Time Flies–or not!

I just realized it’s been over two years since I did a blog post….oh, I’ve got lots of reasons, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear all of them. So much has happened in those two years. It seems like forever since I was posting from Morro Bay, and it seems like yesterday.  I loved the winter we spent in  Morro Bay and hoped to return the following winter, but life got in the way. I will go back though!

It will take some time to even begin to catch up. I don’t even know where to start.  The major change is that we sold the big old Histerical House  and, with heavy heart, I left my garden. Hmmm….guess I need a new banner photo, now.

We built a small log home in the foothills of the Cascades whereas before we were on the flat floor of the Willamette Valley. Only 45 miles away, but what a change!  I documented the whole project in photos, starting before we started to clear the building pad.

I don’t have much garden to write about, but watch for some posts about building the house, difficulties trying to create a new garden under very challenging conditions, goats, chickens, my work in clay and maybe an occasional post about my new-found interest in stained glass.

For now, here’s a photo of the morels I found in the corner of my garden today.

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Reasonable Eats…

While there are lots of fancy and expensive restaurants on the waterfront, patronized by tourists and sometimes by locals for special occasions, much has already been written about them. Like many coastal tourist destinations, dining in Morro Bay can be expensive, so I want to share with you some of my favorite small, independent places for eats. These are the places where you can grab some takeout without running up the credit card on the nights you don’t feel like cooking or are coming from the beach wet and sandy, the kind of places where the locals eat, where kids are welcome.

Since I didn’t start blogging until recently, I don’t have food photos for most of them. I know of a few other eateries that should probably be included here, but I’ve run out of time to try them,so their absence here doesn’t mean they’re not worthy, just that I didn’t get there before leaving–maybe next year.

In any locale, when assembling a list of go-to eateries, one must always have a place to get a good pizza. We found ours pretty quickly, Pizza Port. My friends in Ilwaco, WA, Tom and Judy,  will back me up on this: this is seriously wonderful pizza. The pizza is hand-tossed, a crust  that’s such a perfect combo of crispy and chewy that I’m grateful when the Mister tosses me his pizza bones; I’d even sit-stay for them! The sauce is fresh and rich with herbs and they always use just the right amount. Our standard order is half double pepperoni and half Laguna: mushrooms, olives, onions and artichokes. I snuggle it into a zipped fleece jacket and carefully carry it home.   Hint: heat leftovers–if there are any–in an iron skillet the next day and the bottom stays crisp and tastes just as good as fresh.

Pizza Port

Pizza Port

Mid-afternoon. Evenings this place is packed

Mid-afternoon. Evenings this place is packed

Outdoor Eating Area/Beer Garden

Outdoor Eating Area/Beer Garden

The central coast is famous for BBQ, and our little piece of BBQ heaven is Brickhouse Barbecue. It’s a fairly new, small family-owned restaurant in an old gas station that was previously a law office (the owner’s), but he’d apparently rather barbecue than argue a point of law. I don’t know how well he lawyers, but he’s in the supreme court of barbecue. Inside there are a couple of tables and also some outside where you can people watch while you eat, but we usually get ours to go, The meat is cooked outdoors and the kitchen inside produces their wonderful sauces, and sides including a very good coleslaw, succulent fresh green beans with garlic and parmesan, ranch beans and garlic bread. Try the strawberry chipotle sauce or one of the other interesting flavors. We each had two meals from our 2-meat platter and we still had leftovers from our second meal. The Mister marks Brickhouse down one star because they have no sausage.

For some good inexpensive Mexican food–and this is the real deal–at Taco de Mexico you’ll likely stand in a line that winds out the door but moves quickly. This family-owned restaurant dishes up fragrant tacos (carbon, carne asada,  carnitas or chicken), huge burritos and excellent guacamole. The chicken tacos have huge chunks of freshly cooked chicken, no bits of processed chicken here. The corn tortillas are small but piled high.  If you really like authentic, have a lengua taco, reminiscent of good street tacos. The Mister loved his enchilada. For a crowd, order up carnitas, carne asada, or pastor by the pound, or chile verde or colorado by the quart.

