Monday, February 17, 2020

A New Decade Starts in California (Part 1 of 2)

I planned to stay with the Malicks during three of their time share weeks in California in January & February of 2020. I also had a stay through my time share group that I needed to use before the end of January. So I got a reservation at The Carlsbad Seapoint Resort for the week before joining up with Jim & Layne. I took a leisurely drive down Highway 101 with Carla and enjoyed the coastline and grape country of Northern California. My first night was in Eureka and I thoroughly enjoyed walking their fabulous Humbolt Bay trail to finish off my steps for the day. The next morning I strolled the city and was amazed at all the bright murals painted on various walls and also along part of the trail. I thought it should be named Eureka: City of Murals.

Headed south to Petaluma and failed to believe what I’d written down as the final turns to the Comfort Suites. Turns out that if you drive through Petaluma at 5 pm on a Friday night, the traffic is quite formidable...I never (obviously) would have guessed that. Being retired, the extra time in traffic wasn’t really a problem for me. However watching the people around me jockeying for position, texting, and ignoring traffic lights & signs indicated to me that; 1) these drivers were all highly stressed, 2) these drivers didn’t seem to care about damage to their cars, 3) these drivers seemed to think a car from Oregon gave them a clear right of way in any situation, and 4) these drivers brought my pulse rate up a little too high for my personal comfort. I finally found my motel & finished my steps for the day...but walking in the Petaluma area is not for the faint of heart. However, it does explain the abundance of brew pubs in the area. I took refuge in the HenHouse Brewery in the early evening and sipped their wonderful Oatmeal Porter. I also tasted their Legendary Milk Stout (on nitro)...too bad I still needed to find my way back to the motel through the traffic mine field and patchwork sidewalks or I’d have considered sampling more of the HenHouse inventory. I’d buy either the porter or stout in a heartbeat if I found them at a store on this trip or at home.

Next stop, Bakersfield. Hearing the name Bakersfield, brings a deep and knowing yawn from most people who pass through the city. The main attraction for me is that the place I stay is across the road from a Costco that has the best deal on Diamond Kosher Salt...which is what I prefer for my bread making and food prep. They also often carry the 1.75 L bottles of Hendricks gin, which is my preference for a martini (mandatory for retired people at 4 pm in California).

As I skirted L.A., I was reminded of how lucky I am to live where the air is exceptionally clean and the urgency of the traffic doesn’t make me just want to pull over, grab a bottle of Hendricks and pretend it’s 4 pm...without a glass, olives, or vermouth!

Arriving at the Carlsbad Seapointe Resort, I was relieved to find it well away from any city influences...and from my third floor, I could see a Costco and a train station for the Coaster which served as a commuter line between San Diego and Oceanside. The one bedroom unit was very nice with a terrific view of the ocean. Even had several, cute “folded animals” waiting for me. I talked to the concierge and he gave me some maps and directions for the area. When I told him I was interested in walking to Costco and various places in the area, he looked at my flip-flops and told me I shouldn’t even attempt walking for any distance without proper shoes. Wow, I thought Californians would be more aware that many people (like me) can actually walk fairly well (even all day) in flip-flops. I had to "eye-to-eye" assure him that I’d be OK and was actually capable of walking longer distances than most, averaging over 8.5 miles per day over the last 15 years.

Based on the concierge’s information, I knew the Coaster would take me down to San Diego where I hoped to visit Balboa Park and walk the bay’s Embarcadero promenade. Turned out I could walk to Costco in less than an hour and the Coaster train station was only 10 minutes away. The round trip fare to San Diego was only $6.50 (and of course there was an app for that!), so going to “the Big City” was really easy...figuring out how to install the Compass fare phone app was the most difficult.

I did spend a sunny, though cool day in San Diego, walked the promenade and went up to Balboa Park to have a delightful lunch of calamari at the Prado restaurant (and since I wasn’t driving...with a Karl Strauss Red Trolley draft beer). The triangular crisps pictured were very good, baked with garlic, sesame seed, poppy seed, and anise.

Wonderful Calamari dish presented at the Prado Restaurant
Walking the beach across the road from the Seapointe was a three-fold issue. First, crossing the highway was easy with crosswalk lights favoring pedestrians. Second, erosion along the coast has damaged and/or eliminated many of the access stairways down the cliffs to the beach. I had to enter a State run RV park and walk a hundred yards by massive trailers and motor homes to get to the one, still viable, beach access stairway. Finally, (three for you counters)...the beach was very rocky. Additionally, it was the season of king tides. This means that even low tides are relatively high. Sunsets and watching the waves at your back were full time jobs...and I took my job very seriously!

While I was staying at the resort, I was only able to actually walk this section of the beach for a few hours each day and with the low ratio of sand to just wasn’t my cup of tea. About a mile up the coast, the beach widened and became much more sandy. I walked up along the cliff trail toward Oceanside and found the beach much more to my liking. Also, about a mile south, the beach widened and sand content increased...another preferred walking area. Sunsets were beautiful, with artfully arranged clouds swirling around. I saw the green flash at sunset twice...and I wasn’t even drinking!

While in Oceanside, I found a gelato store (named gelatolove, but I thought was worth some capital letters!) that served fabulous (you guessed it) gelato! Oceanside had a typical California long pier with a restaurant at the end. Still, it was very nice to spend some time just wandering the old boards enjoying the sunshine. There was even a group on the pier doing a wedding picture shoot. I would have liked to come up here more often, but the round trip was an all day walk and I had other things I wanted to bake bread and visit San Diego.

The Oceanside pier was really pleasant walking, with surfers working the waves on either side. Carla tried her
hand (hoof?) at surfing, but being afraid of water and using an obviously not well thought out substitute for a
surfboard, left her high and dry...victim to ridicule by thoughtless humans on the beach thinking "when pigs fly".

I did bake a loaf of pot bread using both Bill (my sourdough starter) and Ryelee (my rye starter). It was an experiment and I was very pleased with the result. I did have to ask the front desk for hot pads to take the dutch oven out of the oven...I’m not sure if they’d ever had anyone actually using the oven in one of their units.

Definitely a walking vacation so far...exactly what I was hoping for! Carla even got to try sand surfing, although her concept of a surfboard was flawed. Incidentally, every morning I checked in with the concierge to tell him where I walked and different shortcuts I’d found. At the end of the week and almost 100 miles, he had finally stopped telling me where I couldn’t go without changing my flip-flops for a pair of “proper shoes”...but I suspect he’d just gotten tired of trying to convince me. (A note here: although I prefer the old school term “thongs” over flip-flops, I’m tired of the look of disdain and avoidance behavior I receive when I comment on wearing one pair of thongs every day for 8 months.)

The morning I left, this section of the highway was closed to traffic...Why, you ask? The Carlsbad Half Marathon of course. I decided it was a beautiful morning and it would be fun to walk the highway without all the cars & noise (or the stress of having to complete the marathon course). So that was my last walk in Carlsbad, California down the middle of a major coastal traffic route with nary a care in the world...yes, Mr. Concierge...while in my flip-flops!

My best memories of Carlsbad & Oceanside will be the sunsets and GelatoLove...surprised?