It was a rough travel day, more so because we are a bit out of practice. Lee prepared everything on the outside except for the outside chairs, electric, and water the night before, which was a good thing because it was sprinkling when we left. We got up and got out the door by 7:15 and looked forward to getting to Monterey well before dark. We had filled the truck up with diesel before leaving but knew we would have to gas up once along the way. Unfortunately there are no “name brand” truck stops between the Redwoods and Monterey so we were at the mercy of the independents. The independent truck stops are very hit-and-miss but trying to find a regular station that sells diesel, has a high enough clearance on the island roof, and has a clear path in and out is even worse. I use the AllStays app to find the truck stops, but even those are not 100% accurate as this story will show. Instead of routing over the Golden Gate Bridge (which would cost $20 or more in tolls) we took the outer route through Oakland, but unfortunately there were only three independents in the entire city listed in the app. I picked the first one because we were down to about 60 miles of fuel left at this point and since it was near the shipping area I felt pretty hopeful. I was so wrong. It was on the corner of two one way streets so we had to make a complete circle to get in it and then it was only two pumps. Crazy, and the homeless people living in tents right around the corner didn’t make us feel any better. By this time it was 12:30 and we were supposed to have lunch, but no way were we staying there, not that there was room anyway. Back to Allstays and IExit to see if any rest areas nearby…nope. So I found a Walmart and sattelite viewed it to see if we could get in. We did pull in and the place was completely packed…luckily there was one spot left that was big enough for us. By this time it was 1:15pm and we were both hungry and stressed. I would love to say we took the high ground and everything was fine, but there was some raised voices. I am not even sure who started it, but I will say Lee gets all the credit for ending it. Since he was the one who was doing all the driving I give him huge credit for that. I tried to switch with him a couple of times, but there was absolutely no good place to pull over and it’s good that I didn’t because there was a VERY twisty turny piece of road with a very steep grade right before Monterey. Reccomended speeds for trucks was 25 mph at one point and that is no fun at the end of a long day. Oh, and I forgot to mention that a huge section of 101 was closed d0wn and we had to take a residential route to bypass. That piece of the driving was actually very pretty but it added an hour to the trip, which is why we hadn’t had lunch at 12:30pm. The one rest area we could have used was of course in the closed down section so the Walmart parking lot had to suffice.
When we hit the Monterey area I started to get excited. Our youngest daughter Kay, who we haven’t seen since October of last year, is here and the area looks beautiful. Farms, oceans, hills, very cool. Couldn’t wait to get to the county park we were staying at, the Laguna Seca Recreation Area. The first clue that it wasn’t a winner was the 3/4 mile of 16% grade to get up to the campground itself. That is not a typo. Sixteen percent. Well we had prepaid, we were tired, and no one was at the ranger shack so we started up the hill. Getting up was OK (not looking forward to getting down) but the campsites are just ridiculous. They are stacked on a terraced hill, and are all incredibly hard to get in and out of. Very narrow roadway, with vicious looking curbs. We have a pull through site that wasn’t that bad comparatively, and for that we have a lovely view of the empty racetrack and the access road next to it. Well, they can’t all be million dollar views, but the dump station is not easy to access (thank heaven for the Blue Boy) and with only electric and water we will need to get back into water conservation mode. Also, while we were setting up, Lee saw and heard a man screaming at his wife at the dump station, “How many times have I told you…” and came inside and apologized again for the earlier argument. No problem, it was as much me as him, but I did use the opportunity to say if we ever get like that we are done with this. Oh, and did I mention that the supposedly closed-for-the-season racetrack (per the person Lee talked to when he booked the reservation) actually has a racing school scheduled almost every day this week? And on the days the driving school isn’t operating, the track is rented by racing clubs. The noise factor is not too bad, but the constant sound of cars going around the track is not putting me in the Christmas mood!
