QRST Party: The Roadtrip (R, Part 2.25)

by iren monkey

so Global Grind published a blogpost last week about Olivia Wilde‘s cover story for the September issue of Glamour magazine.  although i’m not necessarily an Olivia Wilde fan, nor do i really care to know the ins and outs of her daily life, the feature included a quote from her that caught my eye…

“I think turning 30 allowed me to feel that I could have whatever career I wanted, regardless of what I’d done so far.  I could have an intimate relationship, regardless of relationships I’ve had.  There was really no reason that I shouldn’t achieve everything that I had dreamed…” – O.W.

as if that wasn’t enough of a reminder…when i was at The Day Job last week, i was paired in the pod with another traveler who was pulled from PICU.  yes friends, i have affectionately started calling my nursing career “The Day Job”, but my explanation for that will have to wait another time.

my podmate’s name is Sam, and she opened up about how nervous she was about turning 30 this coming January.  i shared how i was nervous too and was actually pleasantly surprised at the clarity and feeling of peace that turning 30 brought me when the day finally came this past April.

my response peaked her interest.

 as expected, she asked me how i chose to celebrate.

i was eager for the opportunity to share with her my memorable name day.  yet in the middle of telling her about my roadtrip, my shortcoming came to light regarding my failure in the last 3 months to post another installment of my QRST Party series.  though the experience is forever embedded in my heart, the words in my brain haven’t flowed as freely as i would like so i’ve left quite a cliffhanger that has yet to be resolved.

the Summertime has always had a terrible effect on my creativity.

i need to stop letting all this sunshine get in the way!

redundant excuses aside..here i go, friends.

i started Year Number 30 before my daily 0530 alarm clock.
i opened my eyes and the first thing i noticed was how freezing it was.  i decided to get up and turn on the fireplace as opposed to turning up the air conditioning.  it was my birthday…

and if i wanted fire, i was gonna get fire.

i grabbed my laptop immediately to upload the photos and videos i had saved from the day prior so i would have maximum memory available for selfies and such.

who really knows how many photos/videos i’d be taking…

i can rack up to 60 on a regular day…
what more on my birthday?!!

i grabbed my phone and smiled at the texts i had received throughout the night.  i can always count on certain people to send the midnight birthday texts.  if i could only mention one common denominator in all my closest friends, it would be their ability to be dependable.  i thanked them all and got into loosely planning my day.

i wrote down touristy spots and hiking trails from Monterrey to Cambria that i could hit up:

  • Monterey during the daytime (Cannery Row, Coast Guard Pier, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Robert Louis Stevenson House)
  • Pacific Grove (Steinbeck’s cottage and writer’s studio)
  • 17-Mile Drive (Pebble Beach & Del Monte Forest)
  • National Steinbeck Center
  • Steinbeck’s childhood home in Salinas
  • Bixby Creek Bridge
  • Pfeiffer State Beach & Pfeiffer Falls
  • Partington Cove
  • Ewoldsen Trail
  • McWay Falls
  • Limekiln State Park
  • Hearst Castle
  • San Simeon Seals

i determined that i wasn’t going to emotionally attach myself to a place or a schedule.  following a schedule has always ruined all the fun for me and that was the last thing i wanted for myself — especially on my birthday.  so the extent of my research was limited to operation hours and exact locations so i didn’t have to drive back and forth.

it was hard to believe that it was already 0830 by the time i stopped my internet surfing.
i packed my things and jumped in the shower so i could wash the sleep from my body.  thank goodness that getting ready for me has always been a fairly quick process compared to other females that i know — this time was of no exception.  if anything, it was even quicker than the other times.  not needing to look good for anything or anyone was a wonderful convenience so i was able to keep my beauty products at the bare minimum.

facial sunscreen, eyebrow pencil, concealer, and lipbalm..

i snapped an “I’m 30!” selfie and was out the door.

it was 0930ish by the time i got downstairs.
i decided to check out Cannery Row by day before getting in the car to go to the next location.  i left the majority of my things at the front desk so i didn’t have to carry much then grabbed my small backpack and Penny.

first stop?  the Starbucks up the street to satiate my caffeine dependency.

a little FYI if you’re ready to judge me…Starbucks rewards your faithful visits with a free drink/food item on your birthday.  it’s tracked by the regular use of a registered Starbucks card and the subsequent achievement of Gold Status.  i suppose i still sound pretentious as all hell…

but hey, i at least i gave y’all a perk i enjoy by being such.

besides, your judgement doesn’t change the fact that i still got my life with every sip of my complimentary Caramel Flan Latte with soy milk and 2 extra pumps of syrup.  the heat from the steam is always just right at 140°F.  😉

it was the perfect start to my morning to balance out the cold breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean.  i decided to sit as close to the water as i could to feel the same splendor that inspired Steinbeck’s stories.

i closed my eyes to take in the different sounds of the coast…

…waves crashing, seagulls flying and conversing with each other overhead, and seals barking and clapping at the Coast Guard Pier a few yards down…those sounds have been local residents long before there were ever any civilization that invaded their space.  there was no wonder that one of the greats had drawn inspiration from such a humbling atmosphere.

i nearly cried as i thought about what lives have graced that same coast in history.  the Spanish when they first set foot there, merchants that put up shop, immigrants trying to build a new life, kids playing under the docks…hell..even Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts.  i stayed a good while before i headed towards the sounds of the seals.

i skated down the Row passed a sign that said No Skateboarding………..needless to say, it wasn’t long before an elderly couple sweetly shook their index fingers at me and i stopped abruptly at the entrance to the Coast Guard Pier.

i walked in no problem.

