Winter has arrived in California with a vengeance, not a good time for a drive along the coast.  Lashing rains, heavy winds, and floods make this an unlikely time to undertake a road trip. 

The arrival of a dear cousin, weeks earlier than anticipated, changed everything.  My cousin Laurene, despite having lived in Switzerland all of her adult life, is the closest relative I have to being a sister.  We are long-term correspondents, friends from childhood on, and my good fortune to spend a week with her was due to her recent grievous loss of her brother, also my cousin.

Laurene and her siblings grew up in the state of Washington, during teen years in a beautiful mid-century modern, custom-built house by her father, on the water.  It was here that I learned to water ski as a teenager.  Gorgeous Norwegian Elkhounds graced the household, and this is where my family adopted its first kitten, reinforcing my lifelong love of cats and dogs.

Laurene’s brother was first a doctor, but as a retiree, pursued his real love, which was music.  Later in life, he and his partner/husband moved to Palm Springs, where he played in numerous nightclubs as a jazz pianist, making many friends in the Palm Springs community.

During our visit, Laurene and I spent many hours walking along the beach.  Ocean and water, while sometimes deadly, have a healing property.  A beach walk can be a time for contemplation and remembrance.  In San Francisco, we walked along Crissy Field, from the Marina District on the Bay, to the Golden Gate Bridge, up the hill and along the cliffs of the Presidio of San Francisco, leading to Land’s End.  We traveled to Marin County to walk the Tennessee Valley trail, where the beach was closed due to the risks of stormy weather.

We have cousins in the Monterey Bay area, which led us to a winter drive along the coast.  For two days, we hit sunny, but wintry days with stormy nights.  Normally, along the California coast, one can see surfers.  This is the land of the famed Mavericks competition.  But driving along the cliffs overlooking the ocean, even the hearty surfers were absent, and I was not watching the breathtaking scenery, but rather keeping my eyes on the road.

We stayed in the picturesque town of Carmel, where again we were met with gusty winds but mostly dry days.  A daily walk to the beach revealed the famed Cypress trees of Carmel, majestic and unique.

 Granite Point in Point Lobos National Park overlooks the choppy waves, and it was there that we spotted two sea otters swimming near the rocks.  At first it looked like there was a log bobbing in the roiling water, until the first otter started to move with its fins. Diving below the waves, he returned to the surface on his back, nibbling on whatever tasty treat was found in the water. 

Carmel residents clearly like their dogs.  Two magnificent, perfected groomed golden poodles passed by us on the Point Lobos trail.  Laurene noted that their collars were Swiss-made, and sure enough, the owner/guardian was Swiss.  She and he exchanged a few brief words in Swiss German before moving on.

Another notable dog encounter occurred in a nearby shopping center near the Mission Carmel, where we met college friends of Laurene’s for lunch.  Passing by a florist, a huge sheepdog lounged over the lower half of the double gated door, struggling and wiggling to say hello in her doggy way.  She could not possibly have been cuter. “She is my official greeter,” the florist remarked.

Our good luck weather did not hold out for the journey home.  I chose to take Highway 1, a winding drive along the coast highway, as opposed to driving on rain-slickened freeways where people tend to drive too fast.  In the ensuing deluge of rain, we did not see much of the coast, despite the thin traffic, but I did not regret choosing this route.

A winter drive along the coast may not be for everyone, but we accomplished exactly what was needed:  a healing time of contemplation in the spectacular beauty beside the Pacific Ocean.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It sounds like a lovely restorative journey.

  2. Thank you

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