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/

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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?