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California Hodgepodge

Friday, 1 August 2003
written by Teresa

I originally started writing this entry eight weeks ago whilst on a plane flying to the UK. A couple of days after we arrived, my father died and needless to say, finishing this wasnít my priority. Although itís now very out of date, Iíve completed it and youíll just have to pretend youíre reading it sometime in mid June!

Windy Willow We have spent the last week or so in the vague vicinity of San Francisco. From the Sequoias we dropped down several thousand feet along a wondrously narrow, switch-backing road between banks of wild flowers, caught in the morning light. Our destination was San Luis Reservoir where the deep dark waters sit in startling contrast with the fields of dried yellow grasses reaching down to it's shores from the gently rolling hills. It is a place known for it's wind, whipping up white caps out on the water, rippling through the densely packed grass stems and pushing the elegant willow branches into cartoon like caricatures. This is no cold wind but hot dry air on the move, brushing our legs like the warmth from the coals of a dying fire. Water birds huddle in by the shore, seeking any shelter available. Ruddy Ducks with their ridiculous blue beaks mingle amongst the black and white Buffleheads. On shore, Loggerhead Shrikes take advantage of the numerous wing borne snacks.

Our forthcoming holiday necessitated a trip north to the REI store in Berkeley. During my time in the states I have relied on walking boots that were not waterproof. The clear skies and low rainfall of the American west demand nothing more but to contemplate a visit to the UK without the completely watertight variety would be a folly of extraordinary proportions. Sterling's old boots had seen better days and it seemed like a good opportunity to replace them at the same time. If we lived in a land of bricks and mortar I would no doubt have been inspired to plant them with nasturtiums, one either side of the front door. As it was they got put in a bin at one of the state parks and had been removed and presumably given a new home within half an hour. This particularly pleased Sterling who always finds it difficult to part with a favorite and trusty piece of clothing or pair of shoes. It's somehow easier if they've not actually been thrown away but rather been recycled in some way. Berkeley conjures up thoughts of student demonstrations and the power of flowers. It seemed to us that the place is still trying to perpetuate something of an alternative image but how much of that was in our imaginations is hard to say. One of the townsí exceptional selling points is the Pyramid Brewery. Front of house is a well designed pub in the remodeled industrial building mode, uncovered air vents and criss-crossing metal walk ways above while pyramid shaped light shades hover mid-air. Bottled Pyramid has long been one of our favorites and it was even more satisfactory on tap.

Leaving the bright lights behind, we took California Highway 1 south along the coast tracing the cliffs and bays through the cool damp air. Half Moon Bay State Beach sounds a great deal more beautiful than you might think. For some reason the state beaches seem to specialise in campgrounds closely resembling car parks where pitches are lined up in tightly packed rows, RV's glinting like pilchards in a tin. Sea Of Clouds Our new boots were calling to be worn so we slipped them on and went down onto the beach in a first effort at wearing them in. Standing at the waterís edge we miscalculated the waves and returned to the camper with our soggy feet to dry out our newly christened boots.

Our last real stop before heading for England was at Fremont Peak State Park up in the hills paralleling the coast. Fremontís particular geography results in blankets of thick white fluffy cloud rolling in from the sea, over the coastal plain and sitting below the modest peaks of the park. Looking out across this make believe world is a truly magical experience and at sunset, the light produces stunning effects as the softly rippled surface becomes suffused in various shades of orange and red.

Fremont is home to an observatory housing a thirty-inch reflector telescope that is open to the public on most Saturday nights. We were fortunate to be there at the right time and I got my first close up look at the moon. While this was nothing new to Sterling, I have to say that I was immensely impressed by the amount of detail visible on the surface. We were treated to views of Jupiter with three of his moons visible and finally a nebular cluster looking for all the world like the beginning of a Star Trek episode.

We left the States on the 11th June and had six weeks in the UK primarily visiting people but also getting to travel about a little. Iím told that our overseas correspondent is producing a view of the trip from an Americanís perspective. Hopefully it will be posted in the next week.

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