Taco de Mexico

Taco de Mexico (for Judy and Tom)

2450 (1024x768)For a different take on Mexican, Taco Temple with “California Fusion” food is well known to locals and travelers on Highway 1. I’d read about it before coming to Morro and finally got over there to try it on Monday night.

Taco Temple

Taco Temple, California fusion

Their specials always include fresh fish.  The prices may look high, but wait til you see what you get for the money!
2505 (1024x903)Oh, my goodness, scallop tacos?  With mango salsa? Decadent! We had meant to order one order of scallop tacos and one of crab cake tacos and split, but due to a miscommunication (ours, not our server), we both got scallop tacos which turned out to be just fine because they were too delicious to share.They were the largest, most succulent sea scallops I’ve ever seen or tasted and they were grilled to perfection.

Pefectly grilled scallops

Perfectly grilled scallops

Today we went back for lunch to try the crab cake tacos as Monday we couldn’t help ogling the heaping platters coming out of the kitchen. We weren’t as impressed with the crab cakes as we were with the scallops. For one thing, they were deep-fried and fried foods don’t like me.  Also, I don’t understand why they would serve them with a big crispy nest of fried shredded potatoes. And we’re spoiled for crab having lived on the Long Beach Peninsula in SW WA state., There the mister would go out crabbing and bring home enough crab to  make crab cakes with such big chunks of crab and without filler that they’d barely hold together.

Crab Cake Tacos

Crab Cake Tacos – just try to pick one up!

Those who know the Taco Temple would be disappointed if I didn’t mention the carrot cake. It was the biggest, densest, moistest carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. We got ours to go, and the single slice was so heavy I had to carry the take-out tray with both hands. It could have easily fed a family. Hard to tell from the picture, but it was easily 5″ high and 5″ wide at the outside edge of the slice.

Ginormous Carrot Cake

Ginormous Slice of Carrot Cake

In my last blog post, Books, Coffee and Gardens (continued), I commented on the Taco Temple sign which, for some unknown (at the time) reason, hangs above the koi pond at Beads by the Bay.

Koi Pond (the sign has a story)

Koi Pond  with Taco Temple sign

While searching on-line for an explanation, I was surprised to discover a news article from February 2012 reporting that Taco Temple had been raided and the kitchen manager arrested for transporting narcotics and was in jail on an immigration hold as a previously deported criminal alien. He was suspected of selling cocaine out of the backdoor of the restaurant for more than a decade. One never knows where a simple google search will lead or what goes on behind kitchen doors.

Today I called Beads by the Bay to ask about the sign. The story isn’t as interesting as my google search. It seems that Taco Temple was in Cayucos at one time and the owner is the former owner of Beads by the Bay. When Taco Temple moved to Morro Bay, the old sign ended up at the bead shop, where it hangs today over the koi pond.

For fish-and-chips, chowder or fish tacos, we like Dockside Too (known for its BBQ oysters) at the north end of the docks, away from the tourist shops and fancy restaurants.  We enjoy sitting outside and listening to a musician who plays and sings tunes that take me back to the years I can’t remember. You children of the 60s know what I’m talkin’ about. The ships dock right there to unload fish and the menu tells which captain caught it. There is a seafood market next door and The Dockside all owned by the same family, a local fishing family. (Dockside is a white tablecloth restaurant where we had a wonderful meal on Valentines Day with friends from out of town.) There’s s a third restaurant called Dockside Three which remains to be explored.

Another favorite place for both coffee and eats which perhaps should have been included in the coffee blog is the La Parisienne French bakery. I think this place has a magnet in the door that sucks people in.  If you are counting calories avoid this place as you won’t be able to limit yourself to their healthy salads or soups, no matter your good intentions. There’s outdoor and indoor seating where the walls are decorated with fanciful breads.

