Archives: san louis obispo

SLO, Day 3 + 4

In honor of Holy Week, y’all, I’m giving up procrastination. I’m doin’ it for Jesus, yo.

Day Three was for bike rides through the vineyards. Victoria and I were, a little, um, hung over from the night before, so getting an early start was not easy. As a matter of fact, if it were up to me, we would have skipped the vineyards and the bikes altogether and stayed in bed eating cheese puffs and watching cooking shows on the hotel TV for the day. Luckily for me, though, Victoria is a mother of two and doesn’t take bullshit from anyone. I was up, with my bed made, standing at attention by 9 am because I was afraid she might tell me to stop my bellyaching and yank me out of the room by my earlobe.

We slogged our way through breakfast (it’s hard to pack in the protein you know you’ll need for later when all you want to do is throw up). Undeterred by our condition, Victoria reminded me that when the endorphins kicked in, we would be so glad we didn’t quit on ourselves. Boy, was she ever right. Still, it was hard to hear. You see, I’m not an endorphin junkie. The most thrilling athletic thing I’ve done recently is to stand on a kitchen chair to water a plant up high. I’ve never been involved with team sports, and I’ve had to quit running because my knees have gone from well lubricated machines to piles of kindling. So, the prospect of biking up hills at nine a.m. after a night of heavy drinking sounded downright…well, stupid. But, I had to put aside all the stories I tell myself about my body’s inability to do hard work and I hoisted myself onto that saddle, tied my skirt in a knot, and I rode like the Devil himself was at my back. And I LOVED it.

Our First Glass

We stopped at the first winery we came to. We sampled some delicious white wine and we put our feet up and let the warm breeze dry the sweat from our brows. By now, the nausea had passed and I was definitely in endorphin territory. I took pictures of olive trees because it was warm and OLIVE TREES! were growing on the property. Just like CITRUS!


Being a thoroughly city-fied kind of gal, barnyard animals have always seemed like exotica to me. Horses and cows are just so outsized and foreign to me. My perspective gets blown standing next to them. I mean, have you seen a horse’s HEAD recently? Just the head, y’all. They’re the size of the upper part of my body. That kind of thing frightens me just a little. Sheep and goats and their body parts too: they’re just straight up from another planet. We passed a field of horses and when we stopped to take a water break, they came right up to us and put their enormous heads right up against the fence. Naturally, I had to take a picture.


There is something deeply satisfying about the symmetry of a planted field. Small scale vegetable gardening has always appealed to this need I have for straight lines. Maybe it’s because growing things from seed is such a crap shoot. You never know if things are going to come up. Seeing things in tidy rows that appear perfectly straight from every angle is great compensation for the prospect of enormous failure. I still marvel at rows of corn and peas on every roadtrip through farm country. Grapevines, inherently knobby and unwieldy, appear especially hard to plant in straight rows. Maybe this is why their formation is even more awe inspiring to look at from a quarter mile away.

Symmetry and Grapes

Symmetry and Grapes II

There is a little phenomenon that happens around 2 pm every day in the area around SLO. The wind picks up. It lasts about an hour or two. Do you know how hard it is to bike INTO a headwind like that? I kept thinking that if I could just attach my jacket and a few other choice pieces of clothing to my handlebars, I could actually be pushed back up the hill we were trying to bike down. Seriously. It was hard to bike DOWNHILL, the wind was that strong.

Remember how my knees crack like dried twigs and my thigh muscles consider standing on a chair the equivalent of running the Boston Marathon? Yeah. So, I do this thing whenever I find myself on a bicycle with a long road ahead of me. I sing to myself. The same thing over and over and over again. It becomes a sort of meditation so that I can take my mind off how much pedaling SUCKS when I’m low on energy. Last summer, after I fell in a sinkhole at the park and had to pedal home in the dark with my leg oozing blood, I sang “Pushin’ Up My Baby Bumblebee” over and over again. I can’t remember exactly what I was chanting while I pedaled with all of my might into that wind (I think it was the opening theme to “Dallas”… or maybe it was “Sweet Home Alabama”…) but it got me back into town thankful that I had pushed through the pain.

Taste the Rainbow

Day Four of my trip to San Luis Obispo included a quick bus ride to Pismo Beach. Points have been awarded in the categories of Most Gorgeous Bus Ride I Have Ever Been On, Cleanest/Best Smelling Bus I Have Ever Been On, and Best Destination For The Price.

Hi, Mom, Pismo Beach 2011

I do love me some ocean living, I do.

