tips of the week #2

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1.) Sadly, there is no camping along Rt. 1 on the coast, which sucks because it is GORGEOUS!! But if you make it up here, be sure to walk the trails of the coastline, it will transform your psyche. However, with a permit, you can camp in the Palo Colorado Interpretive Site, though it seems to be only tent or small vehicle, we certainly couldn’t get the RV up there, even if it is a small one.

2.) Monterey has free Wi-fi anywhere in downtown, making this post come to you with significantly less coffee.

3.) Plumes Cafe’ on Alvarado St is the best coffee shop in town, they have chai and a variety of quality coffees in decaf( I have anxiety don’t judge me), plus yummy oatmeal, muffins, and build your own sandwiches- total win. 

4.) If you walk the Wharf you can get about ten different free clam chowder samples along the way, bring bread and you just ate gourmet for free 😀

5.)Sleep is good- not really a great new tip, just feel like one needs to remember that occasionally. If you are traveling, your poor brain is absorbing at turbo speed and needs extra processing time to make up for it, plan accordingly.

6.) Weather is more drastic along the coast, bring a sweater and an umbrella, you’ll wish you had the one day you forget.

7.) Random aside for animal lovers: in- shell nuts are a great way to keep a rat’s teeth in check if you are trying to stop them from chewing on other stuff.

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Faeryland to branded sea lions

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sea lion montereymonterey beauty   It’s been nearly fourteen years since I was here last. I was visiting my grandmother for two weeks and she brought me here to see the aquarium, still on of the best memories of my childhood. It was the last time I saw her, though she only passed away last spring. I just couldn’t make it back across thecountry until now. Monterey is much as I remember it though also, as always happens when you grow up, smaller and more expensive. I could lay on the rocks with the sea lions for years andstill never see all the possible combinations of beauty. Not able to afford $40 each to tour the aquarium again, we decided to go to the source and walked up the pier, wishing we had brought food for the obviously spoiledsea creatures. Making it out to the end of the pier to gaze in awe and the hundreds of sea lions, Aaron spotted one that had, I am not joking, been BRANDED FOUR TIMES! Now, I don’t believe in branding animals in general, and wild ones even less. Thisis the 21stcentury, their are more humane ways to mark an animal for scientific observation. That kindof treatment is just disgusting.branded sea lion  poor animal 😦

Other than the poor sea lion, our time here has been, I feel, the best since weleft Santa Fe- we are all healthy again, the culture here is very laid back and welcoming. We’ve already made friends with a handful of travelers and some locals who have invited us out to seetheir places and give us tips on land for sale in the area. We’ve been street vending with moderate success, esp considering that today has been rainy and Zoe and I forgot our baskets( we make badass gift baskets and pretty much all the the stuff inside them). Camping in the area is a bit of an issue, we drove around for about four hours looking for aplace that we could camp legally and finally found one single spot- it’s off the del monte exit after reservation rd heading north from monterey( Thereare about six del monte’s make sure it’s the one after reservation rd) turn off del monte onto lapis rd which is the first rd you’ll see. It’s off the road by a bunch of farmland, but the owners don’t seem to mind and we haven’t seen any cops in the area. As usual, if you camp there, be courteous, don’t litter, don’t damage the land, it gives us all a bad name.

palo romancepalo tree hugging  palo beautyZoe having fun taking pictures of Aaron and I planning our tree house in the faery woods 😀

The best part of all the crazy driving around though was stumbling across a place called Palo Colorado, which turned out to be an “interpretive site” part of the National Forest- it’s a Faery paradise is what it is really. We gleefully hiked the area, trying to figure out if it would be possible to get away with building a Hobbit Hole inside one of the trees and justifying it by keeping the forest immaculate. I think it would be a life well spent personally, but alas, the forest service frowns on such frolics. I had dreams of what it would be like to be part of the first peoples following the little creek flowing through, to find it suddenly open up to the ocean with not a power line or paved road in site…. ah, nostalgia, I think I’d get back to appreciating vaccines for smallpox, internet and printing presses pretty quickly, but a hippie can dream. I guess it’s more a wish that we could figure out a balance of both worlds- you’d think with all the tech we have, at this point minimal environmental damage would be easy, but it’s not profitable, so continues on the age old battle of “progress vs nature”. My meandering point is that I will remember the enchantment of that place forever. We are planning to do more hiking tomorrow and heading onwards to San Fran on monday or tuesday, depending on how things go.