Bread sculpture decor

Bread sculpture decor

The breads are good and I often pick up a fresh loaf to have with a soup and/or salad dinner at home. They have an interesting selection of breakfast and other sandwiches on croissant or baguette; think shrimp, bacon and swiss or sauteed scallops, avocado and bacon,  Or how about a slice of crab and leek quiche?

Parisienne menu

Parisienne menu

The pastries look beautiful and unlike some, they don’t disappoint.Our downfall while we were here was swoon-inducing chocolate eclairs. If we didn’t inhale them, I’d have a photo.

Pastries and truffles

Pastries and truffles

I’m not a breakfast person but the mister loves big breakfasts. So far, he hasn’t been greatly impressed with breakfast here, none were bad but none knocked our socks off and most seemed just a little over-priced. There are still a few that we didn’t get around to so next year we may find a gem.

Another go-to place yet to be found is one for a good burger…no fast food burgers for us except our traditional In-N-Out visit when we’re on the road. .We spotted a diner-type place that looks promising, but we’ll save that to explore next year.

We have so come to enjoy this little town and the many delightful places within a few blocks walk.  We’ll have to readjust to our home in Oregon where delivery doesn’t exist and, there’s only one take-out place–the small grill at our little country store–but they do make delicious hamburgers!

Books, gardens, coffee…(continued)

With less than a week left here, I want  to finish sharing some coffee, gardens and favorite small businesses with you.

One of the first places we went for coffee when we got here was The Rock Espresso Bar. We saw it while taking a walk and decided to check it out.

The Rock Espresso Bar

The interior was clean but somewhat stark, the barista friendly.

Friendly Barista

Friendly Barista

The coffee was excellent. I love a good bagel but few live up to the bagels of my childhood memories when on weekend mornings dad would pick them up, still warm from the oven. The one I had here was incredible, perfectly fresh and just the right degree of crusty and chewy. It was served open face with cream cheese and a topping of fresh ripe tomatoes, avocado, pico de gallo and fresh cilantro if I recall correctly. The tomato was freshly picked from the barrel in the below photo and there were herbs from the garden, too.
2374 (1024x768) We sat outside in the garden to enjoy our coffee and food, surrounded by herbs, vegetables and flowers, all used in the kitchen. Earlier this week, I stopped in to take a photo of the garden and it had been cleaned out with new planting beginning so it didn’t look as lush as it did in the fall.
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Garden shelter

Garden shelter

Coming from a farm community without a coffee bar, we are overwhelmed with the choices for coffee here and still haven’t tried them all.

The second place we tried, which really felt like home to us, was Top Dog Coffee Bar.

Top Dog

Top Dog

It’s cozy and comfortable and we enjoyed live acoustic guitar music the first afternoon we stopped in. They have an interesting menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and fresh-baked goods.

Morro Bay is a very dog friendly community

Morro Bay is a very dog friendly community

2461 (1024x768) 2463 (1024x768) Inside the tables are a bit close and it can get loud at times, but in the back there’s a quiet garden with numerous comfortable, intimate spots for reading or quiet conversation.

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Through a new friend here, we were introduced to a curmudgeonly group of artists, musicians, intellectuals, bikers and other odd-ball but interesting folks. Just the sort of folks I enjoy, but they gather to solve the world’s problems much too early in the day for me. Later in the day,  I  feel right at home in the curmudgeon corner later and one never knows what character will wander in the door.

Curmudgeon Corner

Curmudgeon Corner

The next garden, doesn’t come with coffee or snacks, but Beads by the Bay tempts with all its beautiful sparkly beads, chains, findings and other shiny bits but I simply can’t find time for yet another hobby. Susan helped me put together a special gift for my friend and neighbor who has been patiently responding to the frightening and ear-splitting false alarms of our security system and sharing custody of Scruffy, our semi-feral cat. I can’t say what the gift is, but it’s something very interesting and something I’ve never seen before. I like the unique.

