My parents marked their thirtieth wedding anniversary on August 12th, and we met up in Cambria that following weekend to celebrate. We've had a couple family mini-vaycays there over the last few years--it's kind of perfect for the fam in its friendly sleepiness, its antiques and beachiness, and its being situated centrally on the CA coast between Huntington Beach and Oakland. Maddy had to drive up separately from Rama and me because she had to head back to the Bay Monday morning for her first CCSF fire academy class, and since her POS car would probably commence its death throes if she attempted any length of road trip, she rented a little blue economy car we for some reason dubbed "The Nerget." It was surprisingly fun caravan-ing (I'd been bummed we wouldn't all be in the same car), and she looked so cute behind us with her bright red hair blowing around in the teal Nerget, hanging tough with Rama's speedy cray-ness. We of course left late--nearly noon--but (also of course, and even more so) not as late as my parents. After four scorching hours in the car we were pretty happy to arrive at the (dog-friendly!) Cambria Pines Lodge, two hours ahead of Franz and his gf Britani, and three hours ahead of my poor parents. I collapsed with gratitude on cool white sheets...for like fifteen minutes, and then Rama and I rolled out again for a surf peep/photo-taking tagalong. Maddy stayed back to bask in the sweet hotel life--drinking bub and watching Harry Potter. We checked this one spot Rama's "cozan" Chris had said had a nice wedge, but it was ver small, and so we drove a little farther up the coast to the San Simeon pier. There was a big crowd and I jumped out of the car and ran to gape at whatever they were gaping at. A whale--o joy! It was so breath-taking seeing it breach and then the slick look the water took when the whale went deep again. We learned later it's a juvenile humpback that's been there feasting for months, and people are starting to worry because there have been no sightings of the mother, and while it's common for the parent to go off to feed, it usually returns periodically to check in. So that's a little bleak. The pier at San Simeon also has some hypnotizing seaweed I remembered from last time, and I got couple mildly satisfying shots of it (of course no worthwhile pictures of the whale, what with its distance and my lack of camera firepower--one of those times you just have to resolve take a mental photo and hold it).
Back to the hotel, Franz and Britani arrived, and we scrambled to get the little dog-friendly cabin Mom and Dad were staying in the first night set up with flowers, cards, bubbly, and John Denver on the record player. It was a fun night--my brother Kurt and his wife Kelly joined, we got unremarkable pizza from J J's (Mom dropped much of the vegetarian pizza butter-side-down onto Gypsy's back and thought it was princess-y that I wasn't into the leftovers--whatevs). We listened to Harry Belafonte--of all things--on the record player, and then it was happily bedtime.
The next morning Maddy, Britani, and I went for a short run down the wooden boardwalk and collected some smooth white and green stones at Moonstone Beach, which I just recently scooped out of my fanny pack and dumped in a cactus pot.
Franz had packed only vans and flip flops, so he hung out slightly down-coast with Rama, who eked out some minor fun from the South swell action. We finished our run, joined Franz, and waded while we waited for Rama to surf his fill.
We met up with Ma and Pa for complimentary breakfast buffet and were joined by old friends Ken Bob and Janice on the patio, who'd rolled into town to celebrate. It was pretty chaotic with Gypsy and Heidi (our dogs) and Buddy and Lucy (their dogs), but we got to chat a little and eat a lot, and then had to get our crap together and move it Joads-style to a large dog-friendly suite the whole fam would stay in that night and the next.
After much dilly-dally we were settled and headed back up to the San Simeon pier to meet with Kurt and Kelly, Ken and Janice, and a couple of their friends. While the "grown-ups" got set up with chairs and vino and picnickables under some hillside yukes (eucalyptus trees), the "kids" hit up the kayak rental. Madz and I each got solo kayaks, Franz and Brit a double, and Rama a bendy entry-level SUP that he handled like a champ despite its frustrating lack of rigidity. And so we struck out, with strict orders to give wide berth to the resident whale, which, right after we fought past the shore break, emerged dazzlingly close to us (75 yards I'm told by those in the know). It set the tone for my most fun kayak outing ever (I've had some overheated, sore-armed, uneventful ones for sure). We headed up along the shore (and away from the whale as instructed) until we hit the peninsula, then paddled slowly along its tree-topped cliffs and black sea caves, poking our boats' noses into a couple, taking care not to bash their starfished walls with the wave movement. We saw an itty bitty whirlpool, and a miniature cove and beach hidden by arching white trunks of fallen trees that extended endlessly down into the green sea. This is a good time to mention that we did not have any cameras because we didn't have waterproofing means, and you could literally stick me in the looney bin how crazy it was making me (and is still, recollecting). There were so many insane shots and this great light, and it makes me want to have a tantrum so I am going to move on. We were tootling out along the cliff when an otter popped up very close to Maddy's kayak (my distance-estimator is at the grocery store right now so I'll just call it "very close"), and the rest of the party quickly converged on the creature. He could have cared less, but continued noisily chomping (one of the only times I've enjoyed a chewing sound) on a large crab, spinning around in the water and fastidiously wiping his paws on his chest. When he'd finished he dived down again and we clamored around his bubbles until he re-emerged with a sand dollar and repeated his process. We watched rapt at least twenty minutes as he devoured these and many disgusting sea worms, which he sucked down with a gory gusto, leaving little floating puddles of blood when he went back underwater. (Rama just researched what he called "the uncircumcised penis worm," and apparently it is actually named the "penis fish," or the "fat innkeeper worm." Apt and gross.) We tore ourselves away, checked some pelicans, navigated some kelp, hit the choppy waves beyond the cliff, and turned back. Back at our starting point we each tried the SUP with varying degrees of success, then turned in the gear. A superlative kayak outing. (Also I wasn't sore the next day! I darkly attributed this to sweeping and mopping all the time, though maybe my post-run sun salutes are paying off. Insert flexing arm emoji.) We were ravenous in that day of swimming way, et voilà a very tasty and luxurious picnic awaited us: pineapple, grapes, tuna salad, hummus, brie on baguette with honey and pine nuts, and bubbly bubbly bub.
