JUST a pebble, you say?

So I was going through the pictures on my phone, to remind myself (already, yes, needing reminding) of my stops so far along the way. The very next stop I made after Pacifica Beach was Pebble Beach. No, not the golf course, that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. No, I’d just happened to stop at a beach rich with history and loaded with treasure. The sign at the top of the stairs leading down informs visitors that the pebbles constantly deposited on its shore have been worn and polished by the sand and the sea, and to please enjoy, but leave the pebbles for others to enjoy as well. Sure, I can do that, but I’m darn sure going to take some pictures! It wasn’t a very big beach, but the surface was litterally inches thick of tiny smooth perfect pebbles amidst a shoreline of tidepools and kelp. The only other beach-goers were a man and his 2 daughters, and he was pointing out critters in the tidepools. As I wandered by, he turned to me and said, “There’s a starfish here, if you’re interested”. I’ve seen plenty of starfish in my day…in tidepools and deeper water, Carribean and Pacific, large and small; why would I want to see another starfish? Because it’s a STARFISH!!! They’re so frickin cool how could you ever NOT want to see another starfish, sheesh?!? And this one was up there on the cool list. Huge (~8-10″ across), red, half exposed on the rock from the receding tide, and making his way slowly back into the cool water. I squatted down and watched with the fascination of a child. You see, once I’d realized the weather I could expect for the time being was well, not what i’d expected, I’d written off palm trees and tropical marine life from my expectation list. Yet here I was surprised again. Turns out us equator huggers don’t have the market cornered on starfish and the like. Hhmph! Oh, and of course that was the moment, after having snapped several pebble photos, my phone decided to give me the ole ‘low batt’ and not function in camera mode. So just trust me, one cool starfish.
Back to the pebbles. When I picked the photo I liked, I decided to google some quotes or sayings referring to pebbles. I thought one might make a good caption. Instead however, what I found got me thinking about about value and perceived value. Pretty deep for a pebble. So here’s the first on the list that popped up in my search, attributed to a Chinese Proverb: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.” I skimmed past it at first, but kept coming back to it, not because I thought it would make good caption, but because it bothered me. I call bullshit. Yup, I said it. Hooey. Crap. Baloney. Bullshit. Monetarily and litterally, sure, but I’m pretty sure ancient chinese proverbs are rarely intended to be taken literally. My mind immediately leapt to the symbolism of the diamond and the pebble. (Betcha thought this was just going to be a fun little travel blog, huh?…GOTCHA!) A diamond, in it’s natural state-whether flawed or not-can resemble a piece of gravel or quartz that you might kick along the sidewalk. To make it appear what we associate with diamonds, it must be manipulated, cut, altered; made to appear brilliant and visually eyecatching. All in order to appear, to most untrained eyes, very similar to the diamond next to it, and the next one, and so on. A perfect pebble washed upon the shore has been worked upon not by hands or tools, but simply by the environment around it. It has literally rolled with the tides, tossed about, and come out beautiful and unique due to what it has endured by nature. It’s perfection judged so by those that take the time to look at it, really see and appreciate it, not by a measurable scale of values. If you were to hold a handful of diamonds, and were asked what is unique, beautiful and different about each one, I believe you would run out of identifiers fairly quickly. My handful of pebbles here though, given time I could go on and on about their different looks and feels, and what I appreciated about each one.

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I am not shiny.
I am a pebble. JUST a pebble.
I am unique and beautiful, just the way I am, to those that take the time to look.

