California Dreaming – Happy Birthday John Steinbeck

As we headed south toward Monterey on our Californian road trip, we noticed how the landscape seemed to suddenly change. We were driving across a vast dark, almost menacing plain, which was such a contrast to the colourful pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

rolling hills and vales we had driven through earlier that day. 

Fields around Salinas

Fields around Salinas

Once settled in Monterey we sifted through the leaflets in the motel reception for ideas of what to do in the surrounding area. We thought we would only be staying one night and move on south after visiting Carmel (Phil was convinced we would bump into Clint) but that was not to be. There was so much to do in the area.

I discovered we were not far from where Steinbeck was born and raised and, having recently read Of Mice and Men with my Make Friends with a Book group, I was keen to visit.

We headed back to Salinas, a town surrounded by the dark and never-ending fertile plains we had driven across the day before.IMG_1741

And immediately I understood how this landscape would have influenced Steinbeck’s writing. There were people still toiling in the fields and digging up vegetables by hand just as George and Lennie had. This was a farming system that seemed very labour intensive.

Steinbeck was no stranger to such work himself, he worked on the farms in his summer holidays. I am sure he met people then who would become the basis of some of his characters.

I cannot say I liked Salinas. It was a featureless town built on a grid. The car park was full of big station wagons with number plates like this. IMG_1696It was a gritty place with gritty people. A real contrast after San Francisco with its hills and Bay Area. Yet near to the National Steinbeck Center art was fighting back.

And I discovered that in addition to the gritty novels that he wrote Steinbeck was famous for, he was also a traveller. He had lived in England for a while and had also been on his own road trip of America, documented in the book Travels with Charley. IMG_1710He had a pretty cool vehicle to travel in.

We had lunch in his former home, which I wrote about in this post Lunch with Steinbeck Dinner with Forrest.

The National Steinbeck Center is definitely worth a visit. I just wished I could share the experience with my friends at Bleakhouse Library who I had shared Of Mice and Men with in my Make Friends with a Book group.

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And I definitely agree with this.IMG_1703

Happy birthday John Steinbeck. 112 on February 23rd 2014.

I have just discovered that in two days time it is your birthday, whilst looking up the links for this post. Synchronicity, perhaps?  The Celestine Prophesy, which helped me understand this concept is also about travelling. And it has just occurred to me that I will be looking at camper vans on your birthday. Not planned, only because I have won free tickets to the Caravan and Camping Show. Perhaps it is meant to be? So, that like you, I can go on another road trip. 

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California Dreaming – sunshine, seals and death in Santa Cruz

IMG_1677We were searching for the motel we had booked in Santa Cruz and were totally lost. It was called The Bay Front InnIMG_1623which ought to have been clue but we couldn’t find the bay. We were in the middle of residential housing, no map, no Sat Nav just a name of the motel. That is how we pretty much planned our road trip in California.

Then I saw this.

If you are lost ask an librarian

If you are lost ask a librarian

Ask a librarian!

What a lovely guy, not only did he give me directions to the motel, being a friendly Californian (is there any other type?) he also recommended somewhere to eat too.

Santa Cruz pier

Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf

The restaurant he had told us about Oliatas was on the wharf and the food was amazing.

There were lots of birdsIMG_1605and a great vantage point to view Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz boardwalk

Santa Cruz boardwalk

We noticed people staring down under the pier and, being curious, went to see what they all found so fascinating.

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A dorm for seals.

The next day, we took a walk along the cliffs where there were some pretty amazing houses, including this one. I am not quite sure if having a replica of your house, in your house, isn’t a bit spooky though.

Then we saw this.

I have written about meeting the guy who drives around Santa Cruz before in Life Begins after Normal. I wished we could have stuck around longer and got to know him better, as he was a fascinating person. But other events took over the day.

While we were chatting to campervan man a woman ran over and screamed at us to help her. She had returned from her run to find her partner slumped in the drivers seat and apparently unconscious. Campervan man was the calmest there, made the phone call to the emergency services, organised people to get the man out of the car while another guy did CPR. We were helpless except to comfort the poor lady. Of course he was dead, I think we all knew that.

I am sure and hope it was quick and painless. And this was the last thing he saw.IMG_1662

Once the emergency services arrived we went around the surf museum and we spoke with another couple who had also been involved there and had been the last to see him alive. We were all a bit shocked about everything we had seen. To say that we were subdued is a understatement and I don’t really remember much about the museum except that it was in a lighthouse. IMG_1658

Before we left Santa Cruz we went down to a beach side cafe for lunch, reflected on what had happened and realised how lucky we were, and that life is indeed short. Which is why we were making this trip.

