Day 12: Soaking in the Far Side of the Continent
By Matthew Pedone
October 28th, 2014
Eggs for breakfast today. Pretty much the only option from the chef, but I’d wanted eggs anyway, so that’s cool. I get mine scrambled with bacon and cheddar. Delicious.
Our immediate plan for the day is to pack. We could have left it for tonight, but we decide to be a little mature and responsible. We also need to check into our flights around 11, so there’s no rush to head out and be in an area where we don’t have internet access. In the inn, we have decent Wi-Fi. At 5 minutes before check-in time on my tablet, I begin trying. It rejects me until right at 11:10, when I get through, and we get B6 and B7 for the first flight, and B28 and B29 for the second. 28 and 29? How fast are other people? This has to be partly a function of using a device as opposed to be a computer. I love Southwest, I love the boarding procedure, but I’m not entirely a fan of the check-in procedure. I’m also not sure how it could be improved, as I’m not sure if this is really a technological issue, or if everyone has really caught on to how to check-in, so all 140 passengers are checking in at the exact same time. If it’s the latter, I don’t know that there’s a way to improve it. You just have to cross your fingers and click.
That done, we pack up as much as possible, fill out the postcards we bought last Wednesday, and head out to mail them. Sarah navigates to a nearby Post Office that apparently…went out of business? It was in a plaza, and the location is clearly marked with a number, but the storefront is empty and available for lease. Oh, the joys of GPS. It will take you where you tell it to go, but it has little to no idea what will be waiting for you when you get there.
Case in point: next on its list is about eight minutes away, and takes us straight up the hill away from the water. As we near the top of the hill, we start seeing signs for the Presidio of Monterey. Unlike the Presidio of San Francisco, this is still a functional military base, so you can’t just drive on. I’m hoping the post office is just outside, but as we crest the hill, we see the guard post. With nowhere else to go, we drive up.
"Hi," I say to the guard. "We’re looking for a post office."
"Well, there is one on the base," she says, "But it’s for military personnel only."
"The closest one I can think of is in downtown Monterey, near the bus station," she continues. "What you’re going to want to do is head back down this street," she pauses, as though to give me a chance to absorb that. I nod, waiting for the next direction. "So, just turn around behind the guard house," she says, clearly done with me. Okay, I can take a hint (sometimes).
We turn around and head back down the hill, following the GPS to the post office in Monterey, down some really big hills (whee!). We’ve been telling people that we were finishing our honeymoon in Monterey, but really, we’ve been mostly in Pacific Grove. This is our first real venture into the town of Monterey, and it’s obvious why we didn’t stay there – we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It doesn’t seem as wealthy as downtown Carmel, but a bit higher-end than downtown Pacific Grove.
We get stamps, send out the cards, then head out to find a beach where I can put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. We head back into Pacific Grove, then down to Ocean View Boulevard towards Sunset Ave. I try to stop a couple of times to look at scenery, but Sarah suggests we get to the beach first, then take our time the rest of the day, rather than doing other stuff and having to rush to find a beach. She has a point, so we continue on towards the Pacific Grove golf course on the shore, and to a large expanse of sandy beach we’d seen there.
We park and head down to the beach. Taking our shoes off, we head towards the water. Sarah stops well short of the water with her camera at the ready. She’d done this when she was in LA a few years back, so she didn’t feel the urge to dunk her feet in ocean water. I’ve never been in the Pacific Ocean. Rationally, I know it’s just another ocean, but there’s something else at play. We’re on the far side of the country from where I grew up and where I’ve spent nearly all of my life. We’re on the far side of the continent.
I’ve spent my life looking at and swimming in the Atlantic waters. Atlantic winds and Atlantic storms. Sunrises over the water, sunsets over mountains. For the past week and a half, we’ve taken in the Pacific. Pacific water, Pacific winds (fortunately, no Pacific storms, though the locals wouldn’t mind regular rain showers). If you don’t think about it, it doesn’t really feel any different, but if you’re not going to think about it, then what’s the point of leaving home? I’m on the far side of the continent, and I want to experience being in a body of water that stretches out to Japan and Australia.
I walk forward and let the end of a wave wash up and over my feet and shins. The water is cold, but no colder than the Atlantic in NH in June or July. I could see myself swimming out here, even without a wetsuit, though there is a lot of kelp and other seaweed (ew).
We spend some time on the beach, watching the waves, watching the surfers, soaking in the sun, then decide to head back to one of the parks at which I’d suggested stopping at earlier. We chill on a bench for a bit, watching a sea lion in the water, then some birds. We hike around on some of the rocks, and see a couple of more otters, and then head out to find some lunch.
The Red House Café had been recommended by the inn, so we head there. As we get there, an employee is taking down the "Café is Open" sign, and we learn that they close after lunch at 2:30 to prep for dinner. Bummer. We walk up the street and find another inn recommendation, International Cuisine. They’re open, and virtually empty, so we sit and get some food. Sarah gets a burger, I get a pizza. It’s good, if a little greasy (meat lover’s pizza, with large slices of pepperoni).
It’s a little past three, and we’ve done everything we’d set out to do, so we decide to use the second day of our tickets and head back to the aquarium (after a quick stop at the inn to get them, as I’d left them in the room; fortunately, it's on the way, more or less).
