Met up with little brother & family in Pismo Beach, contiguous with Grove’s Beach, which is contiguous with Arroyo Grande, where we stayed as there was no room at the appropriately priced Pismo inn. It was, well, trippy.
1. Old West Cinnamon Rolls & Espresso:
Brings to mind how Cookie would lay out them cinnamon rolls and quad-shot lattes every morning when we was workin’ long horn out pan handle way. Why, I recon we punched them doggies like they never been punched afore or since. Had to keep an eye on ol’ Manny, though, lest his hootin’ an’ hollerin’ wake the dead. Those El Paso boys never could hold their dark roast house blend.
Evenings were a might twitchy. Home on the Range like to have more tremolo on the mouth organ than a body might prefer.
2. As beach-dwelling Californians know, the beach means very different things depending on where you are along the 840 or so miles of the coast. At the south end, around San Diego, the water is warm* all summer long. By Orange County, the water is usually warm starting in July on into September or even October. North of that – well, it’s hit or miss. The farther south, the more likely the water will be tolerable. Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco, is about as far north as anyone sane would ever voluntarily go into the water. Surfers, who go out in all sorts of conditions if the surf is up, own wet suits, which keep you nice and warm-ish. Surfers are also not sane.
Another factor is mountains. The L.A. basin, running from Santa Monica down through Newport Beach, is the biggest stretch where the mountains don’t usually reach the ocean – thus, the long, flat sandy beaches. Everywhere else, you get a beach every once in a while – mostly, it’s cliffs and hills, with at most little strips of rocky beach tucked into coves. There are only a few large beaches north of L.A. – Santa Barbara, Ventura.
Pismo is a bit of a tweener – definitely not SoCal, but you still can go in the water. On August 4, it was pretty cold, but tolerable enough to wade around in and dig sand crabs.
* Warm here meaning that you can swim in it without too much risk of hypothermia. Unlike the East Coast, which get its bath-water temp ocean pushed up from the Caribbean, California’s current runs down from the Gulf of Alaska. I’ve swum at Orange County beaches in the height of summer, and left the water numb – you get used to just diving in and hoping you get used to it. Sometimes, you don’t. Hey, it’s bracing. And the waves are much better. Also, it’s not humid.
3. I’ve always liked the Salinas Valley, of East of Eden fame. CA Highway 101 runs mostly down the center. Unlike the Central Valley, which is so huge that, anywhere near the center line, you often can’t see the coastal range in the West or the Sierras in the East, you are never unaware of being in a valley. So it’s comparatively cozy. Also, the farms or fields tend to be smaller, so you’ll see more different crops as you roll along – cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, corn, grapes and on and on.
As Steinbeck explained, the Salinas Valley is more dependent on annual rainfall than the Central Valley, as significant snow rarely falls on coastal range. Since his time, the state has put in two huge reservoirs at the south end of the valley, to even things out.
I’ve often wondered about the call of the sea, one of those legendary things that affects me not at all. Instead, I feel the lure of the fields, and of the forests. Well-worked and fruitful land is such a righteous thing, so fully human. It is a sign of peace and prosperity, and, more than that, of men working with what God has given, getting back to what we are here for – working the Garden.
And forests are pretty.