It's mid-afternoon and we've left Shoshone and Death Valley behind us. We make a brief stop at Dumont Dunes which is an off-road vehicle recreation area. Miles of packed sand and dunes; when you see the old bonfire ashes it's easy to remember nights out under the stars with good music, good food and good friends.
Wonderful desert pastel colors and interesting baubles
Mojave California is THE global place for storing un-needed aircraft. The major airlines put their jets here because of the low humidity. It makes for an interesting skyline, sort of like your average big airport on a holiday weekend.
After clearing through Bakersfield, heading west, we start thinking about a place to camp for the night. Being in the Central Valley, there are not a lot of options, but we see a green triangle on the map - there are some places. Heading there through the evening, it's pitch black by the time we arrive. In the headlights we see a long fence and a sign in the distance. Uh-oh, it's really only a Day-Use area, but why? Well, I guess it's because this green space is a preserve, and it's for Tule Elk running free, not for weary campers.
Luckily, we found a good Motel 6 a few miles up the road at a place called Buttonwillow, named after a local tree. Following a good rest and breakfast, we revisit the Tule Elk sanctuary, have a good laugh, and see where the "Elk-Caller" sits when it's time for the Elk to come and inspect the tourists.
It's an Elk-Calling pipe.
Vineyards Galore near Atascadero and San Luis Obispo
Approaching the coast near Cambria - the fog has rolled in
Bikers having a blast doing the coastal highway
Heading up the coast toward San Simeon, it's hard not to stop every mile for a walk to the beach.
There's nothing like a good old fashioned pier and beach for getting people out for some air.
Along one of the stream beds deer are snuffling about.
With a decent wind they can get some air and race over the waves.
A little further up the coast, the road is once again being rebuilt after a landslide. It's heavy duty work.
Take a look at the size of the core drill, which is used to set footings in the soil and rock. It's about 6 feet in diameter.
It's hard to believe your eyes. These are both Sea Horses, gently and slowly flying through the water.
Arriving in Carmel-By-The-Sea, we stop for some snacks and sit out on a warm sunny patio.
It's now just a short hop to Monterey and Pacific Grove, where we're staying at the Centrella Inn - a place last visited 10 years ago with my friends Scott and Nancy when I was living in California.
Before checking in we went down Cannery Row, then off for a drive to Moss Beach and back. By then it was dark and we went walking around the waterfront looking for a place for dinner.
Be sure to visit the Fish Hopper Restaurant. What a find; one of their specialties is Cioppinno, a favorite of mine from one day many years ago at Rocco's Seafood up in San Francisco on Van Ness.
We sat at the bar and indulged. Then we got talking to the guys behind the bar, and finally got chatting with the chef. It was great. Thanks Guys! See you next time for sure.
Some more Animated Local Color
Now that's a fast and classy low, Low Rider
Today it's off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What a great place, and easy to spend a full day. Glass walls and stories everywhere - things to do as well as see.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
" Halt! What's the secret password? "
Having a Snooze
We were lucky enough to sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour, and got to see how the aquarium runs behind the scenes. Stan was our Guide and has been volunteering here for many years. Thanks Stan for your great stories and perspective on the animals and their history.
We were able to visit the Sea Otters' pen atop the building where they get rehab before introduction to their natural habitat in the wild. To avoid imprinting on people, they are sheltered by opaque curtains and walls in their pools, but you can see enough of their outline playing in the water without them seeing us at all.
The same applied for the internal Aquaria, home to the Octopi (aka Octopuses or Octopodes). It was fascinating to hear how inquisitive they are, and how various toys containing food have been developed to keep them active. A good example is the clear plastic jar with small holes in it ; holes small enough to get a tentacle in but not large enough to get the food out. This requires learning how to unscrew the lid....
The next thing you know, one of them is watching how the other does it, and then does it for himself!
There was even a mystery involved with Octopi some time ago when the aquarium opened. One of the tanks housed a school of non-carnivorous fish that were slowly disappearing. After much sleuthing they discovered that after hours when the lights were out, an Octopus would slither up its tank wall, cross the floor, and visit the other tank for a meal. Come morning it was back in the right place and any water on the floor had evaporated. Now staff keep lids on!
Along the shore there's a wide pathway for all kinds of activities.
Heading back before heading out
They even have introductory SCUBA lessons for any youngsters who wanna try it.
Sitting there in the tree is a Red Shouldered Hawk, watching the passers-by. People are a bit big to eat.