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Just a hint of the treasures within.

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Behind this glittery shop is a peaceful garden with a Koi pond (inhabited by goldfish with big dreams), garden art, organic herbs, succulents, sedums , tillandsia, bonsai, pottery and more for sale. The garden boasts a Psoralea pinnata, sometimes called Grape Kool-Aid Bush. I would love to see and smell it in bloom.

Koi Pond (the sign has a story)

Koi Pond (and Taco Temple sign, perhaps with a story)

In my next post, I’ll tell you about Taco Temple, what it is, why I went there last night, and if I can do a little detective work today, perhaps an interesting story about why the sign is here.

The little garden cottage (up the steps in the below photo) is used as a classroom and also is open for informal beading groups or anyone who’d like to work here.

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The last “garden” I want to mention is The Garden Gallery, a remarkable two-story complex which rambles here and there with many small  areas or “shops” with artfully displayed home accessories and a large outdoor area of pottery, fountains and a mind-boggling assortment of succulent plants, most of which, to my disappointment, wouldn’t be hardy in Oregon. The plants are beautiful, all healthy and well maintained, dead-leafed, etc. (well, as much as cacti could be). I’ve only a few photos to share, enough to give you just a taste of what is there.
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Hope you’ve enjoyed sharing a bit of Morro Bay and thanks for joining me on my journey. If time allows before I leave, I’ll have one more post about where regular people eat in Morro Bay, and I’d also like to show you some beautiful and interesting plants I’ve seen on my rambling walks around town. By the weekend, I’ll be heading north and then blogging from home, New Leaf Garden at the Porter-Brasfield House in Oregon.

Books, gardens, coffee…

Morro Bay not only has some of my favorite things, but it also blends them in a most delightful way. Despite the drought, volunteer groups keep gardens going in almost every vacant lot, parking strip, street planters, around public buildings and on private land loaned for that purpose.  Many businesses have gardens including a bead shop that displays garden art for sale in a cozy space behind the store. Two of my favorite coffee cafes have lovely sheltered gardens behind them that are great places to sip while reading or catching up with Facebook friends. Even on cool breezy days they’re comfortable.

Next door to one of the coffee cafes is a wonderful, small independent bookstore,  Coalesce Books, with a lovely garden and garden chapel that is used for weddings, concerts and other events.

Garden Entry

Garden Entry

The bookstore was founded in 1973 by two young women from Oregon. Just outside of the store is a sidewalk chalkboard donated by the Morro Bay Public Art Foundation. Often it will have very literate graffiti but occasionally somebody wanders by from the local saloon. The teensy mailbox on the left side of the chalk board holds colored chalk for passing artists and poets.

Graffiti Chalk Board

Graffiti Chalk Board

The book store carries a wide variety of books, new and used, features local authors, but is perhaps a little heavy on the “new age” and metaphysical, at least for my taste. They also have music and a nice selection of greeting cards and small gifts.

Cozy Reading Corner

Cozy Reading Corner

Another quiet corner

A quiet spot for browsing...

A quiet spot for browsing…

And many photos of the peaceful garden:
2156 (1024x768) 2155 (768x1024) 2153 (1024x768) 2152 (1024x768) 2150 (1024x768) 2148 (1024x768) 2146 (1024x768) 2145 (1024x768) 2144 (1024x768)I hope you enjoyed your photo visit to my favorite bookstore here. It’s late, so I’ll share some of the other gardens around town with you in a future blog post.  

Spring Cravings…

Here in Morro Bay, I am amazed at the things coming into bloom and already blooming in the middle of February, knowing that at home the daffodils haven’t even begun to show their faces. But I miss my garden, I miss spring in my garden, I miss smelling the cold fresh earth as I pluck the shotweed from the ground, hoping I’m weeding early enough to not be blinded by one of its lethal missiles. Yes, I’m one of those people who actually likes weeding–nothing like a good Zen weeding session where it gets dark before you realize that not only has lunchtime passed, but your morning coffee is ice cold in the dirt-covered insulated mug nearby.

