Come the beginning of October we’d reached a disheartening anniversary. A year had passed since Cora and I had taken a trip to anywhere besides Home Depot, the grocery store and a couple of al fresco lunches. October 2019, we spent a few days in Reno, Nevada. Reno isn’t exactly the flower in the garden. There are some, many in fact, who might argue that it’s the thorn of the rose. Over the years it’s been our short getaway place. I go to lose money at the blackjack tables and Cora feeds slot machines. Cora relaxes in our room or by the pool and I find a losing team to bet on at the sports book and then, well, I watch my team lose on a gigantic screen. And then there’s eating, far too much eating. For the foreseeable future the casinos and casino buffets are off the itinerary.
Over the summer we’ve lamented what we’ve had to forego. In July we were supposed to have done a swing through the midwest, visiting major league baseball stadiums along the way. Because of COVID that trip struck out. Right about now we should be on our way back from three weeks in Italy.
Getting over corona consternation
It wasn’t that long ago that we were remaining within the fortress of our home and yard. We were washing groceries and sanitizing canned goods. I left the house only for essential errands and early morning runs. Over the summer, science has revealed that we can prudently loosen restrictions but normal as we once knew it such a short time ago is going to be taboo for some time to come.
Cora and I have remained behind the vanguard when it comes to relaxing our behavior. We eased into outdoor lunch, visiting parks and going shopping beyond foraging for the essentials. Each loosening of our behavioural bindings has come with some serious forethought and about 14 days of nervous afterthought.
In late August I floated the idea of taking a short trip to Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada. That plan went up in smoke when the State of California caught fire and the park was closed indefinitely. I tried to opt for Big Sur on the Central California Coast but the Dolan Fire had most of that area closed. On the verge of admitting defeat I took a last look at my California guide book and found Morro Bay, a seaside community south of Big Sur.
Morro Bay Remembered
I remembered Morro Bay from my childhood though I’d never been there before in my life. My recollection of Morro Bay came from a Golden Stamp Book about natural wonders of the world. The stamp book; it’s a long extinct relic from pre-internet days. But for a few odd collectors they never gained the nostalgic appeal of old comic books, Necco Wafers or metal lunch pails. Golden Stamp Books were themed activity books that included educational pages and gummed stickers. Each educational page had a place to stick the appropriate sticker. This particular book had a page about Morro Rock (More on Morro Rock to come. Stay tuned.).
Funny isn’t it how I can remember a particular stamp in a stamp book from my childhood and not remember what I had for breakfast. Okay maybe it’s not so funny. Something for another post – if I don’t forget to write it.
As is the case with just about everything during the period of COVID, the virus played a part in writing the narrative. The original plan was to leave home on Sunday and return on Thursday, but in an attempt to minimize being in crowds we decided to leave on Monday and return on Friday (retirement can be boring at times but it does have its perks). Normally I would open guide books and plan visits to museums and other indoor attractions. COVID changed all that. Instead of looking for places to visit I was looking for what would be open – and safe.
There are two ways to get to Morro Bay from home. The fastest and most direct is down the San Francisco Peninsula on Highway 101. Not so scenic unless gazing at glass and steel tech company buildings on either side of the freeway are your idea of a panorama. The other route is down Highway 1, with the dramatic Pacific Ocean as your companion to your right and the changing scenery of the immediate inland to your left. This was a road trip and a road trip should offer as much scenery per mile and surprises per turn as nature can possibly provide.
There’s something very special for me about road trips with Cora. We can be listening to music or talking about the trip in front of us or what we’re taking back with us or we can just sit in silent enjoyment of each other’s company. There’s a particular warm closeness that comes over me as the miles pass and the scenery changes.
On the road
We hit Highway 1 dropping down from the coastal hills of San Mateo into Pacifica. As you descend towards the coastline you can see a stretch of beaches interrupted only by the Pacifica Pier jutting into the cold (and it is cold) Pacific waters. The water off Pacifica, particularly at Rockaway Beach, is frequently dotted with surfers. Even on days that most of us wouldn’t think of as a beach day can find the parking lots jammed with surfers gearing up in their wetsuits and carrying their boards to hit the waves.