Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 3

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I don’t have any pictures from our trip to Pismo Beach (because it was horrible and I was driving) but let me just describe it as this: bedlam. I was so desperate for a bathroom and there were none in sight. I pulled into town practically buckled over my steering wheel in pain only to find everything packed with people everywhere. Bug stepped up and was frantically searching for clean bathrooms on yelp. Did you know there was such a thing? I did not. Kids for the win! We found one at a convenience store but there was no place to park! I pulled into a residential driveway where two cars were parked already and I would block them in but I was desperate. No sooner had I put my car in park and started to open my door when a woman hollered over the fence from a beer garden next door (or maybe it was a bar that served outdoors) that I could absolutely NOT PARK THERE!!!! I totally understood. Her staff was parked there and they needed to do a shift change and NOT be blocked in. I was probably the fiftieth person she yelled at that day. So I swallowed my pain and got back on the road.

Fifty u-turns later, a stop at a public park bathroom that was LOCKED and nothing but traffic and people, Bug remembered a hotel her dad had taken her to on a previous trip. We knew they had no vacancy but figured they would at least let us use their lobby bathroom.  AND GUESS WHAT? HALLELUJAH THEY DID!!!

It was the nicest hotel. Five stars for sure. We wanted to stay there but not during these crazy times. There weren’t any people in the lobby and the really nice concierge told me that of course I could go downstairs and use their facilities. What a contrast to the public restroom we saw earlier that had a line of people around the block and several anti-maskers partying it up nearby. I was so happy to finally find a place all to myself in peace and quiet. I have never felt so introverted and relieved in all my life.

So here’s a little TMI thing about anxiety: having to urgently and painfully pee can be a symptom. Yes, I had good reason to naturally need to urinate but also my stress was kicking in and I was a mess. I often fret about this and it can completely ruin a good time for me. Poor Bug was so patient with me.

I remember my grandmother was the same way. When I was a kid I did a personal research project on people’s biggest fears and how they related to their nightmares and I remember my grandma telling me she often had nightmares that she was traveling and couldn’t find a bathroom. So I come by this genetically. I think of her often when I’m fretting like this. I used to the be expert on all public restrooms but now that Covid has closed so many businesses I’m at a loss.

Anyway!!! Enough about having to pee. Let’s get back to our wonderful birthday trip! That was the horrible no-good terrible part of our trip and we survived.

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We got the hell out of Dodge, I mean Pismo Beach and headed north for two more hours to Carmel. It was never my intention to go so far north but after Pismo Beach I was desperate for wide open spaces. It’s funny how some beach communities are full of rich people and others are full of hardcore partiers. Show me to the beaches that are deserted and only nature-loving artists live there and people who like to be alone. I know that’s a high ask and it’s not like I haven’t been a hard core partier myself but you get my drift. I just want to be alone with my kid on a trip and look at nature.

When we got into Carmel we found a cute little ancient hotel called The Pine Inn. It was creak-ity, (why is that not a word? am I spelling it wrong?), smelled like an old folks home and probably haunted but VERY charming. After the Kimpton we were pretty spoiled but you gotta find a safe place to sleep so this was fine by me. Our room had an old antique radiator that made super loud banging sounds at five in the morning that scared the crap out of us. Thankfully a quick google search by Bug informed us that this was perfectly normal for an 18th century hotel and there wasn’t someone downstairs trying to wake us up by banging on pipes.

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I enjoyed wandering around the deserted lobby and creaky stairs. This photo I found was super interesting.

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What a bunch of stylish old chaps, no? I know there is a ton of Ansel Adams history here. Apparently we stayed in one of the first hotels that was ever built in Carmel by the Sea. Good to know! It’s seen better days I’m sure but I kinda of felt lucky that we could stay in such a famous tourist spot and NOT be swarmed by tourists. The Il Fornaio that is attached to the hotel was closed but they did offer us a complimentary breakfast of packaged danishes, bananas, yogurt and some craptastic water that faintly tasted like coffee that I quickly dumped in a trash can outside and replaced with a proper coffee from the coffeeshop across the street.

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Then we walked down the street five or six blocks to the beach to enjoy our breakfast. Not too shabby!

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It was cold though. A stiff wind blew right over our heads and somehow blew the waves but not us. We found a log in the sun to sit on and warm up a bit.

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Then we packed up our hotel and headed off to one more spot before starting our long journey home.

Next spot: POINT LOBOS!

I was feeling a little bit nervous about being so far north and needing to get home in one day but Bug assured me that Point Lobos was well worth delaying our homeward trip, even if it meant possibly missing some plans we had back home. So off we headed. I’ve been here before with Toby when I was married and Bug has been with her dad a few years ago but my memory had faded some.

