Looking Back


Total Miles Driven: 3023
Sites Visited: Fisherman’s Wharf, Castro District, Winchester Mystery House, The Mystery Spot, Flag Is Up Farms, Reagan Museum and Library,State Street in Santa Barbara, the Mission in Santa Barbara (where I changed my pants in the parking lot and Janie kept lookout).
Cities/Towns Visited: San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Solvang/Buellton, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Simi Valley, Crescent City
Number of Times I Cried: One
Most Often Eaten Snack: Potato Chips
Number of Times I (Accidentally) Honked the Car Horn At Unsuspecting Strangers: About 7

We left San Jose early enough to be the first customer at Goodyear, to have our tire repaired. After about twenty minutes of unknowingly sitting in the middle of an ant army, we got our keys and headed for the Winchester Mystery House. The mansion was built by the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the gun guy. She was told by a psychic that the tragedy of her husband and daughter dying was due to the thousands of lives taken by the Winchester rifle and in order to appease the spirits she needed to build a house and never stop construction. So she did and the Winchester Mystery House is the very place she had constructed over 38 years – using no blueprints or plans. Each day she held a seance and told the foreman to build exactly what the ghosts asked her to. There are doors that open to an 8 foot drop, stairs that go up to the ceiling, other doors that open to walls and windows to spy on her servants. She was also a technological fiend – with a hydraulic elevator, radiant floor heating, indoor plumbing with heated water and gas lights that worked at the push of a button. The tour guide was friendly and, I think, knowledgeable. I think so because his east coast accent was so thick that I could only understand every other thing he said.

After the tour we headed for Santa Cruz and The Mystery Spot. I happened upon this hokey little destination online several months before our trip and thought it would be a fun thing to check out. I don’t know what goes on in this place, and many say it’s some sort of trick or optical illusion. I can under stand that, because they build a slanted shack “to exaggerate” the effects of the spot. What’s so nutty is the feeling from within the spot, like you’re being sucked into the ground and becoming dizzy and nauseous. The pendulum that hangs at a slant goes counterclockwise and balls on slanted planks roll upwards. If it’s just an illusion, I’d say it’s a good one. And I certainly didn’t feel like we wasted our $5.00 on this side trip.

Mystery Spot

Our plan was to drive from Santa Cruz to camp at Lopez Lake. On the way we stopped at Target for an air mattress to camp in style and then drove to Atascadero to say hi to Janie’s friend and her daughter (where madness ensued) before continuing on our way. We made the drive to Lopez Lake which ended up as a complete disaster. Seeing as how I have a lot of feelings (more than you know, people! MORE. THAN. YOU. KNOW.) I cried. While I was crying about this incident, I was thinking to myself, “You’re thirty years old and you’re crying because you can’t go camping!? Janie will divorce you and the judge will give her everything because you CRIED WHEN YOU COULDN’T SLEEP IN A TENT, ON THE GROUND, WITH TARANTULAS AND VICIOUS DEER EATING YOUR EYES OUT.” Later, my badass sister looked online and found us a hotel in Pismo Beach and I calmed down considerably and had sushi for dinner. We slept on a king size bed in a room with a view of the ocean and a hot shower. When there was a moth flying around, the bell boy (bell man?) caught it and ran down the hall to get rid of it for us. At the beach on our last day there, I helped some young ladies from a church group take a group photo and they blessed me in the name of Jesus and all his glory. So suck it, camping.


Bathed in God's light

Pismo Beach is excellent, but never trust the fella at the front desk of The Cliffs Hotel when he gives you directions to Old Juans Cantina, because you’ll never get there and maybe you’ll spend two hours driving from town to town looking for a place to have a gluten-free meal until you give up and head to the same sushi restaurant you ate at the night before which, by the way, was delicious.

After Pismo Beach we headed further south to Solvang/Buellton where we stayed for several nights. While there we visited Flag Is Up Farms, home to Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer. We spent several quiet hours slowly wandering to the pastures (no one else was there – not even a staff person except that one guy in the barn watching us with binoculars), watching and petting the many horses. I’m a little freaked out by their size, but found most of them to be gentle, soft and quite sweet.

Say cheese!


