Southern California….

By the time I leave for Mexico City via LAX I will have been in Southern California exactly 3 months to the day. That’s this coming Saturday when I will be leaving for Mexico City for the beginning of the International part of my journey!!

I wish so much that I would have kept up my diligently with this blog as I have done many cool things here. But I didn’t. So I will just touch on some of the stuff now and hopefully write much more on future posts.

Like I said I got here on July 29th,  2011. The next day I went to a multi-year high school reunion. Had a BLAST!!! Lots of people and lots of memories. I’ve stayed with couch surfing hosts and friends. Been from Long Beach (where I spent a great majority of the time) to Temecula, Moorpark and Oceanside.

I have gone hiking, drinking with former teachers, visiting long lost family members and beach volleyball playing. I have watched the sunset from rooftops, boats, bay windows, hillsides and cars. I have been to Chinatown in LA to the Mexican Border. I’ve been to 3, yep THREE, high school reunions which is pretty weird since in 30 years prior I had not been to one. I have seen many many people from my childhood and teenage years that meant the world to me and helped save me from a very difficult life. I was able to say thank you to many of them. I got to volunteer at the community theater in Long Beach and to go to Disneyland with some dear friends from the south.

I have traveled by car, ride-share, bus, hiked and biked.

All in all I got to be both tourist, local and explorer. I love my life!!

I really do hope I can spend quiet time and write more specifically about so much of my time here in the very near future. I will!!!

Next stop…………MEXICO CITY…………….

Heading South to Northern California and Some Family Time…

My ride-share from Seattle to Redding, CA  picked me up about 3pm. We had to stop and pick up a few other riders in Portland ( I really wanted to stay in Portland but it just didn’t work out this time. I will for sure when I come back.),which actually got us lost so that was an extra two hours on the ride.

The ride was smooth enough and I got to my Aunt Patty’s home about 4am. My Uncle Viv was up waiting for me and helped get me settled. I went right to sleep. Got up the next morning to my cousins being at the house doing some home repairs. I said my hellos and went back to bed for several more hours.

I had a good time with my cousins. We went hiking in Lassen and kayaking in Wiskeytown. I loved it. Such beautiful views. I did a bit of work at my aunt’s house and helped her with her garden. I enjoyed my time with family, but was ready to head south.

I went by ride-share from Redding to Benecia, CA right outside of San Fransisco to stay with my other cousin for about a week. Then on to Southern California.

Hiking around Shasta Lake with the Cousins

There is an amazing Ranger program in Wiskeytown where one can go (as many times as they want) on a guided kayaking tour of the lake for free. To experience the wildlife and the scenery. We were so lucky and went during a light rain so not only did we have a blast we got to kayak through rainbows. Spectacular!!

My Aunt Patty’s Garden

Cool sites for the area:  Free Ranger Led Programs

My Trip to The Gold Mine Areas of Northern California

Salmon Swimming Up Stream

My trip to California was so diverse. I have done everything from Disneyland to marking off seeing salmon swim upstream from my bucketlist. I have worked and played hard and met so many wonderful people. Even though I grew up in California I had never been much past north San Francisco. So it was through new eyes that I went on to Redding below the southern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range. Beautiful.

I was very lucky to have my aunt, Patty, as a tour guide through this gold mining country. We went to French Gulch where we saw all the old mining establishments. My aunt took me to a local bar. This place has been in business since the civil war. The proprietor was so nice and showed us all kinds of stuff including ancient log books with bar tabs dated all the way to the day Lincoln was shot . The bar has been in his wife’s family the entire time and the memorabilia is everywhere and MUCH more extensive than most museums. I took my brother back when he came up a few days later.

We also did the surrounding lakes and trails. It struck me

Redding California

how much it all reminded me of East Tennessee. I wanted to go to Lassen and the hot springs there but didn’t get the chance.

I did get to go with my cousins on a bike ride to the newish Sundial Bridge in Redding. So cool with all kinds of trails around the river. We rode and rode. Stopped to sight see a Bald Eagles nest, watch fly fishermen, and just walk a bit. I took my brother here too when he came over.

Whiskey Town and Bandy Creek
Sundial Bridge with Sean

These pictures are all great memories…

Sundial Bridge and Bike Ride with My Cousins

Next a bit on time with family after a very long time…..

Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach, California

I LOVE this area of California. If I had been born to wealth this would be the place I would live! The beauty and the feel of this area is unmatched.

I went to Monterey for a few days the first of September. It was amazing. I had some of the best times I had my entire time in California. So it was no hard decision to go back on my last leg of the California Journey. I worked on the Blog for the Monterey HI Hostel so I had a comped place to stay. And had already made great friends with the staff so I couldn’t wait to get there.

First couple of days I spent hanging out with the staff and relaxing. Catching up on much needed sleep. Then I started exploring. I did lots of walks. I loved the walks to Lover’s Point. SO beautiful….One of my friends from SLO came to visit me. She asked me what I wanted to do. I said whatever you want. We talked and decided that the 17 mile scenic tour from Monterey through Pebble Beach and then Carmel is what we should do. She also knew of a place that had cheese tasting. She had a Port Wine that needed a good cheese so she would find out what their recommendations were. WELL, what a treat!!!!!

First we went to Pebble Beach. I wanted to take some pictures for my golfing friends, Louise and Pierre. I didn’t realize how much they paid to be on that course, but we got MANY a scenic picture without paying or golfing. Go us!!!! Seems to me that even if you were having an off golf day it would still be one of the best days because of the amazing views!

Pebble Beach, California

Once we left Pebble Beach we headed for Carmel. Now I have memories of Carmel from when I was 17 and took a trip through it with one of the great loves of my life, Paul. We had gone on a surfing trip and stopped here for a bit of sightseeing. But I was only 17 and new to the whole traveling thing so this was a big stop for me.

I LOVE Carmel. It is simply one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. Clean, unique and alluring.

Carmel, CA

And then the ultimate. The Cheese Shop! Heaven. There is just no other explanation for it!!!

Years ago Marylou Henner wrote a book about the evils of ANY dairy. She claimed that if one was to never ever have ANY dairy that person would never have any cellulite. That includes butter, cheese of any kind, sour cream……

I say to that, “Why live”?!?

I have rarely been so enthralled as I was in The Cheese Shop of Carmel. Kent, the owner and our personal taster and explainer of all things cheese, gave me a brochure with ALL the cheese offerings and as I tasted I wrote notes next to each offering. My loves, likes, and bestests! Smiley faces, giggle faces, and big hearts.

Kent was unrelenting in explaining all the nuances of this vast variety of cheese. We then found out we had a commonality in East Tennessee. He has done many programs at the renowned Blackberry Farms. I know and love Blackberry Farms as a patron. We were solidified as friends!

Triple Creme anything cheese is my favorite. But, I also found a lot of cheese I’ve never tried. Loved them too!!!

Carmel Cheese Shoppe

After my day with Celeste. I just went to the ocean, museums, and the streets to see and feel the area of Monterey. I can see this being my life.


Me COOKING at the Hostel Monterey

After sightseeing each day I went back to the hostel and ate delicious meals with the staff and even cooked potato soup from scratch by my self one night. Go Me.

My next post will be about spending time with my family that I had not seen in 20 years or more in Northern California…




My Time in San Luis Obispo

I was so busy in SLO (San Luis Obispo), that I didn’t get much time to Blog. So I took lots of pictures and thought I would sorta just do a visual montage. These are some of the adventures I had there.

Me and The Cousins in Pismo Beach
Famous Madona Inn with Friends
Thursday Night Farmer's Market (EVENT)
Leaving the Hostel for a Day of Exploring (or a date)
Rigging the New Fixtures That JUST DONT SEEM TO FIT
Exploring SLO on BikeRugby Match Staring My Bar Friends
A Day of Painting in Morro Bay
SLO Exploring

San Francisco 2010

I have had the most amazing luck and blessings with my Couch Surfing Hosts all over California. I am constantly amazed. I ended up coming to the city of San Francisco a day early and put out an emergency request on the site. I found a great guy who lives in a beautiful home in the Castro District.

I had not heard of the Castro District before. It is a predominantly gay area of SF. My experiences have always been get a straight woman with a bunch of gay men and there is going to be fun. And that is exactly what I had. When I got to downtown I called my host, Jenner. He told me to walk across the street and get on the MUNI = the SF light rail and bus system. So I trudged with my suitcase, tote and backpack – yep I’m down to just those and I am thrilled – and got on the train. I met a really nice guy on the MUNI who told me where I needed to go. He then proceeded to pull my bags up the hill to where I was going. So nice.

