Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay

You’ve traveled north from San Luis Obispo on Highway 1. Around a bend beside the sea you come to Morro Bay, California, dotted with dozens of private pleasure boats moored in line with commercial fishing trawlers, while a Coast Guard cutter bobs at the end of a pier, prepared for any rising troubles. A short way offshore, you see a huge volcanic plug rising over 500 feet above the water’s surface.

You know from the Rock’s presence that you’ve arrived at Morro Bay. Along the Embarcadero you find a parking spot and step out for a day on the bay. You know you won’t regret this stop in the itinerary. A blast of salt-tinged air washes over you with the breeze coming in over the water. Gulls swoop and dive overhead, looking for handouts from the new tourista–you.

You’ve done your homework and know that Morro Bay has a history reaching back to biblical times and beyond. According to archeologists, native peoples lived and worked here during the Millingstone Horizon. Filipino immigrants arrived on a Spanish galleon in late 1587.

But you didn’t come for the history. You came to see the wildlife sanctuaries, the estuaries, and the shops.

Explore the marinas with their bobbing boats, pelicans and gulls, all waiting to be admired. Take a stroll down the Embarcadero; find an enticing shop that caters to antiques or hand-made wares, all while enjoying the Mediterranean climate.

After all, any time of year is pleasant here, with most of the annual rainfall coming during January through March, though that rainfall usually amounts to only three or so inches per month. An overcast day means only that those with cameras must pay attention to settings to get those killer photos.

After a few hours of leisurely sightseeing, you recognize the symptoms of near starvation beginning to take hold. All around is a fragrance that brings a gnawing from the stomach. You follow your nose and arrive at The Great American Fish Restaurant where those who are famished and looking for a feast of culinary excellence gather to dine.

One look at the menu sends your decision-making skills into a spin. The Great American Fish Restaurant tempts you with fillets, chowders, and everything in between; all made with locally caught seafood, fresh from the trawler’s deck that morning.

Sitting at a table by the wall-sized window with a bowl of chowder and fresh baked bread, you watch the marina activity and relax. Sea birds entertain, while an occasional sea lion swims by to check out the local dining fare. Fishing boats move in and out of Morro Bay, nets hanging from booms, white wakes trailing across the water’s surface, the occasional horn sounding off. And overlooking it all is Morro Rock a few hundred yards offshore.

The causeway looks deserted at mid-day, except for one car rolling out to the Rock’s base. A friend told you that the Rock is a sanctuary for sea birds. That’s when you make the decision to check it out before leaving this quietly bustling little community.

When you stand at the base of the Rock, all you hear is the screaming of the birds over the sound of the sea that washes the edges of that volcanic plug. It’s time to wonder how many thousands of years this example of Nature’s handiwork has stood here, while you watch the regular bathing society enjoy an afternoon’s dip in the pool.

Sea lions call to each other off shore. Peace reigns here, whether other humans occupy the space with you or not. The sense of timelessness that surrounds this place helps you relax further, as you breathe in the scents of the sea.

Soon you know that you must leave this place, leave its peace and its inhabitants. Perhaps next time you can stay longer. Perhaps next time you’ll be able to see more of the estuary wildlife or take a walking tour of the area. Perhaps next time you’ll decide not to leave at all.

This vision could be you after a hard week at the desk or on the road. This could be your adventure into a place that’s survived for hundreds of years and continues to remain itself. And this could guarantee a fantastic a day or two of seaside relaxation that will spoil you for other, less tempting, locations along California’s Central Coast.

For more information about Morro Bay, California, try these links.

http://www.morrobay.org/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=594

http://www.morro-bay.net/

Out in the Bush

For those who drop by to see where my words will take you, I have to say that for the next several days, I won’t be taking you anywhere.

My computer/internet communications is down temporarily. God willing, I’ll be back up and running before the end of the week.

Take care, all, and God bless. Have patience with this off again, on again, performance of blog posting that’s been sporadic of late. Obligations, illness, and general chaos has taken a toll around the old homestead.

