Sunday, March 31, 2013

Construction 129

We met Craig, a co-worker, at this nice little place that served homemade chicken sausage and potato-carrot pancakes for breakfast (Home Plate). Craig has worked out on Alcatraz for 20 years. He spent an hour telling us about the ins and outs of riding a boat to work every day and what it’s like to spend so much time on “The Rock”.  Later I mused that he has a long sentence.. at the rock (probably not the first time he has heard that). Craig could write a book… hint hint... “A Life on the Rocks.”

After breakfast we headed over to lighthouse #5 on this trip, Point Bonita. Point Bonita is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and sits north of the San Francisco Bridge,  It is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the largest urban park in the United States. 

Point Bonita Lighthouse

The lens at Point Bonita

We climbed out over the bridges to reach it and the ocean breeze was wonderful out there. We took lots of photos of the house and coast and then headed up over the mountain to get to shoot the bridge. 

San Francisco

 The area above the bridge is part of an old fort, and there are tons of military bunkers and buildings to explore if you get the hankering. Having done this in a past trip to San Francisco, I opted out. I did wander into Construction 169 because there was music coming out of the military structure and I was curious.

man dancing in tunnel
Man in the battery... Construction 129
The sound was a couple of teenagers dancing in Battery Construction 129 and trying to film a video. The structure carried 16-inch gun mounts that could fire 2,100 pound shells 27 miles out into the bay. It was never fired.  Cool place to get pictures.

Here we headed over to Sausalito and wandered more gift shops and ended up drinking a dark local beer overlooking the water at Spinnakers. This place had the look and feel of a time past… wealthy wives heading down to sit on green sofas and sip martinis with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths… watch the sailboats. 

Dark local beer at Spinnaker's

We finished the day having Indian food in San Rafael with Maxine, a friend from Anchorage.
I leave town tonight.

I hear there is a Hunky Jesus contest in Dolores Park for Easter by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Kabuki-inspired cross-dressing nuns-of-fun).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Trail of Closed Lighthouses

We woke up in some town, not sure where… was it Cambria… no wait. It was Monterey Bay. Losing track.
We drove the coastal highway today, sto
pping at fruit stands and nibbling on fresh berries all along the way. We drove from state park to state park. Looking to see what we could see.

Originally, we had planned to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but I was having second thoughts. It seemed the town was filled with screaming children. Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t hate kids (hell, I even have two), it’s just that I don’t remember mine running around screaming at the top of their lungs… like other peoples kids do - or mine just plain burned me out (quite possible with Nikole).
Either way, watching all the sugar crazed small humans buzzing around town made me start reconsidering.  I told Jaz…. I don’t like kids anymore. She laughed and said the same thing. I decided I was getting old and grumpy. And then to confirm this remarkable observation… I made a kid cry (unintentionally of course).

We were getting coffee… and I had just ordered. I was walking past the counter and this little kid… must have been 3 or 4, tried to run past me. She was still a little wobbly – as kids her age are – so her aim was not that great. She miscalculated the distance between me and the wall. I stopped walking (also a miscalculation on her part). She bounced off my leg… and then her head bounced off the wall, and then she bounced off me again. Then the kid got scared… like I was going to kill her. She ran to mom silently. Once she reached mom safely, she let out a very long wail. Please no more screaming children!  We drove towards the aquarium… there were tall kids, short kids, kids on leashes… my heart started to pound.

We looked at each other and decided to go to the beach and photograph the rocks and tidal ponds instead; a place that was quiet and peaceful… and serene. 

Better than fish tank

We drove out to Point Pinos Lighthouse – it was closed. We then drove to Asilomar State Beach and saw spectacular crashing waves on the rocks. We decided to go out on the rocks and try to get closer to spectacular. Jaz made the comment that she was only going to take the short lens, in case she falls in the ocean (the last time we climbed on rocks it was expensive for her camera equipment).
Later when we were reviewing the afternoon, Jaz told me we forgot the first two rules of climbing on coastal rock. Rule #1 – wear shorts in case you get wet. Rule #2 pay attention to the tide so you don’t get stranded on said rocks. Maybe next time. I grew up in Utah (no ocean there), and in Alaska would have been too dangerous.

