When I read the paper this morning, I thought, we’re going to need a bigger boat. The Monterey Herald’s headline read; great white shark numbers are up. Apparently, actions taken during the sixties are still rippling through the food chain. Under Nixon the Marine Mammal Protection Act made it illegal to harm sea otters, seals and sea lions, allowing their populations to rebound. Now fifty years later, healthy marine mammal populations have led to a healthier great white shark population. We went to sea in a pontooned patio boat, but instead of heading out to open water, we headed inland, up the Elkhorn Slough. I had to ask though, especially after one of the larger tour boats advertised both wales and great white shark viewing, but our guide assured us that there are no sharks in the slough. That is the reason that the sea otters and harbor seals hangout there, they are protected from their predators by its shallow waters. We arrived early and because of Covid the complement of passengers was much lighter than normal. Conditions were perfect, not too cold, not too windy and with bright sunlight, which is really necessary to get good pictures in a bobbing boat. This was Anne’s and mine third excursion with this group, but it was Chris’s first. We saw lots of wildlife and we all got lots of pictures, but I didn’t see any sharks, but maybe I’ll see an Aww from Jane? Yes, I am fishing for comments, but I do not believe I need a license to do so. The sea otter pups have special fur that traps lots of air in it, creating a full body flotation device. Due to the cold water and the otter’s high metabolism, mom has to eat a third of her weight everyday. Harbor seals are nocturnal, so they sleep all day and return to the open sea at night. We saw over twenty-five species of birds.
We visited Santa Cruz today. Located at the north end on Monterey bay, it has a whole different vibe than its southern bookend on the bay. It is forty miles away from Monterey and on an exceptionally clear day, we can see the hills above it from the house. Home of the University of California Santa Cruz, this university town has earned the reputation for having students who major in both surfing and granola. Bicycling is a big deal there. Chris drove and we first headed to the marina, where the Crow’s Nest is located. A rather nice restaurant, where we have eaten before. I had the swordfish, which the restaurant claimed to be sustainable. Maybe they’re farming them now? Afterwards, we drove to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. This arcade was founded in 1907. Chris wanted to take photos, so, so did we. There is another photographer who Chris has been following, who also photographs Santa Cruz. He wanted to see if he could imitate her work. There were plenty of people about and plenty of amusement park rides for them to enjoy. The lines were long, so the ticket tellers must have had a problem keeping up. It was picturesque.
Chris has taken a four-day weekend, beginning today, which means that we’ll be under his tutelage for the weekend to come. He is still working, but he is working from home, which he likes. He is looking ahead to retirement, but is not yet ready to pull the trigger now. I’ve tried to explain the benefits of everyday being Saturday to him. I guess you have to learn these things for yourself. He organized our trip to Nepenthe. I drove, but Chris planned it. California is still in the throes of Covid, as I guess, so is everywhere else, but only more so here. Restrictions are supposed to lighten the middle of next month.
So, Dad, Chris, Anne and I drove together to Big Sur, which is almost fifty miles from the house, but only 26 miles along the twisty turny CA 1 that everyone loves and I hate driving. Let’s face it folks, I’m a flatlander. It’s where I learned to drive and where I have done most of my driving. A place where you can set the wheel and only have to nudge it after that. Sort of like steering a boat on the open sea. We went to Nepenthe for lunch. I drove, because I had the new car and I would be damned to have anyone else drive. The drive down wasn’t too bad. We left in plenty of time and traffic was relatively light. I was fortunate to have a couple of slower than me drivers ahead of me, so I felt no pressure about the train of vehicles that had accumulated. A few gonzo drivers speed past me, even in a no passing zone, but I figure that is who the cliffs were made for. I look at the guard rails as only wannabe ski ramps. We made is safely and in plenty of time and enjoyed a scrumptious meal.
Dad announced to the waitress that he had been coming to Nepenthe for sixty-five years and with a little math, I figured that so had I. Our young waitress announced that she planned on living he life in Big Sur. Nepenthe is a word derived from the Greek word meaning no sorrow. A mythical Egyptian drug, the wife of Thonis, King of Egypt, gave it to Helen, daughter of Jove, to induce forgetfulness and surcease from sorrow. The word and thought have been used through all time. Homer mentioned it in the Odyssey. Later, Poe mentioned it in his poem The Raven. Poe said:
Quaff oh quaff this kind Nepenthe and forget the lost Lenore.
Dad and Chris being traditionalist ordered the Ambrosia burger, Nepenthe’s signature dish. Sixty-five years ago, it was significantly cheaper. The waitress asked if he had not been back for sixty-five years, but we enlightened her. It has been a year for Dad and Chris and two for us. Three years ago, we had to hike several miles and up a thousand feet to reach the restaurant. That time Dad couldn’t make it, but we did enjoy the added benefit of being passed on the long uphill hike by a younger, fitter man, who had a dress shirt hanging from his backpack. He turned out to be our waiter. On the way back, we were passed by one particularly obnoxious gonzo, but I had the satisfaction of catching up to him as he was stuck behind a garbage truck. It is the afternoon, but an already windy day has made going outside even less desirable. We saw a cyclist walking his bike, because of the wind. A quail, who rarely leaves the ground for long was blown up onto what is a third floor balcony.