A rooster woke us at 7:00 from a comfortable 71 degrees in trailer. Where would they have chickens?
Today we will see how the other half lives as we are heading to the Carmel by the Sea anda tour of the 17-Mile Drive “Half” suggests some type of line denoting equality and what I see this morning can only represent a very skewed “Half” I have no idea where the homes on the Drive end up on the bell curve but my portion of “Half” is nowhere close. I am a capitalist, all for keeping what you earn and benefiting from your labor but what do the folks here do to afford homes like these? Why do some have so much and others so little?
I know very little of this area and didn’t do my homework so am relying on the suggestions of external tour guides, aka my family. They pointed me this way and it should provide nice scenery, plus I get to see where Mayor Clint Eastwood might have said, “go ahead make my day,” at a town council meeting.
We head towards the ocean, the GPS leading the way, and I see the sign for the 17-Mile Drive pulling off only to be stopped by a well manned guard shack. I was granted entry after dropping $10.25 in cash which also provided me with a map. Why the extra $.25 and not just an even Jefferson? Is this a “because we can” gesture, the perceived treasure behind the shack a “must see”? I guess Mabel and I will find out, because we bought the Kool Aid for ten dollars and twenty-five cents.
The beginning of the tour was mundane and we saw trees that we had recently seen for free. This isn’t a house tour although we caught glimpses behind the natural and man-made boundaries intended to prevent said activity. They were nice but not worth the price of admission. Once we hit the coast though, it was a whole different ball game. A rocky shoreline greeted us with even larger outcroppings sitting just off the shore. I was glad to not have the trailer, it is so much easier to find parking. Our first shoreline stop was Spanish Bay, a small beach that didn’t seem as nice as where we were last night. I left Mabel in the car and walked down to the shoreline in my shoes. I have become that guy again and am no longer bothered by sand in my sneakers.
We continued the route which did not seem busy even though people were on the Drive. It didn’t feel like a parade though I did follow the same people and saw them at the various stops.
We got out and walked down to a postage stamp sized beach, open only because of the tidal cycle. Rocks surrounded it and captured the sea to form tidal pools. Mabel was adept at navigating the rocks and the obstructions did little to dampen her quest for adventure. She sniffed and was oblivious to the little gnats circling at sea weed.
Seal Rock Picnic Area lived up to its name and I could see the giant, off shore rock covered with them. My binoculars gave me a better view and they didn’t look so much like leaches as they did with the naked eye. I can hear their “arf, arf, arf” and have a good view of them laying around the rock, some showing ambition as they slithered down to the water. The water at the base of the rock was full of bathing seals where they look much more graceful. The rock has to smell bad.
Our trip takes us past the Ghost tree after we see the Cypress Tree.
We pass the famous Cypress tree after seeing the Ghost Tree.
Our $10.25 also allows us to walk around Pebble Beach Golf Course, where I see the clubhouse but do not go in. The shops held no interest as I am not a golfer. Walking around in a Pebble Beach golf cap would have brought out the poser in me.
Access is also granted to the 18th hole, but on the nonmember side of the fence. I will admit the view was pretty cool.
I was finished with the Drive and headed out the gate towards Carmel where I was lucky to find parking close to the beach. Dogs seemed welcome, if on a leash, so Mabel and I strolled down the big hill to the shoreline. It was a fine sand, comfortable on the feet, I could tell even with my Nikes on, and Mabel seemed soothed by its texture. It was a wonderful beach but one that seemed like more of a “I was there” beach than a “let’s go to the beach” beach. Only a few were enjoying it as a beach should, with the bulk strolling around its white sanded shoreline. I liked the usability of the Outer Banks and could see myself enjoying it all summer (the reading I could accomplish!), while here I could see a beach visit, an overnight, and a departure. We drove through town after giving up our parking space and I headed back to the luxurious Salinas KOA.
Before I left on this trip, before I told people of the trip, I reached out to the National Steinbeck Center and started a conversation with Lisa, one of the archivists. She was nice enough to grant me some of her time today and we were meeting at 1:00 to chat. I didn’t have questions prepared, just wanting her perspective on John’s trip.
