A couple of weeks ago I took my Mom to central California to see her older sister Shirley, who lives in the Stockton area, and several relatives who live in and around that area. My cousin Marilyn, who lives in Oklahoma City with her family, set up the trip and made arrangements for us all to get together and visit in the Monterey area, and the timing was perfect as it was Aunt Shirley`s birthday as well. My Dad didn`t feel like going, so he stayed and kept Missy for me, since they are buddies too. Mom and I got up very early on Thursday morning, Sept 18th, and drove up to Lambert Airport in St Louis. We got through security fine and boarded our Southwest Airlines flight soon after for our five hour flight to Oakland.
My allergies were out of whack again that morning, so the zirtec I took shortly before boarding, enabled me to take a nice four hour nap on the flight…the only things I missed out on were the choice of peanuts or pretzels, and something to drink. I didn`t fall asleep til we were out over Colorado though, and looking out the window, I could see some beautiful fall color aspens way below in the valleys of the mountain ranges we were passing over at six hundred mph…sure was pretty down there…I thought of my buddy Ian as we flew over, too. We landed briefly at LAX in Los Angeles, long enough to let a few folks off and take a few more on…I wish I had my camera in my hands when we took off, cause the pilot took off out over the water and then turned the plane sharply right and presented us a neat view of the coastline and beaches, with bright blue waves below, before heading up the valley to Oakland. We landed there less than an hour later and after picking up our luggage, made our way to Enterprise to get our rental suv…all of the rental car companies are in a different building a few miles away and they provide shuttle busses to take you there from the airport…what they don`t tell you is that when the busses pull into the loading zone, they have to let several folks off that have returned their vehicles to the rental agency and are then on their way to the airport with their luggage to catch their flight…then you can get on the bus, but at least they do provide assistance with your luggage via the bus driver and a luggage handler as well. It`s just too bad that the rental car companies are not closer to the airport complex…once there though, Enterprise did whisk us through the process pretty quickly and our salesman helped us find a nice suv quickly as well. Even though they didn`t have a nice Chevy Colorado truck like mine, they did have a nice roomy Chevy Traverse Suv that was quite nice to drive as well.
We found out soon after leaving the rental complex, that it had good brakes and a loud horn….we found out that there are similar drivers out there, like here, that don`t pay attention to stoplights nor drivers in front of them. I`m a guy that likes to drive the posted speed limits, and I don`t like to sit any longer through a traffic light than I have to, especially after it turns green and the moron in front of me continues to sit there…that`s when we found out that the horn is quite loud and gets some attention. We found out about the brakes when we came up on the congestion on I-680 at the base of the foothills…about a quarter mile in front of us, another suv was prob following a pickup truck too closely and for whatever reason, did not notice the traffic slowdown…obviously not paying attention since all four lanes were slowing down at the same time and there were brake lights coming on all over the place up ahead. The suv driver struck the rear of the pick up in front of us and I hit the brakes hard and it never did lockup, nor slide, but there was a driver behind me and in the very inside lane who did come across three lanes behind me very close to my rear bumper and barely missed us…I had to watch him and keep an eye on the accident vehicles in front of me pretty much at the same time, but luckily we were able to avoid both and go on. The other thing we noticed was the extremely dry conditions…the fields, grasses, trees, were all very brown and droughty looking…one match or cigarette out the windows of a car would have been started a wildfire that would have raced up those foothills like a racecar…unstoppable without water.
Soon after, we arrived in Stockton and arrived at our hotel, Residence Inn, where we also stayed at when there in 2010 for a family reunion, and we no sooner checked in than we found Aunt Shirley and some family waiting there for us…they wanted to go on up and see the cemetery where Aunt Clara, their oldest sister was buried last year, as well as her husband Uncle Bob and Aunt Shirley`s husband, Uncle Neal, who all passed within the last year. I opted to stay at the hotel and take a nap, as we still had Aunt Shirley`s birthday party later that evening at a nearby restaurant. I was sound asleep within thirty seconds of my head touching the pillow, awake just long enough to thank God for a safe trip out there.
