Feathered Aspen

California Coast

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We’ve been in California for a week, and while a week on the beach does not an expert make, I’ve stumbled across a few truisms about California and the coast thus far:

1)      There is a thick blanket of clouds that cover the shore.  As you drive inland, the clouds abruptly part into blue sky.

2)      I did not bring enough warm clothing.  No matter.  You know how adverse I am to making a trip to the Thrift Shop 😉

3)      This place is an agricultural paradise.  Even prime real estate along the coastline is taken up by fields of artichokes, strawberries, and squash, and the interior hills are lined with grape vines and fruit trees.  Every grocery stop is packed with local produce, and there are farmers markets and roadside fruit stands everywhere.  Artisan cheese, fresh baked breads, oak-aged wines, and sweet, sweet strawberries every day my friends.

4)      People must love camping here, because there is nary a campsite available on the weekend.  Sure, we left looking for reservations a week to two weeks out, but still.  There’s NOTHING.

5)      California could break the bank.

Campsite = $35/night

(Oh and baby, if you’d like a shower, that’ll be quarters, please.)

Cheap Motel = $120/night

Gallon of Gas = $4+

Gruyere and Pancetta Sammie from the Farmer’s Market = $10

All Day Parking in San Francisco = $20

Herb Encrusted Artichoke Bread = $6

A Trip to the Thrift Shop to Stock Up on Long Sleeves, Sweaters, and Hats for the Family = $40

Two Loads of Laundry + Dryer = $12

Bottle of Benziger Syrah = $37

Not to mention the Exploratorium, a tour and tasting at the Benziger vineyard, and Fish and Chips.  I mean.  It’s fun, but it’s giving my pocket book a mini heart-attack.  Perhaps this is why I prefer travelling in developing countries?

When I last wrote, I left off with our industrious first morning in Half Moon Bay.  Armed with freshly laundered outfits, we struck out for Bean Hollow Beach, about 10 miles south of our Motel.  I forgot to mention truism number six:  California is not dog-friendly.  Most parks and beaches do not allow dogs, so we had to pick and choose our outings with Oscar very much in mind.  Luckily, we haven’t had to forgo many experiences thus far, and it’s been very cool, so when we do have to leave him in the car or pop up, we’re not concerned about him overheating.

Anyway, Bean Hollow happened to be one of those rare beaches that allow dogs, and so to Bean Hollow we went.  From the parking lot, we walked through tide pools and headland down to a wide, sandy beach.  There was really no question of venturing even foot-deep into the water, given the overcast sky, stiff winds, and our many layers, but we very much enjoyed playing in the sand with Lily, striking a few yoga poses, and laying on our backs, listening to the surf.

After a bit, our tummies began to rumble, so we packed back into the car and drove into Pescadero, our new favorite foodie village.  Since we had already splurged on a sit-down dinner the night before, we decided to grab a picnic to eat on the beach for our actual anniversary.  From the Farmer’s Market, we grabbed sun sweet strawberries, eggs, and salad greens, and from the Archangeli Bakery, we bought the aforementioned Herb Encrusted Artichoke Bread, Local Salami, and a Peach Pie.  That’s right.  We do picnics with style.

Back on the beach, we buried our faces in warm bread, wine, salami, and pie.  Lily was in heaven.  Herb Encrusted Artichoke Bread is her FAVORITE.  Joshua was in heaven.  Peach Pie is his FAVORITE.  I was in heaven.  Picnics on the beach are my FAVORITE.

Four Years.

Actually, I’m always a bit dismissive of our anniversary count.  When people ask us how long we’ve been married, I feel like that number is only half the story.  Really, it’s less than half the story.  This February, we’ll have been together for ten years.  That’s more than a third of our lives.

And how lucky am I?  I have this wonderful man who can stay up and drive all night, build basement apartments from scratch, manage a budget, and look good while doing it.  I mean seriously.  Have you seen this man in a fedora?

  1. He has skills.  This fabulous life of ours would not be possible without them.  But did you know that of the 30 hours that we spent driving in the car on the way out here, we probably talked for 25 of them (and I probably slept the other five)?  He’s that person I can talk to forever and ages and on and on.  My best friend.  The person I would pick out of a line up to spend the next day and the rest of my days with.

So yes.  I’m quite thankful for those four years and those ten years, and I’m looking forward to 410 more.  I just need to find that long-life serum J

Oh gosh.  I’ve been writing for ages and I’m still on that first day.  Hurry up!

Next day.  Another run.  6 miles is our length d’jour.  Along the coast past pianos and cliffs, surf and sand.  (I kid you not; one man has made it his life’s work to maintain outdoor pianos along the coast.  Something about serenading the whales…)

Drive down to the beach.  Lay in the sand.  Count pebbles.  Sort rocks by color.

Artisan Cheese Shop.  Sundried Tomato Goat’s Cheese.  Surrounded by foreigners, slow food, goats, and cheese decorated in pansies.  SAMPLES.

