And on to the Big Rigs

Surf\'s up in Santa CruzContinued from Redwoods, Big Rigs and Glowing Grapes

Okay, back to that surprise. Turns out, Bruno lives in someone else’s backyard… in a shed turned tiny, cabin-styled home thingamagig. He has a toilet outhouse jimararig near his “room.” The room has electricity. He gets access to the bathroom and shower inside the house whenever needed. Whoa! People do that here? Awesome! I found my way to live dirt cheap in Cali and with no rent contracts!! Yay!! Also turns out, it’s quite a common thing. I guess rent is so high in Cali that people do what they can to generate a little extra rent money. Perfect for a roving adventurer like me! I can have a small base of sorts to keep stuff. But, nothing extravagant or costly. And all just blocks away from the beach! Perfect! I’m heading abroad again very shortly, but, you can put money on it that’ll I’ll be operating out of one of those when I’m back stateside again for my spring/summer “blogging” season here in the U.S. Seaside yoga in Santa CruzI’m quite excited about that prospect actually.

Bruno treated us to a scrumptious breakfast in downtown Santa Cruz the next morning. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was delicious! Bruno then took Dustin and I on a tour around Santa Cruz, showing us all the different beaches and surfing hot spots. Bikers and runners were everywhere. Surfers were scattered among the waves like pods of dolphins. A young woman was out on a small outcropping, moving gracefully through her lone yoga routine, the expanse of God’s beautiful sea in front of her. As for us three, we just slowed down and took it all in.

Visiting places like this always begs the question, why don’t we do what we do here??? Well, I’m everywhere. But, I really think my family would LOVE to live in an area like this. Why they don’t is beyond me.

Taking it all in...It was mid-afternoon before Dustin and I set off down the PCH again. Bruno wanted me to stay, and, as tempted as I was, I didn’t want to mess up travel plans, so I forged on with Dustin.

Dustin and I made it to Monterey Bay in time for dinner on the pier. Think sinfully fresh fish with a great view of the bay. No need to elaborate much and how much we enjoyed that dinner. After wandering about along the pier for a bit, Dustin and I decided the scenic, 17-mile drive around the peninsula sounded like a great idea. We weren’t disappointed. And, just like on the PCH, we didn’t get far at all before we found ourselves outside the car, scrambling around on rocks, mesmerized by both the violent crashes of spraying waves and the swooping pelicans diving amidst a sunset orange tide. Bliss, bliss, bliss!!

Monterey BayWe reached Carmel, a small ritzy town at the south end of the Monterey Peninsula, by dusk. Our playtime on the beach meant we had only made about an hour outside of Santa Cruz. It was all well and good though, because after Carmel was the Big Sur region, the part of the Pacific coast that was on fire. From Carmel on out we would be driving back down to L.A. on a highway more inland and less scenic. Dustin and I entertained ideas of camping on the chilly beach and sleeping in the car before we ultimately decided to head back to Santa Cruz and crash with Bruno. Heck, it was only an hour away.

The next morning plans changed. Bruno managed to charm me into staying with him in Santa Cruz for a bit longer. Dustin headed out back to L.A. on his own. My plan was to simply jump on a train back to L.A. in time for my flight a few days out. Bruno’s plan was to treat me like a queen for my short stay. And treat me like a queen he did. Capturing God\'s coastal masterpiecesBruno is sous chef at Soif, a fine wine bar with quite the fine dining I might add in Santa Cruz. Bruno was working that evening, so I planted myself at a local coffee shop to catch up on working any my own blog (think the recent Chi-town post) before heading over to Soif for dinner. Bruno served me Yukon Gold potato gnocchi with Bloomsdale spinach and maitake mushrooms and fried squash blossom stuffed with Durgeness crab paired with watercress salad in a creamy mustard sauce. Bruno made both dishes himself. Oh… my… gosh. My mouth still waters with desire when think of those entrees. Both just melted in my mouth. I’ve been all over Italy and I have to say, Bruno’s gnocchi is the BEST I’ve ever tasted. HMMMmmmm… The wine I tried was excellent as well: the 2006 Martin Alfaro Chardonnay with the first dish and the 2006 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Gris with the second. Wow.

Dustin and Bruno in Santa CruzThe next day I literally slept all day. I was desperate for some r&r after so much travel. Bruno spent the day running errands and visiting his son in San Jose, a half hour north of Santa Cruz. That evening, I finally emerged from my slumber, but my relaxing r&r wasn’t over. Bruno had made a reservation at the Tea House Spa. We enjoyed a private hot tub in a private room with sliding tea house doors that opened up to wonderful nightscape of softly lit bamboo and ferns. The whole tranquil, spa experience managed to transport me right back to SE Asia for the night! Yes, I did feel like quite the queen.

On my final full day with Bruno, I rode with him up to San Jose. Bruno drives up to San Jose to visit his son everyday during lunch, feeding him at the daycare and coaxing him to sleep for his afternoon nap. While Bruno was with his son, I explored San Jose and found another coffee shop to hang out in and get more much needed work done. That evening was simply more chilling and relaxing.

