South Coast Tour

I neglected to mention yesterday that S.F. Tour II included a cruise through the Castro, but at 11 a.m. it had more overweight, middle aged tourists with fanny packs than buff guys in muscle shirts. The only things I saw that distinguished it from other neighborhoods were a couple of theaters featuring drag shows and a nail emporium called Hand Job.

So after lunch in the Mission and mural viewing, we headed south along the coast road. We passed first through Daly City. Ash informed us that its houses were the “little boxes on the hillside” that Malvina Reynolds made famous in her song protesting conformity.

Fog enveloped us once again but not as seriously as it did on the North Coast tour or near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We soon left the interstate and traveled along winding roads that took us through forests and along cliffs with the ocean appearing and disappearing below.

One of the more dramatic stretches is the Devil’s Slide. Ash said we were lucky to experience it because it will soon be replaced by tunnels. The spectacular views will disappear,  but so will the heart-stopping ride. Of course the Universe sent information about the devil and his slide shortly after I came home. We didn’t sample any of the entertainment, but just the fact that I’d  been in the area a week before made the article more immediate.

Eventually the road became flat and straight. We saw what we thought were huge birds hovering along the shore. They turned out to be windsurfers with sails of many colors scudding along the waves near Half-Moon Bay. Then we realized that some of what we saw were birds. A bunch of gulls and whatnot hovered nearby. Maybe they thought the sails were larger versions of themselves, the lead birds, in a sense. My photo did not do justice to the scene. I hadn’t dressed in my photog in the hinterlands clothes or the surfers’ polystyrene, and it was way too windy to stand on the beach in the effort to achieve the perfect shot.

Back in the car, we meandered down to Santa Cruz, where our first stop was the Patagonia outlet store. It seemed odd to find it tucked into a tiny shopping center with no other outlets around. In this part of the world the outlet stores run in packs. The upscale Coach, Bali, and Giorgio Armani cluster together, as do the others: Hush Puppies, Old Navy, and Sunglass Hut. (There are some exceptions, with Eddie Bauer sharing space in the low-end mall, while Dress Barn seems to occupy both.)

Anyway, I was underwhelmed by the bargains at Patagonia, and Kathryn could not find the fleece she was looking for, so we headed down to the main drag. There we strolled among the buskers, students, and a handful of middle-aged shoppers. We stopped for a restorative cup of tea at a place with a huge selection of tea and some pastries that would have been tempting if I hadn’t still been full of quesadilla. I was amazed at a man who came in and glared at us as he sat down at the table behind us and spread out his books and papers without purchasing a thing.

After tea we ventured into the très expensive stores. Anna and Kathryn went looking for shoes. Ash and I went into an artisans’ collective that featured works by local artists and crafters. They covered the landscape with ceramics, glass, jewelry, hand-drawn greeting cards, designer lotions and emollient. I found a postcard for Deb. She’s a P.E. teacher and asks everyone who travels to bring back a card that features a sport popular in the area. Among the collection was a vintage photo of someone offering surf lessons for $2. She was thrilled  to have a first.

We reconvened at another shoe emporium, where I saw my first pair of Earth Shoes since Mother died. They sure look a lot more stylish than the broken down pair that she wore long past their useful life. But again the prices were something beyond the stratosphere.

As we walked to and fro along the pedestrian mall, I sensed a supercharged edge to the place. I couldn’t define it, but it felt as though someone or something could explode at any moment. Most of the kids looked fairly California wholesome – full of orange juice and sunshine –  but scattered about were some folks young and a bit older in need of a bath, or a meal or both. The Universe sent the answer the day after my return with “Surfing as Rehab.” What I’d sensed was the edge of meth among those wholesome Cali kids. So sad.

Since no one was hungry we made our way north. The lanes headed in the other direction were one huge parking lot. Kathryn said it was people going to the beach for the weekend and that it would be far worse Saturday morning. We buzzed along until we got near the Bay bridge. Then we sat in a parking lot even though it was after 7 p.m. We finally arrived at a Vietnamese restaurant around 8. Most the customers were families enjoying whole crabs. It never occurred to me that chop sticks would be the best method for picking out the flesh, but they were going at it at a great rate. Anna enjoyed orange beef; I had tofu with lemongrass (spicy); Kathryn ate eggplant; and Ash had a hot pot loaded with all kinds of goodies. We all munched on spring rolls, tofu in some, shrimp in others.

Upon our arrival back at the house, I retired early since I had to return the car in time to be at the airport by 8 a.m.


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