Theme song - "Down in Monterey", by Eric Burdon & the Animals
We left The Toilet early and drove due west. We passed through California's green belt around San Jose, passing Castroville - "The Asparagus Capital of The World" and Gilroy - "The Garlic Capital of The World." The rich, fertile country of this region produces most of California's produce and helps make the state the richest and most productive in the country. As we left the sun blessed, rolling fields of Castroville and entered the coastal plain the weather changed dramatically. A semi-permanent sea fog cast a grey pall over the countryside. The fog is a natural effect caused by the collision of cold air from the sea and warm air from inland. The fog then gets trapped in the low valleys of the coast. The same effects can be seen in San Francisco, which is perpetually covered in fog and Los Angeles, which is perpetually covered in smog.
We arrived first in Carmel-by-the-sea, the exclusive seaside town that Clint Eastwood was once mayor of. Carmel is a very rich and exclusive enclave, filled with high priced shops, boutiques and art galleries. The rich set and their pampered poodles wander the streets in dark shades. We didn't stick around long but drove out the nearby Spanish Mission. The Mission San Carlos is one of the oldest buildings in California, built as a mission station in the 1770s when California was part of Mexico (or more technically speaking - part of the Spanish Empire). It fell into ruin in the 1800s but was restored in the late 19th and early 20th century.
We drove along the 17 Mile scenic drive between Carmel and Monterey. The 17 Mile drive is a toll road - quite expensive at $10 a car - and allows you to drive a long, twisting route among the mansions and golf courses of the super rich elite. It takes in some truly stunning scenery but does require the driver to stay alert as the road is very winding. We were shocked at one point to see a huge stag (male deer) standing on a golf course. We pulled over to take a photo but after watching him for about 5 minutes we though he can't be real, he's standing too still - in the middle of a driving range no less. But no, he was real. There were lots of deer wandering around in fact.
Down by the beach was seal island - covered in seals no less. It was amazing how much noise they made even though they were a mile off shore. The beach was covered in seaweed, including the stems of the giant kelp which grows in these waters. Some of the broken stems were as thick as my arm and over seven or eight feet in length.
We arrived in Monterey about 2pm. By good fortune there was a hot rod show that weekend and the parking lot by Fishermen's Wharf was fast filling up with machines. We wandered around and had a chat to a few people before moving off to Fisherman's Wharf.
Monetery was once the hub of the sardine fishing industry but exhaustion of the fishing stocks led to the collapse of the industry in the 1980s. The old wharves and cannery are now a tourist hub with shops, bars and restaurants.
Monterey is now also host to a world famous jazz and music festival. We wandered around shops, had a mediocre dinner and I bought a new hat to replace my battered up trilby.
Then we hit the road again, turning north. We drove through the night and stopped at a motel in Gilroy.
California has several metropoli - Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco come immediately to mind. But it's the little city of Sacramento that is California's state capital. Gold was discovered in northern California in 1848 and there was a stampede of immigrants to the goldfields. Most people arrived by ship in San Francisco and then made their way east up the Sacramento River towards the goldfields. The city of Sacramento was founded where the river split into three. The city rapidly expanded and became extremely wealthly.
Sacramento's old riverside port preserves many gold rush era buildings; once again this area had fallen on hard times and become a slum, preserving it from the developers.
It now houses some impressive museums, including the very impressive California Railway Museum. A dozen old steam trains are on display. Retired railway staff and enthusiasts are on hand in some of the carriages to explain things, such as how the rail post office worked. It was all very interesting - even for Shelly.
After a couple of hours wandering the dusty streets of Old Sacramento we hit the road again. We had a rendevous with friends in Lake Tahoe.