Rule 1 - Jaz
Rule 2 - Me
We climbed out on the rocks and enjoyed the waves. We got wet coming back. I had Levis on and my only pair of comfortable shoes. They are less comfortable wet and squeak pretty loud. We stopped for coffee in Pacific Cove and I left wet footprints across the floor. The cappuccinos were good though.
heavy shoes

Did not like
We headed up the coast and stopped along the highway to shoot photos of the artichokes. Artichokes everywhere – including the place we stopped to get coffee – which was listed as a bakery. They had “fried artichoke” we had to sample… it tasted like fried artichoke.
The wind was blowing and kicking up the sand. I was dry from the ocean stint, but between the greasy artichokes, the sand, and the salt water… I needed a shower. It occurred to me that every time I hang out with Jaz I need a shower by the end of the day… hmmmm.
We made it to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and it was closed. This would be the 4th lighthouse we have visited in 2 days that has been closed (Big Sur and Point Piedras Blancas being the other two). My luck is not too good. Pigeon Point is closed for repairs. Even so, it afforded some great photos and we got to tour the foghorn house.
Point Pigeon Light Station, at 115 feet, is the tallest operating lighthouse on the west coast. It is listed on the National Register – built in 1872. The lighthouse was outfitted with the most powerful lens of the day – a Fresnel lens. It is 16 feet tall and weighs 4 tons.  French physicist Augustin Jean Fresnel used 1008 handcrafted lenses and prisms to create the lens. It is pretty damn spectacular!

Gorgeous Lens
The lighthouse is in serious need of attention, and the historical society is working on that. It is currently closed for renovation and the removed the lens for that process. You can see the lens where it is temporarily being stored in the fog horn house.
Pigeon Point

Speaking of foghorns, they had a recording of what each one sounded like (there were 4 used over different periods). I videotaped the kiosk so you could hear them:
(later tonight)
All these closed lighthouses, and even state park ticket booths closed. I guess it is the off season, or timing needs to be impeccable (which mine never is). Jaz made the comment that I should have brought my ranger hat and a green slicker. I asked her why… she said that we could have stood outside the closed ticket booth looking official and people would have paid us to go into the lighthouses… we could have stayed long enough to make gas money. I told her we were not going to participate in illegal activities.
We crossed over the mountain through Pescardero and into Standford country. Soon we were parked in Redwood City for the night.
With a little luck tomorrow… we will find an open lighthouse at Point Bonita.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is that you Marilyn Monroe?

Hearst Castle
The town of Cambria was foggy in the morning, making it difficult to find breakfast without a GPS. We wandered around town but it seemed like nothing opened until 8 a.m. The little café took pity on us when Jaz pressed her nose up against the plate-glass window; they invited us in 20 minutes early.

Today we headed over to the Hearst bungalow… something interesting to see if you are in this neck of the woods. 

Hearst bungalow
WR hired a female architect to create this structure and then micromanaged it for 25+ years, not quite finishing it before his death. 

Julia was definitely a skilled project manager - molding around a doorway.
The architect, Julia Morgan, designed a simple house for Hearst that is pretty amazing. Also amazing was Julia – 1st female engineer to graduate from Berkeley, first female to graduate from the European architectural institute she attended, female owned firm in 1906 with male employees…

Julia in the middle. I forgot to get the photo credit for this gem, but it was in the exhibit at the Hearst Castle.
Hearst’s bungalow was amazing, the art within is equally amazing, the view was spectacular. And the pools, you must see them. 
outdoor pool
We wandered around and discussed how the place was so big, you would have to have an army of people living with you to not feel lonely.

Indoor pool
Elephant Seal Beach
Further up the coast we visited the Seal Beach. Too late to see the males, we took pictures of hundreds of females basking in the sun. One particular female found shiny wrap and I watched her play with it – as much as a round slow fat creature with short arms can play… she wore herself out in no time and fell back asleep. Jaz and I decided they were like short-legged cows. Sat around and did not much of anything…

short legged cows no-grazing...

Tired seal with foil toy

There are two lighthouses in this area; you need appointments to visit either one of them, neither of which we did. Take the time, they look wonderful.  We shot one from a distance.
Tree Bones  - Big Sur

Lighthouse and beach

Me and ocean
Right about the time we were hungry, we stumbled across this place. Some folks in the campground said the place was amazing, and the view unforgettable - sounded right up our alley. Off we went. This place overlooks the ocean. It is a collection of yurts with incredible food. This place is the base camp for eco-adventures and tourism, and if you really want to take it to the next level, you can sleep in nest. Very new age and do I dare say it… hippyish.  The food was to die for, locally grown organic and healthy. We watched whales below play in the ocean while we had lunch. Up the road is a hermitage if you’re into that. The environment here was definitely serene.

We meandered north enjoying the drive to Monterey Bay. Coastal flowers, scenic ocean vistas and occasional stops all afternoon. 
Cannery Row

Once in Monterey, we walked around and looked in cheesy gift shops, enjoyed interpretive displays about Steinbeck, and watched the sunset near Cannery Row. 
What would Marilyn Monroe look like with tattoos and piercings?
If Marlyn was young today.. what would she look like? She would have tattoos and piercings! This metal sketch was in a gift shop in Cannery Row.

