The Post of Many Firsts

As I go through my days I am often building the blog in my head, and as things happen the title of each blog post often changes.  This post started as “First Christmas in Monterey”, but that didn’t seem quite right because I doubt we will have another one here.  Never say never though!  We had experienced quite a bit of rain in our 10 days in Monterey and it was serious all day rain, so we were happy when Christmas Eve dawned clear.  We didn’t have much planned, just hanging out with Kay, but Lee was very excited to find out the local movie theater was playing “It’s A Wonderful Life” on one of their big screens.  It’s his favorite Christmas movie and Kay said she had never seen it (not sure how that happened) so I sent the two of them to the theater.  I stayed behind and pre-cooked my cheese potatoes and broccoli cheese casserole for tomorrow’s dinner.  One of the problems with the RV oven is it really only holds two things at once and that is pushing it.  My dinner called for three things being heated in the oven so I precooked what I could to make that work.  I also stuffed Kay’s stockings (had some fun at the Dollar General) and hid them in the bedroom of the camper.  Another downside of the camper is it’s tough to keep a secret in such a small place, it doesn’t have many hiding spaces.  We all went to bed early and then on one of my early morning wake-ups I snuck out and hung her stockings.  I filled up three stockings with all the dollar store stuff and she really liked the hat and toe socks in particular.

y004

She liked the bear

y005

Caught her sleeping

y006

Lee cooking breakfast

y010

Kay likes sour candy

y012

The toe socks were a big hit

Because Kay had an early flight back to Keene the day after Christmas, I made Christmas dinner at around two,  and by heating the ham first, then removing and covering it with foil and finishing the potatoes and broccoli cheese casserole (recipes below) we had a dinner similar to the ones I used to make for the kids in our sticks and bricks.  Plus the weather cooperated and it was a lovely day.  Kay had brought us some presents from Korea and I was very happy that she got us magnetic coasters…they do two things!!  Sadly, we had to say goodbye, but since she is going to be stationed in Maryland when she’s finished with her school, we know we will get to see her sooner than if she was going to Korea.  Plus she’s living her life now and doing a darn fine job of it so I didn’t feel too sad saying goodbye.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner, not bad for in an RV

We weren’t scheduled to leave until the 27th, so we spent the 26th as a catch-all day to try and squeeze in a few things that we missed due to rain.  We spent 10 days in Monterey, but the area is packed with things to do and we definitely could have stayed longer.  So the day after Christmas we drove around and did some things we had missed out on.  First we were off to Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, to try to find something for my Dad.  Many years ago Dad was in this area and didn’t buy a garlic keeper here.  Since it was close and my Dad never asks me for anything, we went to Gilroy to try to find one.  I would have titled this post “First Time In Gilroy”, but  the town was pretty run-down and I don’t really recommend it.  We saw most of it though on our garlic keeper hunt.  After going into 2 garlic specialty stores and a couple of antique stores we found this fun garlic keeper.  They are hand-made locally, by a retired high school teacher, and I hope this is what Dad was thinking of.  I think it’s cute though! And since Dad doesn’t read the blog I can post this picture of it.  Hope it survives the shipping!

Local, handmade garlic keeper

Local, handmade garlic keeper

After stopping for some Burger King (fuel meal) we went to Moss Landing which is this tiny town along the ocean that I do recommend stopping in.  It’s claim to fame is being the artichoke capital of the world and their were tons of artichoke and brussels sprouts farm.  Since they were harvesting brussel sprouts and that is one of Lee’s favorite vegetables, we stopped at a large farm stand called The Whole Enchilada Marketplace.  The place was much bigger than it looked and even had a cool sea themed bar in the middle of it.  Amazing selection and decent prices, and I picked up avocado flavored honey (yummy), radishes, brussels sprouts, oranges, and broccoli.  The place was packed and a little chaotic, but a lot of fun if you like a farmer’s market. 

The whole enchilada marketplace

The whole enchilada marketplace

y024

Bar, deli, and wine shoppe with a forty niners theme

y025

There were four rows as long as this

y026

I didn’t buy these but the broccoli flowers were cool

y027

Couldn’t pass up the broccoli at these prices

y028

They had these at the front counter…never seen that before!!

