Archive for September, 2010

Weeks 2-3

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Week 2-3 in a flash:  2100 miles/ CA: Big Sur, Monterey, Half Moon Bay, Pescadero, San Fran, Marin, Lassen Volcanic Park, Mt. Shasta.   Oregon: Crater Lake, Bend/Sisters.  WA: Seattle.

Every road has some bumps, right? Days 8-20 had some real peaks and some definite valleys–and not the kind that are filled with mossy beds and pretty flowers, although there were a few of those, too.  Let’s start with a high point.

We stayed 3 days in Big Sur, which is a dreamy place.  Its redwoods hover over you like a faithful friend, and they make everything seem quiet and dark in a lush, smoky way.  Our campground was right on the Big Sur, a shallow play-with-me river– and the kids did.  John and the girls took a good long hike to Pfeiffer Falls.  It’s just so damn pretty in Big Sur.  And then on our way out we stopped at the Big Sur Bakery, which should have a sign that says “Dangerous Curves Ahead” because that’s what you’re in for after sampling their collection of streudels and donuts…. It’s too hard to choose so you gotta pick a bunch and dive in.  Eating those sugar bombs while driving along Hwy 1, with its famously steep craggy blues and greens… It’s almost too much for a dough-loving romantic sucker like me.

Next stop, an odd “high end” RV park in Marina, CA, just above Monterey.  This was our first stay in a paved RV park, and it wasn’t really our style.  We prefer the more primitive kind, or at least John and I do.  The kids like the ones with pools and game rooms, etc, but really as long as they can ride their bikes, they’re happy.  
This was an ideal place for John to buckle down and start downloading all the random footage we’ve got so far, while the ladies and I hit the town like veritable  civilized folks.  We had lunch in Cannery Row, watching seals while others cooked for us… Then we hit the Monterey Aquarium, which is fantastic.  But while fondling all the starfishes and sea cucumbers and such in the Touch Pools, a footlong pink rockfish attacked Zelda’s finger like it was “fillet” mignon!  Lu and I had seen this fish eyeing our finger, but only Z had the guts to keep it there, and sure enough this fish took a gobble at it, drawing blood!  She shrieked, and the staff man said, “They don’t bite,” and I’m like, Oh yeah!?!?! I felt a mother’s pang for revenge and started fantasizing about grilling that briny bitch on a stick…. but perhaps this was the fish’s revenge.  Or Z’s fingers look like a wormy feast?  Anyway, its over, and she recovered enough to join Lulu in an hour of bat ray petting– slimy, sinister-looking and lovely things.
One thing I love about this region? A new character enters the picture– the fog!  It breezes in like a bold diva in the visual soap opera of the Cali coast.  It’s so cool– you could be driving along, waving hi to a cow, then you hang a left and suddenly you’re swimming in marshmallow mist…. Also, the dunes along the coast are a unique and very sensitive habitat, speckled with pretty plants that make you wanna eat candy: sea rocket, yellow sand verbena, beach bur, salt bush, seaside daisy, coast buckwheat…. Even the words sea grass…. Ahhh… don’t you wanna take a hit?  

Next: Half Moon Bay.  The drive along the coast to and above Santa Cruz is pretty awesome.  This is an area that looks great for living; definitely a cool place to go to college.  And there’s a ton of produce growing there:  artichokes, strawberries….  John and I keep saying that people seem happy in Central CA.
So another weird RV park, but we were hardly there.  We visited the Welch family in Atherton, a great gang that Lulu had gotten to know on her Alaskan adventure with her grandparents last summer.  They were the most charming hosts– gorgeous house, great kids, swimming, basketball, dinner and a surprise cupcake celebration for Lulu’s 12th birthday.  If our heavy on nature, isolated  explorations are peppered with great moments like these, with friends new and old, then this trip will really resonate for years to come.  Thanks, Welch’s!!

The job I was on hold for in San Francisco was postponed, so we retraced our steps some, heading south on 1 to a sweet KOA resort near Pescadero beach.  That strip of coast is breathtaking– unpeopled, immaculate.  And we are new fans of KOA, which both of us had assumed was a cheesy RV trap.  But no!  It’s got it going on– clean, bright, even downright fancy at this one!  We shot some fun play here amongst the grassy dunes and rock castle beaches.  Fall was starting to show here, even the rampant poison oak blushing like the happy harlot she is.  In fact,  she got Lulu, who awoke on her birthday with her cheeks all rouged up with poison oak’s painful kiss.  A week later Lu is still enduring the red hell vining across all parts of her body, the poor kid.  Even puffed up and itchy, she doesn’t complain, our beautiful Lu…..

The next day we drove to San Fran for some distraction.  Aside from the poison oak, Lulu and I both had gnarly headaches from a bad cold that is still tripping us up like shoelaces that refuse to be tied.  We walked around downtown then had an Italian dinner with our lovable friends Curt and Justine. But by the time we got back to the KOA,  John was tripped up, too– and down for the count.  For the next few days, he was simply enveloped by the good ol’ bastard, the FLU.  He’s still working his way back.  It’s strange watching a rock get flattened like that,  but John is tough and knows how to stare something like that in the face.