The title? Well, aren’t you left feeling stranded out in the bush when you can’t get online on demand? I know I am.

See you all in a few days. I have new places and photos to share.

Until then,

Claudsy

Social Sunshine

As soon as the chimes of New Year’s bells finish ringing, thoughts of Spring flood the mind, bringing visions of an orchard’s and grove’s burgeoning blossoms, the return of songbirds for nest building and mate selection, and planting vegetable seeds among freshly tilled rows in private gardens, walled or not.

Along with visions of spring events ar e those of open-air farmer’s markets and all the tasty treasures available for purchase. Early April in Central California is no exception to this annual reverie.

Take a Saturday afternoon, travel to Templeton and its wonderful park, and you’ll find a haven for shopping cooks who delight in putting the best on the table for their families.

Locals from several towns in the area flock to the market on Saturday during the growing season. Mothers bring babes, pet owners take their favorite pooches, minstrels come to play for a ready audience, and the sun shines to keep everyone’s spirits up and welcoming.

Few are disappointed with either atmosphere or prices. There are fresh artichokes almost as large as a soccer ball waiting to find new home. On the same stand are baby purple ‘chokes nestled up to recently plucked squash blossoms for that aficionado of all things luscious.

Vine-ripened tomatoes beckon to the passerby, tempting with plumpness and bright color. A few steps away the red lights continue with quart after quart of strawberries to fill the hand of any small child, looking sweet and ready for shortcake. If the shopper needs flavorings instead, there’s giant garlic for the asking, along with other freshly picked culinary herbs.

There’s something for everyone, from vegetables to flowers to seafood.  Shopping for new ideas for gifts for the gardener on a birthday list couldn’t be easier than turning to the vendors who specialize in living plants.

If the shopper tires of buying treats, she can always stroll around the grounds, find a bench and rest, or talk with any of the friendly people who frequent this amazing Saturday gathering event. It’s easy to find those who will recommend their favorite restaurants, movies, or other shopping venues. With all of the sights, sounds, and smells of this park on the weekend, why would anyone choose to miss a chance to mingle and take in the merchandise?

Home Again

Thoughts of family and home surge through the mind when the holidays come near. Whether someone is orphaned or from a large family, this truth stands firm. My thoughts move back to my small Indiana hometown of Greencastle.

The old adage that one can never go home again also holds true. The covered bridges that I remember bursting from a snowy landscape are still there, still serving to span the separation between one landmass and another, but they have changed. Oakalla Bridge, circa 1898, was destroyed some years ago and rebuilt. Dunbar Bridge, circa 1880, looks smaller now as things of memory are wont to do.

Bridges such as these will always be kept in use here. They are icons to a different time, a different social order. They also provide an excellent excuse for an annual Covered Bridge Festival in October. Tourist dollars mean an economic boost to the area.

The streams that flowed below those thick timbered floors don’t seem so significant or welcoming any longer. Yet they’ve always been part of my mind’s landscape of home.

The honored of WWI and WWII still dominate the town square, surrounding the courthouse and lawn. The refurbished statuary and memorials proudly call for attention after so many years.

I look at the restored Buzz Bomb, one of the few remaining in existence, and hear my father’s voice, telling me how he was the one who made the propeller on the front end of it. I hear the pride in his tone, that he’d been assigned the privilege of doing the work.

Back in 1960 Vice President Nixon and his wife Pat, circumnavigated the town square on a chilly autumn day while my mother, brother, and I sat in our parked car and waved at them. He was campaigning for the presidency against JFK that year.

The Banner Graphic building, Greencastle’s newspaper of so many years, sits diagonal to the courthouse. The town’s bakery occupied that space until the late sixties. The Banner had been in a different building off the square until it burned in a fire. The old Opera House is gone too, not long after I left high school.

Meeting an old school chum on the square or in a store brings a rush of old memories and a basketful of questions. Catching up on so many years gets reduced to “How have you been?” and “Are you in town for a visit or moving back?” Or, “Have you seen anyone else from our class? We missed you at the last reunion.”

