Posts Tagged ‘Monterey’


Sometimes Love Means Taking Separate Cars!


December 19, 2004



            We race to Monterey to see the heralded Monarch Butterflies on their annual epic journey to South America. I did say “race” didn’t I?? Well! That is the precise expression for the day’s motoring. Patricia, for whatever reason, insists on driving. I don’t mind the “not driving” thing; actually, it’s kind of nice to be chauffeured in one sense.  But… it’s all the restrictions which surface along the way. I’m not allowed to touch the radio. And….I know that…so, I touch the radio. She inserts a CD in the player and I ask if it’s Frank Sinatra. She looks at me with “that look” from a more evolved throne and says, “Nooooaahhh”.


It’s a twangy country voice singing some caterwauler and as I point to the player with a quizzical expression she informs me, “It’s the BAND”.


“Never heard of it”, I reply.” And what kind of name is that anyway”, I dig in.


“I’m taking 17”, she says as she readjusts herself behind the wheel as though readying for a competitive run through the Santa Cruz Mountains.


I babble on about my readings—Winston Churchill, the Cairo Conference of 1921, the seemingly same problems the near east faced then as now; Islam problems; Spencer Tracy and his classical performances in “Inherit the Wind” and “Judgment at Nurnberg”.

What makes “classics”, classics. The marvelous dialogue and how it appears to be chiseled in granite when it rolls from the lips of the sartorially crumpled Tracy.


The conversation is interrupted as we quantum leap onto the fast lane to pass some slower eighteen wheelers. I intently watch as we thread our way between the concrete center divider and the churning wheels of the truck to my right. We reclaim the right lane and I relax again.


Patricia comments on the soon to be blooming acacia trees along the way. That sends me on another tangent about color. Acacia and Mimosa are a special color which the word “yellow” seems to inadequately describe, I blabber on.


“The mustard flowers” she says, “are very special in that way too!”


“When we were in Sonoma County on my bicycle rides through the northern wine country as Highway 128 approaches Healdsburg and Alexander Valley there were beautiful vistas. Dramatic carpets of that mustard glistening in the sun under the neat rows of vines. It was spectacular. That was the best part of Sonoma County and I think that most of the locals missed it.”


“Don’t mention those beautiful scenes and Sonoma County in the same breath” she quickly remarks. “I prefer to reminisce of the perfect geometric patterns formed by the alternating fields of flowering mustard and lavender as we drove  in Provence in  the Rhone Valley on our way to Paris some years ago.”


I touch the air conditioner and I’m instantly admonished.


“Slow down!”, I say, “You’re going almost 80. You’ll get a ticket”. I always say that but she never does get a ticket. I don’t know how she does it,


So, we talk about our driving records, a regular thing when we drive together, an event that doesn’t happen that often. No matter which way that conversation goes it always ends up with statements that we both have no tickets or points on our DMV record. She thinks that is a miracle and so do I.


By Capitola we marvel at how little the area has changed. We used to have friends here, Les and Liz. We wonder whatever happened to them. They kind of left one day and heard from them no more.


There is a new housing development by Pajaro just off to the left of the freeway. I ask if we might stop to look at the new models. She says “Maybe” and speeds right on.


At Moss Landing I ask if we might stop so that I can take pictures.


“What for” she says, “There are only condos and some dilapidated buildings and sand” And…we speed on.


“Are we taking the short cut up ahead?” I ask.  I always perfunctorily ask that question when we arrive at this point all the while knowing the answer.


She replies, “Naaaahhhh”.


“What about Castroville?”




“The Giant Artichoke?”




“What about a bathroom”.




We speed on right by Castroville.


“I’ll bet you were the type”, I continue in a lighthearted way, “that when your children were young they were screaming in the back seat to stop for a bath…..”


“I drove a Corvette.”, she laughingly interrupts. “There was no back seat.” Now we both laugh. And then laugh some more. “Boy!” I comment reflectively, “we sure have had great times coming to this area.”


“Yeah, we sure have, Poochie” she whispers back.


“What about the Dominuccer”, I say as I turn back to see the dog’s head peering out the side window of the Jeep’s back deck.  


“Give me a drinker of water” Patricia answers back for the dog. “And a hot greasy deep fried artichoke with lots of salt, too.”


I pitch in on the dog’s behalf, “All you guys want to do is this “seeing stuff” thing. How boring! What about eating and all that good stuff. We’ll probably get home late for dinner again.”


She looks at the rear view mirror and says, “Aahhh! Pooooor pooochie whooochie!!!”


