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    Monterey '00

    Nov 4th, '00
    I really didn't like Monterey. People have raved about it so much, but I really don't think I had any expectations. I mainly went up just for the aquarium anyway.

    But early on Sunday I developed such a distaste for the place that all I wanted to do was flee. For me Monterey has very bad karma. The place makes my skin crawl. It doesn't like me.

    I don't really feel like spending a lot of time explaining "karma" right now. It's one of those metaphysical things that just gets silly if you try to put it into words. But I've always felt like I interact with the karma of a place as much as I do it's people and amenities. Missoula has good karma for Jon. Bakersfield has bad karma for Jon.

    And no, Jon is not looney. Or maybe I am...... But that's not the point. Stop changing the subject.

    So..... The aquarium was incredible. I am all about aquariums and I was seriously impressed with the one they have in Monterey. I actually tried to go again the second day, but the line to get in was stretching around the block.

    Well... Anyway. Here's how it all came down:

    So I'm pulling into work Friday and I feel like I need... something.... I know! I could drive up to Monterey tonight! Of course it's a 9 hour drive, but so what? I need a freakin' road trip. So I spend my lunch break trying to find motel accommodations on zero notice. I wanted to get something for Friday night around Pismo Beach but the best I could do was Ventura. Great. No problem. I'm outa here!

    I get off work, pack everything in a mad frenzy, pop into Barnes & Noble for a map and a tour guide, and hit the road. Woohoo!

    Traffic was good and the cruise through LA wasn't too bad, but by the time I pulled into the Motel I was seriously burned out. Of course they had lost my reservation. Great. The only motel room I could find in a 50 mile radius. By some miracle they actually still had rooms available. What? No problem. I'll take it.

    I got up the next day, grabbed some food at Denny's (why the hell do I do that?), and hit the road.

    I decided to pull off the highway and take a little cruise through Santa Barbara. No non-beautiful people allowed in Santa Barbara. The first time I was there several years ago I was blown away after seeing several people scrubbing the curbs by hand. No dirty things allowed in Santa Barbara. That's okay I guess. It's just a little weird. Don't ya think?

    So here I am wanting to capture some of the great scenery but not wanting to lose time by pulling over to take a picture. If you want to see blurry pictures of me careening about the countryside while juggling the camera, I have plenty of those. Of course the trick is to stay on the road, hold the camera steady, and frame the shot all at the same time. Damn I'm good.

    I couldn't resist pulling into this little turnout to spend some time by the ocean. I was hoping that I'd be able to spot some cool stuff in the tide pools but there wasn't much. Just some hermit type crabs. The ocean smelled great though. Wow. Just what I needed.

    After I got back into the car to head out someone pulled up and ask if I knew where the beach was that had all the sea lions. [shrug] Beats me. Then I drive about 300 yards and see about 50 sea lions lying out on the sand. Of course I'm behind schedule at this point and I can't really stop. Oh well.

    After driving along the coast for hours I started to get paranoid about the weather. It was so perfect and I figured I'd feel like a real retard if it was all cloudy the next day on the drive back. But I was seriously eager to get up to Monterey and spend lots of time at the aquarium. So I decided to pull over and get a few more shots while I had the chance.

    I usually don't waste a lot of time trying to make the pictures look all "arty." I just wander around and take pictures of everything that looks cool. Since the Sony stores on floppies I can afford to take hundreds of pictures and then just grab the good ones later. But I couldn't resist taking a photo of the coast seen through the dill and willows here.

    And here's the "Jon-mobile." It was a 9 hour drive from Monterey to San Diego and the Honda handled it pretty well. I guess a 50 disc CD changer would be nice. And the gratuitous lack of an adequate cup holder is disappointing. But the car is growing on me. Now I just need to find a better use for the back seat. (hint... hint...)

    Here's one of those shots where the camera just can't capture the real beauty. The sun is bright over head, I'm blasting Marcy Playground on the stereo, and then I come around the corner and see this great stretch of beach with the fog pouring off the hills and reaching out into the incredibly blue ocean. Wow. And then I get out to take some photos and a blast of wind carries the strong sea smell up to me. Wow.

    The drive along the coast was a blast. For most of it I was stuck behind traffic, but I did get to open it up a few times. I didn't really get crazy this time. Just having some fun.

    I finally pulled into Monterey about 2:30. Ouch. I'd wanted to get there about noon. The first thing I noticed at the aquarium was that there was no parking. None. What? Here's a tip, they have some parking garages a couple blocks east of the aquarium entrance.

    Here's the aquarium from the outside. I actually took these as I was leaving which is why it's so dark out. They've done a very good job of integrating the aquarium into the old cannery.

    The far side of the place has a big terrace that hangs out over the ocean. Very nice. I really wish I'd gotten there earlier so I could have spent more time wandering around the place. I imagine it had lots of little nooks and crannies where you weren't suppose to go.

