Morro Bay was just a stopover, a place to rest our heads and break up the Pacific Coast Highway drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. When we were planning the trip, Snitch had kinda thrown a dart at the map and suggested that we stay there, so there were zero expectations.
We woke to a cloudy morn and left straight after breakfast, to fit in our last big day in Ron. Driving along the little harbour and parking to see where the fisherman boats were moored, I didn’t think that this would be the start of a day of encounters with exotic animals. At first No.2 and I spotted something in the water.
“Is it a seal?”
“No, it’s an otter.”
“But there are seals over there.”
“They look different. I think it’s an otter.”
This cute sea otter was chilling out on its back amongst the anchored boats and cradling some food, then ducking and diving, when I did decide to pick up my jaw and try and take a picture. By the time we lassoed over Snitch, that cheeky little beggar had disappeared.
Then we drove past a very stark power plant puffing smoke amid the beauty of the bay and around to a massive rock. Out of the car, there were some curious creatures that kept popping their heads up and over the rocky shore, sniffing at our foreign air.
“Are they squirrels?”
“No, they are too big.”
“Or chipmunk squirrels?”
I teased one by pretending to throw some food out to it.
“Careful… look at those claws. They might bite.”
A quick retreat back into Ron after I’m sure one had given me the stare down, witnessing a sea otter couple floating along the tide paw in paw, and having a local man clambering out of his car to creepily offer to take our picture, we headed north.
If there wasn’t enough animal action that morning, we pulled over where a crowd had gathered along a highway fence line. Zebras! A paddock full of zebras! Hearst Castle was near. We went up for a nosey but vetoed the over-populated castle tours that would cut well into our afternoon.
Our last day of driving continued around the winding cliff faces through the pouring rain. I was glad we were on the right side of the road and not where the rocky earth fell into the sea. Big Sur filtered fresh wet pine scent through the air vents and a Monterey Bay stop appeased the late lunch hunger pangs.
Through car-crash induced traffic jams and the slow flow and ebb of the peak hour tide, we made it back into San Fran, just at the right time. Wiggles had arrived five minutes earlier to G & JK’s apartment in a cruisey wee neighbourhood in the Mission District. We had a welcome note on the chalkboard and I couldn’t stop catching up with my beautiful friend G. She’s a laid back gal that I have a lot of time and a special place in my heart for, who let us stay a month out from her wedding. Amazing.
On the way to dinner, we saw the vibrancy of the neighbourhood emanating from the characters in the street; from the walking brass band playing happy tunes, to the quirky taxidermy animals with their thick-rimmed glasses and paper laptops on display in a shop window. It’s the kind of place that would change from day to day, but essentially stay the same. After dinner with some killer spicy cocktails, we met up with JK in a popular bar that had lethal margaritas and somebody’s penny farthing parked outside.
On a blue-skied Saturday we left G & JK to wedding plan 101 and we packed No.2 and her suitcase into Ron, leaving for the airport. Not being a fan of goodbyes, hers was a swift departure that I wanted to hug away her freshly formed tears. Next was our trusty Ron Burgundy; dropped off with two weeks of memories, a windshield of smeared bug crap, and our crumbs wiped deep into its carpet.
To raise our mood we went shopping. Not just here and then looking in windows; longing and wishing… but a full force attack, an onslaught where no store was left unturned. I had an inkling that this might happen. Snitch and Wiggles who’d met each other through me and had hung out a couple of times, were both prolific shopaholics and separately they were the most heartiest of companions to purchase new goods with, as we would always egg each other on. Putting them together in a meeting of the ‘must have this’ minds, I knew this would result in sweet mayhem.
I stood back and watched the spectacle, trying not to get swept up in all of its credit card flashing goodness, because I had to travel on, until I met the best pair of pants of my life. I casually picked them up in Ted Baker and tried them. I couldn’t help but stare and swoon at my own arse and legs.
“You’re not leaving the store without these. They are the best pair of pants I have ever seen you in”, Snitch said.
“Yeah, just try leaving without me”, mocked the pants.
By the time we got back to G & JK’s, a mini fashion show had begun. I had one shopping bag, they had twenty. And what do you think would be the perfect ending to this day out? Bulging burritos and then Chinese massage of course! The shop was a room of black reclined chairs with an older man or woman waiting for our arrival. I got the nearing 70 year old man who I thought was going to squeeze the burrito out of me. He had the effort of a husband who had to begrudgingly give his wife a massage, but afterward he looked at me with a slight twinkle in his eye.
G & JK had to visit their wedding coordinator out in Santa Cruz, so Sunday was our family drive. Like teens, ‘Mom and Dad’ dropped us off at the fun park on the boardwalk, for the afternoon. For this popular beachside town, their rides were pretty much on an even par with the one major amusement park back home. I tentatively ate bacon coated chocolate and then the prettiest presented hotdog I’ve ever had. Snitch had a wrap and a beer and Wiggles double-dogged it with a corn and hotdog. We wandered around, went on a couple of rides, ate popcorn and candy floss and sneakily perved at hot security. We were BATs, Born Again Teenagers.
Our last night was at a hotel in Union Square, where we could only just stuff ourselves and all of our luggage into the elevator. We tried to book dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, which wasn’t possible but they said that given the time of night, we’d be able to get straight in. Nearly an hour later and enough time for Snitch to go off and buy an extra luggage bag to carry her new goods home, we were served meals the size of our heads.
Wiggles got up early to exchange some shoes, so Snitch and I took our time to get ready and went to the diner downstairs and had an all-American breakfast with filter coffee refills. We were talking about life taking our last bites of pancakes and eggs, when Wiggles had heard my laugh and walked in with two arm loads of shopping bags. She plonked them up on the counter top and they sprawled all of the way down to the end. The waitress walked passed and raised an eyebrow as Wiggles proceeded to pull out what was inside the bright glossy bags.
It was a stuff and shove affair to pack their luggage, but in true style and with some joie de vivre, we checked out leaving our suitcases in storage and making the most of the day by spending our last few hours looking in shops.
Goodbyes are hard. This one sent us off all in different directions. Wiggles to L.A. for a night, before going back to N.Z., Snitch to Auckland, and me off to Scotland to stay with one of my best friends. There were hugs at the taxi and then hugs at the terminal, through a couple of tears. I don’t know when I’ll see these girls again. But this is where the NJ adventure begins, flying solo into a cloud of dreams; reality just an arm’s length away.
Until next time, I’ll be highland flinging in the fields of my ancestors, in Scotland. Be kind to yourselves, NJ x