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There was no parking available in the park and not anywhere near the park. I was super worried, what does that mean? The park is full?  Bug was adamant about going. She assured me that the park was big enough that we wouldn’t run into anyone. I guess the last time her dad took her they couldn’t find parking either and hoofed it in. Well, hoofing it in was like a mile and a half!!! Normally I love a good 20K step walk but lately my hip has been giving me trouble so I was not too pleased. But Bug insisted. She is a bigger wuss than I am about walking so if she insisted it was worth walking a mile and a half to get there then it really must be something else.

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She was right.

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Point Lobos is AMAAAAAAAAZING! I don’t really even know how to properly describe it. I know the pictures will help but it was so much more. Just imagine all encompassing fresh air, color and nature coming at you full force! I think of it as a bunch of coves with jewel-like colored water splashing and crashing all around you in vibrant colors of blue and green. It’s God’s own personal crown.  It’s kind of weird when you look up the history of this beautiful place it is known for whale-killing, abalone harvesting, mining, military secrets and NOT it’s crazy beauty!!! I’m very happy that it’s preserved now.

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We walked the trails and thankfully Bug was right! There weren’t that many people. I’m not sure where they were but they weren’t on the trails we were.

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Sometimes I’m not sure which is prettier, Bug or the scenery.

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She’s growing up. That’s the hard fact.

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I’m so happy Bug is a nature-lover. She takes after her dad that way. She’s also taken up old-school film photography so that makes us all super proud.painting-in-point-lobos

I found a spot to sit and paint. Bug sat behind me and photographed. She even made a movie using my phone that I put on my instagram stories. I’ll have to find that and save it. It was really cool.

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Pretty pretty waves. Not so pretty hunch back neck.

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Hi Bug!

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Then it was time to pack up, find some lunch and start our long trip home.

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I’m so glad we were able to go on this trip. Especially now that I’m over feeling so guilty about it. Thank you for bearing with me. I’m a stress case and I let that get in the way of our enjoyment of an important mother-daughter journey. The trip was a good thing but it was also a risk. I think taking a risk like this was dangerous. Of course there were lots of ways to go and be careful but as you saw from my needing-to-find-a-restroom nightmare, even the best intentions could go haywire.

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Like hair blowing in the wind! You never know which way it’s going to go!  Hahaha. That was a lame segue but I gotta get through all these photos and put words between them!

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Or not. Just looking at pictures is nice too.

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I love this one. I title it: Small Girl in a Pandemic.  I always try to block out things like cars, people, buildings… masks and evidence of a pandemic but I know someday we will look back on these photos and the mask will mark a huge historical pinpoint. I wonder how we will change and how masks will stay with us.

Personally, I know I haven’t been sick since I started wearing masks regularly and I usually get at least one cold every season so I’m thinking I might keep my masks around for good. They work!

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But this post is not about masks. It’s about finding the good in the midst of bad. It’s about being safe and and also scared. It’s about a girl growing up into a beautiful young woman who’s mother might be a bit of a basket case. But aren’t we all these days? Aren’t we all just trying to do our best and hope we don’t have too many vulnerable spots that can be shot at with troll arrows?

Love you guys.

Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 2

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Wow. I have so much to say about my last post. I did beat myself up a lot about writing that. I’m learning and you are learning with me. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time but I thought it was normal. It’s not until recently that I’m realizing that not everyone experiences the world the way I do. One of my defense mechanisms is to apologize for everything under the sun so that no one can come at me unexpectedly and make me feel bad about something I’ve done. I overthink everything from everyone’s perspective (often reading my own writing over obsessively, imagining how other people hear it in their heads).  It can be a real drag but it’s just something I do and I’m learning that I don’t need to do it. It’s going to take me a long time to overcome probably. I’m a people-pleaser by nature and I hate any kind of confrontation. So let me just smooth over everything! Crazy, I know. So that said, I had (and maybe still have) a lot of anxiety about sharing this trip. I feel like I have a target on me and some troll is going to find my weak spot and shoot an arrow right under my scales into my heart. It’s happened. But I need to be brave. I love sharing. I love sharing my pictures and my experiences. Describing the magic in a moment is my favorite kind of writing.

Before I continue I’m going to talk about the worst moment in Part 3 of this trip so if you are waiting in suspense I’m sorry. I will have to make you wait another day. And now that I’ve talked it up so much it will probably be anti-climatic so let me apologize for that too! Blah!

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That night we pulled into Santa Barbara. I love Santa Barbara and it seemed like a good place to stay based on past experiences. I was so relieved to find that it was actually very easy to find a hotel that was open. I’ve visited the Kimpton Properties in Huntington Beach before so when I saw that The Canary  had vacancy we jumped at the chance to stay there. I love Kimpton Properties. They are always so clean and chic. No, we are not made of money and it was pricey to stay there BUT it was Bug’s birthday present so we did not skimp. And the Kimpton Canary did NOT disappoint.  The staff waited on us like we were queens. They even sent up sparkling water and small packages of cookies and gummy bears with a birthday wish for Bug. It was so sweet!

