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California - Part 3

After leaving Carmel and Monterey, we continue our journey up the coast. Louise is navigating, but somewhere around Castroville she isn’t paying close enough attention and we find ourselves far away from where we’re supposed to be. We’re in the middle of mile after mile of farmland.

Let me explain to you what it’s like to have the Lovely Louise as your navigator. She’s using Google Maps to tell me what road to take, and these are actual quotes that I took down verbatim:

“Go left, go left, go left. No, sorry, I meant right.”

“Just head down this road and take any left that strikes your fancy.”

“Keep going straight until I get bored.”

“When you get to the end, take a right.” After about two miles, she says, “Did I say right? I meant left.” I turn around. After a few more miles: “Did I say turn around? I meant keep going the other way.”

“Did you see that street we just passed? That’s the one you should have taken.”

There are two navigational expressions she uses to indicate the depth of her mistake. If she says “Oh, dear,” I know it’s not too bad and we can get back on track fairly easily. But when she says “Oh, shit,” I know we’re probably headed somewhere we really don’t want to be.

In any event, we always seem to end up where we intended to be in the first place, but it’s necessary to make sure you have plenty of time for seeing places and things you never planned on seeing or visiting. One of these detours involved looking for Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Remember how I mentioned her terror when we drove the Pacific Coast Highway? That was amateur hour. We’re now headed down Route 9 from Boulder Creek.

Now, I’ve driven some pretty frightening roads, including Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe and the Connor Pass in Ireland. I would give Connor Pass a 9 on a pucker scale of 1 to 10, if you know what I’m saying. Route 9 for me would be maybe a 7. To Louise, it’s a 12.5. She literally can’t look and keeps telling me to slow down even when I’m doing 20 mph. The edge is on our left side and we’re in the opposite lane, but she keeps repeating, “Stay away from the edge!” When we finally come out at the ranger station, she refuses to let me go back on Route 9, so we go miles out of our way just to avoid being “on the side where the edge is.”

Miraculously, we somehow survive until we arrive in Half Moon Bay, a pretty little town on the coast where we find the most beautiful boutique hotel right on the ocean. With only eight rooms, we got to know the owner and spent an amazing night listening to the surf break right outside our window.

In the morning we don’t want to leave, but San Francisco calls and we’re responding. After about an hour we’re approaching the city but not from any normal route. Remember who’s navigating. No, we’re going to sneak up on the city before it even knows we’re there. We’re heading toward Fisherman’s Wharf, but from the other side of the city. Go left, go right, go left again. I have no idea where we are until I suddenly see we’re on Haight Street. I look at the next light and it says Ashbury Street. Oh my God, we’re here! In the very heart of 1967 Flower Power scene—the Grateful Dead, the Diggers, the Jefferson Airplane, and Buena Vista Park, where all the free concerts were held. Just like that, I’m 18 years old again, and wishing I could be in San Francisco. It felt like I was coming home even though I’d never been there before.

No stopping, but we continue on to Pier 39 in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s too touristy even for a tourist, so we grab a cup of coffee and head for the Golden Gate Bridge. Deciding to stop for the night in Sausalito, we rent a room at the Hotel Sausalito, a grand old dowager whose best days are far behind her. Never mind, it’s in the center of everything, and even though the room is tiny, tiny, tiny, it’s only for the night.

Tomorrow, it’s off to the Napa Valley for a week of wine tastings and nasty hangovers. Can’t wait.


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