Not the California stereotype

Monday, picked up the rental car, got my things together, stopped for coffee and lunch in Sacramento, and finally got on the road in the afternoon.  My plan (or lack of one, depending on your travel style) was to head west, through San Fransisco and south on the Pacific Coast Highway.   Have coffee, will travel.  I hit traffic through San Fran of course, but for the first time in recent memory, it didn’t bother me.  I had nowhere to be and no time to be there; it’s  quite a liberating concept!  I made it through without any irritation, and eventually found myself on the coastal scenic route, the views were gorgeous, albeit HAZY!  After driving past a few scenic overlooks, I came upon a large beach parking lot.  Seemed like a good place to stop.  Opened, my door..BBrrrrrr!!!  As I said before, I was chilly in San Fransisco, but for some reason I thought it wouldn’t be as cool once I got a little south out of the city…I was W-R-O-N-G!  It was at this moment I realized I would probably be wearing that green Army sweatshirt my brother Eric had sent me for more than just evenings!  Despite the chill in the air, and the frigid water, I of course still couldn’t resist slipping off the flops and walking along the edge.  At the end of the beach were a few houses that looked more like a stereotypical Alaskan or New England coastal town.  I knew this trip was not going to be the sunny warm vistas I’d expected, but I was glad.  Driving along not knowing exactly what the scenery would hold added to my enjoyment, and as I would learn, would make me appreciate cozy evening lodgings even more.  I was already falling for character of the California coast.  What would be the next stop?

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First full post…catching up so far.

Today is Wednesday August 22nd.  Hard to believe just last Friday my sweetie woke up at 3 a.m. with me to get my butt to the Air Force base, with the hope that I would actually fly out that day.  Well, the stars were aligned, and being a single traveller worked in my favor to land one of the 3 spots on the first flight out of the morning.

(*sigh* everything to follow may be somewhat abbreviated from my original post, now gone forever.  I walked away from the iPad for a few and cam back to where I’d ‘saved draft’ 30 minutes prior….)

Anyway to sum up the first couple relaxing days in Sacramento, it was spent running a few errands, visiting Bob’s sister Jessica and the kids, and of course unwinding with Brian, Nancy, John, and Lori. And by unwinding, I mean drinking beer, floating in the redneck pool, eating Nancy and Lori’s nomnomnom cooking, and staying up late shootin’ the shit. A great time for sure.

Sunday started what I will call Day 1. Really seeing things or places I haven’t seen before. Brian, Nancy, and little Quinn took me into San Fransisco for my first time. Jessica had insisted I must try the clam chowder bread bowl, and as it was lunchtime when we got into the city, Boudin’s-famous for their sourdough-was the first stop. Best sourdough I’ve ever eaten*. The chowder itself and th oysters rockefeller, also top notch. The next couple hours was spent walking around fisherman’s wharf area, mostly Pier 39. I saw some of the pier’s sea lion population, although not the famed quantity of years past. Sea lion visitors have been down for a few years as I understand.

Next stop, the beach near the wharf. If you go to a new beach, and stand back from the water, and are content to walk away with that as your beach experience, well know now that you may not want to go on many beach trips with me! For me, every day at the beach, whether first time or familiar locale, is an adventure. I probably had my shoes off before 5 year old Quinn. Keep in mind that outside temperature this day is ~60-65F. Cold. This was a feet-only in the water kind of beach day, but a beach day just the same. If, in your adult life, you’ve never played on a beach with a child, do it. You will feel like a kid again yourself, and everyone needs that now and then. That’s the shit that keeps you young. I personally never plan to fully ‘grow up.’ After running around and letting the lapping water chase us, and writing names in the sand, it was time for the big-flick San Fransisco experience; the trolley! What’s that you say, there’s and hour and a half wait? Eh, not that important after all…next! And so we found ourselves driving up to and then setting across on foot the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s red. Not sure what the Golden is about; I’ll have to look that up. Anyway, it was epic. I try to reserve the term ‘epic’ for things that truly are so, and not just some really buttery popcorn and the like. Epic, inspiring, architechtural masterpiece, engineering feat – all these terms DO apply here. I looked up, I looked down, I looked out. Every direction, the view was one of a kind. And we played tag to keep the small one entertained. Nothing like that little tap, “you’re it”, and taking off in persuit hundreds of feet above the bay!

Dinner at a beachside restaurant, a drive up fog-covered twin peaks, and were done. A very full day, a great weekend, and a memorable start to my California tour for sure.

What’s next?