Jenner is a hoot. He lives in a great apartment and welcomed me with open arms. I was exhausted from so much travel so after we chatted for a bit he went on and met his friends and I took my book and went to bed. I did have the pleasure having his beautiful dog join me for some RnR.

The next day we went to breakfast and a coffee shop around the corner. We took the dogs. One is a Siberian Husky and the other a Weimaraner about 16 months old. They are beautiful and loved getting out and about. Breakfast was great. Cheesy eggs and pancakes, coffee and juice. The waiter was wearing a kilt with a studded belt that read “nudist”. Sometimes one doesn’t need to go “sightseeing” to see great sites.

After breakfast I was deciding where to go actual sightseeing for the day.  Jenner gave me transportation advice and I was all set to go on my way when he received a text. It was from one of his friends and I found myself invited to join them for brunch. Since we had already eaten we went for the margaritas and the fun company.

We got there at about 11 and got home about 5. One of the fastest days I have ever encountered. Sightseeing the rest of SF would have to wait a day or so cause I was on my way to my next hosting site. Jenner was great and gave me ride. My new hosts live in South SF .

When I got there my new hosts were still working. It worked out very well cause I just crawled into bed and read. I do love to relax by reading. The next morning I got up to another very very warm day in SF. No fog whatsoever.

My host, Dorit, asked me if I would like to go for a hike. I most certainly did. She took me to San Bruno Mountain. There were several spots along the hike to view the city.. At the top there is a 360 degree view. So pretty. Unfortunately there is such a financial crisis in California now that the park is technically closed. No money for park rangers. Sad.

For my third day in SF I set out to see the city. I have visited the Bay area many times, but most always to see family. I have done a few of the touristy stuff there before, but I wanted to visit neighborhoods instead of just touristy places this time. That is what I did.

I took the bus to the middle of the City and just got off and began walking. The main goal of the day was to walk the entire Golden Gate Bridge which is now checked off my Bucket List.

I walked all over SF. I spent time in wandering through Golden Gate Park. I saw so much of the beautiful architecture of the City. I spent time in Haight-Ashbury and the Wharf. It was so cool to just hang out everywhere. At my host’s home we watched movies and ate wonderful food. Very adventurous and relaxing time in a beautiful city.

NEXT: I’m going to back track just a bit and post about the some of the adventures in San Luis Obispo and Monterey (I got a bit ahead of myself)…

Montana de Oro State Park, Osos, California

There was a guest from Quebec, an 18 year old who just graduated from high school and is traveling the entire west coast on his own (so right away he was a kindred spirit), we had gone on a Taco Tuesday taco run and were talking about what sites we enjoyed.

Once we came back to the Hostel with all our goodies a bunch of us were talking about a man I had met a man who found a bunch of raw jade in Montana de Oro that had come down from Big Sur.

So Nicolas (my new-found friend) said, “Well, when does it get dark?” I responded, “When the sun goes down.” He said, “Fine I’ll go look outside.” I shrugged and laughed. When he came back in a minute later, he said, “Okay there is plenty of time. Go get ready, we are going to Montana de Oro.” I sat for a minute, shocked, and then ran up to get ready. I quickly located overalls, Uggs and a sweatshirt. What a drive! Overhanging California Oak the whole way that suddenly opens up to the ocean. So AMAZING. And not on the every day “tourist” visit. We were there for hours. Well into dark. Moss on everything, smooth rocks with stripes, caves with water rushing in and out again, and drift wood. I was so at peace on one hand and excited on the other. This is a great website to tell about it, but it really has to be EXPERIENCED to get the fullness of it.

I’m going to post some pictures, but be prepared there is no picture we took that does this place justice.

Montana de Oro, California

Monterey, California

Monterey, California in the Summer

Monterey is truly one of the most magical settings in the USA. It is wonderful. I go to sleep and wake up to the sounds of sea gulls and sea lions. The above collage was done from my last visit here at the beginning of Sept. I am now here for about a week to enjoy it once more before heading north.

Last time I visited I enjoyed  the world-renowned Monterey Aquarium, the bar Steinbeck hung out at (and it is still owned and operated by the original 102 year old friend of Steinbeck’s), and the Wharf. I am lucky enough to be able to spend time with the staff and “Friends of” The Monterey Hostel. I have had some of my best experiences in California here in Monterey.

