It is hard to fathom that we are home after our summer vacation. We left Austin with mild summer highs in the 90s, coming back to triple digits and brown lawns. Our trip from LA to Sonoma County was beautiful and filled with smiles and love. Susie had been dreaming about coming out to California for a couple of years. I am happy that her health has improved for such a journey. Over a two week period, we basically stayed with friends two to three nights as we drove north along the coastal highway.
Our first leg of the trip was visiting our dear friends Will, Katherine and their girls. We’ve known them for almost 15 years. Starting with our initial friendship, summers at Lair of the Bear, then with our move to Cambridge (as they lived in London). With Gabriel going to University in California, we’ve been able to see more of them. This trip was Pearl’s first visit to the LA area. The girls went to Disneyland, while I stole Susie away to Venice Beach. We also had the pleasure of meeting our nephew Bryce for lunch. Always a pleasure to see his smile and visit with dear friends.
San Luis Obispo (SLO)
We then drove up to see Gabriel and visit with our friends Wendy, Frank and their son Luke. Luke and Gabriel are similar ages and first met via the Unconventional Mothers of Austin (UMA) group that Susie and Wendy were members of. Don’t ask me what is so unconventional; I can’t answer such a question without my safety being at risk :-). Nevertheless, Gabriel attends Cal Poly in SLO, where Frank taught as a Mechanical Engineering professor.
We had a great time visiting with everyone. We brought brisket from Texas and a compressed birthday cake made by Susie’s mom. We celebrated Gabriel’s birthday a month late, and shared the festivities with an Italian guest of Frank and Wendy’s along with a German family who was popping in on their travel from the Bay Area to LA. It was a lovely evening to see and interact with Gabriel.
We also did a few trips around the area, including Oceano Dunes/ Pismo Beach, Morro Bay/ Rock and Montana de Oro State Park. One of the mornings, Wendy and Pearl went kayaking together and Pearl got to hang for an afternoon at Wendy’s shop, ephe-mer. We ended our time in SLO with an evening of laughter watching Rue’s Return at The Great American Melodrama. It was great fun and conclude with a collection of the theatre’s favorite Vaudeville sets.
Santa Cruz/ Monterrey Bay
Next stop on our travels was to see our friends Leslie and Shawn. They live a little outside of Santa Cruz among the great Redwoods. What a change from southern California. We saw an elephant seal colony about midway up, just north of Hearst Castle and stopped for a few Big Sur vistas. If we lived in California, I would certainly return here to do a bit of camping.
Pearl and their daughter hit it off. They are similar ages and share many of the same interests. I knew extracting Pearl for our next leg would be difficult. We let them hang and relax together as much as possible. I took everyone whale watching out of Moss Landing. Our trip was around three hours and we saw pods of whales very frequently. Within ten minutes of leaving the harbor, a mother and its calf were within 10 feet of the boat. We even saw a pod with eight whales. It was a bit choppy, so there were people on board that felt a bit green. No one lost their cookies and none of us had trouble with rough seas. In addition to seeing humpback whales, we saw lots of seals, tons of different kinds of birds, a few otters and a Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish). We finished the day with a late lunch/ early dinner at The Whole Enchilada.
Before making our way north to Sonoma County, we met up with Susie’s brother Doug. He and his wife, Laura, happened to be in Santa Cruz. She was working, so we had Doug to ourselves. We met him in Felton to enjoy the narrow gauge train through the Redwoods at Roaring Camp & Big Trees. It was great fun, as we sat in the shaded caboose where we could catchup away from the engine and enjoy the ancient trees.
Our final destination of our vacation was returning to Sonoma County. Susie went to Sonoma State and worked for many years in the food and wine business there. She has many dear friends in the area. We stayed with two of them, Carrie and Danielle. Our first stay was with Carrie in Petaluma. I had never been to Petaluma, but had heard its name many times (specifically related to cows :-). The downtown area is very cute and Carrie’s home is walking distance to everything, including the local creamery, markets and restaurants. We had a great time hanging out with Carrie and her boyfriend. We took a short trip to see her parents, who live half an hour away in Marin. I got to enjoy a book that her folks lent to me, called Louis G. Redstone: From Israeli Pioneer to American Architect. I even brought it to Danielle’s home, so I could finish it there. We ended our time in Petaluma with a nice dinner from a local Indian restaurant, called Shree. It was delicious. Doug, Laura and Lena (their daughter/ our niece) joined us for dinner. It was a lovely time and their was a ton of love in Carrie’s home sharing popadoms, samosas, curries, rice and naan.
We spent our final weekend at Danielle’s home just outside of Occidental. It is a cute place surrounded by Redwood trees. Carrie joined us the first night. It was great watching these old friends yack it up. On our second day, Danielle took Pearl and I on a nearby hike with her two dogs (Bunny and Guappo). We ended the day with Pearl and Danielle making a delicious bolognese. It was so wonderful to sit under the trees and read. Our time at Danielle’s was way too short.
As we headed to the San Francisco Airport, we stopped in Alameda to visit more friends, Michael and JJ. They have a cute place on the water, a hidden gem among all the cross road chaos. We made our flight with time to spare, and even picked up a few loafs of sourdough bread to enjoy back in Austin. The flight home was smooth and Susie had a big grin on her face. She was very happy that we made this vacation.
This vacation was what we had imagined when we sent Gabriel off to university. We had to postpone it, as Susie was fighting a Glioblastoma Multiforme and its treatment recovery. Nevertheless, we were determined to make it happen. Considering how things were in 2014, a one year delay is quite good.
Now onto planning Susie’s next dream, Hawaii.