California Dreamin’

Imagine, if you will, waking up on a crisp, clear morning in San Jose. You look out the window onto a beautifully landscaped yard. Hot tea (or coffee if you prefer) is ready in the kitchen just a few steps away. You enjoy a piece of toast, slathered with a freshly made avocado spread that includes a few drops of lemon juice from a lemon just picked off a nearby tree. It’s a special breakfast that originated in Chile where one of your hostesses is from.

You get into a car for a ride over the Santa Cruz mountains, passing redwoods along the way. Descending into Santa Cruz, you head for a French bakery where you choose from a variety of tempting offerings. You pick a latte and a pain au chocolate with a flaky outside and a deep, rich chocolate inside.

You get back into the car for a short drive to Natural Bridges state park. You get the bicycles off the back and ride to the visitor center where you meet two cyclists who you rode with last week in Palo Alto. Leaving the bikes, you walk down a boardwalk into a eucalyptus forest. Along the way are informational signs about the lives of monarch butterflies. You start to see a few monarchs winging their way above your head. You gasp when you see hundreds of them clustered together in the branches near the sky.

Back on the bikes, you head south along the rugged coast of the Pacific Ocean, sun sparkling the waters, waves crashing along the shore. You gape out to sea, scanning for the whales that are hiding nearby. The bike trail weaves along the shoreline, passing beaches with surfers and paddle boards, a harbor filled now with boats, only recently the victim of a tsunami from Japan. You catch a glimpse ahead of a roller coaster and then see that there is a whole boardwalk with arcade games and amusement rides. You cross an old railroad trestle bridge, congratulating your fellow rider who has conquered her fear of bridges.

You keep smiling as you pass homes facing the waters, smell the eucalyptus trees in the air and eventually spot a harbor town. You notice the buildings colored like Necco wafers on the beach and stop at Zelda’s, an open air restaurant right on the water. Seagulls peck at leftover crumbs as you enjoy your charbroiled mahimahi with mango salsa. You laugh with your friends, telling stories about bicycle trips and life in California.

Riding back up a hill, you wind your way through neighborhoods to reach yet another bakery, Gayles’, where you’ve earned a second treat of the day, this time a tiny orange cake. You get back onto your bike for the return trip, once again enjoining the ocean views, this time with the light of the setting sun. Everything looks new in this light and you resist the urge to photograph it all a second time. Sometimes, you can’t resist and stop for a quick photo, unable to pass the views unrecorded.

You get back to the car, reluctantly say goodbye to your new California friends that you have enjoyed so much. This time you drive while your passenger enjoys the views from her own car, talking about the amazing weather and the gorgeous ride. You can feel the exercise in your body, a tired but alive feeling.

Arriving home, you put away the bikes, take a shower and pack your belongings back into the backpack for the trip east early in the morning. You share one final dinner with your gracious and generous hostesses with one more glass of California wine and head reluctantly to bed, knowing you must get up really early in the morning for a flight to Denver. As sleep settles in, you think back over the last few days- the walking tours of San Jose, the meals in different world cuisines, the friendly neighbors and how well you know your way around the now familiar city. Your only regret is that your ipad is full to the max and you’ll have to wait to post your pictures in your blog when you get back to Vermont next week. You fall asleep filled with gratitude for another day on the road with kind people, a great bike ride, incredible views, and delicious food.

And, best of all, you know that all that imagining really happened – one last perfect day in California.

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1 Comment

  1. Lee

     /  November 11, 2011

    Ellen, I loved what you wrote about your day in Santa Cruz — brought back wonderful memories of our years living there in the ’60s(!) when much was different … but Natural Bridges and the boardwalk and the butterflies I’m sure very much the same. Thanks!
    love, Lee

    Reply

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