One sign of approaching spring here on the central coast is the end of the breeding season of the Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostri at the Piedras Blancas rookery, home to about 17,000 of the once-endangered animals. In February, they are birthing and the peak of mating is now, right around Valentine’s Day. I had hoped to visit the rookery earlier this year to see the incredible sight of the males competing for a dominant position on the beach. The winners, called alpha males or beach masters, each will have a harem of females. So, although I missed that, I did get to see the adorable babies when we went there yesterday with Raedeen and Bill, friends of ours visiting from Oregon. The sun wasn’t in the best spot for photos, but I did take a few.

Beach Master

Beach Master

Looks ponderous but very fast

Looks ponderous but very fast

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

A mother and child reunion

A mother and child reunion

Full belly and naptime for baby

Full belly and nap time for baby

Our friends had never been to Hearst Castle nor had Harold, so although we were fascinated by the elephant seals and would have liked to spend more time there, we had to get going to get to the castle for our tour reservation. Hearst Castle is now a California State Park with much of the Hearst Ranch now in a conservancy with 13 miles of coastline and 82,000 acres in state hands and forever protected from development. I won’t write a lot about the castle or the Hearst family as there is so much information  readily available, but it is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

The castle itself is essentially a museum housing Hearst’s extensive collection of art from around the world. At one point he owned an estimated 1/4 of the world’s art. In the late ’30s and early ’40s he sold off at least 20,000 items, still leaving a museum’s worth of objects, some dating to B.C. 

Photography is allowed in the Castle, but not flash, and due to either gloom or the glare from windows, lamps, etc. it is difficult to take good photos. I took a small number of interior photos and few of those came out well, nor did I take many exterior shots;  however there are so many good photos on-line that anyone interested in seeing more can easily find them.

This is only a small section of one of the two libraries in the castle. Even with two libraries, there wasn’t enough shelving for his books. There were 3,000 in his library/study/office shown below and over 4,000 in the other library in the photo after that. Many are rare and valuable first editions, some signed by the author.

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William Randolph Hearst’s Library/Study/Office (one of two)

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Library with extensive collection of Greek vases and other art

Library

Library

Library w/ priceless vases

Library w/ priceless vases

Ceiling

Ceiling

We saw very old contracts, musical scores and manuscripts on sheepskin that had been made into lampshades. Hearst had commissioned architect Julia Morgan (his architect in designing and building the house) to create lampshades, some from a medieval choir book, thought to be Spanish. I find it hard to believe that someone who appreciated fine art as he did would have done this, but this is what we were told.

Lampshade

Parchment Lampshade

One of many bedrooms with religious-themed paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etc.

One of many bedrooms with religious-themed paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etc.

Incredibly detailed ceiling, top of draped walls.

Incredibly detailed ceiling, top of draped walls.

Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, worked on the project for 28 years with Hearst. She was one of the first to build earthquake-safe construction, but all the same, I wouldn’t want to be in that castle in an earthquake.

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There were three versions of the Neptune pool built, the first completed in 1924.Hearst 062 (1024x746) Hearst 067 (1024x932) Hearst 068 (892x1024)

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The indoor Roman pool (below) is incredibly beautiful with the reflections of the walls and ceilings on the water creating amazing optical illusions making it difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other starts. The pool a decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes. From ceiling to floor the walls are decorated with 1″ tiles, some brilliant with fused gold inside.

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The Dragon and the SurviveOars

Last month I saw a long, brightly painted rowboat sitting at the docks, along with a smaller, plainer one, and as it was during the Bird Festival, I thought perhaps they had brought them in so that more of the birders would have safe access to the good birding in the back bay. It looked to me like it could hold about twenty people and I thought it was a great idea since some years back, a group went out in kayaks and some inexperienced paddlers got into a very dangerous situation with several people in a life-or-death situation and those who tried to rescue them were in turn put at risk in a treacherous situation. Fortunately all were rescued without injury or loss of life, but I’m sure it was a huge concern for the organizers of the Bird Festival in future years.

