• Otter Views: Central Coasting

    Otter Views – Central Coasting

    Tom Stevens for CST


    Like UPS and FedEx, I was late this year in delivering Christmas gifts to my Bay Area brother. So Sunday morning I tossed a sleeping bag, an overnight kit and the two gifts into the truck and drove north to present them in person.

    The gifts were humble even for me – a small black velvet painting from the St. Vincent de Paul resale shop and a “book seat” bought new from a local book seller.

    The painting shows a rustic Kona fishing shack at night. Bars of golden light spill from the windows, suggesting fisher folk laughing and playing guitars inside. A beached canoe sits amid tropical foliage ablaze with flowers. The dark sea shimmers beneath the improbably bright moonlight only black velvet masters can convey.

    The painting cost only $5, but a faded “certificate of authenticity” signed by the artist guarantees its provenance. Being new, the “book seat” was costlier, but it seemed equally amusing. Made in Australia, the seat is a fig-shaped cloth bag plumped with foam pellets. The bag perches on lap, chest or countertop. Its plastic ledge can prop up a book or Ipad, freeing the owner’s hands for other work.

    As my brother rolls his own cigarettes and clocks many hours reading in his recliner every day, I envision the book seat enabling him to do these things simultaneously. Or, he could lean over while reading and adjust the black velvet painting. The possibilities are limitless.

    Buoyed by the hope my tardy gifts would reciprocate for his on-time mailing of Harry and David pears, I chose the scenic route to San Francisco. After a stop in Santa Cruz to offload some old vinyl records, I drove happily up that stretch of the Central Coast I think of as “Someday Land.”

    Someday I’ll stop for pie at that weathered pie shed outside Davenport. Someday I’ll pick a bucket of blueberries at the “you-pick” berry farm. Someday I’ll revisit the huge and scary elephant seals of Ano Nuevo. And someday I’ll actually stop, park and explore the majestic Pigeon Point lighthouse.

    Someday Land has other beckoners besides. Every time I drive that coast, I consider pulling over at Bean Hollow state beach to ask how it got its name. Other tempting pullover options include nameless wildfowl marshes and windswept, driftwood-strewn state beaches whose names fly past too swiftly to recall.

    Equally alluring are mysterious inland destinations indicated only by roadside signs. Where is Pescadero, and how does it feel to be there? North of Santa Cruz, steep-looking turnoffs lead to faraway hamlets called Ben Lomond and Bonny Doon. I imagine bearded Scots highlanders drinking usquebagh in peat-smoky pubs there, conversing loudly and unintelligibly. Those places definitely make the Someday list.

    For me, the hidden emerald of Someday Land is a storybook valley the Highway One motorist glimpses while zooming down one long, roller coaster hill and up another. Opposite one of those wild, surf-swept beaches, a stream and a quiet country road meander off into hill country as pretty as a patchwork quilt. My steering wheel always pulls in that direction as I pass, but I have yet to take the Oz-like road to San Gregorio. Someday.

    As on previous transits, I was racing no deadline Sunday and could have pulled over anywhere at any time. Why didn’t I? I can only surmise that the pleasure of driving that coast unimpeded by stop lights or cross traffic has its own internal dynamic. The views are so bountiful, the terrain so traveler-friendly, it’s almost impossible to stop.

    Granted, you may not see fabled towns like Pescadero and Bonny Doon, but what you can see from the highway is so engaging the Someday sites fly past unvisited yet again. Gulls riding thermals along the bluffs keep pace with traffic. Distant whales blow sunlit spouts. Long north swells wrap around rocky points to explode like cannon fire on steep beaches. Inland, beautiful meadows, forests, mountains, farms and pastures wheel past in a mesmeric diorama.

    The quasi-urban sprawl of Half Moon Bay ends most of this reverie, but even it offers teasers. How epic would it be to see Maverick’s go off on a big day? Which road leads there? Why does Sam’s seafood place create its own metropolis of parked cars? What does Half Moon Bay’s boat harbor look like? Mysteries abound.

    Zipping through the European-style tunnel that now prevents drivers like me from plunging over Devil’s Slide, I fly past Pacifica’s various beckoners and then creep along 19th Avenue through the Sunset district. At length the Golden Gate Bridge appears. I cross it and reach my brother’s place.

    “Merry belated Christmas,” I say, proffering the gifts. He happily sets the black velvet painting onto the ledge of the book seat and sits back to admire them.

    Someday I’ll explain why this is wrong.


    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 24, 2014

    Topics: Otter Views


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