Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big Tsunami Sur

3016 - 3239 (13411 - 13634)

Today could have been really, well, interesting. Early Saturday morning a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, setting off a tsunami which threatened a quarter of the globe. All coastal areas on the Pacific were on high alert. And here I was, right on the coast.

I spent some time on the phone with Cheri, and on the internet, and we decided that since the potential waves would arrive late afternoon, I would travel as planned. By then I would at least be up high, on the cliffs in Big Sur, watching the waves crash in.

Coming out of Lompoc, Bonnie (my GPS voice) took me through some real backroads, with some lovely rural views. This was farm country, despite the hilly terrain.

I was amazed by this hill. The picture does not do it justice. It seemed to be a near vertical incline, and yet there were cows grazing on it. I had no trouble imagining one tumbling down the slope. It gave a whole new meaning to "cow tipping."

Turns out January and February is a great time to experience the monarch butterfly migration. Pismo Beach, California has its own Monarch Butterfly Grove full of eucalyptus trees, located right on Route 1. There were not a huge number there today -- I wondered if they sensed the tsunami? It was certainly worth the stop in my pursuit of wildlife.

I reached the coast, and saw that the danger of tsunamis is nothing new.

As I approached San Simeon, I could not muster any interest in the chief attraction there: Hearst Castle. Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst told his architect in 1927 that he wanted to built "a little something" here on the California coast. The result was a 165-room Moorish castle with 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways, furnished with Spanish and Italian antiques and art.

But Hearst Castle had no draw for me today, despite my great interest in castles. Maybe it was the idea that I wanted to be higher if indeed a tsunami arrived, or that I did not want to invest the time it would take to throughly enjoy the expansive grounds. But more likely I just wasn't up to traipsing through such oppulence after having so enjoyed the small towns and rural quaintness of blue highways lately. Note the blue sky; that should give away that I did not take this photo today!

Perhaps it was an omen of good tidings when I came upon a series of rainbows. I swear if you squint just right you can see a lepruchain at the end...

Just north of San Simeon was the the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery right on Route 1. The seals are hardly your everyday bathing beauties, but they have a charm all their own. No, they are not dead. In fact, they were belching up a storm; it was quite pungent even at a distance. Though it wasn't much of a distance, as you can see. They certainly were not reacting to any potential natural disaster. If I wanted wildlife, I got it!

I followed Route 1 through Big Sur, where I enjoyed crashing waves, rolling fog, sheer rocky cliffs, and pleasant bends and curves.

Here's a shot looking back on famous Bixby Bridge, built in 1932. I was now high enough to not be concerned about a tsunami carrying me off to sea.

Not that there were not other dangers. For instance, I saw a couple of these signs...

...and later rounded a bend to find they served a real purpose!

I slipped out of the Big Sur area at dusk, taking in a glorious sunset high above the waves. Nope, the tsunami never came. But I sure did enjoy a glorious day out in nature, albeit with spitting rain.

It was after dark when I got to Carmel. I did not see Clint Eastwood. He did not make my day.

I had another free night in an Embassy Suites, this time in Monterey. I smile ironically at the thought that I avoided the trappings of Hearst Castle, but was happy to stay in these impressive digs.

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