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Travelogue #2

The drive from Jolon to the KOA in Salinas was relatively uneventful, thank goodness. After the drive up from LA, I was ready for something a little easier.

I have never stayed at a KOA before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Friends had recommended this particular one so that’s why I booked it.

It’s right off the freeway with a couple of strip malls filled with grocery stores and places to eat, which was a huge plus.

I pulled in and got set up right away. They promised wifi but it was sketchy at best, non-existent most of the time. They assigned me a spot, gave me a map and off I went.

At first, I was a bit disappointed. It’s basically a parking lot of campers and RV’s. Nothing special. I backed into my spot – only took about six tries, so that’s an improvement. Unhooked Kaylee, my car, and got Indy and all my stuff situated. I had learned a lot from the couple of nights at Jolon about setting up. This time, I felt like I set myself up better, making sure that everything was easier to get to and easier to put away. That way, hopefully at the end of the stay, it would be easier to pack up.

I wandered a bit and found the restroom and pool, all very clean and very nice. The rec room was closed due to COVID but not sure I would have used it anyway. I ran up to the store to get some supplies, figuring I’d make dinner then chill.

The spot next to me was empty but the spot next to that had a nice-sized trailer owned by Jill and Drew. As night fell, they made a fire in their fire pit and put out some tiki torches. We ended up having a nice long conversation. They apparently live at that KOA 95% of the time. They are allowed to stay up to 27 days, I think it is, then they have to leave for a few days, then come back. The KOA holds their spot so they can return to the same place every time. They’ve been doing this for a few months now, so it was interesting to talk to someone who does what I would like to do eventually.

Sky got a lot of attention. She was so tiny in the midst of these enormous RVs that are practically houses on wheels. You could have fit three of my tiny trailer in some of them. I got to show her off to a couple of people, which always makes me happy. I’m so proud of what I was able to build with little money and even littler knowledge.

I had questioned the way I built her but now that I was using her, it was apparent that I had made the right decisions. Putting the “toy box” storage along the driver’s side of the interior worked out perfectly for putting Indy’s food and litter box, as well as my little generator and other miscellaneous things. It is a bit challenging when I need to get something out but I try to do things in batches – not just look for one thing, try to think ahead about what else I might need. The shuttered cabinets are awesome as well. I had picked up some small bungee cords before I left and they came in handy to secure these cabinets so I didn’t have the same spillage on this trip. Everything was where I had left it. I guess I had organized things pretty well because I found things easily, which was nice. Though as the trip has gone on, I could probably use a day to re-organize because things have gotten moved and now I can’t find stuff.

The little IKEA shelf that I bought to put mementos on has become quite a useful shelf. I couldn’t find all the little goodies I had wanted to bring with me so the shelf was looking sort of sad. But I’m finding it’s the perfect place to put things like the small container of Indy’s food I keep in the trailer, his litter bags, even my car keys.

I’m really happy that the things I planned out worked exactly how I wanted them to work. I actually thought I might get on the road and realize the whole design was wrong. But it’s highly functional and makes things very comfortable.

Though I do have too many pillows. I have the two big pillows I made out of the upholstery foam I got for free off Craigslist. Those work great as tables and desks because they’re hard foam. But I bought two little Asian pillows that are pretty useless, though sometimes they help brace my neck when I’m sitting against one of the bigger pillows. My friend, Amy, gave me these two pillows with mice on them which also work out well as little tables when I need something to hold my iPad or my phone. And then there are my bed pillows. But at night, all but the bed pillows go into the car and then back into the trailer in the morning. Kind of a pain, but not sure I’d get rid of any of them, especially the mice ones.

The next day, I slept in a bit. Had a simple breakfast of a muffin and coffee because I wasn’t quite ready to tackle the propane stove yet. Indy wanted to come out so we took a quick little walk around. Needless to say, he was popular.

I packed Indy into the car and we headed into Monterey.

Monterey is one of my favorite places on earth. My ex-husband and I had honeymooned at Carmel and Monterey. We even went back for our tenth anniversary. While our marriage eventually because difficult, the times we spent there were probably the best times of our marriage. But it was time to make new memories, leaving those others behind in the past where they belong.

Found a parking spot near the Monterey Bay Aquarium which, sadly, is closed due to COVID. Although I probably wouldn’t have gone in with Indy anyway.

