Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

If you could pack up the perfect Memorial Day weekend into a nice little box, I was carrying that box in my pocket all weekend.

A few weeks ago when I was in Sacramento, I had a little epiphany about California.  On the first floor of the State Capital, each county has a little glass diorama-like display case where they can put pictures highlighting their county.  I was walking along looking at these show-and-tell displays, and I became really depressed because there is so much beauty, just in our one little state, and I have a feeling I'm never going to see it all.  Eventually I will leave California, and I won't have seen all of Placer County.  Or Humboldt County.  Or Shasta. Lots of places.  So J and I have decided to become tourists in our own state.  It's quite fitting with my New Stuff Project anyway, and it will be fun to see how many state parks we can visit.

So this weekend we headed up to Hearst Castle, the "ranch" of William Randolph Hearst, which he filled with Renaissance paintings, tapestries, Greek ruins and statues, and Roman mosaics.  Apparently after the two world wars, ancient European stuff was on the market super-cheap to raise money for rebuilding, so you could have a swimming pool like this:

After we oohed and aahed at the artwork and mosaics, we checked out the little town of Cambria, about fifteen minutes south of the castle, along the central coast.  We communed with a sea lion - well, he didn't commune, so much, but we had fun watching him try to bust open the shell he had so he could eat the yummy goodies inside, and I tried to get the perfect picture of the waves crashing on the rocks.  After waiting for about half an hour, I finally got this one:

We ate dinner, and after waiting for the necessary 30 minutes, I went swimming in the outdoor heated pool, which I had to myself since it was freezing.  That reminds me of a family vacation we took to Kent State when I was a kid (I don't know why we were visiting Kent State.  My parents were never big hippies, so I'm not sure whether we were paying homage to something, or just picking out random places to visit.  If you don't know why Kent State is important, by the way, you're a young whippersnapper, and you need to go wikipedia it).  We stayed in a hotel with a sign advertising Family Rates and Heated Pool, only someone was clever and switched the P and the T, so it read Family RaPes, Heated tool.  Funny.

We proceeded to spend the next day hanging out on the beach, climbing on rocks, and playing with the sea lions, after which we started the drive home, stopping along the way in Solvang, which has to be the kitchiest town I've ever seen.  And considering I grew up in Amish country, with towns like Intercourse and Bird-in-hand advertising buggy rides, quilts and drive-through covered bridges, that's saying a lot.  Apparently a bunch of Danish people settled Solvang, and they were seriously into windmills.  The entire town looks like something out of every stereotypical picture of the Netherlands you've ever imagined, but worse.  I felt like Don Quixote caught in a nightmare of windmills, wooden shoes, and chocolate.  

I did have a funny moment, though.  We were eating lunch and I overheard a girl who was waitressing complain to her friend about all the tourists in Solvang, and how she avoids going there unless she's working.  It reminded me of how much I used to hate on tourists in Pennsylvania.  I even had a bumper sticker that read, "Since there's a tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"  I hated how they refused to pass the Amish buggies on back roads.  I hated how slow they drove.  I hated that when I was a kid they used to stop on the road when I was outside playing and ask me if I was Amish.  I avoided Intercourse, Strasburg and Bird-in-Hand like the plague.  And yet, here I was, 20 years later, in the kitchiest, cheesiest tourist trap I've ever seen, having a nice salad, sitting outside, and admiring the "cuteness" of it all.  I wondered whether, in 20 years, that girl might take a family vacation to Intercourse and pay to ride in an "authentic" Amish buggy.  That made me wonder whether there's this weird time/space continuum of tourist-trap survivors that visit each others' towns every 20 years.  It did my head in, so we skedaddled out of there, avoiding all the families on group-bicycles and people shopping for tulips, and headed out, stopping at the Santa Inez mission, just to add some Imperialist history to our trip.  

No trip through California is complete without a trip to a Mission, just to wallow in some forced guilt about smallpox.  We wallowed, laughed smugly at the whitewashed descriptive signs (ie, "in 1860 the Indians were forced out of the town that was built for them 40 years before, and were given the reservation area surrounding the mission."  Oh, the things that are left unsaid in that paragraph!) and got back in the car and left, using our gangsta-radar to find the only ghetto street in all of Santa Barbara to stop for gas.  The place looked like it could have been on 87th and Vermont, yet it was a block from the beach in one of the swankiest towns in the country.  It was kind of fun wondering whether I'd be killed while using the bathroom.    Driving back along the coast, we saw a school (swarm? group? parade?) of dolphins jumping all around, which was super-cool, and reminded me again just how gorgeous this state is.  

So now we're back up the mountain, and I'm frustrated because my new Droid Charge gets, like, zero reception in my house.  That's what happens when you live 5000 feet up in a forest of redwoods, I guess.  If anybody's trying to call me, I'm having fun playing with my kickass phone, which seems to be able to do everything except actually take calls.  Tradeoffs, I guess.

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