Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coast to Ragged Point Inn

I was glad to leave the Surf Motel behind on Sunday morning, and stopped in at Mel's on Geary Blvd. for breakfast. I spend so little time out west, and I've already got myself in a rut - but I love Mel's. Eager to continue my southward journey, I headed down US-101, and got off in Palo Alto to check out the old neighborhood (I'd spent a year out here attending Stanford in '67). I stopped in at a Starbuck's on University Avenue, where I used to shop with my young wife so many years ago, and compared the passing crowds to what it looked like in the 60s (my memories refreshed from having watched Getting Straight the night before). Not quite as drastic a change as, say, the Lower East Side, but a totally different world today.

Back on 101, I turned off before San Jose and headed over towards the coast and Santa Cruz. This part of the coast had no cloud cover, and I soaked up the sun on the drive south from there, passing through Big Sur in the afternoon. I had considered staying there, but I remembered from last year's trip that none of the little motels/cabins had internet, so I kept on going. I've driven this route many times over the years, and it's still one of the most beautiful rides, with the mountains ending right at the coastline, and the waves pounding far below the edge of the road. By late afternoon I was miles down the coast, on the long stretch of CA-1 with hardly any services, and it was starting to look like I wouldn't find a place to stop for the night before San Luis Obispo, when it would be dark. Damn, I didn't wanna be driving this coast highway with so many hairpin turns after dark!

But then, on a long stretch of empty highway north of San Simeon, I spotted the Ragged Point Inn, a hotel with cabins and a restaurant I'd never noticed before, so I pulled in just before sunset. I got an amazing room, with glass doors facing the ocean 350 feet below. The grounds on this piece of rock jutting out from the coast were landscaped, and the restaurant was really fine. Again forgetting about budgeting, I got a great steak and watched the sun go down through the glass walls of the restaurant.

After a few hours online, I went out for a walk and found that there was a full moon. I've seen the Pacific coast many times by day, but I'd never experienced it by the light of the moon. I sat gazing at the waves pounding the rocks far below, their sound breaking the silence of the night. And walking around the gardens was sublime. The light was much lower than daytime, and the colors way subdued - like a faded old black-and-white movie. Looking up at the moon, I saw that there was a this layer of clouds in front of it, moving slowly steadily inland. So I waited for it to pass, knowing that this light would become even brighter after a while. Which it did. Out over the sea, I could see what appeared to be an army of clouds moving in to the shore. I couldn't detect their motion, as they were too far off, but I knew they were advancing as steadily as the cloud had passed revealing the moon. But I stood for a long time taking in this sight, at the edge of the steep slope leading down to the water. As great as this entire adventure has been for me, I couldn't help but think that this was the kind of scene were it might have been even better to have someone at my side to share it with. (Well, I had one person in particular in mind, but we won't go into that here).

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