This was a good opportunity for me to get acquainted with Harvey.  By the time I’d driven him through SF and into our next campground in Marin County, we were good friends, Harvey and I.  I love him; his long heavy torso, wide turns and all…. Samuel P Taylor is adjacent to cool Bolinas on the ocean side. A pretty park, not that John would know, he was so sick.  We were without electrical or H2O hookup, which was a nice change from the previous week’s privileges, and the girls and I biked and hiked around.  I made a fire, cooked a mediocre dinner compared to John, who usually helms the fire and food, but I enjoyed stepping in.

Next morning, we moved on for a long haul in and up to Redding, where we spent our first night in a hotel to de-germ and watch some TV. We also gained some new family members: 2 black bear hamsters, which are sweet companions for the girls until we can get a dog.  When I tell you that these boys are endowed with the biggest set of nuts you can imagine on something so small, you gotta believe me.  Think of a small fuzzy pale peach resting on two tiny legs.  Actually you can’t even see the legs, they’re so obscured by those cojones…. Too much information?  Sorry, but it’s a feast for the eyes and good for a belly laugh.

Next we visited a new favorite park: Lassen Volcanic Nat’l Park.  Outrageous.  Even John had to find the strength to get out and hike in to the bubbling mud baths.  (As king of fart jokes, maybe he felt hypocritical not paying his dues to the Mecca of sulfuric gasses.) But this park is so damn stunning, changing all the time– patchwork green meadows stitched with narrow snaky streams, high snowy peaks,  volcanic rock, armies of treelined mountains….  That night we slept on state park  land, waking up to Mt. Shasta staring down at us.

We drove out of CA and settled at another nice KOA in Sisters, Oregon. Oregon is like the Fonz from Happy Days; too sexy and confident in its coolness to have to make a big fuss over itself.  It’s all there, all the things for which other states claim fame, and yet it just hangs out in its almost-corner of the country, quietly letting its natural good looks do all the talking.  
The girls and I went horseback riding at a nearby ranch.  Lu had a real beauty– a Norwegian Fjord and Belgian mix named Cookie– massive, broad and with a thick Mohawk.  Z did great on her classy black– her first time riding solo. I was on a  grey mustang that had a big scar on its back from being attacked by a cougar when young.  We saw a rattlesnake on our ride.  The horses weren’t phased at all, even as that sucker rattled as we strode by.      
Then we visited a good friend of John’s from college, Deb Smith.  Cool woman, teaches middle school, great kids, fish biologist husband… Again, people seem happy there. That night Zelda and I tried to read the skies, but the stars were shy.  Z is dedicated to mastering that inky map, and knowing her, she will.  

Now we are in Seattle. I have voice over work tomorrow, thankfully.  John is feeling much better, and he’s giving us the grand tour of his old college stomping grounds.  Lu still has poison oak.  The two hamsters (Jesus and Big Junior, King of Balls) are swell.  Harvey is hanging in there.  After a week of some low valley, we are at a peak again.  And loving a good life. 





Week 1

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I can cut carrots, open a can and make a tuna sandwich while riding along the winding, harrowing Hwy 1.
Elephant seals are massive heart-melters.  
I could live in the central coast region, happily.
Montana de Oro is a forever favorite place to camp and hike.  The coast is like a pick-up-sticks splay of giant petrified dinosaur spines.  And there are mounds of the coolest rocks you could ever find just lounging on the beach like treasure.  Great kid spot.
RVs are not low-maintenance.  
The Kern River is a real beauty and fun to swim.
Next time I wanna pee outside in a wind storm, remind me not to.
If you want to hug a Giant Sequoia, you better have 15ft arms.

Week 1: 750 miles.  Week one has been a gem; has exceeded my hopes and expectations.  We began  shooting on day 1– no sound yet, but ample opportunities for John to get chummy with the camera and endless scene candy…..
Day 1: We pulled out of Topanga and headed in and up, parking the first night on BLM (Bureau of Land Mgt– our customary best friend) land — Jawbone, outside Red Rock Canyon State Park.  The stars were so thick the sky was almost white.  And then the sunrise…. so burnt-orange and crusty, like a marmalade biscuit all warm and welcoming and make-you-feel-all right.
Day 2, a sweet spot along the Kern River above Kernville and part of Sequoia National Forest.  We swam in the cold dark water, and John caught cool water shots until the sun went down and we were all frozen but amped.

Day 3:  We visited the Trail of 100 Giants.  Insane behemoths and a great playground, except for when John stepped on a bees’ nest.  Then we drove in a long big circle through the mountains, resting in California Hot Springs that night at our first RV park.  The kids could ride their bikes (Zelda wiped out twice and got chased by a dog, tough kid) and we had electricity, H2O and our first fire.  Good living.

