Archives: SLO

Pink Is the Color Of Contentedness

Can you hear my contented sighs from where you are? Because I have been doing nothing but exhaling dramatically with relief and happiness for the past 12 hours or so.

Yesterday morning was a rough one. I’d spent the previous day, all day, in the hot, hot sun. I thought I’d drunk enough water throughout the day. I also thought I’d put on enough sunscreen. Turns out I did neither. And then I drank beer.

When I woke up the next morning for the second time (the first time was because I was having a nightmare about a grenade-tossing loner type and me scrambling up a tree) I’m pretty sure I was mega-dehydrated. And, because dehydration works a lot like drunkenness in that you can’t accept that you are, in fact, dehydrated while you are dehydrated (Nah, bro… I can totally drive thish car home….I’m totally fine, dude!… [stumbles off curb, breaks ankle]) I didn’t realize it until 300 miles, five hours, and many, many bottles of water later when I was feeling a LOT better.

This was the first mechanical failure I’ve experienced on this trip. And it was a short-lived one thanks to the dozens of stops I made along the way to fill up my water bottle. The technology failures, though, they don’t seem to want to stop. I was in Ventura, CA, before I realized the car charger didn’t work. So, without a laptop, and with my phone as my only guidebook/map/emergency lifeline, I have to make sure that my phone is fully charged every morning before hitting the road. Yesterday, after pushing through the morning’s nausea and listlessness, I got all the way to the bell tower in Balboa Park in San Diego, clearly one of the most beautiful and ornate buildings in the whole park, when my camera ran out of battery. I grabbed a few shots with my phone’s camera (is there anything this little HTC Evo CAN’T do?) and made my way back to the car, determined to not have THAT happen again.

Other things, however, have been aligning magically. I was checking my email (from my phone!) from a state park bathroom when I saw that a friend from high school, who I’d been trying to meet up with since March when I was down in SLO the first time, suggested that we meet at a cute little bistro in a sleepy little town for dinner with his wife. I was literally ten minutes from the turnoff when I checked my email. So, I pulled off the highway, called him, changed out of my sweaty traveling clothes into something not sweaty in my car (I’m sorry, Orcutt, CA, for flashing you my boobs, but it’s just so much more comfortable to drive without a bra), and, like, just like no time had passed between us at all, we were having wine and eating meatballs. I had arrived just a few minutes before my friend and his wife and handed the lovely hostess at Addamo’s my camera battery, explaining that I was about to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in fifteen years and could she please plug this battery into her wall for ten minutes or so so I could take pictures of this momentous occasion, and also, was my shirt on backwards?

My friend, the inimitable J.C., his lovely wife Colleen, and I laughed the night away. It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that this trip is only partially about the scenery. Letting your hair down and laughing is equally important. Understanding that some friendships do not need physical proximity to endure…this has been the most important lesson yet. I’ve stayed with some incredibly wonderful people along the way and they have been so warm and welcoming. They have all been tonic to my tired, vibrating soul at the end of a day of driving.

And then, THEN! I got to spend the night at the Madonna Inn. It figures that I would drive all this way to get away from the snow and the cold to sleep in a (very expensive) room decorated, of all things, like a freakin‘ Swiss Chalet, complete with wooden skis and wood paneling. Gah! Whatever frustration I was feeling this morning wore off in seconds, though, when I got to the pool. The pool, y’all. The pool is magical. Swimming in the early morning in a pool surrounded by mountains with birds chirping in the background? Heavenly. Topped only by the music being piped in through speakers made to look like boulders. The song?

“Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
Drive you crazy”.

Will do, Mr. Henley. Will do.

When Life Hands You Lemons… and a guy named Jake*

The clock is ticking here at the San Luis Obispo public library. For 26 minutes, I have Internet access. Then it’s back to getting directions, checking my email, and Googling “cheap, shitty motels” on my phone. Why? Well, because my laptop is in San Francisco. And I am at least five hours south of it in San Luis Obispo.

That time calculation might be a little off. You see, time has unraveled these past 24 hours.

A savvier traveler might have a plan for traveling down the coast. A savvier traveler, for instance, might have checked things like road conditions and weather and packed something slightly warmer for those gusty coastal winds. A savvier traveler might also have, for instance, checked to see if Route 1 was blocked due a massive rock slide. She might also have believed the sign when it said in Monterrey “Road Ends 75 miles”.

Ends? How does a road just END? Surely there would be a detour, no? Surely there would be something besides a gas station, a restaurant, and three burly contractors nursing tallboys of beer? Surely the Universe would not expect one to squint at a ragged map and know that “G14” was a forest road and that one would have to wend one’s way, on a single lane road for 20 excruciating miles at 7 miles an hour, through the Los Padres National Forest as the sun was setting and then drive through a goddamned Army base to get back to Highway 101, right? And surely, surely, the Universe would not have planted Jake at the end of the bar run his ragged fingers through the back of your cute, asymmetrical haircut while you were looking away, offer you some of his shrimp tortellini, and ask you why you had to be going so soon.

Because nothing would light up your face after finding out that the road, WAS, in fact, closed, and that the “detour” you dreamed of was 50 long miles through dense woods, like a guy who was paying for his meal in weed, and knew those woods like the back of his hand because he lived somewhere in them off the grid. And nothing would make you feel better after pumping thirty six cents worth of gas into your car (because all the other pumps were dry, the other hundred or so drivers that day having panicked in exactly the same way you did and topped off their tanks) than his pet Chihuahua, Bella, who sat in your lap for a picture.

And nothing would make that day more complete than figuring out you’d left your phone, your only effing connection to the outside world, on the paper towel dispenser in that bathroom in the gas station, after driving five miles down the road.

Well, nothing except using that phone, after an hour of driving like a bat out of hell down 101, to find a motel, booking it, and then driving there – only to find out that the only room vacant is the handicapped room. There will be no bathtub, the power button on the TV will be broken, and your blackout shades will have a ping pong ball sized hole in them. You don’t care much because you are exhausted. You will pull the plug for the TV out of the wall, you will bunch up the shades to cover the hole, you will turn on the heater (whose knobs are broken/reversed so instead of blowing hot air all night, blows COLD air) and you will dream of a more dignified, more planned vacation. One that does not involve holes in the wallboard, and rock slides, and not eating dinner, and definitely includes more guys eating pasta in a restaurant at the end of the world.

*Not his real name. I’m protecting his innocence from the Feds.

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).