Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 4: Wrong Way

Today's Distance: 416 miles
Total Distance: 1606 miles
Today's Destinations: Steinbeck House & Restaurant, National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, CA; Oxnard, CA

Today was a lot of driving.  Very close to the beginning of our trip, we realized we'd left something behind at the hotel and had to go back and get it.  Fortunately, we weren't in any big hurry as our next stop was less than 2 hours away.  (Now that I think of it, I also almost left my Redwoods Christmas ornament at the front desk - I remembered it just in time.)  The first hour, by the way, was driving through the greater San Francisco area.  I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see the country again.  Plus there was one particular junction that was really confusing because of the way the GPS instructions were worded.  We took the wrong exit twice before we got it right.  Lesson learned: when the GPS says something like "then keep right," check ahead to see what you are keeping right onto.

I have a confession: I've never read a John Steinbeck book (I've seen Grapes of Wrath but it was in history class in high school so naturally, I don't remember it at all), and Justin's only read one.  However, that one (East of Eden) was so powerful and profound that it immediately became one of his favorite books, so Justin really wanted to see John Steinbeck's house, which has been preserved and is also a restaurant and gift shop.  (He picked Steinbeck's house over Jack London's - if you know Justin, you know that's a big deal.)

 Salinas is a beautiful old town just bursting with Victorian-era charm.  All the buildings downtown are bright and well maintained.  But the Steinbeck House is something special.  Steinbeck himself referenced it and its former proprietor (his father) in East of Eden, and it's easy to see why the house had a special connection to him.

We were ushered into one of the rooms (originally the Guest Room) for a delicious lunch made with local produce.  I think it's funny that the whole reason the Steinbeck House exists as it does today is because a group of women who liked to cook and wanted to promote Salinas produce were looking for a building, and it just happened that they were able to buy the Steinbeck house.  I find that highly amusing.  Yet they evidently took great pains to preserve the house and to give visitors information about it and the man who once lived there.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get a tour as they only do those on Sundays, but we did get to look around the main floor a bit.

We also went to the National Steinbeck Center, a museum featuring not only Steinbeck, but also Salinas itself.  This seems fitting, since so many of Steinbeck's stories took place in the area and made a point of showcasing the geography, culture, and people of that time and place.  For a museum about an author, it was surprisingly interactive.  I'd highly recommend it as a field trip destination for any class in which it might be relevant.

Here was a wall of Steinbeck's books published in other languages.  You can try to guess what country each is from.
After that, it was Southward Ho! Originally we had planned to go see the giant sequoias, but we decided we really wanted to see the coast, so we decided to stay on Highway 101 the whole way down to San Diego.  This proved more difficult than you'd think.  Each time we made a pit stop, we had some difficulty navigating back to the highway.  Oh, and at one point the road signs said there was a gas station where there definitely wasn't one.  We're pretty sure the sign was a trap to lure unsuspecting travelers at night, the result of which is probably an episode of either The Twilight Zone or Criminal Minds.  Also, instead of staying on 101, the GPS had us take 254 east (shorter distance, I suppose).  This took us through some beautiful countryside but we didn't see the ocean until we got back on the 101.  Lesson learned: pay attention to where you want to go, and don't listen to the GPS if it tells you to go somewhere you don't want.

The ocean was sooo pretty.

It's actually important for my circulation that I stretch my legs out like this.

At some point along this trip, we also misplaced the book we've been reading each other.  We finally found it under the driver's seat during yet another pit stop.

We finally made it to Oxnard, a very pretty coastal town with lots of palm trees.  We found a seafood place that was open and had shrimp (I know, they probably weren't local, but we just really wanted shrimp).

It amazes me that no matter what time we think we're going to get to a hotel, we always end up arriving between 7-8.  I suppose that's good, but it would have been nice to get in a little earlier and be able to have some leisure time.  Fortunately we're going to be in San Diego for two nights, so maybe we'll get some of that then.

So today it seems we had more mishaps than usual.  I hope those don't increase as we continue driving, and what we probably need more than anything is a long night's sleep (although we both slept well last night).  On the plus side, though, neither of us felt drowsy while driving, and we had a lot of time to talk.  That's the thing I like most about taking road trips with Justin - we can talk about anything and everything and just enjoy spending time together.  They say if you want to know how solid your relationship with someone is, spend 5 hours in a car with them.  Justin is the only person I can be in a car with for that long and not want to jump out of the car while it's still moving.  I don't know what that says about me, but I think it bodes pretty well for our relationship.

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