Morgan Hill reminds me of Allen, because like Allen, it is too remote to be a suburb of San Jose just as Allen is not quite a suburb of Dallas (more like a suburb of a suburb of Dallas), but it has a small town tract home suburban feel to it. It's about 33,000 people, living, as folks in California towns tend to do, in bands that border the 101 freeway.
After dealing with some insomnia by sending an e mail or two, I drove to a little coffee shop for a croissant and hot chocolate. Today started in the high 50s and finished in the low 60s, comfortable weather indeed. I drove a few miles south to Gilroy, the Garlic capitol of California, another farm and ranch town gone somewhat upscale. Then I hopped on Highway 152 west, going up into the Santa Cruz mountains. The terrain rapidly switched from agricultural valley with large, treeless mountains on either side, to deep wooded mountains. I arrived at Mount Madonna state park, which had a sign sugggesting it was over 10,000 feet high, and in which I walked along a gentle mountainside in a deep forest of redwoods:
I really enjoyed this park, which was very lightly touristed. I decided to drive on west. On my way out of the park, a captivating doe mule deer slowly walked off the roadway, as an RV driver drove by her without a glance.
I decided to head west, into Watsonville, on the other side of the mountain. I stopped by a fresh produce stand where raisins and potatoes were on sale. Then I got on the Pacific Coast Highway (which I always just called "the One"), which follows the west coast during the entire length of California. I thought at first I might drive north to Santa Cruz, and find the local fishing pier for a little afternoon fishing. I had been looking at www.pierfishing.com, a great resource for this endeavor. But I ran out of energy a few miles up the road, and turned in at Sunset State Beach.
The state park there had a scenic drive past flower farms and sand dunes to a beach. Here's what a small flower farm looked like:
I'm not sure what the red flowers above were, but they looked very impressive growing on a mountain just one hillside over from the Pacific Ocean.
The dunes on the way to the beach were stunning. But I spent more time near the water:
I watched men and women surf fish with huge rods suspended on poles with line extending in the vivid wave action. I watched a couple try to surf without notable success. I saw a boy digging sand holes in apparent preparation for sand castle construction.
I saw many folks just sitting on chairs, absorbing the sounds of the sea. Terns danced in the sand, while other seabirds floated just outside the breakers like white rubber ducklings.
On the way back to Morgan Hill, I stopped at a county park which told me of the Ohlone people, who lived here, 10,000 of them, with their own culture,when the Spanish came. By 1930, most of their culture had been lost to intermarriage and change. The park had petroglyphs carved in the rocks, little circles, whose meaning is forgotten.
I went to a restaurant called Curry House, where I was too late for the buffet, but had a nice tandoori chicken dinner anyway. One waitperson had imperfect English, so she responded to my inquiry about lemonade by bringing me a lemon on a plate. I dropped off my pictures for development, and went to Morgan Hill's old-fashioned downtown. I found kazoos at the musical instrument store, and bought six as prizes for my upcoming kazoo quad chess tournament. But across the street, at a store called Thinker Toys, they had the much nicer metal kazoos, so I bought five of those. The pricing of all kazoos was very inexpensive. I am now, as is usual for me, back in the state of oversupply of kazoo. It is a curious point of pride, but there you have it.
I stopped by a wonderful bookstore, where I bought a children's book on king and pawn chess endgames. I always get more out of "how to" books if they are written for 12 year olds.
Then I drove from Morgan Hill up a curving road past the huge Anderson Reservoir into the western mountains. The trees here were not thick redwood,but instead gnarled oaks and scraggly small trees barely removed from being chapparal. At roughly 10,000 feet, cows wandered on pasture amid the trees. At the top, above the clouds, after miles of one lane highway, I found myself at Coe State Park, a huge ranch above the clouds, donated to the state. The media here is all abuzz,because Governor Schwarzennegger has proposed to cut social services and education in order to avoid raising taxes to pay for California's massive deficit. I thought to myself that I hope that the gorgeous state parks I'd seen all day are kept in good repair and protected from others' depradations.
I fell asleep at 8 p.m., after drinking a chocolate milk shake in lieu of dinner from a place that said it was the "best milkshake in town". Now I'm up again. It was a grand day.