LA/XC-3 DAYS FIFTEEN, SIXTEEN, SEVENTEEN, AND EIGHTEEN: PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, SANTA CRUZ, BERKELEY, SAN FRANCISCO, SANTA MONICA/L.A;, EL CENTRO
Day Fifteen mileage: 243.9
Day Sixteen mileage: 392.9
Day Seventeen mileage (in L.A.): 20.8
Day Eighteen mileage: 248.0
Total LA/XC-3 mileage: 4,612.4
Road music: The Highway; Tom Petty (Greatest Hits); Pistol Annies (Annie Up); Lady Antebellum (Need You Now); Blake Shelton (Based On True Story . . .); NFL Football
Weather leaving Cambria Thursday morning: 62 degrees and stupendous
Weather arriving El Centro Sunday night: 84 and fair
Four-day state tally: 1 (California)
Gas money to date: $1,028.57
Most intriguing town names: Freedom (along PCH); Plaster City (I-8 East in southwestern Cali); Buttonwillow (26 miles west of Bakersfield)
Most disconcerting sign spotted (just north of San Simeon on Highway 1): “Prescribed fire in progress” (Though I’m guessing this is better news than an unprescribed fire)
I woke up yesterday in Santa Monica homeless, car-less, and without a penny to my name. Actually, I had a home — the Hotel California — but I couldn’t stay there because Ricky, who’d had his first seizure of the trip, was disturbing the peace with his post-episode barking. (He’d gone almost 5 weeks seizure-free: good boy not have seizures like that!) I actually had a car, too, but it was underground next door in the Loews garage, so I couldn’t use it as a temporary refuge to calm Ricky down, as I sometimes do. And I really didn’t have a penny to my name: Ricky’s dog-sitter for Saturday wanted to be paid in cash, and I had to fork over every last dollar I had.
The fact is, after a super-fun Saturday — pre-gaming with Robby & friends, watching a USC win over Utah State on (another!)
gorgeous California day, cleaning out the bookstore (as if I didn’t have enough USC gear already), taking Robby’s crowd out for dinner at Fleming’s —I had hit kind of a rough patch. The car I’d just rented from Avis for my return trip had a balky rear hatch; my trusty, indispensable, mini-digital recorder unexpectedly ran out of digits, and I couldn’t get wi-fi in my hotel room and had a whole bunch of work I’d meant to get done. Things got so bad that on Sunday morning, I couldn’t even find the way from Robby’s room in the Teke house to the garage — and they’re in the same building. (Robby made me swear I’d include this.)
Seems on every one of my cross-country adventures, right around this point (excitement of west-bound leg complete; gallivanting around the West Coast finished), I run into a little slump, and it causes me to reel in my expectations. Last year I skipped Marfa Texas and New Orleans on the scale-down. This year, it looks like White Sands National Monument might get lopped off. Whenever I make a deletion like this on the itinerary, I simply tell myself I’ll do it next year. Works for me. (As in, next year I’m gonna do a better job of fitting in some Route 66 travel. Sure.)
Thursday was the poster child for the compulsive side of Beaglemania — a day I really bit off more than I could chew. It could have worked out well if I’d gotten an early start, but when has that ever happened? I left Cambria on the Pacific Coast Highway that morning after spending two-and-a-half hours on a long post and then inadvertently deleting the whole thing. So my actual departure was 3 hours later than my target, and somehow I still thought it would be a good idea to hit everything on my itinerary: Drive Highway 1 all the way up the coast to Santa Cruz; visit my friend Tupelo in Berkeley, and then stop by and see Kevin and Wendy, Matt’s old Trinity buddy and wife, in San Francisco. And I actually did all these things — even if my visit to Santa Cruz wasn’t much more than a token stop to take a few pix of the beach, the boardwalk, and the roller coaster. I like to think of this as determination, but if you wanted to call it obsessive, I wouldn’t argue.
A word about my Berkeley stop-over. In the spring of 2012, Carol and I both read Girlchild, a first novel by Tupelo Hassman which, for my money, is the greatest book in the history of the English language. Or at least pretty well up there. I wrote Tupelo (yes, her mom was a fan of “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison) an e-mail filled with gushing praise, we became
e-buddies, she guest-appeared (via Skype) in my Trinity writing class — and on Thursday I went to visit her and her adorable baby boy, Ford Aloysius. We were also going to go see her husband Bradford at his brand-new, just-opened beer hall and restaurant in Oakland — Hog’s Apothecary — but even I realized that would be overkill. I’ll do it next year Our literary soiree was capped off by Tupelo walking me out to the driveway with
Ford in her arms, locking herself out of her house, and then both of us attempting to use the Pathfinder as a step ladder to unlatch the gate and let her back in. Oh, and she also gave me a St. Christopher’s medal (patron saint of safe travels) and a St. Anthony’s medal (patron saint of beagles). That Berkeley stop — the visit and the key escapade — will clearly make the LA/XC-3 highlight film. Ricky had a great time there, too: He not only ate all of his own food, but Tupelo’s cat’s food as well. And, of course, he announced his pleasure by peeing on the hardwood floor.
After a Friday-morning brunch with fellow USC parent Lisa at Bamboo Canteen, a delicious Vietnamese spot where, try as I might, I couldn’t find any scrambled eggs on the menu (jk, Lisa!), I hit the interstate for L.A/Santa Monica Round 2, and another cardinal-and-gold day. Before the football
game and partying with Robby’s gang, there was a fairly momentous milestone: turning over the Pathfinder to Robby and anointing a black GMC Terrain as the new Official Rental Vehicle of LA/XC-3.
On Sunday morning I made a quick stop at the fraternity house so Robby and Ricky could get in their goodbye cuddles, and then started my drive east through southern California listening to the Jets beat the Bills. This time, reminiscent of Ozarkland, I had to pull into a “Trucks check your brakes before downhill grade” zone some 25 miles west of El Centro to be sure I wouldn’t lose the signal. 15-and-1, here we come!
RANDOM ROAD NOTES:
• Was so discombobulated by deletion of entire post before leaving Cambria that when I looked over at an empty
shotgun seat, I thought I’d left Ricky behind (he was down in the well under the dash)
• Sure hope there was a zoo in San Simeon, because I saw a bunch of zebra wandering alongside Highway 1 in that town . . .
• Here’s the dialogue I have with myself, over and over, and pretty loud, as I drive the sinewy, cliff-hugging stretch of the PCH near Big Sur, with its never-ending hairpin turns and switchbacks, and its jaw-dropping view down to the boulder-strewn Pacific: “Wow! I love this stuff! Holy —-!” I can only imagine how carsick Carol would be here . . .
• Can you believe people are riding bikes up these mountains!? Robby’s Pathfinder can barely make it . . .
Oh, and btw, I was able to resuscitate Lady Garmin, just in case you were worrying. It’s nice to hear her voice again. And now, have turned the ship around, and am heading east. Destinations: Marfa, TX on Tuesday, and Austin Wednesday . . .