Dan, Victoria’s husband, endlessly teases me about being a most-of-the-time vegetarian. He thinks my mamby-pamby pacificism and my aversion to cold weather would all be cured if I just eat more red meat. “Just once”, he pleads with me, “Just once I want to see you eat a hamburger”. I don’t know if it was the morals-and-values-scrambling euphoria of being at the beach, or if I thought my vacation should end with a toast to Manifest Destiny and the industrialization of American meat packing, but I very suddenly and urgently needed to have a hamburger while we were at the beach. It was positively delicious. I can’t remember if Victoria took a picture of me chowing down on that lunch for evidence, but, Dan, I raised a Cherry Coke to you and licked my fingers clean afterward.

The bosom of the Pacific

I also took a picture of pigeons on the roof of that burger-slinging joint. You know. For posterity.

Pigeons and Pismo

The water was freezing, but that did not stop me from sticking my feet in. I always forget how rejuvenated I feel after a day at the beach. I spend so much time in sweaters and boots here in the Northwest. Sometimes it feels completely strange to have my ankles exposed. (I’m working on correcting that self-imposed Puritanism.)

Sign in Pismo

So, my feelings about Days Three and Four of vacation? Jazz hands and boners all around, y’all.

SLO, Day 2

I’ve been slow (ha ha! get it! SLO?) to post about my trip. It’s been nearly a month since I got back (how in the hell…?) so I’d better get on with it. Plus, Mr. Burdy’s cousin called tonight and wanted to know how it was (we haven’t talked in a while), so if I needed a sign from the Universe to wrap this thing up, that was it.

But Other Things have been happening! Fun things! And I have wanted to write about them, too! I guess I will have to write about them after I finish writing about this trip. Which, at the rate I’m going, will sometime in 2012.


SLO, Day 2:

We start out our tour of downtown with the mission.

I don’t know what it is about statuary that fascinates me. Most of my pictures from my 1999 trip to Europe are of statues (and me making an ass of myself in front of them. Oh, to be 20 and shameless again…)

Here we have a bunch of Catholic missals. Which, as a nerdy ten year old, I could not dissociate from projectile ammunition. Oh, homonyms, how I love thee.

Here is our challenge for the day: Bishop’s Peak. “Obispo” means “Bishop” in Spanish. Thank you, Victoria, for teaching me this. I would have spent the rest of the trip thinking San Luis Obispo meant something like Saint Louie’s Abyss.) And thank YOU, perky young ladies at the Visitor’s Information Center, for not knowing the length of a mile from a hole in the ground. Normally, I’m not the type to complain about walking, or about bad estimations of distances to places, but in this case, with my feet swollen in their shoes from the heat, and my tiny water bottle nearly empty before we even got to the FOOTHILL, I was a little more than miffed. Apparently, the attitude in SLO is so laid back, residents can actually cut four miles into one just by saying it slowly.

Yes, we climbed it. And yes, we were sore afterward. And yes, it was sooooo worth it.

This is my favorite part about travel to temperate climates: CITRUS! GROWING ON TREES! IN PEOPLE’S YARDS! It’s like shrubbery, or ground cover or something, all casual-like and unassuming on people’s property. Like the citrus trees are all, hey lawn, how’s it hanging? I’m just standing here minding my biz, making fruit and stuff. Only it’s not all casual-like to me because it’s CITRUS! With real CITRUS! fruit. And I live in a city that’s cold and gray and the only thing that grows really well here all casual-like is mold.

My second favorite part about travel? Signs. Yup. I love me some signs. Especially ones like this one. (The stupid 20 year old in me is snickering right now.)

You know you might have some issues with food when, in a historically Spanish-speaking down, you see a sign that begins with “Del” and you hope and pray it ends in “i” and that they have a good rye bread. Geez. You can take the girl out of New York…

Victoria and I hauled ourselves to the top of Bishop’s peak (well, almost to the top; the actual last thirty or forty feet required bouldering equipment) after a very long trip to the base from town. Sure, it was only a few miles, but STILL. When you’re planning on just a few hours of hiking because you’re trying to save up your energy for the heavy drinking you want to do later that night, you need to pace yourself.

Another thing SLO residents stink at? Describing natural landmarks. We were told that we might come across two massive rocks that would block the road that would require us to “shimmy” between them to get up and over. We came across no such rocks. Why? Because we took a different path to the top. But we weren’t told there were two ways to get to the top, so we guessed that the rocks everyone was referring to were these slippery, wet rocks that shot up into the stratosphere at a ninety degree angle. Not wanting to miss the spectacular view from the top, we started up. We got about ten feet up, and both of us broke out into cold sweats. I’m not sure what Victoria was thinking, but all that was running through my head was “Don’t die don’t die don’t die”. My knees were starting to give out (because I’m not a billygoat, for god’s sake) but I didn’t want to disappoint Victoria. But then I saw her face was a shade lighter and we both decided to clamber down, take some photos, chew on some trail mix, and assess the situation. We decided (smartly, duh) to take another path up, and it turns out we chose wisely. From fifteen hundred feet in the air, it was gorgeousness in every direction.