Right before I left on the trip, I had ordered a pet stroller for Indy so that I would be able to walk around with him. I’m so glad I did that. I pulled it out of the car and put him in it. He wasn’t happy at first, telling me very loudly how unhappy he was with the whole situation. But once we got moving, he got distracted by everything going on around us and quieted down.

We were quite the sight – yes, I was the old lady pushing her cat around in a stroller. A bright fuchsia pink stroller, nonetheless. It was on sale. People stopped to talk to him because that’s what you do when you see a cat in a stroller. He did very well with all of the attention.

We walked around Cannery Row, peeking into all the shops. Trying not to spend a lot of money because I don’t have a lot, never mind the fact that I don’t have a lot of room to put things.

I found a place that wasn’t too expensive for lunch, getting a healthy-sized order of fish and chips. I took that around behind one of the big hotels where there was a nice seating area overlooking the water.

I don’t know what it is about the air in Monterey and Carmel but it’s like nowhere else I’ve been. Living in LA, I’ve been to a ton of the beaches along the coastline there. But none of them are like these two cities. The air feels clean, clear, positive. Filled with hope, as weird as it sounds. And it’s so clear and beautifully blue. The rock formations always fascinate me as they are like shards that have been driven up from the ocean bottom.

We sat there for a while. Well, I sat. Indy eventually just laid down in his stroller and napped. He wasn’t as impressed with the view as I was.

When I finished eating, I took Indy out of his stroller. He immediately went into adventure mode. He pulled me all over the area, sniffing everything. He really wanted to disappear under the foliage around a restaurant and we had a strong disagreement over that. He didn’t want to go near the railing to see the water. He was much more interested in the greenery. I let him walk around for about ten minutes before packing him back into his stroller.

         

I made a couple of stops on the way. When we had gotten to the KOA, I had set my brand new camera down inside of the camper, thinking it was sitting solidly on the mattress. Apparently it wasn’t as it fell to the concrete. That did something to the shutter that makes the shutter activate continuously. I found a camera shop and stopped by to see if they could fix it. Indy was asleep in the car, so I made sure to park in the shade. I had left him in the car for short amounts of time at Jolon RV when I ran into a grocery store and he was fine.

Unfortunately, the camera shop couldn’t help me. They recommended their other store, which also couldn’t help me. Crap. I stopped at a pawn shop and picked up a cheap point-and-shoot but I don’t like the way it works. Luckily, I didn’t spend a lot of money on it.

Got back to the KOA and made myself some dinner. Finally figured out the propane stove – I had apparently not been tightening things in enough.

I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Jill and Drew over their fire and tiki torches. It was nice to have someone to talk to. The hardest thing about this trip is that I am alone. There’s no one with whom to share the adventures of the day. I felt that way when I first got to China as well. But that’s part of the life I’ve chosen – it’s a solitary adventure and the best I can do is share it with all of you virtually.

Indy hung out with us for a bit. I tried tying his leash to the picnic table but that only succeeded in letting him escape! Luckily, he stopped when I yelled his name and I was able to get him back into Sky. I earned my bourbon that night.

     

Went to bed feeling satisfied and happy. Indy’s continuing Dawn Patrol was annoying at best, anger-inducing at worst. But at least I now knew he would do this every morning. Apparently, my bladder became triggered by his dawn wanderings, so I would drag him to the bathroom and then let him wander on the way back.

The second full day there, I headed to Carmel. I left Indy in the trailer because he seemed fine there. I also knew that Jill and Drew would be around most of the day so if something happened, they would be there.

I spent a couple of hours wandering around the small town. First stop was a high-end pen shop. I have an addiction to fountain pens so couldn’t resist. It was hard to resist a beautiful $195 pen the clerk showed me.

I wandered into a couple of other stores and galleries. One gallery in particular caught my eye. An enormous painting of vibrant blues and reds practically screamed out at me.

        

The gallery had two such paintings, so I had to go in to find out who the artist was. His name was Denis Lebecq.

https://galeriedenislebecq.com/en/biography/

I asked the gallery person if I could take a picture of the nameplate because there was a big sign saying “no photos” on the paintings. He immediately handed me a folio of the artist’s work, though when I said I couldn’t afford to buy, he almost yanked it out of my hands. I flipped through the folio, staggered by how beautiful the pieces were. Such brilliant colors. Such simple shapes, yet you know exactly what is going on. I may have to try this style because it’s so far outside of my own comfort zone.