Campervan man drove past and honked his horn and we waved.

He says he wants to be president one day. I would love to see that! Mind you right now, I reckon he needs to come over to the UK and take over our government. Life may be a bit more fun then!

Have you been to Santa Cruz and have you met the campervan man?

Books are the plane, and the train, and the journey.

travellingcoral

Today I visited the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. It is stunning. We joined the guided tour of the dome. Again, like so many of the free things to do in this beautiful city it was just us and the guide.

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In recent years, Victoria invested a substantial sum of money to refurbish the beautiful building. Money well spent.

The quote is one of the many on the walls of the La Trobe reading room which is beautifully furnished, and is one of the quiet reading rooms.

Not that any of them are noisy as such, just full of people and life and free wifi and a chess room! And Ned Kellys’s armour.

Its archives include comic books

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Cartoons

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It holds over 1.5 million books too.

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I’m glad it was part of my journey.

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Books are the plane, and the train, and the journey.

Today I visited the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. It is stunning. We joined the guided tour of the dome. Again, like so many of the free things to do in this beautiful city it was just us and the guide.

20111215-214329.jpg

In recent years, Victoria invested a substantial sum of money to refurbish the beautiful building. Money well spent.

The quote is one of the many on the walls of the La Trobe reading room which is beautifully furnished, and is one of the quiet reading rooms.

Not that any of them are noisy as such, just full of people and life and free wifi and a chess room! And Ned Kellys’s armour.

Its archives include comic books

20111215-215022.jpg

Cartoons

20111215-215119.jpg

20111215-215205.jpg

It holds over 1.5 million books too.

20111215-215458.jpg

I’m glad it was part of my journey.

Not blogger of the year

Well we are in New Zealand now. Lost three days here due to QANTAS, nuff said.

Not blogged due to rubbish expensive wifi on excellent campsites, or lack of time at excellent, FREE wifi hotspots at NZ libraries and info centres.

Lovely country. Will reflect more when I have time, right now in camper, in Blenheim, post wine tasting! It’s raining.

Paid too much for wifi so must use it!

Today visited a little museum that hosts Peter Jacksons Aviation hoard and a vintage car museum. Then chilled over wine tasting and great food at Wither Hills vineyard. Lingered all day.

As I’m on the effing iPad will post photos separately. Don’t get me started, Apple!

Love NZ. Love WETA xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Can’t post photos at WETA!! Saw some props from The Hobbit.

Highlight was a visit to The Roxy where we dined and saw a film with the co owners!

Got to see Oscars and BAFTA awards. Yay.

Plus other stuff. Wellington. Rocks.

What a difference a day makes

I realise I was feeling a bit down yesterday, but hey using this medium to get it out there must be part of the cure. And some pretty cool advice came back, currently re visiting the to do list using triangles for bullet points, to be coloured in when task completed.

Also the Shambrarian in me is resurfacing, not the beer bit, yet, so all my paperwork for the trip is filed in labelled plastic folders,

Duplicates have been made, money has been moved around to spread the risk and the 4 new pin numbers for our travel money cards, which will be hell to learn, have been recorded discreetly. If I do forget, my son has been instructed as to where the paperwork is. I’ve even made copies of passports and laminated them and emailed a copy to myself, just in case.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with numbers, yet I sailed through English and the Humanities. Even now, if writing numbers, I need to get them checked because I know I have problems with numbers

Transferring money today was quite stressful as I had to use a card reader, remember a PIN, enter another number in the card reader, which then generated another number to enter on the PC. The you get verified by visa asking your pass word……. Grrrr.

To get me in the mood to do the mental work required, much of today has been spent finding the bedroom floor! All travel packing has been transferred to the spare room, what we don’t need has been put away, surfaces have been cleared and dusted. I even cleaned the windows. This, for someone who loathes housework, is a major achievement. The study has also been cleared, some filing cleared, some, ahem, put out of sight and Christmas presents put in a box to be sorted tomorrow.

New Zealand Coins

Image by yum9me via Flickr

Next job, on the list is to return my library books. On the way I’ll pop to the Post Office in the hope they have USA and NZ dollars. Worst case scenario is to get them at the airport! Not well organised, but I have lost 10 days in the count down due to putting my head in the sand.

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As I’m doing this on my iPad and still learning how, I have inserted a totally inappropriate (to the blog) photo, of my two cats Mel and Sue,  which helped cheer me up yesterday! Must add to the to do list….learn about photo library on iPad!