Next was Carmel-by-the-sea. This was in my top two things I wanted to do in the area and it did not disappoint.    First of all, what small town has a Tiffany’s, Coach, and Lush Cosmetics store?  And their beach was absolutely beautiful.  My favorite part though was the drive along the sea and seeing the small houses looking out over the ocean.  Unlike the huge houses on 17-mile drive, these are cottage size and I could totally picture myself living in one (if I ever win the lottery).  Many of them looked like little hobbit houses and we really enjoyed the drive along the water.  So I was thinking “First Time in Carmel” and since I enjoyed it so much, that title was definitely in the running.

y036

Good thing there were no parking spots 🙂

y040

Great beach and tons of people enjoying it

y052

The roofs on many of these little houses were so cool

y046

Great place to draw

y048

This is a state beach but the parking is limited. I would definitely go during the week

y041

Coastline near Carmel

y043

How would you like that view??

One of the many old Spanish Missons along 101, unfortunately we didn't have time for more than a quick pic

One of the many old Spanish Missons along 101, unfortunately we didn’t have time for more than a quick pic.  These acted as hostelries for travelers back when the Spanish owned California

Since we had time, Lee extended the drive and we drove down the PCH a bit to see the sunset. Many other people had the same idea and the roads were crowded, but there are tons of places to stop and see the sunset, so the view itself was not congested.  I decided I didn’t want to go down to the beach, so we sat up on the hill and I was so glad we did when I spotted my very first ever whale.  These new prescription sunglasses are turning me into a great wildlife spotter, and although the pics aren’t that great (too far out into the ocean) we saw several spouts and a couple crestings.  Quick tip, look for a tiny “tornado” of water and birds flying around it.  That’s the whale.

ywhale

This is the funnel… see the bird

ywhale2

Best shot I got can see a bit of the whale.  It was very far out, so I think it was a big one

Ok, now I was definitely going with “First Time Seeing A Whale”.  Even though the pics weren’t that great I was incredibly excited.  After the whales passed we sat and watched the sun set.  I will say the sunsets here aren’t as nice as they were in Tampa, but the ocean is wild and fun to watch in and of itself.

Walk down to our watching spot, we went right when the crowd went left

Walk down to our watching spot, we went right when the crowd went left

Lee walking through the vegetation

Lee walking through the vegetation

Beautiful rocks and surf

Beautiful rocks and surf

Had fun playing with the light and taking pictures

Had fun playing with the light and taking pictures

y168

y182

y197

The light was coming through the waves

y217

Lee shot a little bit of video and then decided to test out the time lapse feature on his phone….

After the sunset we headed back to the camper to start packing up for the next days departure.  We did hit quite a bit of traffic going back (it took close to an hour) but for the whale sighting it was worth it.  Oh and I finally got a picture of this pig crossing sign, which I have never seen anywhere but here.

ypigcrossing

We got home and I finished all of my pre-moving-day chores.  We have started buttoning up as much stuff as possible the night before which makes the morning go so much smoother.  I was sitting on the couch watching some TV when I started to feel a pain in my right upper chest.  I glanced down and saw a mole and started scratching it, but it just hurt even more and then I started to think all the things a near 50 year old thinks when they have a mole that hurts.  Lee walked in and I went into the bathroom for a better look and saw it was a tick!!!  I haven’t had a tick since I was a little kid and that sucker was burrowed in deep. Thankfully it wasn’t swollen yet, and Lee sprang into action and pulled it out with tweezers.  Wow it hurt.  Thankfully this is a non-fatty area of the body, which is why I felt it at all, but it did hurt more coming out.  And of course unlike when we were kids, now we know about Lyme disease, so I was googling ticks pretty quick.  I think it was a male specific to the Pacific region (did you know they are parasitical arachnids…gross), and I doused the spot with alcohol.  Of course afterwards  every little itch I felt was freaking me out, so I finally jumped in the shower.  Lyme disease isn’t usually transferred until the tick has been on you 36 hours, FYI, but I have the symptoms and am keeping an eye on it.  We are going to fulfill a lifetime dream of mine at the Rose Bowl parade next and no little tick is going to stand in my way.  Oh and the title, “First Adult Tick” didn’t seem like a good choice, so I finally decided on the title above.  We’ve got a very full schedule again next week, so I will be keeping up with the blog the best I can.  This writing starting at 3:30 am and is ending at 5:30am, because I start to forget things if I get too far behind.  Next up…all about the Rose Bowl HOP!!