Food Poisoning to sh*t I can’t even afford to eat here anyway….

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aaron hugging meIMAG0128Finally a picture of Aaron with hiseyesopen!!

Sunset was turning the leaves deep green by the time we made it to the Vista Point rest stop, and everyone was ready for the break. Aaron was beginning to feel a bit better from the food poisoning episode, but I was still pretty out of it and Zoe was burnt from picking up the slack. By Sunday morning everyone was recharged and we headed into Santa Barbara, ready to walk the boardwalk and have a day of exploring.Within acouple hours everyone was stressed and pissed off, I have rarely been to a place less welcoming. Don’t get mewrong, Santa Barbara is BEAUTIFUL, and that’s really it. The boardwalk was full of overpriced vendors and the beach was closed for a very sketchy “beach nourishment program”. They said they were putting sand back on the beach, but if that’s the case why was the water black and oily and why did the place stink like a sewage drain? Erosion, really? Nothing to do with the water levels rising? Hmmmm….. One can see the outline of the oil rigs along the horizon, few things are as poetic I’m sure.

Disgusted, we decided to hit up the main area of town, State St. and walked up and down about 12 blocks full of corporate shopping and coffee shops. Outside of one coffee place was the only worthwhile thing to happen the whole trip to Santa Barbara, a pretty girl singing her heart out with a guitar. I know, I know, cliche’ Californiamuch, but really. I’ve seen a lot of buskers in my travels and this lady has presence. It’srare to see a girl out performing by herself anyway and I was impressed at how animated and engaging she was madeline buskingMadeline playing for us

to total stranges and passersby. She hooked quite a few people, including us, to stop and listen for a while as we enjoyed our beverages. After a bit we tipped her and chatted a little, and her name is Madeline Meyer ( I was so happy, I lovethe name Madeline, so romantic, she said the same of mine :D) . What a vibrantly sweet soul, I wish her best is her singing career dreams. Wishing we could invite her out to the campsite without seeming like freaks, we continued on looking for McConnell’s Ice cream shop, since Aaron and I had tried it back in NM, and the main location was on State St. I’ve done quite a few of those kinds of tours- Ben and Jerry’s, Harry London, Hershey’s and whatnot- and typically the distrabution center is significantly cheaper, or at least has free samples. It was $5!!! for a single scoop! WHAT?!?!?! It was less than that for a pint at the store! And the handpacked pint was $9! DISGUSTING! Very frustrating, it is truly the best ice cream I’ve ever had, but that is lunacy- worth it if you find it at the grocer, not worth seeing the main locale. This was the worst example, but it was pretty much that way the whole walk, everything priced up to astronomical levels, even the local corner store was selling Tecate of all things for $4. Finally, pissed off and bored we decided to head back to the far more comfortable forest.

By tuesday a towtruck was eyeing us, though we hadn’t even seen a cop since we parked, so we decided to head down the road. We were planning on hopping vista point to vista point and enjoying the view for a bit, the city sucked but the landscape was delightful, but that didn’t work. We ended up out of the national forest area, and got kicked out of what we had thought was an abandoned camping area by a very sweet old man ( I am pretty certain if he was owner rather than manager he’d have let us stay, he thought it was pretty funny to find me up a tree with a book), and for lack of other options we stayed at Camp Cachuma. It was $23 for one vehicle, plus $10 for Zoe’s honda+trailer, so not horrible for one night with dumpsters, showers, and water spigots right on the edge of the lake. We made dinner to the shrill screams of the skinny blonde in the tent next to us. Apparently, the children were playing the wrong game, it was time to play THIS game now, and no you aren’t allowed to play in the grass, you have to ride your bike. We hid inside so we didn’t have to watch the little girl sit at the picnic table crying, and didn’t go outside to enjoy coffee until the “listen to your mother” guy had packed up the tent. Thought about having riotous loud sex to mess with them, but decided the kids would end up suffering the consequences, they’ll need enough therapy already. Other than that the place was well maintained, the staff was nice, and they certainly kept to the culture of the area with sky high prices on everything in the general store. It was a little upsetting that even are charging us thirty dollars for nothing more than a pretty parking spot, it was 50 cents for 3 minutes of water for the showers, but it does cut down on water waste. I was relieved to leave the areaBy the time we were headed out the next morning Aaron and I were totally healthy again, which means it makes perfect sense that then Zoe got sick. With what exactly is still anyone’s guess. She’s a vegetarian so she doesn’t eat the same stuff we do and it was days after Aaron and I had food poisoning. Nevertheless, she had a rough trip from Santa Barbara, so rather than pushing to Monterey, we stopped for the night in Santa Marguerita. A very nice cop showed up around 10:30 (it is the most likely time for them to show for vehicle camping, it’s late enough to be reasonably sure you are stopping for the night) and after Aaron showed him some of the folded steel knives he was working on (he was a little nervous about a cop asking to see ALL his weapons, lol) he said we could stay the night. Next stop MONTEREY!!