When I was here several weeks ago I had the pleasure of hanging out with a great guy from New Zealand, Gus. We took walks along the coast and lots of pictures.

I will add to this post with the pictures I take. This trip I am going to visit Big Sur, Carmel and hopefully Pebble Beach.

For now I am going to go and explore…

Hostel Obispo my new WWooFing property….AWESOME

I have been in San Luis Obispo for several weeks. It is a special place. I can see why the students of Cal Poly want to stay when they graduate.

I arrived on Greyhound from Santa Barbara at 11:00 am. A nice smooth ride with only two very short stops. Once here it was a really short walk to the Hostel. Thank goodness cause, as I found out at the SB station, my two pieces of luggage weighed 49.5 and 56.2 lbs. I am supposed to be lightening my load, but seem to be getting more. I will change that while in SLO aka San Luis Obispo.

Once at the Hostel all the staff were waiting for me and we headed off to my welcoming luncheon. We walked with the Hostel dog in hot pursuit. About four blocks later we were at the Bistro, Buona Tavola: Delicious. Northern Italian Cuisine. Most all had the specials. And we shared a wonderful bottle of red wine. It was such a cool way to get to know one another. We sat outside in the courtyard laughing and eating. There are pictures, but they are currently on a camera in Portland, Oregon. I will post them when they come back south.

I didn’t start working for a couple of days to give me a chance to acclimate. Nice.

There are three general shifts here:

The breakfast shift: Homemade sourdough pancakes made fresh daily with organic free-trade coffee. This shift includes starting the loads of sheets from the previous nites guests and taking any incoming calls.

The cleaning shift (this is the one everyone starts off on for the first couple of weeks): All beds remade with clean sheets. The wash hung….I had never hung the was on clothes lines before that first shift here – getting back to basics and all. Bathrooms cleaned and floors swept. Of course being the anal retentive person that I am I also have spent much time cleaning the corners and oiling the furniture.

The Hostel is closed btwn 11 and 4:30 so after the cleaning shift everyone is about their own business of other jobs or play.

At 4:30 the Hostel reopens and that shift consists of getting the sheets off the line and folding them. Checking in guests and making sure everything runs smoothly during check-in time.

Here are a few pictures of the Hostel…

There is so much to do in SLO. There are several beaches all within 15 miles of the Hostel. Avila, Shell Beach and Pismo are for laying out and surfing. Morro Bay and Montana de Oro are more majestic and full of nature. So far my favorite central coast place has been Montana de Oro. I have always loved Big Sur more than any place I’ve traveled. BUT Montana de Oro may have replaced it if not tied with it. I will write about it in my next post.

On the other side of SLO are the foothills. Lots of easy and moderate hiking. These peaks are called the Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County.

One of the hikes is called Cerro San Luis Peak. It has a concrete “M” on it, sorta like the HOLLYWOOD sign, and people hike to the top of the top of the letter and sit or take photos. They can see hawks and such flying below them. It is a very SLO thing to do. I have not done this, because of my very weak ankle (but I have played volleyball in a vineyard, so maybe it is just an excuse, hmmm, maybe I will analyze that later or maybe not).

Of course there is plenty to do in San Luis Obispo…

The town was built around a creek that runs through it. There are bars, novelty shops and restaurants that run along the river. Children go onto the rocks and play in the flowing river while their parents watch or join in. There are many people who go there to read or to do homework. It is a fun and serene place to hang out with many benches and rocks to sit or lay on.

There are concerts, much like Knoxville’s Sundown in the City, every Friday nite at the creek. Also every Thursday there is an evening Farmer’s Market downtown. This is NOT your usual Farmer’s Market, but a party/festival. It goes from 6pm till 9pm and fresh farm food purchasing is just one of the activities. There is music, all kinds of food vendors, and all the townies out for an evening of meet and greet.

I have been riding one of the Hostel’s bikes around town quite a bit. One of my co-WWOOFers has taken me on several exploring rides. Here are a few of those pictures (oh and I’m volunteering  painting sets while I’m here at the Community Theatre that is in this collage)…

Well that is about it for tonite.

My next post I will show pictures of Montana de Oro State park and several of the beaches around SLO…