RV Recipes

Connie’s Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

  • 32 oz frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 lb Velveeta Cheese
  • 2 tubes of Ritz Crackers
  • 2 sticks real butter
  1. Cook broccoli, drain, and pat dry.  The drier the better
  2. Put broccoli and cheese in a sauce pan and slowly melt the cheese.  Stirring together
  3. Place mixture in bottom of 9×13 casserole pan
  4. Melt butter in separate saucepan
  5. Crush Ritz Crackers in their sleeves then mix in with melted butter
  6. Spread cracker mixture on top of cheese and broccoli
  7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Do not over cook

y013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy’s Twice-Baked Cheese Potatoes

  • Potatoes
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 slice American Cheese per potato
  • Milk
  • Paprika
  1. Bake Potatoes until done in 400 degree oven
  2. Let cool enough that they are still warm but can be handled
  3. Using a sharp knife but in half longways
  4. Gently scoop out potato into a large mixing bowl
  5. Add one slice of cheese per potato, butter, and a little milk
  6. Blend until smooth, add more milk if needed
  7. Refill empty skins with mashed potato mix
  8. Sprinkle with Paprika
  9. Heat in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes until warm

y015

RV Park Reviews

Laguna Secaral Chappera Campground    Highway 68 Salinas, CA 1 out of 5 pinecones

 

We came off-season and the second road was closed forcing us to climb a sixteen % grade to get to the campsite.  The campsites were on a hill, very small, and very difficult to get into.  Although we were told the track would be quiet, we were on curve 5 and almost everyday there was a driving school happening with lots of screeching tires.  If you are a race fan, you might love it.  We did not.  There is also a gun range next door and the sound of guns happened most weekend mornings.   Hookups are electric and water only and the dump station is very difficult to get into. The sites themselves were not clean with numerous beer caps littered throughout.    The bathrooms were  clean and the staff was very helpful, but we would never stay here again.  We would like to thank the work kamper who let us exit via the closed road to avoid a sixteen percent grade on the way down, it was the only bright spot in our visit.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

First Time at Hearst Castle

Over 15 years ago Lee got to visit Hearst Castle while he was on a work trip and he has wanted to take me there ever since.  So we knew that Hearst was a must do when we were in Monterey and thankfully we had it scheduled on one of the two sunny days we have had here.  Slushie and Nick wanted to come because they have never been either, but unfortunately Kay wasn’t feeling that well so she decided to stay home and study.  The program here is so intense they do expect they will study on their break, or Exodus as it is called, and since Kay leaves for Keene on Dec 26th she is trying to squeeze in all the studying she can.  Very impressed but where was this kid through high school 🙂  So Lee and I drove down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to Hearst.  The drive in and of itself was beautiful and at one point we stopped and took some pictures of the Bixby bridge.

Y003

And we got to stop at Seal Beach and see Elephant Seals less than 10 yards away!!  Really cool.  They have built a long pier along the beach to allow for  watching without bothering the seals.

So many elephant seals!

So many elephant seals!

Cute babies

Cute babies

The scratching was amazing. The flipper is almost like a hand.

The scratching was amazing. The flipper is almost like a hand.

They were making the most amazing noises

They were making the most amazing noises

Y052

Y084

We arrived at the Castle Visitors center soon after and met Nick and Slushie.  We had bought three separate tours and spaced them out for a break in between.  Unfortunately the bus ride to or from the castle is a full 15 minutes so the schedule was going to be pretty tight.  Since there is no eating or smoking at the castle we were hoping we scheduled a long enough break for lunch.  It also turned out that Christmas is the busiest week of the year so most of the tours were full.  This kept the tours a little brisker than we would have liked and Lee’s biggest complaint was not enough time to take pictures.  That being said, we took over 400 between the two cameras and I have included some of my favorites below.  It was really a neat place and I highly recommend all the tours.  I thought the $25 each was a fair price for what we got to see. The first tour we took was the main rooms which included some of the gardens (you can walk these freely between tours) and the inside pool which was my very favorite room.  We had people on the tour from numerous continents, which was cool, and even though it had 45 people on it, folks were very well-behaved.

Visitors center was super nice

Visitors center was super nice

The nicest smoking area I've seen in awhile :)

The nicest smoking area I’ve seen in awhile 🙂

Why he built on the hill

Why he built on the hill

View from the tour bus

View from the tour bus

The Jupitor pool is actually leaking from the bottom and it will take four years to finish restoring it

The Neptune pool is actually leaking from the bottom and it will take four years to finish restoring it

View from the terrace of the bay

View from the terrace of the bay

The guest house...not kidding

The guest house…not kidding

The main house!