Mom returned about two hours later and we headed down to the restaurant a few blocks away for supper with our relatives that live out there, as well as Marilyn and her uncle Brian, her Dad`s brother. After a bit of visiting with everyone, we all sat down and ordered supper and then visited some more while waiting for the food to arrive. One of my cousins likes to go rock hunting and so we talked quite a bit…I hadn`t seen several of them for at least four years, so we had a good time catching up and good food as well. The next morning, Mom and I drove over to my cousin Karen`s house, just down the road from the hotel, where Marilyn and Brian were staying…Karen was cooking hot cakes, eggs, and bacon, smelled and looked really good, but Mom and I had a good breakfast at the hotel before checking out. After a ninety minute visit, Mom and I decided to head toward Monterey, mainly because we planned to drive down to Willow Creek Beach and do some beachcombing for jade there…as we were preparing to leave, Brian came running with his bag, wanting to go down there early with us…he was ready to get out of there. He was good company on the ride down there and we made pretty good time going across both the I-5 valley and San Benito Valley, where many of the vegetables and fruits are grown year round. I had observed alot of deer along the highways four years before, but we never saw one driving across there on this trip…we saw many migrant workers in the SB Valley picking crops…there were many fields of cabbage, lettuce, beans…those are just a few of what we noticed as we drove across there. We hit some congestion when we finally reached Highway 101, two lanes almost became a parking lot a few times across there. We finally reached the Monterey area and hit Highway 1, and started south toward Willow Creek Beach…hitting three lanes of congestion on the Carmel stretch and stopped off at a gas station to fuel up the Traverse before heading south…gas there was 3.85 a gallon…later in Monterey, we would find stations with gas forty cents a gallon cheaper. We started on down the coastline, finding some beautiful views here and there, and some fog that had rolled in from the water as well as pretty bridges and homes perched right above the rugged beaches….
…we finally made it down to Willow Creek Beach…we had considered going to Sand Dollar Beach as well, but there was a pretty big crowd in the parking lot when we passed by it, and the trail down to Jade Cove beach is just way too strenuous to get down to and then back up. I had been talking to a regular jade hunter named Irish, who frequents the beaches in search of jade by surface collections each day, and he had told me that the divers were having a bad year and the beachcombers were doing well this year, especially at Willow Creek and Sand Dollar beaches….the advantage of Willow Creek beach is that you can drive down and park very close to the beach itself. As we drove down the road to the beach, I looked for Irish`s truck, but didn`t see it. While there isn`t much sand at Willow Creek Beach, there are a lot of rocks, many of them green and black, and jade there is found in several different colors, including red, blue, green, black, brown, and pumpkin orange…
…it was a little cool down there for the middle of the afternoon, but nice and sunny as well, and we had about two hours to look around before we had to head back…I was impressed with the beautiful water and scenery there. About every other rock was green or black, and knowing both colors were potentially jade, it made our search a little more difficult, but we were mainly looking for a smooth or translucent green jade color and I was sure we would not find many if any at all. I was using my zoom lens looking to the north along the beach, as a couple of guys had walked past us and up along the beach in that direction and I noticed that some of the larger rocks up there also had green in them as well…
..it turned out they were looking for jade as well….as they walked up there, I spotted a beautiful young lady in a black bikini walking around the beach looking for jade up there as well….
….turns out the babe on the beach was Annie, girlfriend of Irish, found that out the next day….Brian and Mom and I spread out and began earnestly looking for something that resembled jade in the sea of boulders all over the beach…Brian started looking near the creek where it came under the bridge and down by the parking lot, before going underground under the sand and coming out in the boulder field before running into the ocean…. these photos should give you an idea of what we were looking at….this is a close up of some pebbles, one is brown mottled…
…and there was kelp laying all over the rocks, piled up in places….
Irish had said that the best place to look would be down by the waves coming in…we had arrived about 3 pm and that was low tide but you have to watch for the rogue waves coming in, no matter what time you are there….
…after a while, I looked over and saw Brian sitting down taking a break, and looking out into the blue sky hovering over the blue waters, taking in the beauty and serenity of the entire scene I am sure…..