Things change, only to remain the same in our personal histories of the mind. The citizens circulate, some move away, others stay to rear a new generation, and the town remains to greet those who return to visit.

We return to see a different place than we recall, from a different perspective since life changes the person as easily as it does a town. Feelings generated so many years before remain constant, as they must inside the mind, acting in the same capacity as the covered bridge arched support beams. Fresh memories cross over those beams to stretch and sooth earlier recollections, adding depth, perspective, and a chance to begin anew in the place of the past and of the heart.

I hope everyone has a memorable holiday season this year and that your new year will feature personal adventures of your own making as well as those pleasant surprises that come to us all in time.

 

 

Small and Mighty Town

Nestled in a broad valley between two ranges in the Montana Rockies resides a town, built by miners and ranchers, and hit as hard or harder than many in this country by recent economic trends. Phillipsburg, Montana doesn’t look much different from any other small collection of buildings. On closer examination the visitor will find obvious differences.

After turning from the state road onto the main street, the visitor sees a sign that screams a blatant sense of humor. Not far away is the punch line to the joke. Of course, the visitor will probably never get a local resident to admit to it being a joke. It isn’t.

Several examples of fun and whimsical architecture enliven the main street, with color and design.

Meticulous sculptures peek out from positions among the buildings. Historical markers give lessons to those who stroll along on a mild afternoon.

Mysterious doors lead to unknown realms, taunting and flirting with passersby, silently daring a closer examination.

The Quilt Guild takes possession of one of the Halls for a month, delighting visitor and local alike. A second-hand store does a brisk business a few doors down, stuffed with treasures gleaned from who-knows-where.

It’s the people, though, that make this town a special place. They are the friends you didn’t know you’d missed until you met them, the ones that smile and ask you how long you can stay, ones who laugh when you ask if an item really costs so little.

These people do something about a problem when it’s brought to their attention and do it together. Recently a news story was filmed about this little town that wouldn’t give up its right to be happy. Take a moment and watch and discover who lives in Phillipsburg, Montana and decide for yourself if seeing such a place is worth the effort. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45585751/ns/today-today_people/t/pioneer-spirit-keeps-town-giving-ghost/#.TuwhWjWvgX1

During one short afternoon you can go to a hometown that you didn’t know you had, learn the name and lineage of a resident’s dingo, and wonder why more places aren’t like this anymore.

For more information on Phillipsburg and the surrounding area, go to: http://philipsburgmt.com/mining/  or

http://philipsburgmt.com/   or

http://www.city-data.com/city/Philipsburg-Montana.html

There’s More Than Fish to Salmon, ID

Darby has you already channeling your inner cowboy. Let’s see what we can do about moving you a bit further back in time to Lewis and Clark.

If you continue south on Hwy.93, you’ll drive through heavily forested mountains on the hillside highway. Along the drive you’ll come to historical markers telling you about the trade route of early trappers, stagelines, etc.

At the mountain’s summit the winding blacktop pauses at Lost Hill Pass and the Idaho border visitor’s center. A ski resort of the same name rests a bit higher on the mountain and can be accessed through the visitor center parking lot. Finding such a resort isn’t always a common occurrence where two states meet, but in this case it makes for a magnificent melding of attitudes and cultures.

Hiking and biking are common in the area and along the byway. Biking by seniors, regardless of insert pic the steep passes, happens every summer. Some long-time bike riders, like the one we met from the West Coast, do a transcontinental journey aboard well-maintained titanium bikes. His seventy years of practice at building muscles and perseverance had prepared our new acquaintance for his journey. We didn’t feel it necessary to compete with him.

The Idaho visitor’s center allows the traveler to see what’s coming on the other side of the pass. Brochures help plan both the current trip and any future one. We left after half an hour, chilled from the residual snow under June’s sunshine and proceeded downslope toward Salmon, Idaho.