The main house!

Front Door

Front Door

Y176

Closeup of one of the statues on the side of the door

Nick and Slushie taking a picture of the front door. Aren't they cute!!

Nick and Slushie taking a selfie. Aren’t they cute!!

Y183

The third floor had his office and was added on later. The roof is hand carved teak with the animals he had in his zoo

This statue was from Egypt and over 2,000 years old. It was carved with rocks. Unbelievable

This statue was from Egypt and over 2,000 years old. It was carved with rocks. Unbelievable

Despite it being winter the gardens had some life

Despite it being winter the gardens had some life

Pond in front of the main door

Pond in front of the main door

My absolute favorite statue. So beautiful

My absolute favorite statue. So beautiful

Fireplace in the main room. All the mantles are very old

Fireplace in the main room. All the mantles are very old

14th century choir pews from an Italian Church

14th century choir pews from an Italian Church

Medieval tapestries everywhere

Medieval tapestries everywhere

Several Russian icons. The detail was beautiful

Several Russian icons. The detail was beautiful

Every door and doorway was is an antiqe

Every door and doorway is an antiqe

He collected old ceilings and every one in the house was taken from another house somewhere

He collected old ceilings and every one in the house was taken from another house somewhere

This old choir book was actually used to sing carols

This old choir book was actually used to sing carols

Hearst saw his house as a living museum, but he also wanted it to have the feel of a ranch.  People lived in it and visited it, so despite the priceless works of art it was livable.  For example in the dining room he had ketchup and mustard on the main table, and many of the famous celebrities who visited commented that they felt at home despite the grandeur.  They did complain about the lack of alcohol though. Hearst strictly controlled the hard liquor and wine, but made beer freely available and if you got too drunk in his house you were asked to leave and never invited back.

Dining room table

Dining room table

Beautiful tapestry in the dining room

Beautiful tapestry in the dining room

Billards room

Billards room

The theater was Slushie's favorite

The theater was Slushie’s favorite

Y221

Pretty fancy light fixtures. Life sized statues

The pool was so amazing. Marble stairs going into the pool and alcoves. Loved it!

The Roman indoor pool was so amazing. Marble stairs going into the pool and alcoves. Loved it!

The designs were made up of 1" tile

The designs were made up of 1″ tile

After the first tour we rushed down and grabbed a quick-lunch.  $7.50 for a piece of pizza, yikes, and worse we only had 30 minutes to eat, go to the bathroom, and in our case smoke, then back up to the house for the 2nd tour of the upstairs. This one had a much smaller crowd and since I like antique beds I was thrilled that every single room had an amazing one in it.  Plus more ceilings, doors, and of course the art.  The best room was an open air circular bedroom that was often used as a honeymoon suite.  It was directly under one set of bells, but Heart’s amazing female architect (quite revolutionary for the time) designed it so that the bell sound was muffled.  The bells only ring once a day now and we timed it perfectly and got to hear them before our first tour. Oh and I should probably mention that Hearst and his wife separated (she stayed in New York with the five boys) and he lived with his mistress the famous actress Marion Davies.  Consequently all of the famous actors of the time came and visited her and Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, and many others often walked its halls.  Marion definitely ran the house and Hearst (who was a bit of a recluse) stayed on the third floor occasionally coming down to visit.  My major complaint about the tours was they focused way more on the famous people’s antics than the architecture and furniture, but I suppose the audience is driving that.

This bed was an Italian wedding bed with the initials of the couple carved into the headboard

This bed was an Italian wedding bed with the initials of the couple carved into the headboard

My favorite door and doorframe

My favorite door and door frame

Even the lamps were works of art

Even the lamps were works of art

The library where lots of people hung out and played games

The library where lots of people hung out and played games

The ceiling in one of the common rooms

The ceiling in one of the common rooms

The paneling in his room was beautiful

The paneling in his room was beautiful

My favorite lamp

My favorite lamp was in his room

He was a newspaper mogul and had these papers outside of his bedroom. He said he couldn't sleep until his "babies" were ready for print

He was a newspaper mogul and had these papers outside of his bedroom. He said he couldn’t sleep until his “babies” were ready for print

MArion Davies bed

Marion Davies bed

Another one of my favorite statues

Another one of my favorite statues

He also built these cool loft bedrooms that were really neat

He also built these cool loft bedrooms that were really neat

The bottom view of the loft bedroom

The bottom view of the loft bedroom.  Absolutely no eating in the rooms was allowed.

