going home

Most things about this move have been wonderful. The one major black fly in my chardonnay is being so far away from my peeps. So a week ago, I went home to visit my family. James stayed here and held down the fort (that being the dogs, since we’re incapable of putting them in a GD kennel for a few days). I didn’t make it to Houston on this trip, but I still managed to eat queso four times (not kidding).

I flew from San Francisco to Austin. If we’d managed to work in a layover in Portland, it would have been the most hipster flight ever. My plane was diverted to San Antonio because the Austin airport was closed due to bad weather, and we didn’t have enough gas to circle waiting for it to reopen. Didn’t get upset because a) what can you do and b) my parents, brother and Tex-Mex were waiting for me once I actually made it to Austin, only 1.5 hours late.

We spent our visit talking, laughing, eating, drinking and chilling on the back porch watching it rain. It was perfect.

An adorable two year old was seated two rows in front of me. He was incredibly well-behaved, entertaining those of us in the back of the bus the whole flight. He didn’t fuss when we unexpectedly landed in San Antonio or when we took off (again) for Austin. As we began our descent into Austin, for real this time, he Exorcist-puked–all over himself, his father, his father’s backpack, the aisle–and started wailing. Since we were back in the baby section (yay), the parents of the 15 other crying babies started passing the father wet wipes and towels. Interesting fact for us non-parents: the smell of baby puke is fairly indistinguishable from the smell of a fat hairy biker’s puke on 10-cent wing night. Once we landed, a flight attendant came out in a face shield and hazmat suit to clean things up. It was all very dramatic, but since I was traveling alone there was no one to receive my eye rolls. Unacknowledged eye rolls are the saddest eye rolls.
We took evening rides on my parents' mule (not to be confused with the animals two shots above) and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs.
Each evening, we took a Mule ride (the four-wheeler, not the four-legged conveyance) on the back roads and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs. Lightning bugs! I hadn’t seen those since I was a kid and thought they had gone the way of the dodo.
It took me maybe 100 shots, but I managed to capture an image of one in my parents’ back 40. See center of picture.
The front of my parents’ house at night. It’s not blurry in reality. Ends up, I don’t make a very good tripod.
Mom downstairs at the job site. Dad and Tohner (Artisan Builders) are building a 10,000 square foot house.
We checked out a couple of Dad and Tohner’s (Artisan Builders) projects. This house is the biggest mofo house I’ve ever seen. Literally 12 of the house I live in could fit inside.
A close-up of one of Tohner’s art pieces. Who knew Martinelli’s apple juice bottles would make for such cool light fixtures? This piece has four. At night, the ridges on the bottom of the bottles make cool designs on the wall.
While Rowan just wanted to drive.
Rowan, ready to drive. We talked about Star Wars. He asked how old I was when the first movie came out (a year older than he is now). He hasn’t seen the first one yet–when he does, I want to know how the scene in the bar holds up for today’s six or seven year old. It was always my favorite part.
But it was still a good idea to check for cars in the rearview mirror. Molly was mostly checking out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.
Molly was supposed to use the mirror to check for cars, but she mostly used it to check out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.
Folks in Brenham are astir about the Blue Bell ice cream shut down.
To say Blue Bell Creameries is a major employer in Brenham would be an understatement. These signs are in practically every fourth or fifth yard.
I turn to her and say: Texas. She says: What?
I said: Texas. She says: What.
They've got big long roads out there.
They’ve got big long roads out there.
And donkeys.
And donkeys. Or maybe burros.
And wee rabbits.
And wee rabbits.
Last meal in Texas. Surprisingly decent queso at Bergstrom Airport's fancy Earl Campbell's Sports Bar.
Oh, and queso. Liquid gold. Texas cheese. This fine specimen came from Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar in the Austin airport. The chips were straight out of a Tostitos bag, but the queso was surprisingly good. Or maybe it’s just that there’s no more legit queso until the next trip home. Some day I shall crack the code of restaurant queso (the special ingredient is plastic!), and the West Coast will be mine.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve

palo colorado road
There’s a road off Highway 1 halfway between Carmel and Big Sur called Palo Colorado. The lower section is a redwood grove with old cabins and the occasional odd structure nestled among the trees. Like most mountain roads around here, it’s one lane, so when someone’s coming you have to pull off to the side. Drivers fall into two categories: speeding locals who want you to get out of their way and gawking interlopers who need to get out of your way. Eventually the road begins its climb. Instead of trees and cabins next to you, you have trees and a steep drop into the canyon. Mill Creek Redwood Preserve is 6.8 miles up the road–this is the view from the “parking lot,” which is really just a wide spot next to the road that can fit maybe six cars in a line if people don’t park like jerks.
mill creek
You sign up online for a permit (link below) and wait for them to send you the okay, which you print out and put on your dash. The limit is eight permits a day, so there’s never a crowd–something that’s getting harder and harder to find lately. We were the first in–you have to sign a clipboard when you arrive/depart–and only saw four people in the three hours we were there.
The trail in the 1,500-acre park was built by hand over a 10-year period by a dude from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District with help from AmeriCorp volunteers and prison crews. From the park’s website, “The craftsmanship is reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of trail building during the Great Depression.”
Glorious trees. Redwoods, oak and madrone.
the birds
And a cacophony of bird sounds.


rocky trail
The trail is 5.5 miles round trip. The elevation gain is less than 250 feet, so this is a fairly easy trek. You cross a creek 8 or 9 times by bridge (and the creek wasn’t even a crick when we did the trail last weekend, so the bridges were mostly unnecessary). Still glad I had my walking stick because there were a few rocky spots and I’m a klutz.
You know you’re getting close to the end of the trail once you emerge from the trees.
Your reward is comfortable seating to take in the view.
And it’s a helluva view at 2,000 feet. Even when the ocean is socked in by fog, as it was on this day.
Yes, under that foggy cloud (cloudy fog?) lies the Pacific.
I accidentally dropped a wet wipe on this lizard. Other wildlife included butterflies and moths and the previously mentioned birds. We also saw a ringtail cat (a type of raccoon),  but it had shuffled off this mortal coil leaving behind its lovely tail and desiccated corpse. We kept an eye out for mountain lions, since we’ve seen one near this park before. No dice, but we did see a bunch of hipsters (a PBR, if you will) just up the road at Bottcher’s Gap Campground. We’d hoped to enjoy the canyon view for a few minutes, and I needed to make a pit stop–there are no facilities at Mill Creek. But the lot was full and there were too many jorts and oversized glasses, so we rolled back down the road. It took 20 minutes to drive the 6.8 narrow and windy miles to Highway 1, where we left blue skies behind us and headed off into the fog.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve
Bottcher’s Gap Campground

recent goings on

gazebo on the coastal trail in Pacific Grove
heading north
heading north
Soberanes Point Trail, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur – the trail is narrow, with copious wildflowers and poison oak brushing against your legs – glad I was wearing jeans
further down the trail – I also saw a dead dolphin that had washed up on the rocks and was being…taken care of by three birds
here's the Pacific Grove version of that same shot
here’s the Pacific Grove version of that same shot
sunset in PG
some friends rented a house on a vineyard in Sonoma County for the week, so we drove up north for a visit
I love living on the coast, but there’s a lot to recommend the beauty of wine country – plus, I like the product
standing next to the house, looking down at Lake Sonoma
we saw Robert Cray at Golden State Theater in Monterey a few weeks ago – the great thing about seeing shows out here is it’s easy to get good seats if you’re on top of things – this is from my seat in the third row, and we’re in the same row for Drive-By Truckers in April
the Golden State Theater lobby
when you can't go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you - old school cheese enchiladas with chile gravy (not pictured)
when you can’t go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you – old school cheese enchiladas with chili gravy (not pictured)
this dog wants to appear grumpy, but his fashionable neckwear belies his whimsical side (also, it’s March and PG still hasn’t taken down the Christmas lights)
PG chardonnay, now available at a Trader Joe’s near you (and only $5.99)
if this guy hadn’t been buried in his hand computer, he might have noticed the incredibly large turkey vulture taking off right next to him