Mabel was left to enjoy the camper and I trekked back towards town to the Center which is in Old Town Salinas, the Town’s original main street. It’s a neat little town and I see a sign for Steinbeck Realty, is it creative marketing or a relative? It could be either as this is John’s hometown after all. After some time spent in the gift shop I meet with Lisa in the lobby and we talk about Steinbeck, Sag Harbor, the camper, my trip, and Travels with Charley. She is a native Midwesterner from Illinois and ended up in California because of her husband’s job. After working in retail with no job satisfaction she decided to put her anthropology degree to work volunteering at the Center. It turned into a full-time gig after she showed her research and cataloging skills.
I tour the Center’s collection, heading directly to Rocinante, the GMC pickup truck he travelled the country in. The truck was in remarkable shape, its green paint polished to a luster. The bulky tires more at home on the road than a museum, and the camper’s warm interior inviting even with the plexiglass barrier. The camper’s inside is narrow but ample for one person, a different lay out than my Arabella’s but I am not sure if more accommodating. The wood cabinets provide a tinge of yesteryear and I can see the author pouring coffee or writing with a pencil. My grandfather wrote in his diary that he helped with the camper’s modifications which makes sense as he was the caretaker, but the distance doesn’t allow for inspection
Lisa told me the Center’s acquisition of Rocinante was by chance. It was in Maine where the owner called then one day and said he was through with it. They raised money and called in a number of favors to move it to Salinas where it sat in different locations before it was restored and ready for display.
The rest of the collection is very well done and shows the authors work and the history around them. I was familiar with some of his works, the ones we had to read in school, and a few read afterwards, but learned new things about John’s life. There was a small section on Sag Harbor and a re-creation of his Sag Harbor writing gazebo.
I met a couple from England and offered to take their picture in front of the camper. They told me they lived in what has been voted “the crappiest city” in England but are more in the hills. I forget what the town’s name is though. They take my picture and I tell them my story to include my Grandfather. They are in the States because of the woman’s 50th birthday and she is doing a “Summer of Love” tour to include Las Vegas. The homeless they see is surprising to them and I ask how it is in England. It is hard to buy a home in England, the average age they tell me is 35 for a first-time buyer. I don’t know how that equates to the US but as the news tells me, many young people are living with their parents.
Before the trip I always considered Steinbeck as one of Sag Harbor’s own so it is weird to see the accolades and perceived ownership of his literary lore by Salinas. Especially since their embrace wasn’t initially of love; his books were at one time burned by the library. He grew up here, learned and applied his craft here, became Steinbeck the author here, and it helped with the setting for his Pulitzer. So, it isn’t a stretch to say he is a Salinas boy that “did good” and there is reason to celebrate. But the Steinbeck’s chose New York and Sag Harbor which says something, as Elaine was a Texas girl (we share the same alma matter) and it’s hard to get the girl out of Texas. Regardless of what was written or said, to me, The Winter of Our Discontent is a novel about Sag Harbor. So, I feel Sag Harbor’s claim, if there is one, also has merit with the windmill plaque totally warranted. A sharing of the author is reasonable.
Mable and I head to Monterey and I intend to find a dinner spot but nothing looked dog friendly and I didn’t want to lock the in the car after she was constrained in the camper. So, we walk around Cannery Row, a different facsimile of what it was during Steinbeck’s’ time. It is nice, a decent offering of dining options and the aquarium looked awesome. The waterfront is clean and the view amenable.
We walk, what turns out to be a tiring distance to Pacific Grove, a small town that shares the shoreline. Many cute houses line the road and a few B&Bs are sprinkled in. A man and woman get out of their car and face the bay with large antler like horns. They let off a blast which startles Mabel and I am thinking they are calling the seal. Unfortunately, the only thing they are calling is attention to themselves, but maybe that was the intention. I pass more quaint summer cottage style homes as we make our way to Pacific Grove’s main street. They are small but well-kept and dripping with charm. The main street is no different and the storefronts are well occupied with stores for tourists and stores for local needs.
The walk back is a realization of fatigue but we have no choice. Maybe we do, I guess I could always Uber back, but that defeats the point of getting my steps in for the day. We leave Monterey and I think how much more enjoyable it would have been with Sheri. She would have soaked in the atmosphere. Another trip through Castroville, the self-billed “Artichoke Capital of the World”, and we find ourselves back at the KOA. It was a full day and I think we saw a lot of the area. Another night on the beach would have been welcomed but no time as tonight we played tourist instead of beach bum.
Thankful to have experienced history at the National Steinbeck Center.