it was amazing to see seals in their natural element and not on faux living situations on a stage or behind glass as i’ve seen at Sea World San Antonio as a child.  i saw some people were scuba diving off the pier and taking photos of the seals close up.  i also observed a few people with fishing poles who waited for a good catch.  i don’t know how they could’ve possibly hoped to get a few fish in while they have seals to compete with, but their coolers still looked decently filled.  i saw someone even throw a fish or two at the lazy seals sunbathing by the boats.  i took a few Snap Chat videos and walked back to follow the guided trail of Cannery Row.

the walking trail starts at Wave Street and Drake Avenue; it runs parallel to Cannery Row itself.  there are posted signs with background stories about places and characters mentioned in the novel.  typical local happenings were also mentioned as well as historical information.  i cried when i came across some small houses that were similar to the homes lived in by Filipino, Japanese, and Spanish immigrants who worked at the canneries.


it was a humbling moment for me — the thought that people who could’ve possibly been my distant relatives somewhere down the line were there.  they worked in dire circumstances, yet so willingly and diligently just to build a life for themselves in America.

i really have no room to complain…

…about anything.

i proceeded down the trail, read the signs, and took photos.  i took a few on TimerCam and set my phone against my backpack and/or my unused Penny…even though a few people offered to take the photo for me, i refused because i didn’t see the fun in that.

nailed it.

TimerCam slays.

the trail curved around to Cannery Row itself and the signs were sporadically placed between buildings with photos of the street when it used to be called Ocean View Avenue.  although the places that were mentioned in the novel have been replaced by new establishments, the exteriors were preserved in their original form.

i appreciated that very much.

i ended up leaving the Row around 1230ish.
i planned on leaving much sooner, but i didn’t realize how fast time flew as i immersed myself in my surroundings.  i also had to walk back to the hotel to grab the rest of my things and ask the valet to pull my car around.  they told me it would take about 20 minutes so i used the waiting time to explore the back patio of my hotel.  the view when i looked down left me with no words.

Steinbeck’s descriptions have been so accurate.

i imagined Doc and Hazel hunting for starfish.

i decided to grab a copy of the novel on the way out so i can re-read it again.  as much as i loved it at first read, i know the sights and sounds first hand now…and i was excited to see how deeply i’d fall in love again with my newfound discovery.

i didn’t even care that the small paperback cost me 10 dollars.

once i sat behind my driver’s seat, i decided that i had to sacrifice and limit myself to one museum/historical site that i could visit and take a tour of.  in doing so, it would give me a chance to still hit up most of the places off PCH and make up for the delay.  it was slightly disappointing, but it only convinced me that i would have to make this trip again…

with company, perhaps?

i drove past Old Fisherman’s Wharf and through Pacific Grove without stopping.  in doing so, i omitted Robert Louis Stevenson House as well as Steinbeck’s writer’s studio from my list.  I had actually debated on staying at the studio overnight instead of the hotel since it’s actually posted on AirBnB, but it wasn’t available for the night i needed it.  this only resolved that for the next trip, i can plan the stay much further in advance, stay at the studio, visit the House, and absorb as much as i could of the city that great novelists found refuge in.

i made a stop at a Chase Bank to replenish some cash and a vintage shop next door to see if i could find a trinket of some sort, then headed towards the 17-Mile Drive.

i hit the Drive around 1300.
there were 2 options…drive alone, or ride in a tour bus; i chose the former.  in doing so, i was able to stop at whatever vista points that i found compelling and skip through the ones i thought were forgettable.  i wasn’t at all surprised that RLS frequently walked along that part of the coast because i found myself speechless at its beauty.

the Ghost Tree.

below are my favorites from all the pictures i took:


it took me about 40 minutes to get through the whole 17 miles and ended up at the Carmel exit.  by then, all i wanted to do was see more of the coast and write.  if it wasn’t for the bank teller at Chase telling me that the National Steinbeck Center was a “must-see”, i would’ve omitted it from my list as well — but alas, on her prompt, i found myself exiting the Drive and hopped back on CA-1 towards Salinas.

i pulled up to the Center around 1500.
though the lady up front was very accommodating, i came to the conclusion that it was the last time that i would listen to anyone about must-see places.  no offense to the bank teller, but the Center would have been a perfect place to visit if i was still in grade school.  it was very interactive and informative and i would have loved to visit it if i was writing a research paper about Steinbeck’s life.

but it was my birthday…
and it was already over halfway finished.

i don’t know what i was expecting to see there, but i felt very out of place in that i lacked the required worship capabilities to fully dedicate myself to the shrine inside.  maybe it was the allure of the open road, the beauty of the drive itself, or the fact that i was listening to loud rap music on the way in…but i was just way too turnt to abruptly mellow out for the environment i walked into.  but nevertheless, i can at least say that i’ve been to Salinas and i don’t ever have to come back another time.

on the upside, Steinbeck’s childhood home was only a few blocks down…

it’s a restaurant now.

it was closed, thankfully.

i don’t think i would’ve had the time to have a proper sit-down meal.  it would’ve gutted me to have to walk away from it if i had the chance to come inside.

i turned on my engine and reflected on the quote from Steinbeck to his editor that i read at the Center’s exit…

…nearly always.

life goal.

it was already 1600, so i put my car into drive.
i thought about all the words i could breathe from Salinas to Cambria and smiled.  though my day has been an up and down off loosely planned events it was a perfect representation of everything that happened throughout my 30 year life.  some things surprised me and some things disappointed me…but in the end, everything always had a lesson.

i pressed my foot against the gas and pulled into the freeway…

happy birthday to me.