About a week after we returned from our Thanksgiving break roadtrip to Santa Barbara, my father remarked, "You know, I think we should go on a trip again soon."
"Oh?" I said. "Are the nomadic tendencies kicking in again?"
"Not really," he admitted sheepishly, "It's just that I kinda liked your guys' music." I let out a shout of laughter and yelled into our bedroom, "Bean, did you hear that?!"
On Christmas day, we packed the car again and headed back out to Highway 1 along the coast, but northward this time. We passed creeks and lakes and drove along the ocean itself, endless water that looked like sheets of glass tinted by a vast expanse of sky.
The daddy-o gave us the hysterical inside scoop on many of the small hill towns we passed by. Apparently, many of these are hippie towns that songwriters referenced in songs back in the day ("Hippie from Olema" – the tongue-in-cheek take on "Okie from Muskogee" – anyone?) where people supposedly used to grow marijuana. Passing by a horse ranch in the hills, the daddy-o said confidentially, "That's how he got rich, you know. Selling horses. It's all a front. His real business is drugs." Daddy translated Farsi songs for us, while we all made smartass comments about the towns we passed.
Re. "Olema – Population: 55":
Me: "Get ready, you guys. Population in the double digits!"Re. the cow attempting to chew its way through a wire fence:
Daddy-o: "This is the one town where the elevation is higher than the population."
Daddy-o (suffering from caffeine withdrawals): "Well, he must have found some coffee on the other side of the fence."Later, my father looked down at the ocean to his left. "My bebe," he murmured, "used to say to me when I was little, 'At this time of evening, even the oceans come to a standstill, and yet you are still working.'"
Bean, jokingly: "Or marijuana!"
I was reminded of a line from my Muir Woods post from last year: Miles out from the cliff, the clear bay met the unclouded sky, and it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.
The mountains and ocean stayed consistent, while the eucalyptus tress were eventually replaced by redwoods, majestic in their own right, but my childhood – and the lines of trees behind my house – taught me to love the eucalyptus ones above all.
We stopped in Gualala for the night (the daddy-o kept referring to it as Gul-i-Lala, with the Pukhtu accent on the very last syllable: Lala, we kept repeating in amusement. At the hotel that night, we turned on the wall heater (yes!) and settled down on the beds to channel surf, because this, of course, is apparently what children who were denied adequate access to television while growing up do when they go on roadtrips through the northern portion of the state. They watch cable TV to make up for all those empty, traumatic years. Right.
Horror of horrors, we got caught up on the Lifetime channel and three movies that were each two hours long, and didn't go to sleep til 1 a.m. "Keep your eyes glued to the screen!" the daddy-o kept sarcastically instructing us. "Forget 'glued,' I'm keeping my eyes rolled," I said dryly the first time around, but by the time he repeated it for the tenth time, my response had upgraded to, "Oh, I am!" Oh, the depths to which I have sunk! Disgustingly fascinating, what can I say.
So what did the Lifetime channel teach me? Babies can get switched at birth in hospitals in a case of "Mistaken Identity." And being too nonchalant and trusting with your social security number and credit card information will likely lead to "Identity Theft." (I'm paranoid now, thankyouverymuch.) And not only that! But even poor, downtrodden, disadvantaged teenagers can go from "Homeless to Harvard"! The end.
The next morning, we stopped at Café LaLa for some quick breakfast munchies before we hit the road again. How could I not fall in love with a café that had comfortable armchairs and bookshelves with a sign instructing, "BRING US MORE BOOKS! TRADE OR BORROW"? And how could I not love the girl at the counter, Laurel, who asked me, "Would you like extra chocolate in your hot chocolate?"
She was so helpful and good-humored that when I introduced myself and she said in response to my name, "I'm sorry, say that again. Is it like 'Jasmin'?", I didn't roll my eyes or do my infamous "evil death glare" with one raised eyebrow like I normally do, but only laughed and replied, "Yes, but with the ethnic twist." She gave us coffee on the house – "It's on me," she winked, gesturing towards the coffeepot – and did an excited little dance around the counter as she told us about her sister who works at the Whale Watch Inn in Anchor Bay and will be expecting a baby in May.
The rest of the day was endless rain and curving roads. As official navigator once again, I snuggled on the passenger seat with the thick fuzzy blanket, ate apple pie with my fingers, congratulated myself on learning to read the highway maps, and watched the roads, slick with rain.
On the way home, I mispronounced all the French names of the wineries throughout the Napa Valley. Where's my lovely L lady when I need her? Pinot, pinwa, what?