November 14, 2012
Breakfast in Café Triest, where we finished the day with a glass of wine last night. Great atmosphere and coffee.
Cannery Row, originally called Ocean View Avenue made popular and renamed after Steinbeck’s novel, profits from streams of tourists here to catch the novels atmosphere, now hidden in warehouses transformed into shops, cafés, restaurants and hotels. The sardines sent overseas to feed American soldiers during both world wars were canned and cooked in Monterey on Cannery Row. John Steinbeck describes how the industry, tragically eradicating the entire sardine population in only a few short decades, made itself obsolete, leaving empty warehouses and an eerie quiet its wake.
After paying an entrance fee at a toll booth, a seventeen mile drive along a private road from Monterey to Pebble Beach, with myriad stops to admire the splendid views. Sea otters, threatened by extinction, are making a comeback in these – now – protected waters. Groups of elephant seals rest on the beach barking loudly. Large portions of the coastline from San Francisco to Monterey are protected, and ample parking opportunities enable the general public to enjoy the pristine landscape that has escaped development.
Here though, posh estates extend to the beach, making direct access impossible. Privately owned beaches so common on the East Coast are rarer in California, where substantial resources have been invested in nature preservation and tasteful infrastructure that enables beach access for all citizens.
Villas here are well protected from the public eye by high fences and closed gates. An occasional glimpse of Mediterranean style estates nestled under fragrant cyprus branches, caught through gates open only long enough to admit elegant cars, before automatically banging shut.
Carmel, a charming town of smaller, ‘normal’ looking houses sheltered from the Californian sun under canopies of bent cyprus branches, each one artistic, different, individual. No housing developer at work here! A glance into a realtor’s window reveals that smaller homes don’t command small prices. Because it is impossible to guess by looking into a gallery window what materials a sculptor used for his dance sculptures, we enter to inquire. Richard MacDonald, a trained painter in residence, is a self taught sculptor who works in clay, casting his pieces in bronze using the lost wax method.
Lunch in Carmel, where we would love to spend the evening, but budget concerns and the distance to LA, still 350 miles away, inspires us to continue along Big Sur the dramatic cliff region reminiscent of The Riviera. Route 1, winding continuously up and down along the cliff’s edge, often without a shoulder, validates our decision to rent a car. The traffic and strenuous terrain is definitely not ideal for bicycling.
Shortly before sunset we stop at a campground that has a lovely view of the Pacific, but only two spots on steep slopes in long, very damp grass. We find a wooded park, without a view, where we set up camp under the protection of an old venerable oak tree.
Crossing the road to watch the sunset we discover an old hippie, crunched up on his heels, unable to either walk or talk. We assist him back to the campground, where he rests from his exertions on the picnic bench by our tent, until he gathers the strength to hobble off to his tent. The thought of being on the road with unstable, failing health is unattractive and makes us grateful to be touring at this stage of our lives.
By 6:00 it is pitch black. Christof makes a bonfire. By 7:00 it feels like midnight so we retire.