I wandered a bit more, stopping for an amazing plate of fish and chips at a local pub that had outdoor seating.

Coming back to the KOA, it was a very uneventful evening. I wrote the previous blog, poked at my novel a bit, then just sat in the trailer and watched a movie for a while. I realized that I didn’t need to be “doing things” all the time, that I can just sit and do nothing.

I was slowly finding myself feeling the pressure and the anxiety from the past couple of years starting to lift. Even now, as I sit at the incredible Doran Beach, I feel like my brain is finally clearing up. I’m starting to feel like I can think again. Yes, nothing is solved regarding having a place to really live or work or anything else. But I feel like I can start planning again with a clear head.

The next day, I headed back into Monterey, wanting to wander around without Indy with me. Since he seemed to be okay inSky, I again left him sleeping there.

I went to Fisherman’s Wharf first, thinking I might paint while I was there. It was pretty packed but everyone was wearing masks because they are very strict about that in Monterey County.

   

There was a shop that had some cool steampunk masks and I bought a nice little ring from a street vendor. The vendor said they had just been allowed back on the wharf. We talked about how artists are struggling during this pandemic. Felt good to give him a little bit of business.

I found a spot on the rocks from where I could paint. My watercolor skills could really use some work. I can reproduce a painting but I’m not great at creating something original. This is one of my goals on this trip is to paint more just for fun. I did manage to turn out a little quick study that didn’t suck too bad.

         

From there, I went back to Cannery Row so I could wander without Indy with me. Came back to the KOA, had dinner and prepped for my class the next day.

On the last day, aimed to go back into Carmel, knowing I had to teach my regular fundamentals of art class at 12:30. I took a short drive into Monterey, getting a big, fat cinnamon bun to eat in the same spot I had eaten the previous day. I just wanted one more look.

I thought I had given myself a lot of time to get to Carmel and find a coffee shop. But I foolishly decided to take the 17 Mile Drive Tour, which takes a lot longer than I had planned.

Let’s talk about this drive for a minute. You pay $10.50 to drive through a lot of trees – yes, it’s beautiful, but still – past golf courses you couldn’t afford to play in the middle of houses you couldn’t afford to buy. I kind of resented paying the money to be shown how much I didn’t have.

But the drive finally opened up to the coastline, which made it worth the money. As time was getting close to start the class, I found a place at Ghost Trees which overlooked the ocean and set up to teach.

Ghost Trees was just gorgeous. Huge cypress trees dotting the landscape, the ocean crashing against the shore beneath them. Not a bad place to teach.

I found an empty bench and got set up. It went pretty well, though it was very chilly along the coast that day. The sun had decided it wasn’t going to come out, so though it was 65 degrees, it felt ten degrees colder. I had thrown my big red wrap in the back of the car, so I grabbed that to wrap up in while I taught.

Class went well, though I ended it in the car in order to charge my phone. I even got another little watercolor study done. My students are advanced so I could play around between coaching them.

Watercolor study
Watercolor study

By the time class was over, I decided I needed to get back to the campsite. I had left Indy for more time than I had planned, though when I got back, it was clear that he didn’t miss me at all. He was upside down, sound asleep in the middle of all the pillows.

A new camper pulled up next to me while I was hanging out at the picnic table, trying to figure out what I was going to do for the night. A lovely family with two mid-teen kids. We chatted for a bit about the campsite and I showed off Sky to them. They were quite lovely.

I tried to set up my podcasting equipment but realized I need a few more things, like a different mic stand, before I could really do anything with it. I think the trailer will be great for podcasting, I just have to get the set-up right.

Had a quick little chat with Jill and Drew, but he was knee-deep in homework for a class and Jill seemed tired, so it was a short night. I went back to Sky to do some pre-packing to make leaving the next day easier. Snuggled up with Indy to watch some Netflix and crash.

The next morning, there was a knock on my door. The lovely husband who had arrived the previous night offered me pancakes for breakfast! They were delicious! I was so surprised and touched by that simple gesture.

Ran a few errands after that to make sure I had enough supplies for the first day at Doran Beach. Packing up went really quickly and easily, which was nice. Said good-bye to Jill and Drew and headed off for Doran Beach.

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