…and here he is with my Mom a few minutes later along the beach…
…and then a few minutes later, Brian found a pretty good sized small boulder of what appeared to be jade or serpentine….
We drove back toward Monterey to find and check into our hotel, the Seabreeze Inn and Suites on Lighthouse Blvd in Pacific Grove…and stopped on the north side of the Bixby Bridge on the way back cause when I looked in the mirror, there was the bridge in a bright spot surrounded by the fog rolling back in and it looked like a postcard….
…we arrived at the Seaside just ahead of our relatives and checked in our suite as well……our suite is on the right, there in front of our silver Traverse….
…this place was a bit dated, but comfortable for the most part, at least as far as our suite went…some of my family members stayed in the cottages and there were some quirks in the cottages…I`ll explain later. One thing was for sure, they sure had a lot of neat flowering trees, bushes, and flowers all over the place…the funny thing is, no one could tell us what they were…I had a good rockhunting friend identify them for me, Peggy had lived out in California at one time and now lives on the east coast, she also chases tornadoes too…thanks Peggy….here is a small sampling of the flowers there…
…this flowering bush looked like a flowering Christmas tree to me at first….
…and this tree was across the street and everywhere through the area…had big fuzzy flowers that a jogger told me looked like a bottlebrush flower, and big pods on it as well….
…and my Mom in amongst the neat tree and flowers by the sign….
On Saturday morning, Brian and I decided to make the short drive around to see the Lone Cypress Tree along the coast on the south side of Monterey…we didn`t have to drive far, the seventeen mile drive started about two blocks west of our hotel, so we started down the roadway and came across a beautiful golf course within the dunes first…
…there were sand dunes, flowers, and tall grasses all around the beautiful greens there…
..and there were some really exotic looking pine trees over there as well as near the Lone Cypress Pine…they seem to grow very artistic looking….
…and right across the road, and way up on this high hill sat this beautiful home…bet they had a great view from up there…
by this time noon was fast approaching so we turned around and drove back to the hotel to pick up everyone and drive over to The Fishermans Wharf to meet up with John and Carolyn there for lunch. I had Mom and Maryilyn with me and we pulled into a short strip parking lot next to a Depot looking building called The Fisherman`s Market. where a beautifully restored antique produce truck was sitting, both the building and the truck complimented each other….
…at this point, we began to walk away from the Traverse toward to Wharf, when a young couple there advised us that we needed to pay for our parking spot, and directed us to a kiosk nearby, so walked over to it and paid for three hours parking. When I pulled into the strip lot, I had noticed a large sign saying public parking, however, as it turned out, there was no such thing as free parking anywhere near the Fisherman`s Wharf. I took the receipt that the kiosk provided and placed it on the dash of the Traverse and away we went across a much larger parking area to meet up with everyone else at the Wharf. As we approached the actual wharf, Mom asked me to take a photo of her with all the scenic boats in the background…
…and then proceeded to walk on down to the restaurant we were headed to, first passing through all of these little food joints and candy stores and souvenir shops to get there….
…and along the way, we could hear Sea Lions barking so we walked over to check them out and found some sleeping en masse and others making a comotion….
After the show was over…or I should say, after we had our fill of the show and the rumbling of our stomachs won out…we made our way to the red colored restaurant at the end of the pier, for a great lunch of seafood. There were several shops along the wharf on the way to that one, they all had various forms of seafood at various prices as well, but Aunt Shirley had been to the red colored one, called Rappa`s Harbor View, and wanted to return to it…I`m glad we did, because let me tell you, they not only had awesome food, they had great customer service there, they had very tasty home made bread there while you waited, and the wait wasn`t long either….here we are sitting inside with the harbor boats behind us….
Plus as it advertises in their name, they have a great view of the Monterey Harbor there.
If you left there with an empty stomach, something was very wrong with you, let me tell ya.