On to the Phipps Country Store where there are a hundred different heirloom varieties of beans.  Scarlet Ladies, French Horticulture, Fava…  Out back, the place is a garden paradise, complete with parakeets and kittens.

We drive out to the Marsh Reserve and go for a walk.  That is, until I see an enormous snake.  What did I say about predators?  Right-O.  We make a hasty retreat.

That night, we walk down to the beach from the motel with our dinner.  We listen to a man play the piano out in the open, and then we walk back and fall asleep.

On Saturday Morning, we wake up, shower, and head for San Francisco.  First, we head down to the Farmer’s Market on the Pier, where we buy overpriced sandwiches and salivate over all of the local fare.

After the market, we walk down to the Exploratorium and take Lily through the exhibits.  We have a blast playing with all of the sensory toys and tools and mirrors, and when we’re done, we feel exhausted and just a bit overstimulated.

From there, we take the Lonely Planet walking tour of the city.  Up through Chinatown, over to City Lights Bookstore, up and up to Cott Tower, down and over to Lombardi Street.  We walk and walk.  We stop at an old, classic, Italian deli for a sandwich, and then we keep walking.

By the time we make it back to the parking garage, Oscar’s tail is dragging, my shoulders are screaming from carrying Lily, and we’re silent.  Zero energy to even talk.

I ask Joshua how far he thinks we’ve walked today, and he says, “maybe four?”

He’s a lunatic.  We walked no less than ten, if we walked a mile.

We drive back to Half Moon Bay for our last night in the motel.  We pick up some olives and crackers along the way to accompany our dinner of goats’ cheese and wine.  That night, we watch some TV, while Lily sleeps between us.

On Sunday morning, we go for a run along the coast, pack up, and hitch the camper to the car.  We stop for some groceries, and then we drive.

It’s 45 minutes to San Francisco, and then over the Golden Gate Bridge.  From there, it’s another hour and a half to the Sonoma Coast.  Lily and I take a nap while Joshua drives through the hills.

On the coast, it’s cold.  We set up camp and then we take a walk over the dunes to the beach.  We’re bundled in every last layer we have, but it’s still cold, so we walk back.

Earlier in the day, Joshua had bought Lily a beach ball, and back at the campsite, she stumbles about the place, chasing after the ball and shouting, “bah! Bah! Bah!”

Joshua makes a fire and we have dinner.  Lily sits in my lap and watches the flames, growing sleepy and relaxing into me.

That night, I’m worried that we won’t be warm enough, but bundled into full bed with all of the layers, we’re toasty warm.  In the distance, I can hear the fog horn blowing.

The next morning, we sleep in until 9:30, and then Joshua jostles us out of bed and on the road.  We head in past Petaluma into Sonoma.  First, we stop at Cornerstone, a collection of gardens by avant garde landscapers and gardeners.  It’s gorgeous.  There are manicured lawns and pools with lily pads and leaping frogs.  One installation is interactive, asking garden-goers to write wishes on sparkling tinsel and tie it up with others.  Together, they glitter in the breeze.

I wish for a baby.

A magic hat.

A new pokemon card every morning.

To run again. 

I wish for peace.


Another installation boasts ephemeral clusters of mesh, sitting atop thin, stainless steel pillars.  The bottoms of the clusters are strung with crystals, casting colored light over cacti and gravel.

From Cornerstone, we drive to Benziger Vineyard, a Biodynamic farm with gorgeous vines, insectaries, and barrels upon barrels of biodynamic, organic, and sustainable wine.  We take a tram tour of the vineyard, learning about the grapes and biodynamic growing along the way.  In the caves, we walk through barrels of oak-aged wine, and we finish in the bar, tasting five different wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, and Bordeaux.

It was SO much FUN J  Joshua and I actually do know a bit about wine thanks to my dad’s prompting and our own experimenting, and it was so fun to connect the dots between vine, grape, barrel, and bottle.  And for those of you who aren’t sure (I certainly had no idea), Biodynamic is a classification beyond Organic.  It’s a holistic approach to agriculture, and it caters to a pretty elite subset of consumers.

After the wine tasting, we drove down to the Sonoma Square, parked, and went for a run through the vineyards.  We even stumbled upon the Ravenswood Winery, one of our favorites J  It’s really crazy how many labels we recognized and how close they are to one another.

After our run, we walked around the Square and then got a snack from Whole Foods.  On our way back to the coast, we stopped at Goodwill and bought up as many long-sleeved and layering items as we could find.

Finally, we arrived back at the campsite just as the light began to fall.  We ate a dinner of fresh bread and soup, and then we fell asleep.

This morning, we’re off to a lazy start.  Lily has been spoiling herself with a good 30 minute long nurse in the mornings, stopping to give me kisses and toothy grins when time allows.  Joshua cooked up an egg and bacon breakfast, and Lily chased after her ball.

I nabbed an hour to write, and now I think we’ll go for a run.

Love, E

Author: Ellie

Wife, Mom, Adventurer...

One thought on “California Coast

  1. It all sounds fabulous!!!

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