The only problem was that our suite was right underneath the hotel roof pool! Yes, that picture you see of the pool was right over our heads! Talk about freaky. I don’t know about you but all I could think about was the pool falling through the roof onto my head! And there was a high-pitched whining sound, probably a pump for the jacuzzi. At first we didn’t notice it, we were so in love with the room but then as things got quieter and we prepared to go to bed it become more and more of a problem. I have trouble sleeping because of worries already. The pool noise was really hard to block out.

So we called the front desk and they moved us to another suite on the other side of the hotel that was just as beautiful! We were spoiled rotten.

We settled in with our hummus, pita chips and farmer’s market snacks and made it dinner while Bug hooked her phone up to the streaming tv and we watched some terribly inappropriate show. It was awesome.

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The next morning we woke up bright and early. We took a few photos in our photogenic hotel room filled with morning light.

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Bug drank her sparkling cider she is so obsessed with and then we headed out in search of coffee for me and another great breakfast experience.  I don’t know if this is normal or if I am passing on an eating disorder to my daughter but we love a good foodie moment. We get all warm and fuzzy remembering the great breakfasts we’ve had in different places. We definitely don’t grab a granola bar and eat to live. We live to eat great food.

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Even during a pandemic Santa Barbara has plenty of options for great food. We asked our concierge for a recommendation and then headed off to the Cajun Kitchen right up the street. Have you ever had Cajun juevos rancheros?

The next challenge was where to eat our delicious breakfast. All the outdoor eating areas are shut down, naturally. Then we had a brilliant idea: let’s eat on the roof! Santa Barbara parking structures are known for their rooftop views. Bug’s dad and I used to frequent them often to get our bearings and take a few photos. So we drove to the top of a building and set up a picnic in the parking lot. It might look kind of silly but there weren’t really any parks nearby that we felt comfortable in and this spot was super sunny and nice and totally deserted. We spread out our trendy tapestry, added our sleeping pillows and had a fabulous breakfast picnic.

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It was perfect.

Except there was a homeless guy on the street below us bellowing in pain. That’s Santa Barbara for you. Wealth everywhere and a huge population of mentally ill homeless people. It’s really really sad. The pandemic is probably only making it worse. Everywhere we went there were homeless people wandering aimlessly. I was so sad for the guy in pain. He was rolled up in a fetal position crying and yelling. We wanted to give him some of our food (we had plenty) but he seemed really scary and violent so we gave him a wide berth.

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After breakfast we packed up our little picnic and got back in the car and headed for the coast. We took a quick detour down to the beach. We watched the skaters in the skate park on the boardwalk for a bit and then wandered down the deserted Santa Barbara pier. I did feel guilty for being out in such a well-known tourist spot. It did seem unfair that we were out enjoying the ghost town that is Santa Barbara these days while everyone else hunkered down at home.

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The sun was super bright so we took a few photos and then got back in the car ready to hit the next spot.

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That spot was El Capitán State Beach. We drove down a gravel road through a wooded area and at the end of the road we were greeted by the most lovely little rock-and-stick-covered shallow beach that wasn’t that crowded at all.  We quickly learned that it wasn’t crowded because it’s not that comfortable to lounge on a rocky stick-covered beach but it was soooo pretty!

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The sun was out in full-force so we set up a little shelter with our tapestry and made a little camp. I wished we had brought our pillows with us as I moved my butt around to avoid the pokey-ist of sticks but if propped up against a log just so, you could enjoy the beautiful fresh air and mist from the crashing waves. It was pretty enough to paint!

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And so I did of course! That’s the fun of these stops with no plan or schedule. We have all the time in the world to paint! We don’t need made-in-China souvenirs to capture our memories when we can capture our own with my handy dandy little makeshift water-coloring kit. I was in heaven.

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Bug seemed pretty content too.

I keep a parasol in my car because I am that photographer who knows it will come in handy for shade AND photo-opportunities.

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Have parasol, will pose. :)

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Lots of “us” photos.

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We stayed until I finished my painting and then packed up again to head north. Every time I say the word “north” it makes me want to sing the North to Alaska song. Why do I even know that song? It’s something from my childhood and super catchy.

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We took a detour up the 101 towards Solvang and stopped to take a few photos of some emus on the side of the road. If you look really close you can see them. I guess during normal times when there is not a pandemic going on you can actually get close enough to the emus so that they don’t look like bushes but that part was closed, of course. Mental note to visit that emu farm someday.

When we got to Solvang I started to realize that this trip was probably a mistake. Solvang was so crowded.  People were everywhere eating ice cream and wandering the shops. It was too crowded to stop. We did stop but we quickly realized it wasn’t for us. Of course right about then I realized I neeeeeeeeeded to use the restroom but there wasn’t a public restroom anywhere. Long gone are the days when you can pop into a Starbucks to find a clean empty restroom. What a nightmare. We drove all over trying to find a place we could stop but nothing seemed safe. Finally we just decided we would head north to the next town: Pismo Beach. There’s got to be something there…

And that is when things got even worse.