Sunset and wine

This morning we head out to catch the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Jaz and Steinbeck

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is that a Kiss Dispenser?

Not that kind of kiss...

KISS PEZ Dispensers
Spring is in the air… sort of.
When I left Anchorage yesterday, it was on the tail end of 15 inches of fresh snow in my back yard. I had been thinking that we might get an early break-up and I would be able to pull the KLR out of the garage soon. Not so sure now. I think the fact that I was flying to San Francisco to meet with Jaz and screw around for a weekend helped.

The snow on my back deck buried my BBQ grill this week.
Jaz retired over two months ago. She flew south. All those years of shoveling snow, and the first chance she got she flew. She has a second bike in San Francisco, and invited me down (she also ran out of Kaladi Trieste Blend, ground for French Press – I suspect she needed the coffee more than my company). We talked about riding (me renting a motorcycle – because there is no way I would sit on the back of hers), and I did not want death by a California driver, or my lack of navigating mine fields. We rented a car.
Good thing. She has been riding down here for two months solid. She tells me “it’s like a video game, a high stake video game, you can and should pretty much do whatever you need to do to say alive. Pass a car on the right, pass a car on the left (when no passing lanes exist), split the lanes… whatever." It takes nerves of steel to split a lane with California drivers at 70 mph. One mistake and your life is over.
For those of you that do not know what splitting a lane is – imagine two cars driving side by side on the freeway. Then imagine a motorcycle rides up between the two cars and passes both while staying on the painted line.  That is splitting a lane.
I like metal – Impala metal – around me in California. She picked me up at the airport and we headed over to the PEZ Museum on beautiful downtown Burlingame.

I collect PEZ dispensers. I have always loved them as a kid. When I found out there was a complete museum dedicated to these wonderful little candy dispensers… well.. ROAD TRIP.

Not only does the museum boast an entire collection of every PEZ dispenser invented, the largest dispenser, but a pretty healthy gift shop where you can find contemporary and vintage pieces.
PEZ Dispensers have been around since 1948; the actual candy was invented in 1927. The original “candy” was a breath mint, and came only in peppermint (they were very similar to Altoids). It is considered the first breath mint.

 PEZ is not made in amerika; they are Austrian. The first dispensers were flat with no “heads” on them.   

First generation "headless" PEZ Circa 1950's
The name PEZ is derived from the German word “pfefferminz”.
In 1952, PEZ wanted to expand to the amerikan market and knew they needed a gimmick… the character heads were invented. They change yearly, with about 900 different varieties produced. 
 PEZ still produces them; now about 30 new designs per year. Not all are carried in this country.

Jaz and I rolled in front of the museum. 

There are over 900 different PEZ characters to choose from.
Psychedelic PEZ Circa 1960s
1970s special releases including Uncle Sam Vintage 1976 Bicentennial Edition
Modern sets - Star Trek Generations

There is also a section of famous toys, and banned toys to view. 
This Atomic Energy Lab kit Circa 1950's actually came with four vials of radioactive material to play with. Note the "Safe" advertising on the box. Obviously banned.

 Also classic toy section:
First Easy Bake Oven - 1963
First Barbie - 1959

I had been wanting to come to this museum and I was finally here, ready to add some to my collection! I bought the complete Charlie Brown set (with Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie and Luzy), Catwoman, and the snowman (replica of world's largest PEZ). And guess what.. there are conventions.

We rolled out of the PEZ museum and headed south. Jaz argued with Zumo GPS of the trickster clan for about 10 miles. I dozed. The scenery was gorgeous as we headed down Highway 101, but I had not slept much since the night before. I hear the phone ring… it is the rental car people.. calling her to see if she likes the car. Now folks, this has never happened to me. Have the rental car people ever called you and asked you if you like there car? I am convinced they found her driving record, or were monitoring our progress and thought about reminding us we can’t leave the country. She considers asking him how to get the airbag back into the dash after it has deployed… and thinks twice about it. All is good as we pass vineyard after vineyard.
We rolled into Cambria (2nd thing on my list is the Hearst Castle) and walked the town. My legs were killing me from the flight and car ride - nothing like stretching out your legs to read the local bumper stickers. 
I always thought God likes snipers too... I got confirmation in Cambria that it is so...
We grabbed some beer, cheese and tapenade and sat out by the fire pit contemplating the palms.
Kicking back blogging with my Blue Suede Shoes...

Tomorrow the Hearst Castle.



Main company

Monday, March 18, 2013

PEZ Dispensers?

I'm taking off next week to meet Jaz in San Francisco... I hear they have a museum dedicated to PEZ Dispensers... stay tuned!