Lesley and I just got back from a great trip to the central California coast.

It wasn’t a flying trip — I did a Norcal trip via plane the week before last.  But more on that later.

Those of you who know me know I don’t like driving long distances in cars.  I mean, isn’t that why God created the airplane?  But nevertheless, the trip was great fun.  Even the driving was low stress.

On Saturday the 3rd, we rumbled into Solvang, where the local time was holy cow it’s a bazillion degrees here.  You could’ve cooked an egg on the sidewalk.  In fact, maybe we did.  The heat was so intense that I might not remember it.  So we got our pastry and got the hell out of there.

The next stop was La Purissima, one of the original California missions.  Purissima is great because it was completely rebuilt by one of the New Deal companies during the Great Depression, so it’s in amazingly good shape.  On Sunday, we toured Mission San Miguel, which was closed due to earthquake damage.  We didn’t intend this to be a “mission vacation”, but it sort of turned out that way.  It might go a short way toward correcting my abysmal California history knowledge.

Anyway, in 2003, a major quake destabilized the 200+ year old San Miguel adobe structure, and it’s been uninhabitable since.  Very sad.  The cost of repairing the damage is more than $15 million, and it three years they’ve only been able to come up with about $1.5 million.  At this rate, they won’t have the cash until 2030.

It’s interesting to see how some missions are still in great shape, others are overgrown ruins.  Some are active parishes, while others don’t even have a visitor’s center to mark their presence.  As with all things, money undoubtedly plays a central role.

Speaking of which, later that day we took a garden tour of Hearst Castle.  This was the only tour I hadn’t been on, and it was well worth the wait.  Lesley thought so, too.  One of the most interesting facts the docent told us was that the entire grounds were maintained by only three full time gardeners.  They used to have a dozen, but state budget cuts have lead to some lean times.  I was amazed that three people could maintain an estate of that size.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Steinbeck Center in Salinas.  Lesley loaned me “Cannery Row”, which I read just before we hit Salinas.  We also toured the sites Steinbeck writes about on Cannery Row. We walked Fisherman’s Wharf and had dinner there.  Took a walking tour of some of the downtown area.  Drove to Cannery Row, shopped, had lunch, went to Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Drove to Carmel, visited the Mission there.

A very busy few days!  Photos are online.

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