Our first stop on the Idaho side of the mountain was Red Rock viewing area and campground. Insert pic Red Rock is a place of stark beauty. Cliffsides rise sharply to the east of the highway. Rocky mesas jut up and back from the river on the west side. Big Horn Sheep are often spotted on those crags and prominences, hence the term viewing area. It’s peaceful here for picnics or a lazy afternoon nap in the cooler sunshine.

By the time you wind your way down alongside the Salmon River to the base of the mountain, you’ll be ready to get out and stretch your legs, breathe in that clean, healthy air, and find something new to get into. If you turn left at the bottom of the hill into town, you’ll soon come to Sacajawea Park. Insert pic

This park is dedicated to that lady of legend and to other details of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Near the entrance you’ll see the statue and plaque highlighting the importance of the Insert pic Newfoundland dog, Seaman, that accompanied the expedition as Captain Lewis’ companion. This is the kind of historic detail you don’t find in all those history books.

The park and museum are free to visitors. The manicured grounds flow over small hills and landscaped flowerbeds down to a path that winds its way through a tiny wilderness of marsh plants, wildflowers, and small wildlife coming in to the pond to drink. Sunset is a lovely time there with cool breezes, murmured conversations in the distance, and a sense of being close to where those of the long-ago had walked.

When we were there in June, they were having a special open-air concert. Only a few blocks to the west the downtown area waited for exploration. Tall, narrow shops beguiled the passerby, teasing and flirting with promised goodies. The feel of Salmon is leisurely. There was never any sense of the bustle of bigger places or the impatience of more modern facilities.

What we did feel, and what any visitor would feel, was a timeless kind of acceptance; one that waited for you to join in the celebration of being a part of this earth. The soft voices never jarred the ears. Traffic kept itself subdued.

On our way back north we came across a pen full of baby llamas and alpacas. They live at the Wild Basin Lodge and Ranch. Seeing these South American animals is common. Seeing all of these babies wasn’t. We just couldn’t resist sharing the experience with everyone. It’s little wonders like this that make each of our excursions so marvelously addictive.

Taking Time to Ponder

One of the great pleasures of any trip is taking the time to really look at the places of the past and thinking about what came before.

An old family cemetery, an old schoolhouse, an old tobacco barn all have personal histories and stories to tell. Gathering only a few facts about the place can bring many possible scenarios to mind and make for an imaginative and enjoyable day in the country.

In Kentucky, like so many Southern states, many such places to pause and contemplate the years gone by exist to help in this pastime.

For instance, when you drive east out of Harrodsburg on the way to Lexington on Hwy. 68, you’ll come to a turn off that will take you to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District http://www.shakervillageky.org/. Shakertown is a national historic landmark. The Shaker religious sect began building this working agricultural community in 1805. As a living museum it affords the visitor a look into a community that served both its God and its neighbors.

This austere group built to last and formed a movement in the furniture industry that continues to hold its design integrity over a century later.

Whether on a snowy day surrounded by thoughts of winter’s long quiet slumber, or on a spring-time stroll for peace and meditation, this site can give the visitor an opportunity to take the measure of personal dreams and aspirations. There’s nothing like wandering in solitude along the edge of a pond to freshen one’s perspective.

Driving along country roads gives the visitor an opportunity to question the past. An old wooden building, falling apart at the corners and listing to one side: what had it been when first built? In this case, according to locals, it had been a Juke Joint with live music and dancing and revelry, frequented by African-Americans living in the area.

Scenarios fit for a Steampunk novel can be brought to bear when looking at a vintage steam-powered driver pushed to the side and waiting for restoration.

The worse-for-wear home sitting close to the downtown area of a small community waits for someone to care for it again. Who used to live here? One local looked at the house and reminisced about her favorite teacher when she’d attended the local school 60 years prior. The house had been grand and inviting to students and their families. The teacher had long ago gone to her rest, but the house still stood testament to her life and her impact.

Sometimes looking at the past that belonged to others gives us the ability to look at our own and assess it with a fresher perspective and a more objective take on our own impact in this world. It allows us to see things in “A Wonderful Life” kind of way and helps us to place priorities for the future.