Thankfully, we don’t plan on being here much…Kay is on break from her Air Force school, so lots to see and do with her, but with all this beautiful country around us it’s kind of a bummer that this is where we are staying. The true irony is that one of the few other places to stay within a reasonable driving distance to her school was next door to the Monterey Jetport. We didn’t want to deal with all that noise after our train track experience in Glacier. So instead, race cars! Kay wanted to bring her boyfriend over the evening we arrived, so he could see the RV and although normally I would have passed since he was leaving to go home for his break the next morning, we said OK. I did a quick clean of the RV so it would be presentable. Finally got to hang my stockings up (we got one for her) and of course I am very excited about spending Christmas with my baby girl. After we got in and set up she came out and visited with her boyfriend Jake, who had not seen the camper yet. To teach her a little bit about RV etiquette I asked her to bring dinner, the traveler doesn’t cook on travel day, and she brought some yummy Chipotle which brightened our mood. Plus we really like Jake. He is a great young man who we enjoyed getting to know a little better, although I sent them back to the base around 9pm because I was pooped out.
Jake left the next morning to go visit his family in upstate New York, and Kay took us on a tour of The Presidio at Monterey Defense Language Institute. It was the perfect day to go, because although many of the students were gone, some were still there and the teachers were still working although no class was in session. Since the base is on a hill the climbs were pretty steep, but their views of the bay are amazing. And these are all incredibly physically fit young people, so the three miles a day Kay walks around base is no big deal to her. I was very limited in the pictures I could take because of security concerns, but we visited her dorm (could only see from the outside), her classroom (got to meet a couple of her teachers), the rec center (very cool), the gym (amazing workout equipment plus a full gym and track), the PX (on base store) and the chow hall. For $11 we both got cafeteria style meals, which weren’t that bad, and sat with many of the students and teachers. It was an amazing day with picture perfect weather, and I am so glad we got to experience it. Unlike a regular college, you can’t just pop in whenever, so it took some careful planning on our part to be here during her break. I was an incredibly proud mom and it was wonderful seeing the extraordinary young woman she is becoming.
I loved meeting her teachers , who said she was smart, fashionable, and her handwriting was the best in the school. All the teachers are native Korean speakers and I loved watching them converse with Kay in Korean. Culturally they are very strict when it comes to education and Kay says they rarely give out compliments. I pointed out that no one said she was hard working to which she responded the best student in their class is told she isn’t working hard enough. I think I may have been a Korean mom in another life! The class sizes are very small; 4-8 students each, and the classrooms are more like conference rooms. The teachers work in groups of 4 and rotate throughout the day, but the kids are in school for 6-7 hours per day. The language program is extremely intense, even more so because if you fail the tests you get “recycled” back to the beginning, separated from the military, or put on mandatory restrictions. Kay and the rest often study until 10pm at night and through the weekend and there isn’t much relaxation time. That’s why I was so impressed with the rec center. It has soundproof studio rooms where students who play music can play musical instruments, which is amazing. Each of the three studios already a piano, a keyboard, and a complete drum set. Other instruments are available for kids to rent for a very small fee. There are several gaming areas with big TV’s and leather chairs, two small movie theaters where you can rent a DVD and watch a movie on a big screen, pool tables, and a cafe. Really, really nice, and 100% funded by non-profit military support groups.
After eating at the chow hall, we went to where most of the families live, which is a different military area, away from the school, and went to the commissary. Basically it’s a huge grocery store and the prices were just amazing. Overall the PX prices have been so-so, but the prices on most goods in the commissary beat the heck out of any Walmart prices I have ever seen. Lee laughed and asked me if I was going to leave him for someone who was active military and I said for those prices I am seriously considering it!! Almost everything was at least half the price we see in regular stores, and the products were exactly the same brands. Then because the weather was so beautiful we went on the 17-mile drive. It was an interesting piece of the Monterey coast which has protected wild life areas surrounded by world class golf courses (including Pebble Beach) and huge mansions. Although it was beautiful, the $10 entrance fee and all the private property signs kind of put me off. It’s worth seeing at least once, but it’s not a place I would hang out.
It was a really great day and then we topped it off by collapsing in the living room after dropped Kay off back at the school, and watching the Survivor finale (which was a really good one). Lots to do here and we only have a week, so I expect we will be super busy.
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