We walked back to our suv near the Monterey Market Building and discovered that we had been cited for parking for more than 24 minutes !! We had paid for three hours parking time, when we returned to the suv, we had only used up two hours of parking time, and whoever the officer was that wrote the ticket and placed it on our windshield under the wiper, all he had to do was look underneath that wiper and he would have seen the receipt for three hours of parking time paid for !! Needless to say, I was a little perturbed, and anyone that knows me well, knows how I can be when I get perturbed….it`s prob a good thing the parking enforcement officer was no longer around when we got back cause he would have gotten an earful from all of us and I prob would have challenged his abilities to see and comprehend as well…it would not have been pretty.
As it was, we read the citation and discovered it was a thirty five dollar fine, and after returning home, in researching it, found out that the City of Monterey has an appeal process. However, as with many popular travel locations, you are going to have to pay them one way or the other, either the fine or the fine plus an administrative cost of an additional ten dollars if you lose your appeal. My parents talked it over and decided to pay the fine and move on. Afterwards, I contacted the City Manager of Monterey by email and explained our side of things, from a traveler`s point of view…..how the City of Monterey had placed small signs indicating that certain spaces in that twenty space stretch of parking, had been designated for 24 minute parking only, for an art fair that was going on nearby. We didn`t figure that out til the next day when we returned to eat again at the same restaurant, only this time we parked in the main parking area, so as not to get hammered once again. As I told him, we stopped and photographed the parking signs, the big green one that I saw as we pulled in that said Public Parking, then the kiosk and our receipt, and photographed the small signs that were taped to barricades and placed in front of the designated parking spaces…that you could not see because when you pulled up they were directly in front of your vehicle…plus the printed signs attached to the barricades were so small that NO ONE could read them as they pulled into the spot, you literally had to get out of your vehicle and walk right up to the sign and bend over to get up close to read it !!!! the lettering was that TINY…Mom got out and took a photo from the street view and then had to get right up on the sign with her camera to shoot a photo of it to read it….I told the City Manager that we felt that was a SCAM by the City of Monterey…we paid the fine and I wasn`t sure if we would ever return to his city or not. I also told him that the hospitality of his citizens and businesses there, FAR outweighed the hospitality of the City of Monterey if that is what visitors to his city should expect when they come there to park.
Needless to say, I didn`t expect a reply to my email, as I figured the City of Monterey could prob care less about how visitors to their city felt about their experiences there, but I was proven wrong a few days later when I received a nice reply from the Director of Parking Enforcement, who apologized for our experience after explaining what had happened to us from the viewpoint of the City of Monterey, and stated they felt it was apparent that we had made a good effort to pay for parking there, our citation would be dismissed and they would refund the thirty five dollar fine to my Mom as well. The email was clearly marked that it had been received by the City Manager, the Assistant City Manager, and the Parking Director, as well as quite a few other people there, so my faith in parking justice was restored and I`m glad to learn that there are some cities that care about your stay with them.
After lunch on Saturday at the Wharf, we all returned to the hotel so that John and Caroline could check in for the night. Soon after, John, Caroline, Curtis, and I headed down to Willow Creek Beach to see if we could find some jade. On the way down there, we passed under this huge short tunnel, that was beautifully designed and built, to prevent rockslides from damaging the highway and possibly injuring or killing anyone in the process….
the stonework was phenomenal and beautiful as well as the architectural design work of it…I wish I had stopped inside to shoot it as well, but it`s a rare thing on that highway that you don`t have someone behind you at all times. Soon after, we arrived at the beach and I photographed Caroline, John and Curtis looking for jade….
…and while they were busy looking for jade in the boulders, I got to meet Annie, who is Irish`s girlfriend, who had been hunting on the beach to the north of us the day before….
…Hank was there again and introduced me to her, she told me that Irish was visiting with his Dad for his birthday and would return the next day, but as I told Annie, I might not make it back then. We talked a bit and then I went up and purchased a couple of wire wrapped pendants from Hank with jade, that he had found and wrapped himself. I purchased one with my cousin Marilyn in mind and the other for myself.
