Saturday, March 27, 2010

Diving in Monterey

We've unfortunately had very little time for scuba diving since we've been in California. Chris was working 18 hour days for the first couple of months we were here. Plus we have opposite days off here. I'm off work on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Chris has the traditional weekend off. When we could manage to both get off work a little early we frequently could not dive because of high waves. Ten foot waves are not uncommon around here.
We did manage to dive a few times since we've been here and last night we had a great dive! The water is incredibly cold here so we are using drysuits instead of wetsuits. With a drysuit you wear thick, warm undergarments for diving. Adding more layers of undergarments plus the high salinity of the water here means carrying a lot more lead weight than we are used to. Another thing we've found around here is that easy water access is not easy to find; California divers are used to hiking a long ways in scuba gear and then swimming out from shore to find deep water.
We got into the water last night at 6 pm, just as the sun was starting to sink. We saw the usual in California - starfish in purple, yellow, and orange. Anenomes in white and purple. Sand dollars and snails littered the sand. The rocks of the jetty are covered in growth in purple, blue, orange, yellow, and pink. California has these huge starfish called sunstars - they come out at night and they are the size of an auto tire! We saw some new types of anenomes we hadn't seen before, and several fish were out. There were lots of very small halibut which are a weird flat fish. Apparently it was Sea Cucumbers Day Out; these looked like a spike-covered slug that's a foot or two long. They were everywhere! We turned at half our air supply and started heading back in along the wall. We were in about 30 feet of water when a group of harbor seals came up to play with us! There were 5 of them, we think. They move so fast! One looked straight at Chris, exhaling through his regulator, and it playfully blew bubbles at him in imitation. They played with us for about 15 minutes, disappearing and zooming back up. I'm so glad that we got to dive with seals!
On our way out of the water the surf was coming up. We made a mistake of walking in too near to the jetty. The water hits the wall here and circles back out, creating a washing machine between incoming and outgoing waves. We were both exhausted from our long dive and a long swim back to shore. Unfortunately the ocean was not done with us. Once we got into shallow water we kept trying to stand up but the sand was sucking out from under our feet and the waves would knock you right over! We had much more weight on than we are used to carrying and it was just about impossible to stand up! Chris finally got on his feet around the third try but I just had to give up and crawl out of the water. Of course there was a huge group of incoming divers and spectators on the stairs watching us struggle. I swear there must have been 40 people watching us get our asses kicked by the surf! Ha-ha-ha, we learned a good lesson about diving in the surf and we had a great time!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mice are not so nice

Once upon a time in an average sized green Jeep Wrangler there lived a little mouse and his name was Sir Mousealot. He loved to eat Cliff Bars and strawberry bubble gum since that's what he found to eat in the Jeep. He was a country bumpkin of a little mouse. He heard the Jeep owners were going to a big city known as San Francisco and he wanted to hop a ride. So he stayed hidden in the Jeep for several days despite the owners' best efforts to convince him to leave the Jeep.
Sir Mousealot had a big brother. His name was Gus. Gus didn't mind the country so much but he wanted to live in a big comfy motorhome. Once he had moved into the motorhome he discovered that the resident cats were lazy and fat. They didn't bother him at all. Gus found a nice cozy spot in an underwear drawer and delighted in making scratching noises in the closet late at night.
Sir Mousealot and his brother Gus both died. We decided not to publish pictures with this story. The End.

Friday, March 19, 2010

San Francisco


We had a great trip to San Francisco for St Patrick's Day! We drove out the night before. We stopped in San Jose to visit the Winchester Mansion, which is a strange place. The owner was the heiress of the Winchester (rifle) fortune in the late 19th century. She believed the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchester rifle were haunting her and she built a crazy house to confuse the ghosts. It had doors that lead to nowhere, stairs that went to the ceiling, and lots of references to the number "13".
We went to downtown San Francisco on St Pat's Day. We took Bart (sort of a part subway, part monorail public transit system) into town. We wanted to see the parade but it turned out they had already had the parade on Saturday. We wandered Market Street, visited a Dr Suess art gallery, stopped at several city parks, and then rode a cable car to Pier 39. Pier 39 was a circus of restaurants, gift shops, and many many tourists. We got some famous San Francisco sourdough and salt water taffy. Wow, that's some good taffy! We could see Alcatraz Island from the pier.

Next we visited a beautiful Japanese garden and walked through China Town and Little Italy. We ate dinner at a German restaurant. The German beer was amazing! Visiting SF required miles and miles of walking up and down very steep sidewalks. By the end of the day our feet were very sore!
The next day we decided not to walk so much. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge and around the Bay area. We also drove down Lombard which is the curviest street in the world! It has 8 switchbacks that navigate a 27% grade! Even the Jeep's wheels were squeaking around those corners. We ate dinner with our host, Clint, at his great apartment and watched the sun set over the Pacific.
San Francisco is an amazing city with lots of interesting shops and restaurants. We enjoyed visiting the city!

Tonight's menu

We're cooking up fajitas and grilled artichokes on an open fire! Since I've been unemployed I've been learning to cook. We've had to cook a lot more things from scratch because of our financial situation. Despite the lack of funds, though, what we do have now is time to prepare food. The result is that we are eating better now than we ever did when we were both working!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The problem with Big Sur...

The grocery store is an hour away from home. I had frozen some milk to make it last longer, but now I have to have milk-slush with my cereal. I figured you'd find this amusing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Insight

The other day I was talking to a camper. "Where are you from?" I asked. They said they were from somewhere, I forget where. But I do remember telling them that I had heard that area was very beautiful. They replied, "Oh, well... yes. But not like HERE!"

I wonder if beautiful landscapes are best appreciated only briefly?

The human species has an amazing ability to adapt. That adaptation has allowed us to inhabit a wide spectrum of environments. But that also means that humans adapt to good things too; we become used to the beauty that surrounds us if we don't change the view on a regular basis. It's true that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...because you've seen every yellow blade on this side!

Big Sur is beautiful and amazing. But so are swamps. And rolling hills. And fields of hay. Wherever I am I want to appreciate the beauty and moving on a regular basis is helping me to keep appreciating it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Got my second park job!

I scored a new job! I have a job at Lewis and Clark National Park in Astoria, Oregon starting April 7th. We'll be there for at least one month. They do not have a campground at this park so they are going to pay for us to stay at the local KOA. The KOA park has an indoor pool, hot tub, miniature golf, and all kinds of amenities! We'll be on full hook-ups with unlimited water supply! We're looking forward to long, hot showers, using real dishes (not paper and plastic), more than one radio station, TV, and other benefits of civilization!

Camping at Burns

We recently pitched the tent over at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It's 10 miles from the park I currently work at and they only have 2 camping spots. We were so close to the water I could have rolled out of bed and into the ocean. Chris cooked kabobs and asparagus over the campfire. Yum!!!