motel where our private deck overlooked the Noyo River and a fishing area below. The town was full of Mendo establishments. That’s “Mendo” as in Mendocino. Dinner at Mendo’s Bistro in Ft. Bragg was wonderful. It was on the second story balcony of what had been the Union Lumber Company’s department store for almost 100 years. The food and wine were excellent, local, and, typical to Mendocino, organic.

Day 7 – Fort Bragg to Eureka — Beautiful Gardens, Dramatic Shoreline

Tuesday August 12 (Muriel with a little help from Allan)

We spent the morning at the Mendocino County Botanical Gardens, a lovely place that impressed Allan as “Descanso Gardens North,” at least until we walked out onto a coastal plain overlooking the rugged coastline. Like Descanso, these gardens included some formal areas as well as extensive areas of naturalized trees, shrubs and plants. Of course, the plants were different: many more rhododendrons than camellias, for example. Interestingly, when we came across the Mediterranean garden, I immediately felt more comfortable – it may have helped that the gray cloud cover was starting to lift – and recognized many more of the plants. There was even an abundance of hummingbirds in the Mediterranean garden.

A few photos of the gardens are enclosed including a charming sign on a railing over one of the streams.

Two California Native Plants- Godetia and California Poppy
Two California Native Plants- Godetia and California Poppy
A Bird in the Botanical Garden Bush - White Crown Sparrow

A Bird in the Botanical Garden Bush - White Crown Sparrow

Another Amusing Sign - This time in the Botanical Garden

Another Amusing Sign - This time in the Botanical Garden

Muriel at the (interesting) gate

Muriel at the (interesting) gate

Shoreline View from the Botanical Gardens

Shoreline View from the Botanical Gardens

After our botanical morning we had a lovely lunch on the wharf in Fort Bragg looking out over the river in which we saw our first Surf Scoter of the trip. (For the non-birders who read this, that is not some version of a waterski but instead a cute black diving duck with a multi-colored bill.) We also got a good photo of our motel.

Our Hotel in Fort Bragg above the Wharf

Our Hotel in Fort Bragg above the Wharf

After a late lunch, we headed up the coast to Eureka, where we arrived very late and found many of the inns were full. We finally found a place to stay and Allan found a natural foods store where he could get us some takeout food for a light late dinner. Along with dining on chicken sushi (really), we watched the Olympics and I finalized (I hope) a letter about appropriate mitigation projects in the Sepulveda Basin for SFVAS president Jim Moore’s signature. This evening did not feel very much like vacation time – but a lingering task was finished.

One byproduct of our wanderings in search of a bed for the night was a chance to see some of the wonderful restored Victorian architecture of Eureka as shown below.

The Ingersoll Club Building in Eureka - It almost makes you want to be a member

The Ingersoll Club Building in Eureka - It almost makes you want to be a member