Of wood stoves and rangers

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sushi stop bday dessertDessert at Sushi stop, nom!

By Sunday morning our four part caravan had attracted some attention, and we were greeted by a Park Ranger and his K-9 unit. He stayed, he watched me wash dishes, looked at ID’s and told us we could use our wood stove (we had not been because of the fire ban in the area and just wanted to be on the safe side) after Aaron shocked him with the comment “I’m so happy you stopped by, this is a great opportunity for us to ask you some questions!” That is certainly one way to get a cop to pause and help you out! So, after getting the go ahead for fire, that evening Aaron gathered firewood and five minutes after the fire got going we watch, one, two, three, four, five, yup, five fire trucks wiz past us a minute apart from each other tops. Oops. An hour goes by as all of us sit in the RV making dinner, wondering if we had just cost the county countless dollars and gallons of gasoline, til one, two, third truck drives back past much slower and stops by our camp spot. Not hearing an knocks on the door, Aaron goes outside to say hi, to find a handful of firemen peering into the woods with flashlights. They had thought we were camping in the closed campgrounds and smelled smoke(fortunately on their way back from another fire, they weren’t called for us, that would have been embarrassing)  til Aaron pointed out the chimney stick out of the side of the RV, “We have a wood stove going inside to cook on”, “Oh,” replies the Fireman,”that’s interesting. Now you don’t need to shovel coals outside to turn it off or anything right?” “Errr…….., no, it’s a woodstove, I just stop giving it wood.” To be fair, they must have been exhausted, but still quite a comment from a fireman. (The other most humorous interaction with a cop was when Aaron got pulled over in the Beetle for his headlights being out and the cop asked if the car started after he gave us a warning “No officer, this is a donkey, it doesn’t have any headlights”- didn’t actually say that, but it took a lot of effort, believe me!)

Inbetween bouts of authoritative inquiry, we have been mostly visiting friends in the area: Climbed up Mt. Fuji at Occidental College, hung out in the student gardens, acquired vast amounts of coffee and ate way to many sweets. The good life!

1959610_10151985945352006_227398053_n1901272_10151985945417006_180530004_n1549258_10151985945112006_637985928_nZoe in the epic Safety glasses; Aaron will one day open his eyes during a photo!- He has the prettiest blue eyes on earth!; I am crocheting a scarf and Aaron is sanding a knife he forged- working on crafts is best to do around company, things that are productive yet allow for interaction.

1173794_10151985945292006_1904354932_nBen, the cutest guy in Occidental’s chemistry department! LOVE the glasses! 😀

Tips of the Week #1

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1) If you are cleaning up in a business bathroom- Walmart, Target, Starbucks, etc- BE COURTEOUS! Be quick, be clean, and for goodness’ sake buy SOMETHING. Do as much as you can in a stall, and if you need to use the sink/mirror, but aware of other customers. If you are still asked to leave for whatever reason, be respectful, but do contest it- bathrooms are for personal hygiene, end of story- and if they want to say otherwise, they will lose your business. 

2) DON”T stop on the highway unless you absolutely have too, when you pull to the side of the road, cops will show up to “help” you, and travelers are generally treated with suspicion. Even if you aren’t doing anything, they can be invasive and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. 

3) GPS sucks, pull up a map on your phone/computer and make sure to “finger trace” the entire route to make sure you don’t turn the wrong way or make u-turns as per the instructions of your all- knowing machine. 

4) The best maps of forest and park land are at REI. No idea why, but the govt websites/phone numbers/facilities (yes we’ve done all of it in multiple states) have NO quality information. They have maps of PRIVATE land, but nothing really useful on public land. If that is all you’ve got, also invest in on of those hiker’s GPS things that give you coordinates- longitude and latitude- that way you can pinpoint your exact location on the map if you need to contest camping rights with authorities. This is especially helpful with BLM and county roads/land, where there are no entrance signs.