    Here's the lobby of the aquarium. Do yourself a favor and grab a map at the info desk. This place is like a big maze. I left actually wondering if I'd seen everything. And you'll want to find out when the feeding is at the big kept tank too.

    They had lots of life size models hanging from the ceiling. That was pretty cool. You could also see the old cannery duct work up on the ceiling. I don't know if all that is from the original building, but it would be tough to recreate all that. Or maybe not.

    I love aquariums. Ever since I was a little kid they've been my favorite place to go. And they all have big round tanks with fish swimming around in circles. But this one was the best I think.

    All of the architecture was so well done. I wanted to stay and stare at things, but there was always something in the next section that would draw me along.

    Here's a close up of one of the jellyfish. I love the way these things move. But all that weird stuff trailing behind them is even more interesting. I guess it's like all their guts are hanging out. Gross. Or cool. I can't decide.

    They had about 10 tanks with different jellyfish. Big huge nettles and little tiny transparent ones.

    Wow. The jellyfish tanks were incredible. Usually the jellyfish tanks are sort of small and I've only seen 3-4 Nettles in one place. Here are about 50. The colors are fantastic here. In fact the whole upstairs section is fantastic visually. I kept wandering around the corner and going, "Oh wow. Look at that."

    They have lots of smaller items but I was impressed with how many really big displays they had.

    This display was kind of weird. It was sort of stuck over in the corner with all the raw wood and big rock thingies. All of the other displays are really polished and spiffy. This one had twigs and branches sticking out all over the place. I have no idea what I'm getting at here.

    Flounder! I love flounders. Flounders are cool. The name even sounds cool. Flounder. They had about five different types of flounder. They even had tanks with two types of sand so you could see how they change colors. Flounder. Cool. Flounder.

    Are you getting the idea that I was impressed with the place? Well I was.

    The coolest thing was all the stuff they had that I'd never seen before. I was so blown away by these sand dollars that I forgot to read the panel that explained what the hell was going on here.

    Is this what they look like in the wild? How do they get stuck into the sand like that? How do they move? Now I'm really curious. Hmmmm.... I guess I'll have to go back. Anyone want to go with me? Anyone from Wisconsin I mean? Any sexy little cuties from Wisconsin? Anyone?

    Here's the terrace along the far side of the aquarium. They had some sea lions napping out there but I didn't see any otters. Or whales.

    You know with the millions of dollars they spend on renovations you sort of have to wonder if all that corrugated sheeting is real. I mean isn't it more likely that they used some expensive "faux sheeting"? And those weathered roofing tiles? I don't think so.

    Here's the terrace from the other side. They had a neeto big tide pool made out of fake rocks. What's up with that? Fake rocks?

    Hey! Seals! Look at that white one. Man it looks zonked out. Like maybe it was partying too hard last night.

    How the hell do they sleep draped over the rocks like that? And with the waves crashing all over the place. How come they don't just roll off? That would be a bad way to wake up; falling into cold salt water.

    This picture sucks but these were really cool. Once again, I was so distracted staring at them that I neglected to find out what they were. Oops. Anyway they were flat and transparent and they swam by flapping their sides..... Okay, that doesn't sound all that cool, but it was. They were really cool flat, flapping thingies.

    Big.... Big tank......

    The tuna here were the largest I'd ever seen. In a tank anyway. And they had a couple sea turtles which was cool. They had several signs saying that there were sunfish here also, but I never saw one. Which sucks. Cause I've always wanted to see a sun fish.

    The sunfish is one of those things that you figure they just made up to fool people. Now I still don't know. I asked one of the attendants about the sunfish but he just looked at me and started laughing. Great.

    They did a really good job with the lighting with this display. Bright yellow, green and purple sea thingies.

    Most of the displays were dimly lit and I couldn't get good pictures of some of the coolest stuff. I suppose they wanted to make the fish more comfortable of something. Jeez.

    This was a great picture. I even got the little flashlight thingies on the end of their tentacles.

    Tentacles are cool. I wish I had tentacles. If I had dozens of tentacles I'll bet I could type faster. Sorry.... I sort of got out of control there.

    Whoa! What the hell is that thing? I don't know. Sort of a yellow slug type thing. With little polyps. Once again I was too busy running around to actually read the informative plaque they put up.

    Hey, I just had this idea. I could just take pictures of every plaque and then read them when I get home. Damn I'm smart.

    You know, now that I've seen a live clam I don't think I really want to eat one. This thing is disgusting! What part of that monstrosity have I been eating all these years? Yuck! There isn't enough garlic butter in the world.....

    I can't remember whether this is a tube worm or an anemone. I sure wouldn't want to be a little fishy around this thing though. I mean sure, it looks friendly, but then it would grab me with it's alien-like tentacles and sting me to death. That doesn't seem like fun. But then I'm not a little fishy. So I guess it's not a big deal.