Soon after, we wrapped things up and loaded up our small boulders and headed back to the hotel…its a good ninety minute drive to Monterey from there, when you factor in the slow tourist moving traffic. Even though the speed limit there is 55, in most cases you are lucky if you can do 40 mph on the highway…today was no different, we got stuck behind half a dozen motorhomes and they go even slower…luckily you rarely see any truck traffic or it would have been even worse, as there are very few straight stretches where one can pass a long truck or convoy of motorhomes…we got lucky and found one just north of Big Sur and I was able to hammer it and get around all but one. Lucky for us, he pulled over soon after in a wide spot and let everyone around him.
We got back to the hotel about 6 pm and found everyone ready to go to supper, so we loaded everyone up and headed to town, having supper at the great breakfast spot we had found that morning in Monterey, Coco`s Bakery and Cafe, turns out they also have a super bakery there and the service and hospitality were great as well, very friendly staff too. We ate breakfast each morning while there, good food and reasonable prices, another place you didn`t leave hungry.
The next morning, John and Caroline headed back to Stockton early, and after breakfast at Coco`s once again, we all loaded up and headed out to do some driving and sight seeing once again, this time driving down to the Pacific Grove beaches…..
…and this time there were surfers all over the place in their wet suits. I found a good parking spot fast this time, and we walked down near the water`s edge to watch the surfers…..
…while the waves were not huge by any means, the surfers were doing their level best to ride them….
…and besides the surfers, there were rocks, waves, and birds all over the place….
Later in the day, I headed down to Dowd Creek Beach, to check it out…I had shot there back in 2010, but only at the north end of the beach and this time I checked out the south end of the beach….after parking on a nice wide stretch of Hwy 1, I walked down the trail and down this huge staircase to the beach….
…under the stairs are these blue flowers growing next to the rocks…
..I walked out on the beach and this was my view to the southwest…..
…this is the view to the northwest….
…the coastline along this stretch is very rugged, alot of huge rocks here and very few sandy beaches, this is one of the nicer ones amongst the rocks…the view to the south includes homes built right out on the edge of the coastline too….
…the rocks in the foreground above are named ” the three sisters ” and some of the other rocks in the area have names as well. Fall color in California along the beaches consists mainly in the vegetation, like this….
…I headed back, intending to stop off at Point Lobos State Reserve and photograph the craggy shoreline there as well with the cypress pines and secluded sandy beaches, but the line at the gate was very long and it prob would have taken me an hour just to get to the parking lot, so I just opted to head back to Monterey instead. On the way, there is a small pull off where you can see some of that coastline, however it was impossible due to the fog, but just south of the pull off is a view of a spectacular home built out of rock and perched on rock right on the shoreline, with a beautifully tiled roof and arches and walls around it….
…I then drove back and we all loaded up and headed back to the Fisherman`s Wharf for an early supper….once again at Rappa`s….
…and soon after, everyone checked out and left but Mom and I…our flight didn`t leave til Monday at noon, so we were able to get a good nights rest in, leisurely breakfast at Coco`s once again, and then drive up to Oakland International and return our suv before heading to the terminal to board our Southwest Airlines flight home. I believe we must have been getting around thirty miles to the gallon with that Traverse, it sure handled well too, seats eight comfortably, however we had the third bench seat down for extra cargo space. I stayed awake on the first part of the flight home, spotting some nice fall color in the Sierra`s as we flew over….
…I slept in the middle of the five hour flight, and then woke up as I felt the plane descend over Illinois….preparing to land at Midway in Chicago, where some passengers would get off and others would board to fly to St Louis….as we flew over Illinois, I spotted a neat wind farm….
…and this long container train in an unknown city as well….
…as it was…we had to change planes once we arrived at Midway…for some reason, SW Airlines announced they needed our plane for another reason, our crew had to leave as well and go mann the plane we were going to take the rest of the way to St Louis…there were only six of us left on the plane and we were given thirty minutes to walk over to the other terminal, and allowed to board before the others, so we were able to get even better seats this time. The only drawback was that we landed in St Louis about ninety minutes later than planned. We finally arrived back home close to midnight, all in all, a very good trip.