SLO, Day 1

I’ve been meaning to post pictures of my trip to San Luis Obispo for weeks now, but I’ve lately fallen into the rabbit hole of self help books. I know, I know. it’s incredibly good for me, incredibly bad for this blog. And, as we all know, at some point you just have to stop all the processing and journaling and weeping about it and just get on with the business of living. So, here it is. The start of my trip.

Were the discovery of the New World up to me, were I asked by the moneyed elite to captain a rollicking, gigantic vessel designed to cut through vast expanses of bumpy sea, were I handed a satchelful of gold and a crudely drawn map and promised fame and glory, were I told innumerable riches, exotic women, and lush climates awaited me in a beautiful new country, I would have considered the offer with a deep and sober humility. I would have calculated the promise of honor, and weighed it against the risk of death. I would have allotted the proper amount of pacing back and forth with hands behind the back and tugging on the chin. And then I would have turned to my benefactors, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Meh. I’ll skip it. I’m starved. What’s there to eat around here?”

Not that discovery and travel don’t excite me! In fact, they are the only things left that excite me! (Well, that and new flavors of cheese puffs). It’s the getting there that puts me off. And not because of time or boredom or anything like that. In all matters of cross continental escapades, it’s the motion sickness that is the undoing of my enthusiasm.

I haven’t talked much about our boat (may she rest in peace with her new owners) on this blog, and with good reason. We bought it, I nearly peed myself in anxiety when we moved it to another slip, we took it out for a few day trips, and that was it. We sold it. And all because I couldn’t handle the motion of the ocean.

Travel by boat, though, has its charms. (They wear off after about two hours). It’s the air travel, start to finish, that’s the absolute pits. And we can just skip the discussion about the public theater that is the security check at the airport. And the bad food and the service and the stench of humankind packed into a winged steel tube. For me, it’s the tiny mutiny going on inside my head that makes almost all travel not worth it. My tiny sinuses and the disastrous labyrinth that is my inner ear all conspire to keep me home-bound.

But I do want to leave the house! I do, I do, I do! It’s a disconcerting thing, really, this desire to be rowed through the canals of Venice, to want to eat soup for breakfast on the streets of Vietnam, to want to paddle my surfboard out into the Pacific along the Panamanian coast… and then to be thwarted by my own shitty head-plumbing.

I suppose, given my new foray into the Laws of Attraction and all that jazz, I could dig deep for the metaphor here. I could consider that maybe my focus on the destination and not the journey is really what keeps me from enjoying the ride. Maybe I am just not at the place in my life to understand how airsickness is revealing itself as a teacher of a greater lesson.

Oooooooor…. maybe there is no freakin’ lesson. For God’s sake. Maybe I am just not designed to sit (as Louis CK says) in a chair 30,000 feet in the air and think this is completely normal.

I think I am designed to sit about two feet off the pavement, in my Honda Civic. Or maybe four feet off the ground in a train car. Something not subject to the twitchy temperament of winds or, ya know, clouds.

A massage therapist recently suggested soaking my feet in an Epsom salt bath every night to draw the energy mucking up my head into my the lower part of my body. If there was a way to pull the mangled locomotive engine parts out of my head and put them in my feet, I gladly would. I would happily take nauseous ankles over a head that feels like it might explode from the pressure any day of the week.

How wrong is it, when I fly, to wish I could ferry all the discomfort from my head to my stomach so I could just have a good old fashioned heave-ho into an airsickness bag and be done with it? Why do I have to contend with the feeling of a balloon being inflated inside my skull? Why can’t I have restless legs or legs that are too long for an airplane seat? Why, oh why, must I be obsessed with visiting places ravaged by things like “pockets of warm air” or “tropical storm fronts”?

And how hard is it to calm yourself down with deep cleansing breaths when the air you’re breathing smells and tastes like dirty shag carpeting? Hard. And then there are the toilets threatening to suction your intestines out and distribute them over a farm in Iowa somewhe-

Wait. This is supposed to be a post about a really awesome trip I went on with a good friend of mine.


So. Ahem. ANYWHO. After a slight delay at the airport, we boarded the plane. Seattle, like the abusive boyfriend of a city that it is, gave us a rainbow in a last ditch effort to say “Don’t leave! I promise I’ll never hurt you again, baby.”

The ascent was the worst I’ve ever experienced in my life. The winds were pretty fierce, so, to avoid bumps, the pilot cocked the plane back on its rear wheels, pointed the nose STRAIGHT up into the air, and shot up to 30,000 feet in, like, sixteen seconds. I’m not even exaggerating. My head hurt so bad afterward, I could hardly hold my hands steady to take this picture. Thanks, Victoria, for help with the shot.

We landed at night, got ourselves the most delicious Mexican shrimp cocktail and beers in town for dinner, and then hit the hay early.

Next post: Day Two (where there will be no mention of vomit, I promise).