    The range of displays they had was really great. This was sort of a marsh kind of thing. I was thinking that that thing over in the right corner of the picture might be a python that was going to sneak up on one of the birds and eat it. No such luck. It was just part of the display.

    I suggested to one of the attendants that they might want to do something like that. He just gave me a weird look and scampered off. So if you see something like that when you go - It was my idea. Get some pictures for me.

    Here's the big kelp tank. It was cool watching the diver feed everything. He had a mic on so you could hear him talk about everything and ask questions. I asked him about that big killer whale that was sneaking up behind him. Everyone gave me a dirty look and shook their heads. Geez. I thought it was funny.

    They had a see through tank. It kind of lets you see things from a fish-eye view. I always wondered if the fish could see me. Maybe I should stop making faces at them. Or maybe not.

    Hey but what the hell must those fish be thinking? I mean they evolve to live in an environment where you don't have big mammals walking by. And don't most mammals in the ocean eat fish? Those must be some freaked out fish. Imagine having fish swimming through the air in your living room.

    This is actually the top view of that see through tank. They were swimming around and diving.

    I stayed at the museum until it closed and then decided to head down to Cannery Row and do some window shopping. I took some photos of the place but it was too dark for them to come out.

    Cannery Row is not a good place. I bought some Christmas presents and did a lot of walking about, but the whole time I really had the idea that I was in a place with very bad karma. A place filled with bad people. A tourist place to be sure, but even worse somehow. I could almost sense evil lurking around every corner. I maybe I'd just been driving to long.

    Anyway. I guess that's just my problem. Everyone else seems to like it.

    They advertise that cannery row is about ten blocks long, but it's really only about four blocks. Four blocks packed with tourist shops and restaurants with cheap beer and lobster. Sort of like Tijuana. Here's a tip. Skip cannery row. Head down to Carmel.

    I decided I would grab some dinner before heading over to the motel. I found a Cajun seafood place that didn't look half bad. I had some crab cakes and blacked snapper. It was rather tasty. It was also the worst service I've ever had. This was the first time (ever) that I haven't left a tip. Oh my God what an awful place.

    I got to the motel which was also awful. Rather a dump considering it was $70 a night. I was getting seriously cranky by this point. Are you picking up on that? To top it all off I couldn't connect to the Internet from the motel room.

    Well, whatever. I made some plans to try and see as much stuff as possible before I had to head out on Sunday. I figured I could head down to Fisherman's Wharf and grab some breakfast then race through the Maritime museum, and finally checkout the butterfly habitat.

    Well, it didn't work out that way.

    First of all the wharf area is one big seagull poop covered mess. And the signs that lead to parking for "Fisherman's Wharf" actually make you park several blocks away. Okay, whatever. Get me some seafood sandwiches or something.

    There wasn't anything open. I waited around till 10:30. Took pictures and stuff. Still nothing to eat. God damn it. What the hell? Okay, I'll head over to the maritime museum till something opens. Hmmm..... When does that open? It doesn't seem to say.


    I fucking give up! Get me the hell out of this freakin' nightmare!

    I did see this otter off the pier though. He was diving down and eating crabs or something. At least that was cool. Now lets get the hell out of this hell hole!

    The trip back down the coast was great. I pulled off several times and spent lots of time down at the beach.

    The beaches around Big Sur are the type of beaches that I have the fondest memories of from childhood. Lots of rocky jetties, big waves splashing, and private little hidden beaches. That was back when I was ten, before we moved to Montana. I've always missed it.

    Maybe not even knowing that it was THIS that I missed so much; the waves snaking through the rocks, the smell of seaweed washed up on the sand, the way the mussels and barnacles crowd the waterline. But I've always felt it calling, and crawling and out on those rocks where all of my senses were drenched in it..... It was really nice.

    Part of me thinks it would be so great to live here by the sea. Another part of me thinks it would be better to come back once every 20 years or so. Wouldn't it lose it's magic if I could just walk down there any old time? I don't know. But I don't think I'll ever be moving to this type of area so it's probably moot. There's no shopping there, and I suppose Internet connectivity is a problem.

    But at any rate, I certainly enjoyed myself. I wish I'd packed a picnic. I suppose that's one of the problems with my "last minute" planning strategy. Next time I think I'll just bring the picnic stuff and assume I'll find someplace to eat it. That sounds like more fun anyway. In fact, why the hell haven't I been doing that all along? Hmmm..... Okay, rule number 72: "Always bring a picnic. Just in case."

    And so.... The long drive back to San Diego. There was one wreck were it was pretty obvious that a motorcycle had hit a large truck at about 40 mph. Ouch. There was a sign promising views of seal lions. It lied. There was the drive through the Pasa Robles (sp?) wine region. (Very pretty) The mind-numbing wasteland around Bakersfield. And finally the race through Santa Clarita and LA. I don't know why that has to always be a race, but it always is. Trying to make that drive without white knuckles and a heavy foot is just impossible. Or maybe that's just me.

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