Judith in California: Part 2 – On the road

Having spent a weekend in San Francisco getting over our jet-lag, on Monday morning we called a cab to take us to the airport to pick up a hire car, or what Americans would call a rental.

The taxi driver was very chatty and, for some reason, he told us all about his exploits in his high-school orchestra. He had had the fun role of clashing the cymbals at the end of a piece of music and demonstrated what he’d had to do by taking both hands off the steering wheel, turning round in his seat and clapping his hands together.

Somehow, we arrived at the airport in one piece!

We were amused to see horoscopes and zodiac signs adorning the walls of the car hire office. Were they lacking in faith in their customers’ driving abilities and looking for higher assistance?

They took us to the car. My father, who wasn’t in those days accustomed to driving a vehicle with automatic transmission, asked for some instructions, so they showed him how to turn the radio on. Apparently no other knowledge was required. Off we set.

My mother expressed her concern fairly early on that Dad wasn’t adjusting his position on the road sufficiently to take account of the fact that she was on the side of the car next to the sheer drop down to the ocean. After a while he got the hang of that but decided to turn the air-conditioning on. The next thing we knew, water was pouring down the inside of the front windscreen. He couldn’t pull over so we continued to drive on while my mother delved in the glove compartment to find the manual, which she then flicked through to find out how to rectify the situation. Eventually everything settled down and on we drove. 

Photograph showing a driver's-eye-view of cars on a highway in rural California.
On the road…

We spent our first night in Monterey.

I had suggested we use the Motel 6 chain as I had stayed in them on a previous trip. Basic but perfectly acceptable. We discovered we were a “1, 2, 3”, which meant one room, two beds, and three adults.

The most entertaining aspect of Motel 6 was the vibrating bed. Usually, one bed in each room would, for the price of a quarter, start vibrating in a very untherapeutic manner. I would love to know if anyone has ever actually found this helpful, but it was certainly amusing.

The coastline was stunningly beautiful. From the wharf at Monterey we could watch otters lying on their backs in the water, their shellfish dinners on their chests, which they would then clasp in a paw and eat.

We sat on the beach at Spanish Bay, listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean and soaking up the sun.

At this point my father broke a tooth on an apple, (newly purchased to replace the one confiscated at the airport). We decided not to try and get him any help as we felt that a trip to the dentist might turn out to be quite expensive!

At Carmel we lunched in a country park which, my parents assured me, contained miles and miles of spectacular scenery. We watched ground squirrels scurrying about and observed, with the bemusement of the British abroad, a small child attempting and failing to eat a triple-decker sandwich. Why had her mother given it to her in the first place? What strange customs these people had!

We also visited the Mission Basilica at Carmel where Father Junipero Serra once lived and worked. In the 18th century, he travelled much of the Californian coast, preaching to the native Americans and others, and establishing mission churches along the way. The church was lovely. Father Junipero’s quarters were very basic. He seems to have been a very humble and sincere man.

We stayed at Morro Bay that night.

I should mention a couple more aspects of our stays in Motel 6. I had warned my parents, great tea drinkers that they were, that they would not like American tea, so we brought our own. We also brought our own electric jug kettle so that we could have our customary morning cuppa before setting out to face the day. However, we found the low voltage of the American power supply made the boiling of the jug a long slow process. We also found that the position of the socket meant that it was necessary to balance the kettle on something so that it didn’t pull the wire out.

What handy object did we find for this purpose?

The Gideons’ Bible.

It served us well throughout our trip. We were intrigued to find that not only did occupants of the motel read said Bible, they also wrote comments in the margin. It was sometimes possible to follow an entire discussion by reading the notes and following instructions such as “but also read John 1:2 -5,” or words to that effect. Sometimes the trail would take you through huge chunks of both the Old and New Testament.

What better basis could there be for brewing a good strong cup of tea?