Well, we are back with our RV and tow car, intent on enjoying some sun, warmth, and learning as we wander around California for a couple of months. We spent several days in Pleasanton, where the vehicles had spent a few months in storage at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Then to San Jose, where we visited the Tech Museum of Innovation. And now to the Coast, where our campground is in the hills and redwoods, and we strolled along the beach and in town in Santa Cruz.
The temperature read -4 as we neared the Manchester Airport early on the morning of the 24th - it wasn't hard to fly away from that. I had a cold which made the plane flights unpleasant and dozy. One interesting discovery: the attendants kept announcing that the flight from Chicago to Oakland was nearly full, but as I sat huddled in my aisle seat in my jacket and wool cap, with a pile of tissues and wadded wet tissue balls in my lap, no one tried to claim the seat between John and me... We were able to take public transportation all the way to Pleasanton. #1 coincidence: the BART station in Oakland is the site of the film which just won all the top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, about a shooting of a black teenager by a police officer.
#2 coincidence, of course, is that when we flew home from Oakland in October, the San Francisco Giants were headed to the World Series, which they won. And now we are back in the SF area which is crazy with anticipation of the Super Bowl this Sunday. #3 coincidence: the ban on public nudity in San Francisco just went into effect, so we would no longer emerge from a subway to find a nude man or two sunning on a park bench. Aw, gee... (We would have to search on the internet to learn the status of the Oracle World Cup boat which sank just hours after we watched it sail by us one October day.)
We were delighted to find the vehicles unscathed by the months without us, the only minor problem that we had to charge the car battery. The Alameda Fairgrounds are very active, even in the winter, with bridge tournaments and birthday parties, jockeys exercising horses, a huge off track betting parlor, golf driving range, etc. etc. It's a short walk into the downtown area of Pleasanton, where after a couple of days stretched out on the bed consuming tissues, we went for a stroll and coffee and window shopping. Several shops were closed for "spring cleaning." In January. Hmm.
We drove east one day, to Livermore, where we were told that the first wine grapes were grown in the valley east of there. We drove through varied terrain, some just rolling and barren hills, some dotted with large, close-packed, similar style homes. John told me that the cause of the lumps on the hills - they look like faces with bad acne outbreaks - is earthquakes. Pleasanton and Livermore are two of the wealthiest midsize cities in the country, very attractive spots.
It is a joy to me to find it difficult to go inside in the sunny, 50 and 60 degree weather, rather than difficult to push myself outside in the winter back home. We are relishing sitting outside at coffee shops, soaking up the rays while we stare at folks.
As my cold subsided, naturally John developed it. But there was only one night when because of his coughing, one of us nearly had to sleep in the car.
We had somewhat intended to go north to the Sonoma Valley, which we missed in the fall, and back into San Francisco, but those plans faded into unimportance for us.
We drove the few miles from Pleasanton to spend the night at a Walmart parking lot near San Jose, and drove in to explore that city. The Tech Museum of Innovation is a wonderful place. It was literally swarming with school children when we arrived, which propelled me back to my teaching days. Except that the faces were far more ethnically varied than those in New Hampshire. Many of the kids dashed from one hands-on activity to another, but I did notice that many of them were actually very involved in exploring the activities. The future lights of Silicon Valley. We had such wonderful sandwiches at a small deli in town that supper was a very light affair that night.
The drive to the campground near Santa Cruz took us through coastal mountains, but it wasn't too bad. This campground feels more like us - in the trees, tent sites available, very friendly hosts, us feeling comfortable with not closing the curtains. The road from here to the coast bans large vehicles; it is six very windy miles. In Santa Cruz, we walked along the boardwalk which bills itself as the best boardwalk in the country. There is a very old wooden roller coaster, and a carousel with all hand-carved horses. At this time of year, the rides operate only on weekends, but we enjoyed watching the workers spiffing up the rides and venues. It really is a pretty, colorful, clean boardwalk and you can feel the fun memories that have collected there.
The downtown of Santa Cruz seemed like a study in contrasts, with a huge Rolex store and similar types, yet dozens of homeless people along the sidewalks (maybe they were especially all out enjoying the nearly 70 degree, sunny weather). It was troubling, although the homeless did not seem particularly morose, and indeed seemed to be greeting their buddies. We had a nice coffee, of course, in the sunshine, of course. Then we drove back to the beach and walked along the cliffs. There were, literally, dozens of surfers, and it was amazing to watch them careening along, somehow avoiding collisions.
We're not sure where we will stay tomorrow night or the next. What an incredible opportunity this whole road trip is, being so totally able to "go with the flow."
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