5)Pre-prep food. Seriously. Just do it. It’s real, it’s healthy, it’s cheaper, it’s faster, it travels. Just make it happen, even if you’re on the  road.

6) Wood stoves rock- you stay warm, you can cook, you help clear deadwood from the forest and thus help stop forest fires, and you get to have a fire, what’s not to love?

7) “Vehicle occupancy”- which is defined as sleeping in your vehicle- is not legal most places. Not remotely Constitutional, but who can argue with every single city about it? Know the local laws, there is wifi everywhere and public libraries, if you can’t afford that, you certainly can’t afford citations. IT IS A NIGHTMARE to find these things out in each place, sorry folks. I’ll try to keep it posted in each area we go. If nothing else, talk to an officer- police, ranger, whatever. I know, not something most do willingly, but it can save you serious trouble down the road. BTW, Laguna beach is legal, the ACLU contested it 😀

Walmart to Forest

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LA happyWith Michelle near Occidental College

We arrived in Santa Clarita well past 10 pm, so with no way to get more detailed information about the local national forest we spent the night at the Carl Boyd St SuperWalmart. I went to use the bathroom first thing in the morning and decided to wash my face and brush my hair to help wake up-perfectly normal things to do in the morning, or in the bathroom in general yes?- only to have quote “a customer complaint” as the manager asked me to leave. Let me clarify, we had been planning to do grocery shopping and pick up a handful of the misc supplies we inevitably forgot for the trip while we were parked there. Needless to say, we went elsewhere, specifically the Vallarta Mexican grocery. And frankly, a far better choice anyway. After piling pastries, produce, eggs, fish and handful of other things, it came out to thirty dollars, and we were shopping for fun, not really trying to be frugal. From this bounty Aaron prepared an epic dinner of tempura eggplant, Oaxaca cheese sticks, fried onion rings and tilapia, with plenty of wine of course! We drink mainly french and Spainish reds, Aaron has a good eye for them from his time in those countries. Of course we also made it to see some of our friends in the area, and went swimming at Ian’s apartment hot tub helping to relieve all the stress of travel.

after dinner dreamsHolding Harold trying not to fall asleep

Ironically, most of the last two days has been consumed with government phone calls. At least eight hours have been spent trying to find maps of national forest land and access roads, calling phone numbers on government sites that turn out to be disconnected and otherwise banging our heads against a wall trying to find out about camping laws in the area. As it turns out, in this part of the state, they have special passes called “Adventure passes” that they require for access to general camping that costs $40 just for camping in the local area. This is totally against federal standards which require vehicle camping to be within a hundred feet of the road and causing no new damage to the forest land and in fact is free for all (hooray for cell phone camera evidence! Take a picture so you can defend yourself- Aaron and I did not do that in Santa Fe, and though we had gone through extensive effort to not damage the area and in fact make it better, we got accused by a ranger of doing all damage in sight with a lovely $275 fine as our reward). So anyway, here they call what we do “dispersment camping” and so we have to be on the side of the road and away from the sight of any buildings or hiking trails. We found a likely spot a few hundred feet in from the entrance, and lo! This very morning a nice Ranger and his K-9 unit showed up when he saw Zoe smoking outside. Fortunately, he realized quickly we were just some hippies on a road trip. He looked at Zoe and Aaron’s ID’s, saw me washing dishes and told us not to start any fires, but yes, we could use our wood stove! (We had been using Zoe’s propane camp stove until we found out the legality of a wood fire since the area is in a drought, since the RV counts as a house we were fine).

tree lightAaron highlighted by his art

We did in fact try to get more direct information than what we could find through calls and website over the last few days. Before driving out the RV, we took Zoe’s Honda up to the forest to scout sites and found a lovely picnic spot, where we left the car. A little walk up the road was a big sign that said Ranger Station and #9 Fire Station camp spot this way. Wanting to get more information, we walked up to it worrying about the no entrance signs and gate across the road, but as we were on foot we walked up to the door of the office area- there was no ranger station in the area, no one in the office and a bunch of what appeared to be houses and families in the valley down the road. After knocking a few times and only heard radio chatter we went on our way, wondering what on earth was the point of the whole place? There was even what we assumed was a helipad, which would make sense for emergency airlifts, if there happened to actually be any rangers. Deciding that we could end up in trouble if we were there any longer, we just went on with our day.