It was literally the strawberry on top of the week. I’ve never tasted anything like it and from the way Michael’s eyes popped out of his head, neither had he.
“Oh my god, that is the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted!” I announced. “Here taste one.”
I picked out another from the small pile of fruit on my breakfast plate and passed it to my 19 year-old nephew. As soon as he popped it into his mouth his eyes widened and the smile grew on his face.
“It’s awesome, ridiculously awesome.” he replied.
Who knew fruit could be so fabulous?
California was full of small surprises like that. From the insanely delicious fruit, yummy donuts and burgers, to the jaw dropping vistas along Pacific Coast Highway and Harry Potter in 3D, there was something for everyone on the trip to enjoy.
For the most part summer vacations with family have only meant one thing—a week at the beach. It’s never been our thing to spend a week driving from one place to the next sightseeing along the way. I’m happy with the sights I see from the comfort of my beach chair. If I can see the ocean and dig my feet into the warm sand then I’m good.
California was not going to be that kind of vacation. It was more along the lines of in the car each day and drive, drive, drive to the next stop on the list of things to see and do. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.
Drive we did, but fortunately our rental car had been upgraded to a Toyota Sienna mini-van, a vehicle that afforded us the room needed for three teenaged siblings that sometimes require a little of their own space.
A week later the van was returned to it’s home at the airport with an additional 1,000 miles and an illuminated warning light pleading for someone to change its oil. The van’s exterior was covered in dust and bird droppings. The latter a result of a surprise attack by a few seagulls as my nephew sat waiting for me to check out of the hotel in Monterey.
How does one describe the journey of a thousand miles sufficiently? One word works for me—surprises.
The California I knew consisted of beaches and palm trees with a few Hollywood types thrown in. Sure, I knew Gilroy to be the garlic capital of the world and had read a few things about Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley. What I didn’t know about was something referred to as the “real California.” My journey down 101 south proved to be a glorious adventure. I wasn’t driving at that point so it was easy to sit back and take in the impressive hills and fields that surrounded the highway. The land stretched uninterrupted to the horizon, with only a few trees and cows dotting the canvas. To see so much untouched land was inspiring, especially for someone who lives in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.
Route 101 runs into Hwy 46, another road of imposing landscapes. Before long, we found ourselves at the crossroads of a place known as Lost Hills, CA. The busy store located there, Blackwell’s Corner, is known for its selection of local pistachios and almonds. It’s also the last place that James Dean stopped in before heading north to his demise on the road to Salinas.
From Route 46 we continued south to Anaheim and the “house of mouse.”
It costs $80 for a one-day ticket to the happiest place on earth. My sister decided early on that if we were going to spend that kind of money we were going to get our money’s worth. The night before was spent plotting our attack on Disneyland.
The next morning we hit breakfast at 6:30AM and made our way to the park joining the mass of people gathered on Main St., USA waiting for the one and only Mickey Mouse to open his house for the day. We were quickly schooled on the use of the FastPass, which allowed us to walk past the 100-minute line at Star Tours to the front. The day went off without a hitch, we rode Space Mountain twice, watched Minnie Mouse shake her thing in the parade and had a meet and greet with Mr. Mickey Mouse himself. My sister even survived being surprised and groped by Goofy.
And then came the fireworks. They started with Tinkerbell releasing her wand to unleash a single star shooting across the sky. It was just like it used to be when I watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.
Dumbo made an appearance as well. He flew through the sky just like Timothy knew he could, no magic feather needed at all.
My sister, Jeen, turned to me at the end of the fireworks, “I just have to say, Dumbo brought a little tear to my eye. I just love Dumbo,” she admitted.
After our 14-hour day in Disney and a good night’s sleep we headed back north along the Pacific Coast highway.
The drive from Morro Bay to Monterey is 143 miles. The GPS calculated the trip should take about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yeah, the GPS doesn’t account for stops that must be made along the way. Each curve in the road presents a new vista of beautifulness. There was blue sky, rocky beaches and the sun setting over the Pacific. With two photographers in the car it took about 4 hours to reach our destination. We arrived at our hotel in Monterey exhausted, not only from the drive, but also from the stress of the curving road and the ominous cliffs below with a little rolling fog thrown in.
The next morning was breakfast in Monterey with the crazy, delicious fruit. After the strawberry tasting we tried a raspberry.
“Wow,” my sister exclaimed, “you know when you eat something that’s raspberry flavored? This really tastes like that.”
Michael shook his head as he reached for a blackberry.
“This place is awesome.”