Thursday, October 15, 2009

Take It Easy: Heading for L.A. on One-Oh-One

I had a long drive today, from Los Altos, California down to Santa Monica, where I'm spending the weekend decompressing from the stress of getting my father settled in skilled nursing care. Fortunately, I have a great sister and she's taking over support duties in my absence, even though it means she'll miss some of her work back home in Denver.

I was up early and on my way by 6:30 a.m. I was well ahead of the commuters as I rolled through Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World, and Salinas, home of John Steinbeck. In spite of California's population boom, the fields in the Salinas Valley are still large and verdant. They are one of many reasons California has a GNP as large as the entire nation of France.

Sunrise near Salinas, California

I was almost eighty miles on my way when the sun began coming up. It's the first time I've seen a sunrise in quite a few years. I could say I used to see them more often when I, upon occasion, was on my way home at that hour. But that would be telling. When I stopped near a farm to take a picture of the dawn, I saw a man watching it too. He gave me a wave.

One of the nicest surprises of Highway 101 is coming down from the hills of San Luis Obispo, and suddenly descending upon the Pacific at Pismo Beach. I never have liked the name of that town--named after a type of clam--but the view from the highway above the cliffs is stunning.

A view of the Pacific, from U.S. Highway 101 in California. It's the route the padres took on their way from Mexico north, to set up their chain of missions. If you saw a view like this, you'd keep walking too.

My Google directions had me take a cutoff from Highway 101 that I've never used before. Not far from Pismo Beach, I turned off onto CA-154 and drove into the mountains over San Marcos Pass. It takes about 20 miles off the drive and puts you into the region of Ronald Reagan's old Rancho del Cielo--the Ranch in the Clouds. He's gone now. Taken by the same disease that is ravaging my father. When you reach the top of the pass, you are reminded of why our 40th president loved this country so much.

San Marcos Pass, near Lake Cachuma.

I arrived in Los Angeles before 2 p.m., found my friend Phyllis' house in Santa Monica, and was in my favorite Chinese robe when she arrived from Costco an hour later. I won't tell you how I got in. I've known Phyllis since we roomed together in college. What's a little breaking and entering between friends?

She's living less than a mile from our first apartment on Saltair, the place that was our launch pad into life. Now I'm splashing down again, and I've landed almost exactly where I began.

Next up, a visit with screenwriter Steve Latshaw, whom I haven't seen in at least a decade, though he is a contributor to my blog and we correspond regularly. For his big birthday party, he claims to have edited an "outtakes reel" that shows yours truly back when she was a real diva. Saints preserve us. I hope I survive.

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