Next we were off to Santa Barbara for some shopping, but not before an afternoon trip to Simi Valley for an exciting adventure at the Ronald Reagan presidential Library and Museum. We were there on a mission to purchase a birthday gift for my brother-in-law who believes Reagan to have been the best president the US has ever seen. Yeah, I know. We bought a Reagan bust and took the museum tour, which was actually somewhat interesting. They had a lot of artifacts from his life in and out of politics, including the x-ray of when he was shot and an early version (Boeing 707) of Air Force One. We were there at the same time as some old guy being filmed as he walked in and around Air Force One behind us. So if you see this old guy, of whom we have no pictures because Janie made me hurry after she insulted the volunteer on the plane by laughing about something unrelated while she was talking to us and mistook the laughter as laughter towards her and responded, “Did I say somethign funny?” in a tone that immediately made us feel as if we were in big trouble, like that time I grabbed Babe, the Blue Ox’s balls at the Trees of Mystery, in a video somewhere you’ll see us in the background, fleeing in shame. Outside the museum we were informed by some small signs that it was the proper habitat for rattlesnakes, thought we didn’t see any, which is probably for the best. Because if we saw one, I’d have needed a picture of it, and I’d have to get kind of close, and it would bite me, and Janie would laugh, and no one would help because why would Republicans help the gays? and I’d die and have to spend eternity haunting the Reagan Library and Museum.

Janie's New Boyfriend


Later, we visited Janie’s good friend in Atascadero and celebrated Janie’s 30th birthday. I made a gluten-free cake with Janie’s friend’s daughter which involved her making a cake and me checking my email and eating M&Ms. Janie got a PSP with some games and a device that allows her to play her iPod through the car stereo.

After that visit we headed up north to Crescent City for our last night in California. On the way we ran into a herd of elk on the side of the road. There were mothers and babies and one fella with giant horns at the back, squealing and moo-ing them along. Apparently elk don’t like Snoop Dogg, because the one with the horns started looking agitated and a lady parked behind us on the side of the highway walked by and motioned for us to turn off our phat beats. I told Janie that the one with the horns was a total baller, and if anyone would appreciate the rap music, it would be a baller like that. I snapped a few photos and sped off, blasting Notorious B.I.G. for the illest baller in Crescent City. Because he loves it when you call him Big Poppa.


Just before we reached the hotel, we stopped at the beach to watch the sun set over the ocean. The waves were huge and the horizon was the prettiest I’ve ever seen it. It was the last day of summer and our last day in California. This was a perfect ending.




  1. LizzieLou
    September 29, 2007

    I love all your photos, here and at flickr. This is some damn fine photography, lady. I had many thoughts and feelings upon seeing them including:

    1. I am glad that my teeth do not resemble Horse Teeth as much as I previously had thought.


    2. I am a little disappointed that there are no pictures of you grabbing Reagan’s balls.

  2. heathen
    September 30, 2007

    1) they look like smoker’s teeth to me.

    2) if only we’d have more time alone with the statues. Those older female Republican volunteers are serious about guarding Reagan’s balls.

  3. Robin O
    October 6, 2007

    This is a beautiful synopsis of what must have been a beautiful journey. I laughed, I cried, I longed for popcorn. Well . . . not SO much on the crying front, but I totally felt that poignancy and melodrama! Bravo!

    However, while I felt like you had me right there in your literary pocket with most of your excellent descriptive prose punctuated with illuminative photography . . . I cannot emphasize with tears shed because one became unable to sleep right upon dirt. To me, a profound lack of interest in soil-intensive slumber is why I labor to pay my mortgage each month. I know, I KNOW, some might try to revoke a few punches on my dyke card because of that. Well, that and the lack of interest in softball and finding hummus just NOT the best topping EVAH. Oh . . . well.

    “We slept on a king size bed in a room with a view of the ocean and a hot shower.” And before that, you had sushi. And at least periodically there was even a man designated to catch and dispose of your moths for you . . . but then he went away so you could . . . ???

    Suck it, camping. Suck it camping, INDEED!!!

    Horses and older female Republican volunteers are both not my favorite sort of creatures, but you sound as if you acquitted yourself quite admirably during both situations. I’d avoid sneaking up on either from behind without full body armor. Either might suddenly kick you and break a rib. So unpredictably violent, both can be!

    According to Top Chef, elk meat is like beef but lower in fat. I never ate an elk, insofar as I was paying attention (occasionally that’s been questionable). I’ve not found cows to have definite musical preferences, but if you find that elk do, I think I’ll continue to avoid munching on them. Don’t think of rap music fans as desirable snack foods. I’m just sayin’.


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