The outside view of the circular honeymoon room

The outside view of the circular honeymoon room

This cupid was facing the room and his bow was drawn towards it which is a nice tough

This cupid was facing the room and his bow was drawn towards it which is a nice touch

Amazing bed

Amazing bed

Lee noticed this old statue looked a ton like Sylvester Stalone!

Lee noticed this old statue looked like Sylvester Stalone!

Since the bus ride down and back took so long, we decided to stay up top and explore the gardens in between the final tour.  We tried to get an earlier tour but it was full, so just wandered a bit and enjoyed the views.  Our final tour cottages and kitchens had the least things interesting things to look at but had the best tour guide.  She focused on the architecture more and I thought she did an excellent job.  If you can’t afford all three, this is the one to skip, but I thought it was definitely worth doing.  One interesting thing is the ornate ceilings, door frames, and furniture were a little overwhelming in the smaller houses.  Small is relative though they still were mini-mansions.  I felt like I could live comfortably in the big house, but Nick and I both thought the furnishings in the smaller house environments were a bit oppressive.  The kitchens were very cool though.  State of the art for its time and the bathrooms as well were way ahead of their time with some of the showers having as many as seven shower heads.

The Graces statue is outside one of the guest houses

The Three Graces statue is outside one of the guest houses

Front door of a guest house

Front door of a guest house

 

Many of the guest houses had old persian tile peices of artwork near the doors

Many of the guest houses had old Persian tile pieces of artwork near the doors

The three guest houses were named for their views. This was the Sun House

The three guest houses were named for their views. This was the Sun House

This ceiling had cherubs that looked down on you. Kind of creepy :)

This ceiling had cherubs that looked down on you. Kind of creepy 🙂

Loved, loved this bed which belonged to a bishop

Loved, loved this bed which belonged to a bishop

This level of ornateness on the walls just didn't work in the smaller space

This level of ornateness on the walls just didn’t work in the smaller space

Awesome tub!!

Awesome tub!!

Modern Shower

Modern Shower

One of my favorite peices in all the houses was this altar cloth. The picture does not do it's beauty justice

One of my favorite pieces in all the houses was this altar cloth. The picture does not do its beauty justice

Kitchen faucets were cool

Kitchen faucets were cool

Part of the kitchen

Part of the kitchen

Cooking area. He had a male asian chef

Cooking area. He had a male asian chef

This beer refrigerator had kegs going all the time as Mr. Hearst was a beer drinker

This beer refrigerator had kegs going all the time as Mr. Hearst was a beer drinker

The wine cellar was huge and in a vault. When the house was donated the State could not accept the alcohol as a gift so many of the bottles of wine turned to vinegar. The bottles they kept

The wine cellar was huge and in a vault. When the house was donated the State could not accept the alcohol as a gift so many of the bottles of wine turned to vinegar. The bottles they kept

Tennis courts where Wimbledon winners would come to play

Tennis courts where Wimbledon winners would come to play were amazing.  They were surrounded by spot lights for night play

I definitely recommend the visit, but also recommend a long lunch break between tours and packing a lunch to eat in your car.  $75 was a reasonable price for a days entertainment, but the $33 for lunch was a bit much for what we got.  Afterwards we decided to go to dinner before the long ride home and Nick and Slushie found a four-star restaurant nearby on Yelp called Centrally Grown.   Usually Yelp is pretty accurate, but we definitely hit this restaurant on the wrong night.  Their computer system was down, they were short on staff, and terribly busy.  The food was good, when it finally arrived, but the rest of the experience was pretty rough. To sum it up when we went to the bar to pay (after waiting 10 minutes for the check) our waitress said, “So who waited on you?”  Our response “you did,’ sort of sums it up.  But the company was great and we really enjoyed our double date with Nick and Slushie.  So happy we got to spend the day with them and check an item off Lee’s long-time bucket list.

Seriously...California!!

Seriously…California!!

 

Nick and Slushie at dinner

Nick and Slushie at dinner

 

Charcutierie on the menu Cori!!

Charcutierie on the menu Cori!!

 

The plate was lame but the honey was seriouslt the best I have ever tasted

Cori’s charcuterie is better but the honey was seriously the best I have ever tasted.  Cori you need to start adding honey to your plates!!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here