At the dock...

At the dock…

Then, in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen it again, docked where the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol have their boats and personal watercraft for rescue and other work. I noticed the name on it: Joanna’s Joy. I started wondering who is Joanna and who takes this out since I walk the waterfront nearly every day and have never seen anyone in or near it.

Joanna's Joy

Joanna’s Joy

Then, yesterday afternoon I took a very long walk, past the harbor, around where the breakwater meets Morro Rock, and onto the beach. I stayed out much later than usual and didn’t start back until almost sunset. It was getting close to dark by the time I reached the north end of the docks and a fishing boat was also approaching. I couldn’t resist walking onto the T-pier to see what they caught, and as I did, I saw a couple of people down near “Joanna’s Joy,” then a few more. I thought maybe they had been out paddling and were stowing their gear as it was late. But, within a matter of minutes, a larger group of women and a few men assembled, a bright flock with a flaming pink life vest here, a fluorescent pink baseball cap there and pale and brilliant pink headbands and jackets scattered throughout the group. As I took a closer look, I saw they were preparing to go out for a sunset paddle.

Rower's Assembling

Rowers Assembling

I called down below to a woman and asked about her group and she called back up to me that they were the Central Coast mumble mumble. After she repeated it two more times, I was embarrassed to ask a third time and so just asked if I might take a few photos for my blog.

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Ready…

Ready, set...

Set…

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Go!

They back-rowed from the dock and then gracefully turned and paddled north toward the breakwater and Morro Rock.

Heading North

Heading North

I watched the fishing boat tie up and decided I better get moving toward home as it was getting dark and although the area is perfectly safe, I’m a klutz and there are many trip hazards along the way. Walking south along the waterfront, I saw Joanna’s Joy and her lively crew rowing strongly from the north to the south and was able to snap a couple more photos of them silhouetted against the darkening sky and water. I was filled with joy and admiration for these ladies and gentlemen who choose to live life on their terms.

Sunset Paddle

Sunset Paddle

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When I got home, I told Harold about them and mentioned the way the boat was painted. As I spoke, I recalled several cyber friends who have written of rowing and racing dragon boats and it occurred to me that the crew I’d seen must be dragon boat rowers.  Enter Uncle Google: a quick search on Central Coast Rowing, Central Coast Dragon boats, etc. brought me to Central Coast SurviveOars. According to their website, they are part of Team Survivor, San Luis Obispo, an organization for women who have survived all types of cancer. Team Survivor is a national organization dedicated to “foster and promote exercise opportunities for women affected by cancer” which the San Luis Obispo group does through their dragon boating team, the SurviveOars . The local group’s blog isn’t current but you can see it here. I love the concept of the parent organization and they have different types of programs in many areas so if you or someone you know is in cancer treatment or recovery and might benefit and appreciate the camaraderie and support, check out Team Survivor. All are welcome and some of the activities they enjoy include:

  • Walk/Run Groups (“Walk & Talk”)
  • Dragon Boat Racing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Yoga
  • Cycling (Road and Mountain)
  • Golf Clinics
  • Pilates
  • Triathlon Training

I hope you are as inspired by them as I am. They refuse to let their cancer control or define them.

Not kayaking Lopez Lake

I recently read that Lopez Lake is a great place for kayaking with lots of wildlife and I’ve been wanting to explore it. The tides have been wrong for a paddle trip to explore the sand bar and part of the back bay that are also on our list, so when I woke up on Wednesday to a sunny morning, it was a good time to head to Lopez. Got the yak loaded up early–well, New Leaf early which is before noon–and headed to the lake with a quick stop in SLO to drop off Harold’s tennis racket for restringing. A drive through the brown and crispy hills had us wondering what the water level would be like at the lake.