“You missed Lighthouse Drive” I tell her.


“I didn’t wannoo go that way” she says.


“It’s the best way” I reply, “Besides, we always go that way.”


“There were too many people getting off that exit.”


“They were all getting off there to go to the bathroom at the gas station,” I say.


“Don’t be stupid” she replies with an exasperated expression.


We exited on Highway 68 to Pacific Grove. We noted the familiar highlights—signs to Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove Gate to Seventeen Mile Drive, The Fish Wife Restaurant, Asilomar and our favorite, the Sunset Motel. Beyond the Pacific Grove Lighthouse we parked just off the road adjacent to one of the tees of Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The beach, rocks, coves, crashing surf and the majestc blue Pacific was just across the tourist laden road. Joggers, bicyclers, bikers, motorists and locals walking their dogs marched to the rhythms and drama of the continent’s western extremity. We walked along the dirt paths carefully roped off to protect the beach flora—unruly grasses, wildflowers, rugged beach vines clinging to the windblown and rugged sandy and rocky mounds. Gusts of cool wind and the crashing surf isolated us from all other sounds.


Patricia is enamored with this Monterey,Carmel and Pacific Grove area. More so than that, she loves the sea, sand and natural environment of ocean meeting land. Perhaps it’s a primal calling. There is one and only one house right on the beach and she says, “I could live there”. We walk on as Domino holds us up at every bush. She is frantic with the new smells and anchors herself every few feet. So we slow down and allow the Dominuccer to examine all the primal scents till done.


We walk down steps to private rock girded beaches with tidal pools in crags and crevices. Upon closer inspection the pools are teeming with life as small crustaceans and sea snails with tiny black legs scamper in every direction. Patricia gazes out by the breakers where tiny black heads and feet bob up and down with the rhythms of the waves. “I love those cute little sea otters,” she says. “They are so cute. I want to take one home. They float on their backs. Look, out there! There are dozens of them. See all those little heads?” She gazes out shielding her eyes from the glare and is transfixed with her dog beside her. I take their pictures and think how nice it is to loll about in such carefree beauty.


I take Domino to one of the coves near the water. We walk on the rocks and explore recessed and hidden areas. Domino is not much of an adventurer, though. She walks on the rocks gingerly and looks back for Patricia as though wanting to be saved from this male adventure thing. She is more of a shopping, I. Magnin type of dog. Dirt, sand and rocks are just too rough for her. So, I look down on her and say, “Ok, Dominuccer! Let’s go back.” She leads the way with haste although at every water pool she stops to take a lick and disapproves at its saltiness.


We stop back at the car to give Domino some water from her bowl we have in the back of the car. Prior trips have taught us that she does not drink out of unfamiliar containers. She makes loud lapping noises as a group of golfers beyond the wire fence a few feet away take the tee. The dog continues her loud drinking as I pull Pat to shield ourselves behind the car as the golfers tee off.


Patricia says, “Yeah, just in case. I’m a magnet!”


We both chuckle as we think of that moment at Incline Golf Course when she was almost hit in the face by an errant shot.


We lock the car and resume our search for the Monarchs which have been noticeably absent thus far. According to the information gleaned from the web they were to be active from ten to two in the afternoon. We walked by the lighthouse, golf course, examined all the trees and nothing. No Monarchs. No butterflies.


“We missed the Monarchs, Poochie”, Patricia said as we approached our car. “Look!”,she says as she points to the car with surprise.


I look up and see the passenger door ajar. “I can’t believe we did that” I say. “But fortunately we left nothing of value. No harm done.”


We drove back by Cannery Row, the Acquarium and down Lighthouse Drive. I took pleasure in pointing out all the familiar places along the way that we have visited over the years. Patricia sped on.


The return trip was a blur. I buckled my seat belt, slowly and with purposeful deliberation. It purposely went by unnoticed. With head bobbing, hands occasionally pressed against dashboard, shoulders bouncing off side posts and feet wedged to floorboards we made record time home. Domino was delighted since she was to eat upon arrival. And… she knew it.


Finally….Finally…Finally!!! As the pressure builds in the hidden caverns of a volcano mild and occasional plumes of smoke are the only harbingers of eruption to follow. Just a short mile from safe harbor, from home, the words came out. It was a surreal moment, effortless and without pause. I spoke as though watching someone else saying the words, “You probably hate driving with me as much as I hate to drive with you?” The words came out with a machine gun staccato.


“I would never drive with you”, she replied in kind.


“Good! Next time we’ll take separate cars.”


“Next time? You must be dreaming!” she said.


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