Sea at Santa CruzThe next day, though, got quite a bit more exciting. My flight was scheduled to depart from L.A. at 8:30 that evening. I was in Santa Cruz, about a four and a half, five hour drive away. So, in what I believed to be all logic, I assumed that if I caught an Amtrack train around 9 or 10 in the morning that I would arrive in L.A. in plenty of time for my flight that evening. Problem was, I assumed and didn’t check until the day of. That morning when I logged online and looked up the schedule for Amtrack I discovered that America truly isn’t Europe (Ha! Imagine that…) and a five hour drive turns into a 12 hour Amtrack/Greyhound bus ride combo. Trains nor buses would be able to get me to L.A. in time for my flight. Bruno, unfortunately, had to work and even less fortunately woke up sick and feverish (in fact, he went into work later only to leave within an hour because he was so sick. Poor thing.) What’s a girl to do? Hitchhike! Silver Sea at Monterey BayI reasoned I should be able to get an early start and hitchhike about 350 miles down to L.A… without a hitch. Hehe. Yeah, right.

It took no time at all for my to catch my first ride in my first-ever hitchhiking experience. But, the ride could only take me about 15 miles down the highway. Unfortunately, my first five rides were all short and sweet. And I do really mean sweet. All my rides were men (Heh. Go figure.), but all were quite the gentlemen. I did have my Muay Thai tricks up my sleeve, but not once did even for a second entertain the idea that I would need to use them. I had prayed about the whole thing and was quite calm. And, I was making progress, but very slow progress. ‘I need to catch a ride with a big rig in it for the long haul!‘ I kept thinking. In my longest wait, about 15 minutes (which seems longer when you’re standing on the side of the highway in the middle of the California desert mind you) Soaring above a sunset tide at Monterey BayI did have to fend off a mischievous, not-what-you-would-call-friendly, stray dog before a big rig finally stopped! Yay!

The good news: David was going through L.A. The not so good news that I found out just a little ways in: I had managed to snag the slowest 18-wheeler out on the road. The truck was maxed out in legal weight. This means every little hill was a 20 mph struggle. At that point, I needed a 65 mph average to make it on time to my flight. And, at that point, it just wasn’t going to happen. A $300 phone call later, I had a different flight scheduled to leave around 6:30 the next morning. It was imperative that I made that flight though, because I was flying back to Chicago and needed to arrive in time to catch my flight out of Chicago. That flight was part of an entirely different reservation with an entirely different airline.

Waves crashing at Monterey BayWith more time on our hands, David wanted to stop and treat me to dinner. We managed to pull off and find a nice restaurant with a stunning, cliff side view of the foggy Pacific. Not only did the Mexican driver treat me to salmon, but he also remembered that I had mentioned it in passing that my 23rd birthday was just a few days away. David discreetly made a free desert appear complete with the wait staff birthday wish. Quite the sweet gesture.

After dinner, David and I rumbled on into the night, our sights set on L.A. It seems our sights were set too far for the load that David was carrying. I kid you not, the big rig broke down in the middle of the night, in the middle of Cali nowhere. It took two hours for the big rig tow truck to find us. David took that opportunity to lecture me on love and profess that it was destiny for us to meet. Oh boy. Before you get your panties in a bunch, David was the perfect gentlemen. Not once did he try anything inappropriate. He was just simply convinced I was sent to him by fate.

Seaspray at Monterey BayThe big rig tow truck finally showed up and we hit the road again. This time in the cab of a HUGE tow truck. I couldn’t fathom it really. How in the heck was one truck pulling an 18-wheeler with a maxed out load?! I was baffled. I was also simply surrendering. Of course, the tow truck wasn’t any faster than the big rig. And… I was going to miss flight number two (which ultimately meant I would miss flight number three.) But wait, we arrived in the outskirts of Ventura County in enough time that I just might make it to LAX in time for my flight. Oh. Oh no. False alarm. The taxi got lost. Uh huh. The taxi go lost on the way to the, gasp, airport. That was a worthless $150 ride thank-you-very-much. So, flight number 2 gone. At the desk though, the flight staff just secured a seat for me on the next flight. Moving mirrors at Monterey BayNo additional charges. Oooookaaaay. Lesson learned! NEVER change a flight you’re going to miss by phone. You’ll get slapped with a $150 change fee and a difference in flight cost (which will always be a ridiculous scam if it’s last minute). If you just show up to the desk late though, odds are, you’ll get on a later flight at no additional cost. It seems this trick doesn’t work after midnight of the day you were scheduled to fly though. So, I would have been screwed on the prior $300 change by phone fee anyway.

Finally, on my way with not one, but two connections. I would miss my flight out of Chicago, no question. An attendant in Phoenix though promised me not to worry. The airline I was flying with out of Chicago had a later flight with plenty of room, so I was sure to get a stand by seat. Yay!

Not so fast. I arrive in Chicago to find out that there were just too many seats open on that flight… it was canceled. It was also the last flight out for the day. You’re kidding. While I would have gotten on that flight at no additional cost, flying out the next day would cost me another $160. After dropping $450 like it was nothing on one flight change and a crappy taxi ride already I desperately wanted to minimize what else I had to fork over. Soooo, I opted for a $60 Megabus ride that left Chicago that night and arrived in Kansas City the next morning. Twelve hours later… I finally arrived.

Gulls at Monterey BayAnd that, my friends, was my ‘California Dreamin’ adventure…

On a side note: I forgot to mention that on the flight to California, the airline overbooked. Dustin and I were moved from a connecting flight to a direct flight that arrived even earlier. We were also given free travel vouchers for a roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States. So… at the end of the day… it just all evened out… uh, sort of… ; )

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