We check out the otters again (of course), and then we head upstairs to the big tank in the Open Sea exhibit. The bubble screen is down today, and it is pretty awesome. The windows are almost invisible as you gaze on these deep-sea creatures. Fortunately, nothing comes right at us, but the sharks and the very large tuna buzz by a few times. The giant sea turtles are quite active today, as well. The sunfish is very visible, swimming near the bottom, with the sardines frequently using him as the center of their schooling. It looks like something out of a Disney movie.
Without the bubble screen, it's really like being in the ocean with them. Except dryer. And less fear of being eaten.
At one point, one of the smaller tuna passes us, drifting downward from near the top, twitching and bleeding. No idea what happened, except that a fish has died. Will the blood agitate the sharks? It doesn’t seem to, but the rays in the tank become much more active, swimming out from wherever they’d been hiding to investigate. The sardines are not happy about any of this, and are scurrying more than usual, as more creatures are in their space than usual.
What’s really neat is the reactions of the turtles. I don’t know what they’re actually trying to do, but they keep diving towards where the fish drifts, as though they are trying to help. I am pretty sure they have a mostly vegetarian diet, so I don’t think they’re looking to scavenge, but they are definitely interested. It is odd behavior from a pair of creatures who tend to seem so uninterested in the rest of the animals in the tank.
After a little while, we head back to the first floor, check in on the otters, then head over to the octopuses. The two have switched personalities today, with the one who’d been sleeping yesterday roaming his tank, and the one who’d been roaming curled up. We watch the roamer stretch out and crawl across his tank, occasionally using his jet to propel himself up and over to the other side. After about 20 minutes of this, he finally finds the dark section of his tank, and positions his tentacles as a sort of curtain to block out light and peering eyes, and goes to sleep.
I'm sure you were expecting to see a picture of the octopus here, but we were so transfixed, we neglected to take pictures, so here's another shot of sea otters being adorable.
We head back over to the kelp forest and sit there for a little bit, watching the sardines in this tank swim in their patterns, which are a little more disorganized, due to the presence of all of the kelp and the higher density of fish in this tank. They are still mesmerizing, though. Maybe a little more so in this tank, as it is open to the sky, and more light shines into it, so the fish glitter much more.
"I wouldn’t mind a sardine chandelier," Sarah says.
It’s getting close to closing time, so we head back over to the otters. We don’t see anything through the lower windows, and hear someone say something about naptime, so we head up to the second level. Sure enough, all three otters are on their backs, grouped into one corner, and are sound asleep, their heads craned forward, paws covering their noses. We watch them for a bit before an employee compliments my exploding TARDIS shirt, and we strike up a conversation about the otters. Turns out, they do play to the crowds in front of the windows.
Do-de-do, just swimming around... Oops, totally didn't know you'd be where you'd been for the past fifteen minutes.
A noisy cart rolls by below, and wakes one of the otters, Ivy. She tries to go back to sleep, but she’s awake. She awakens one of the other otters (Kit), and they start to frolic a bit. Rosa, the oldest of the otters by quite a bit, floats over to an out of the way spot of the pool and remains firmly asleep. The play of the younger otters disrupts the pool, though, and she ends up floating out into the center, where she is open to harassment from the younger otters, who want her to wake up and play with them. We watch as Ivy and Kit take turns swimming into her quite purposefully, and even rolling on top of her. Rosa wakes up, but stays on her back, with her paws in the air, as though trying to pretend to be asleep. It doesn’t last, though, and soon she is fully awake, playing with the others. The staffer tells us some cute stories about the otters (including one of the ones who is currently behind the scenes), until quite close to closing time. I want to buy a shirt, so we head to the gift shop.
I decide to buy a shirt featuring an octopus. Sarah really wants to buy the large stuffed otter. I can’t argue. They are probably the most adorable creatures in the aquarium.
We had a late lunch, so instead of jetting off to find dinner, we decide to walk along the pedestrian/bike path along the coast. After a short walk, we sit on a bench and chat while watching the ocean as the sun sets. We can’t actually see the sunset as we’re on the bay, facing north, and the sun is setting behind land. We talk awhile, then decide to head back to the car and find some dinner.
We start to go through the same indecisiveness about dinner, including a walk to the far end of Cannery Row (at which point we discover that the Giants are down 8-0, so it looks grim that they’ll be celebrating a World Series before we head home), then back to the car, where I suggest we do what we tried to do earlier, and visit the Red House Café. We get a table immediately in the front room. The name was clearly not just picked at random; the restaurant is literally a house that has been converted into a restaurant. The kitchen looks like it has been renovated, and a dessert case and register have been installed near the main entrance.
We forego drinks and appetizers tonight, as we’re not super hungry. Sarah gets the California sea bass special. I get the grilled lamb chops. The food is good, but I am distracted by the foursome next to us, as they discuss their cats and relationships. I don’t often eavesdrop, but the tables are close together, and I keep hearing chunks of conversation that seem to contradict other bits, like who is there with whom, but it’s nothing very interesting, except for the bit where I think they’re talking about cats moving in together and getting married. It ends up being pretty much our cheapest dinner of the trip.
Back at the inn, Sarah gives me a back rub, then we finish off much of the dessert-type stuff we had, like the second of the two large chocolate chip cookies we bought in Carmel, the last few mini peanut butter cups, and peanut M&M’s, then turn in rather early, as we have to be up early in the morning.