Day 4: Thinking we had to be in Vegas soon to meet my mom, we rambled through gorgeous rolling sizzled-golden hill country, like out of a classic Western movie, until we stopped for a swim in Lake Isabella.  We needed a cool-off/wash-away moment:  my mom, we’d just learned, wasn’t going to be able to make it to Vegas (bummer), and Lulu was having a minor pre-teen meltdown about not seeing her pals, being away too long and when was she gonna get a dog.  Understandable stuff, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by a sailor-mouth rant and ensuing family battle of  bawdiness.  ( I think Lu won this one– she had me cornered and cringing with her Spanish-fly Inquisition of acts I don’t dare mention so early in this trip’s literary life.)
So without the prospect of Vegas, we headed west towards the coast.  We stopped in a tiny town called Buttonhollow where they had the most outrageous taco truck called Tita’s Supusaria (?).  I didn’t know what the hell a supusa  was, and I know that’s not even the correct word, but it must translate to “cloud of heaven” because it was a billowy warm pillow of cheese and squash/cheese and beans, like a tortilla dumpling….mmmmm, goddamnitall MMMMM….!
Then we drove for the first time at night, and we got to know a whole new Harvey.  The snaky road must’ve been a beauty, but it was dark and spooky and got real quiet in that night-time in a car way.  Each kid had an end of the RV and a cinematic view of the stars to put them to sleep.  John turned into Los Padres Nat’l Park down a road that soon turned into something out of a horror flick– a lonely ominous and pockmarked road with Sleepyhollow branches overhead…. John and his flashlite stopped and got out to explore, disappearing behind the next steep bend….. Good thing, because it was only getting worse.  We had to back up a mile in the blackness before Harvey could turn around, then parked somewhere for a few hours of sleep.  It was our first pull-over sleep and kind of creepy, so….
Day 5: …. at a sliver before dawn John was already up and moving on to Montana de Oro below Morro Bay, a place we all love.

Day 6:  same spot, more shooting, this time at sunset for John to work his B-roll magic.  He’s got a natural artistic flair that i can’t help but imagine will create some cinematic gorgeousness.  Plus, the kids are so damn beautiful and just ripe for camera-catching.

Day 7: we headed up Hwy 1 and made an unintentional but serendipitous stop in a cool town called Cayucos.  Great vibe, beautiful beach…. But you could repeat that like a broken record from this point on– the whole coast and Hwy 1just don’t let up– too beautiful to ever get old….  We stopped above San Simeon (with a promise to return and ring Hearst Castle’s doorbell) at Piedras Blancas beach,  the elephant seal colony.  The juveniles (still huge) were hangin out like lazy kids at a juke joint,  cuddling up, flipping sand, sometimes undulating their way to the water for a slow dance with the waves…. But the squirrels there almost steal the show– they are as blubberous as the seals and will jump up on your lap if you let them.
We settled in at Fernwood campground along the Big Sur River in Big Sur, where the tall redwoods always make you feel like a kid.  Z and I took a wade that slipped into a swim, and we all had a sweet meet by the fire where John sampled some score for the film and I melted the bottom of my boots. (“Mom, are your boots smoking?” “Holy shit– they are!” )
Today, I’ll hopefully retrieve mail sent here and look into hitting some hot springs!

On the burner for Week 2:  sound!  (yikes) Monterey Aquarium, Half Moon Bay, San Fran for vo work, more home school (the best stuff to learn is what’s smack dab in front of you).

Harvey is doing great.


The world is our living room….

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

….. Starting tomorrow, September 7, 2010. At long last, we are poised to hit the road!

It’s been a tilt-a-whirlwind since we got back to CA two weeks ago. Thanks to the deep generosity of our friends the Korades, we’ve had a base in Topanga from which we could get our “ship” together. It’s almost a blur– just so much to do: film pre-production (like peeling an onion– endless), home school prep (gimme sumthin to write on, man!), RV search and destroy (we came, we saw, it conquered our hearts)…. Plus big moves like seeking Payroll help and buying Final Cut Pro, camera lenses and sound equipment (ouch), all of which cost a pretty fat penny. But we did it! And now, it’s time to set sail.

We found an RV (we’ve named it Harvey) that feels perfect for us: a 29 foot 2005 Fleetwood Jamboree. John bought it flat out. It was kind of like searching for a pet: we sniffed around and fell for Harvey, and now we’ve spent the last few days getting to know each other. We already got one parking ticket and killed his battery. Good ice breaker.

Tomorrow John will set up his art show at Abuelita’s here in Topanga, but we won’t stick around for it. Anything we need to do, from now on we can do it from the RV. And there is still a TON to do. But first on the list is to go park ourselves in front of a cool landscape somewhere, take a swig of the view and just …. enjoy ourselves.

Pretty wild, to think we’re actually on our way.