Saturday
Oct012005

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looking north on the open land surrounding CA-1 somewhere on the central CA coastAlong the CA-1 highwayIn the past two weeks, I've had two gigs to do up in the coastal areas below San Francisco. The first week's gig was in Monterey, and the second one was in Half Moon Bay. I took different roads where possible on each leg of each trip so I could check out hitherto unseen or underseen areas. On each trip, I had a whole day to drive more or less at my leisure, and alone. It's nice being able to travel for free, but it's always been frustrating that the nature of this work doesn't really allow me to be a tourist for much, if at all. Still, usually I pack the camera and try to catch what I can.

It bums me out that some of the places I go to or stay in are really nice but I never have anyone to enjoy it with. Kelli and I did a driving tour of northwestern California for our honeymoon. These two trips I just made covered some of that ground. I've also made a few work related trips to SF too, and I covered some of that ground too in these recent trips.

I'd never been to Monterey, and now after having gone, it still seems like I have not gone to Monterey. But I did get a few hours to soak it up enough to like it. I drove a regular GMC van up to that gig. It did not have cruise control but it did have a CD player. I left on a Wednesday morning and went up the 5 and 405 through Hell on Earth until I got to 101, which I like an awful lot more than 5 when it comes to the long haul up to the bay area. The 101 is a lot more leisurely, as it splits its time between freeway and smaller country road or main street through some regions. I took the 101 to San Luis Obispo where I took the beautiful CA-1 coast road. When it comes to driving, usually I am keen to take breaks. I can do three hours or so, but don't like much more. My knee doesn't like it. I usually don't drive on my own to these sorts of places. Last year I did more driving on the honeymoon trip but traditionally, I am passenger on these sorts of trips to gigs in far away places. As driver, I get to feel out the trip a bit more—stop for random photos, meander a bit, make a wrong turn here and there. Since I wasn't pressed for time and I was in a van for this first trip, I took the 1 from SLO all the way up to Monterey. I got to 1 about 4 or 5 pm, and somewhere about 60 miles south of Monterey, I stopped to watch and shoot the sunset. Highway 1 is full of Alpine-like curves and can be really challenging at points, particularly in an unfamiliar vehicle and just before sunset when the blazing sun alternately switches from being in front to on the left and back again, causing me (with no sunglasses) to have to use one hand to keep flipping the damned visor back and forth accordingly! Then, after dark, it's only slightly easier, but the road is even more mysterious. This particular week's drive was only about a half hour later than the one that Kelli and I made, relative to sunset. I also had the same music playing for parts of it, so I got into a nice little reminiscent frame of mind. On the way up, I stopped at the tiny hamlet of Harmony and got her a post card and some gifts (to be revealed later). We stopped in there and got some stuff from the pottery shop there. I did likewise.

alng CA-1, looking to the water and the coast road from a vista pointFarther north on CA-1, looking southwestI got to Monterey with only a few chumped wrong turns or misses. I had no map, only the crappy directions that Mapquest gave me for going the interstate 5 route, which was totally not applicable. I finally got to town and was delighted with what I saw. It reminded me of Geneva, Switzerland. I really only drove into the downtown and stayed there for the night. No Cannery Row or Fisherman's Wharf. Nah, no time for that. I got to the hotel and it too was delightful. It was old and classy Victorian style. Hey, I get used to being put up in Motel 6 and places like that. The only thing not to like about this hotel was that my room was on the 4th floor with no elevator. After my day of driving, that was a bit frustrating, especially when my key did not work the first time. The hotel for the gig was the Marriott just on the other side of the block and over one block. Hey, that's my kind of commute! The downtown is delightfully small and walkable, with all the pleasant shops and restaurants lining the tiny streets. Very European. A nice break from the suburban garbage I am used to. I stopped in for a tasty meatloaf at this place called the Crown and Anchor. It was like being below deck in a Revolutionary War era ship, albeit one that the captain would be on. It was cool. Food was great. One beer got me a nice buzz and sent me to sleep nicely. Good thing too because I had to get up at fucking 6 in the morning and it was already pushing after 11 or so!

Gig day was stupid and annoying as all gig days go. Start at waytoofuckingearly 'o' clock in the morning and do a prolonged setup for a corporate client who is an unforgiving asshole. The guy I was working with was a miscast video tech and operator who got stuck with recording audio and running the meeting's front of house sound. I am not unfamiliar with recording but corporate gigs make me bristle, and four channels of open lavalier wireless mics in a room like this is just bad news. I set it up and tried to ring it out but the gig saw its share of problems, and I was technically not "on" the gig, so it all went down as I slept at the hotel room. I was happy to get that gig struck by 2:30 and start out of town by 3 in the afternoon. The other guy just hated that gig. He had just got done telling me over breakfast how this client has an "A" list and a "B" list. He was on the A list till that day. The B list is the list of people that the client never wants to see on a show date. So my drive home was frustrating because I knew I set that up and someone else took the wrath for it. But WTF? Corporate clients are assholes by and large who want the fucking sun, stars, and moon. I was just happy to get on the road again.

one derrick among a jungle of them at Lost Hills, CALost Hills, CAI took CA-68 out of Monterey and over to Salinas where I went down the 101 to pick up some speed. But then I got a wild hair to make the drive across a stretch of road I had never taken and had only heard of a few days before. I took CA-46 from Paso Robles over to Lost Hills where 46 crosses the 5 in the central valley. I think I drove about a 50-60 mile stretch of this road. It was stunning in its desolation. The hills are yellow with the grass the covers them, and they go for miles that way, but then give way to the valley where nothing but nut trees are grown. That is until just on the outskirts of Lost Hills where out of nowhere a veritable city of oil pumps turn up, silently pumping our civilizational lifeblood out of the earth. This I HAD to stop for so I could nab a few pictures. I'd seen this in Edward Burtynsky's photo exhibitions, but didn't know where it was before I just happened into it on this drive. It was toward the end of the daylight hours, and the stretch of 5 that I drove before dark reminded me of how boring a drive that is. I got to the Grapevine just at dark and started all that unfamiliar driving just as the sun went to bed. I've never done that drive myself, but have gone through there many times. Still, it was interesting.

On the way home, I took the 10 to the 15 so I could avoid any lingering LA traffic but also so I could pull a fast one on Kelli. She goes to school in Claremont, along the 10. The school is pretty close to the freeway, so I decided I'd stop in. I called her not to tell her this plan but to see where she was on campus. Turns out the library is close by the street too so after all the niceties and pillow talk on the phone, I said good night and I'd be home in a couple hours. When I got to the school, she was making her way to the library, and I was rather conspicuous in my approach across the lawn but she didn't notice me. I followed her right into the library, and even called her but she was on a mission to sit and study. She had just sat down and put her books on the table when she looked up and there I was! It was good fun. We took about 20 minutes to visit and she showed me off to here roommates up there, but then it was time to go for the last couple hours. Got home about midnight.

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