Depart Tucson, 4 pm carne asada burritos for all, a full bag of gas and kids still on speaking terms-a good omen.
Arrive Pasadena, 12 am after scaring the bejesus out of the missus on the leg between Palm Springs and Pasadena. Seems that round about 10 pm, all the death-wish post adolescent males in SOCAL take to the freeways to push their tricked-out Honda Civics to the edge of the performance envelope. I'm doing 80 in the 75 zone...dozens of four-banger Dodge Neon guys doing 110 blast by me on the left and the right all the way from Indio to Altadena.
Depart Pasadena noon, headed for Santa Barbara. SB is called the California Rivera. Very pretty place right on the ocean. Crowded as Hell. Three things I don't do - crowds, caves and ocean-going vessels. Fought our way out on the wharf for lunch. Paid a hideously high price for a cold meal with bad service at Moby Dick. Should have caught the insinuation in the name. Got dicked on food, water, napkins, and overall service. Jose tried to hit us with a 20% gratuity. Mrs. CB fixed that one right quick. Should have guessed Moby Dick was a tourist trap, when the Maitre D' offered to sell me a Rolex while we waited for a table.
Depart Santa Barbara, 2pm, headed for Solvang. Decide to take the 154 as a shortcut. Find out it's only a shortcut for crows. Had to wind up and around the mountains in between rock slides. The route cuts through Reagan Ranch and Michael Jackson ranch country. I can see how they use(d) their ranches to get away from the glaring lights of the media...and in Jackson's case, law enforcement. CB kid #4, gets car sick. Had to roll all the windows down to keep her from throwing up her expensive Moby Dick lunch.
Arrive Solvang 3:30 pm, found a wine tasting room located right next to an ice cream parlor. Kids get waffle cones and sprinkles, mom and dad get Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Tasting guy was all dressed in black with a shock of perfectly groomed platinum hair goes instantly arrogant. The kind of wine culture snob who feels the need to correct every mispronunciation from the French. I don't care what "appellation" really means, and if I have cash for your juice and want to say, "Caber-nay Frank," the smart wine guy should just leave me to the bliss of my ignorance.
Depart Solvang 5 pm, en route San Luis Obispo. Loved SLO. Cute little college town tucked into the hills near Pismo Beach (remember that burg from the old Bugs Bunny cartoon?). Great pie at Woodstock Pizza. Also the best pint of pale ale I've ever had. Firestone, was the name. It's owned by descendants of the Firestone tire family. They also own a nice vineyard and winery in Santa Barbara County.
Depart SLO 9 am, en route to Monterey. You Midwesterners think you know farming country. You ought to see California's Central Coast. Romaine lettuce, strawberries and vineyards for over 100 straight miles. Around Salinas, some yahoo in a construction truck passes me and a small metal grate gets ejected out of the back. The projectile smashes my headlight cover and careens over the top of the car. Don't remember seeing one of those "how's my driving?" placards.
Mrs. CB and I honeymooned in Monterey over 17 years ago, and the place is far better now than it was back then. Then, we stayed in nice hotel that wass surrounded by a bunch of abandoned canneries. Now most of the canneries have been converted to shops and restaurants, or just torn down and replaced with new hotels, shops and restaurants. When we left Tucson on Saturday, it had been hotter than a skillet full of Hell for around two straight weeks. In Monterey, the temperature hovered around 65 degrees the whole afternoon we were there.
Took the kids to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Awesome aquarium experience -multiple, multi-storied tanks full of otters, sharks, eels, sunfish, tuna and sturgeon. We camped out fifteen minutes early for a spot to watch them feed the otters. Near the two minute mark of the countdown, the horde showed up. Nobody really minds letting little kids snag a seat up front for such an experience, but I think you gotta draw the line when grandma and grandpa try to elbow their way to the front. Mrs. CB, gave grandma a little forearm shiver to keep her at bay. I wonder what the otters thought of such behavior?
By the time we left the aquarium, it was around 6pm. We hadn't eaten since the skimpy continental breakfast at the hotel, so our next stop is for what CB kid #3 calls, "Linner." He can't stand the thought of losing out on a meal, so he bundles them when necessary. Every place along Cannery Row looks too much like Moby Dick, but we end up at a place that was giving out free cups of chowder. The chowder was awesome, and the meals under glass looked great so we took a chance on a place called "The Fish Hopper." Fantastic meal with a total view of the bay. Got to watch the seals and sea otters frolic around the rocks and kelp. Luckily we were protected from the smells of same critters while we ate. I got the crab stuffed shrimp and scallops over risotto, Mrs. CB ordered lightly seared tuna (damn near raw) over some kind of salad concoction. Yup, she's a California native.
Everybody had an awesome seafood dinner except CB kid #3. Ever the adventurous one, he ordered the cheese pizza off the kid's menu. The mini-pie was gone in seconds, so of course he was still hungry. He got all the remaining dinner rolls as a second course while the rest of us finished. You get what you pay for in this life, so one awesome meal at the Fish Hopper meant consecutive nights of pizza and In and Out Burger to get back on budget.
After dinner, mom grants CB kid #4 gets her wish to "put her feet in the ocean." This happens while I'm buying CB kid #2 a t-shirt. When I get over to the wharf, the little beach area is covered with kids picking up shells and stuff. Not my kids. No, my kids are now out on the rocks-as far out as possible, talking to the seals. The seals are unimpressed. I holler at them to come back, and CB kid #3 immediately falls into a briny and barnacle-encrusted crevasse. His shoes are soaking and he has a contused knee, so he tells me I'll have to carry him back to the car-it's around a mile-and-a-half walk. He sloshed, errrr walked.
Depart Monterey 8 pm. Trip back to SLO uneventful.
Next Episode-The Foxn Canyon wine trek, riffs on the movie Sideways, Reagan's Presidential Library, Malibu Beach and Pasadena's Gamble House.