White area showing low water levels

White area showing low water levels

Our first glimpse revealed significantly lowered water levels but certainly enough for good paddling. We wound around the lake and crossed a small bridge where we had to slow for construction and below the bridge and to the right we saw a marshy area that in normal years would have been full of water. There were a great many deer grazing, egrets and other birds we couldn’t identify from the distance. We proceeded slowly through the construction area to the county park and campground on the back side of the lake.

It was a pretty park and quiet and peaceful on this mid-week day and we were both excited and anxious to put in as we stopped at the ranger station to pay up. We were shocked to find that day use fees were $10 in the off-season and that we had to pay an additional fee for the kayak. We were told  the kayak must be completely clean and dry due to the threat of Quagga and Zebra mussels. We were told they are tiny invasive mussels that breed rapidly and clog pipes and valves creating a threat to municipal water systems and aquatic food chains in the lakes and reservoirs. The park staff must inspect every boat and if not completely clean and dry, the boats may not be launched, nor may boats that have been in certain infected waters. And there’s yet another charge if the boat must be decontaminated.

We walked around the campground which has spacious and private camping spots, the sort of place we’d like to come and camp, and walked down to the lake. We didn’t see the wild turkeys which are common in the park but on our walk we did see a few of the over 150 species of birds that can be found there.

Young acorn woodpecker (?) seen while we were registering.

Young Acorn Woodpecker (?)
Seen while we were registering

Red-shouldered Hawk

Harold is still stalking herons.

Harold is still stalking herons.

We were told there are cougars in the park.

We were told there are cougars in the park.

So we talked it over, and with the day getting on and not having the appropriate towels and such to clean and dry the kayak completely, we decided that we’d save our money and kayak Lopez Lake another time when the yak was prepared and we had enough paddling time to make it worthwhile. Perhaps we’ll take our RV and camp and kayak for a few days.

Insert pause to rant: I know California, like many states, has serious budget issues, but to raise park fees so high that families can’t afford an afternoon or a day out deeply disturbs me. Often for a family on a tight budget, a picnic in the park or a day at the lake is the only entertainment they can afford. Tax cigarettes, booze or whatever, but the countryside and the outdoors should be available for everyone to enjoy. It’s not–or should not be–a luxury. Often those who can’t afford it are the ones who most need it. We chose not to pay that day, but for some it’s not a choice. We had the luxury of choosing.

So what did we do instead after we left the park? Eat. Something we seem to do often–almost as often as we don’t eat because our chosen restaurant is closed. We’d tried to go to Mama’s Meatball once before (sound like the Tom kha story?) and never made it for some reason I can’t recall. But, this time we found a parking place for the monster truck (and I salute Harold who parallel-parked it in an amazingly tiny space), fed the maw of the meter, and walked a couple blocks to the restaurant.  And right in front of the restaurant was a free parking lot for customers with a big, empty space, big enough for a big diesel truck. That figures.

Being it was Mama’s Meatball, Harold had to have meatballs and chose a meatball sandwich on the bread they bake themselves. I opted for a delicious grilled veggie sandwich with fresh mozzarella. We both managed some salad and half of our sandwich and had the rest for dinner that night.

Sandwiches at Mama's Meatball

Sandwiches at Mama’s Meatball

Over the past year or so, our eating habits have really changed. Harold was a big eater, pun intended. He is 50 lbs smaller than he once was and he no longer eats the growing-teenage-boy sized portions that he did not too long ago. When we’d go out, he’d finish all of his meal and whatever I couldn’t eat of mine, usually about half, sometimes more. Now, we skip the bread, share a salad, and still have enough of our main courses left for another meal each. Sometimes we just share an entrée, as we did at Jocko’s BBQ (where we still had leftovers. At home, I cook smaller and smaller quantities and still have leftovers, 2 meals from one even when I didn’t plan it that way as I sometimes do. Is this just part of aging?