We rolled back to shower and dress for dinner at Robin's--the Official Anniversary Celebration Dinner. We ate there one other time a few years back, and while it has a good rep, I've been underwhelmed--there is a very pleasant garden area though to dine in with the pups. This time around Rama and I split some veggie Vietnamese spring rolls, which were tasty, and for our main a ricotta ravioli with cherry tomatoes. It had this sickening hint of sweetness that turns my stomach just thinking of it. Back at the room the gang was trying to get a festive poetry reading started, but the most I could manage was dozing on the living room carpet, and then later in the wee hours woke up feeling incredibly nauseated. I guess it was some kind of food poisoning or flu (I've hardly ever had food poisoning so I don't know), but it went on for a while, and in between bouts I laid on the floor in front of the back door with wet towels on me. By the time everyone was waking up for breakfast I felt much less hellishly bad, but not myself. I laid low, and then Rama's Aunt Rosemarie and Uncle Tony came to hang for a bit. We shot the breeze by the pool for an hour or two, and when they left and Franz and Rama proceeded to terrorize swimming families with their badminton-ing.
In the early evening Franz and Britani had to head back to So-Cal so Franz could finish a school presentation, and Rama and his cousin met up to try to surf a bit. Madz, Dad, Mom, and I (messily and stressfully) coordinated watching them and the sunset from an overlook, and while it was very beautiful with my favorite rosy light, my feeling-off-ness had given in to a trembly feverishness.
Back at the room Rama and Chris ate lots, we visited (me from the floor again--I felt downright unwell), and then merciful bedtime with a hearty dose of wellness drops.
And lo I woke up feeling perfect and amazing--o the difference a day makes! Maddy joined us for breakfast and then, in tense gunner mode, set out for the Bay for her first class. We in the meantime packed up and checked out, and then meandered over to downtown Cambria to check out some of Mom's favorite antique stores. I popped my head into the shops and then joined Dad with the dogs at the Twin Coyotes Winery Tasting Room so that Rama and Mom could go antique-geek-out for a while. Dad and I had a great visit, talking about coyotes and hurricanes and trees and I don't know what else, and then we were rejoined and among us killed the bottle of wine.
Then over to a place Mom had reconnoitered the day before--Centrally Grown--a new spot I'm not sure how to classify. Kind of a small outdoor mall with a pleasingly hippie-ish garden, distinctive outdoor seating and lounging set-ups, a little gourmet food store, a restaurant and bar, a bakery, and some miscellaneous shops. We bought a loaf of rosemary bread in the store and Rama made some crazy good tuna sandwiches, which we had with sea salt and vinegar potato chips and thick dill pickles (vinegar and salt, always and forever, amen), and booze--beer for Rama and me and wine for my parents.
Then it was time to say adiós--my parents had a ways to go back to Huntington and we were due at Rama's aunt's and uncle's place in Arroyo Grande. I always get melancholy saying goodbye to my family and had those tearful feelings for the first little part of the drive, but knowing I was going to see them down South in a couple weeks for my brother's wedding made it a lot less bummerish. Not too long and we arrived in Arroyo Grande--avocados everywhere--had a quick visit with Ram's Uncle Alex and his wife Jan, and then walked across the property to Rosemarie's and Tony's. We had a great visit--with many, many kids going ape, tons of food (there were notable portions of meat--Tony loves to BBQ), lots of talk--much the fun familial chaos. The next morning we woke up pretty early to have a neighborhood dog walk with Alex and Ruka, his sweet old lab, then some more chatting with Rosemary and Tony over coffee, and then on to our Big Sur day!