It’s a good number. In some ways, the best number I’ll hit until possibly 88, though one or two before then are arguable. I woke up in Big Sur, California, on my 42nd birthday amid impossibly majestic redwoods, lush, approachable mountains and the infinite, untouchable blue Pacific, an elusive bluebird day for the region. A thousand miles from the pressures of work or the hassles of daily chores, literally and figuratively. The Big Sur river trickling peacefully below. Surrounded by those I love. I had yet to make my biggest mistake of the trip. Getting older is of next to no consequence under these sort of conditions.
Several gifts came my way for the big day, useful sure, but also appreciated in a way the gifters will never comprehend. Most useful and most appreciated, my motley band of fellow travelers gave me the gift of rising early so as to make the most of our beautiful day in a special place. We breakfasted at Deetjen’s, a famous-for-good-reason place down the road, listening to Mozart and admiring the thousands of flowers outside the window and the hummingbirds who love them while feasting on, for example, raspberry cream cheese stuffed French toast with maple syrup.
Sated, we left Deetjen’s for McWay Falls, one of the easiest “can’t-miss” sites to see along Highway 1. The waterfall tumbles directly into the ocean at one end of a hidden crescent beach edged by steep, flower-draped cliffs. It is only a quarter-mile walk from Julia Pfeiffer State Park’s parking lot. In addition to being an easy “get”, it is also arguably the most awe-inspiring single view along the coast, and just the fact that it is undoubtedly in the conversation makes it spectacular.
After soaking in McWay Falls and adjusting to the disappointment of being unable to hike down to it’s base (the cliffs are unstable), we were all ready to get our legs moving. Doubling back north past our motel we chose another state park that promised clear creeks, wildflowers and a beach at the end. Always, but particularly on this most wondrous of days, looking for the perfect picture, I decided to run ahead of the Little Scamp and her cousin MLove to snap a shot of them leading our party through the rugged wilderness to the sea. And this is when I made my biggest mistake of the trip.
Looking back at the girls as I began to run, I stumbled over a stump and crashed to the ground. I managed to save the camera and I was able turn my body to protect my vitals, but the ribs took the full force of my excessive body mass. And by excessive body mass I mean my fat old clumsy ass. I bounced up. It’s embarrassing enough to fall, much worse to be witnessed, and still worse to be seen by those yet to make the last curve who missed the actual impact. MLove–she’s ten–asked if I was ok. I said yes. Then she ran back to boast of her achievement–she saw Uncle TB’s blowout and the others didn’t. Scamp just sort of stared at me like I was some kind of wounded beast. Truth is, I was. It’s nine days ago now and the pain is only beginning to subside. They say bruised ribs take two weeks to heal, if you break one it’s at least six. Guess I was “lucky.” I tell you friends, a bruised rib is bad business. Especially if you catch MLove’s cold and find yourself sneezing and coughing for the worst of those 9 days.
But here’s the thing. It was Big Freakin’ Sur. I soldiered on and the strange thing is, the pain didn’t really bother me in light of the remainder of my circumstances. Only when I arrived back home did the suffering begin to take full effect. I fully attribute that to having been among the power and in the presence of the creator–it is places like this where I feel Him/Her/It.
We slept that night under the infinite California stars in a pre-fab tent down by the river, me, Flyin’ J, the Scamp, MLove and her little sis the Daredevil. There were roasted marshmallows and a couple of beers before sleep. Fat Tires. I didn’t appreciate the irony until now.
For purposes of completing the travelogue, I should mention that in route to Big Sur we cruised the travel-list-essential 17 Mile Drive in Monterey and saw the Pebble Beach Golf Course. The views there were tremendous, though Point Lobos State Park a few miles south I thought was superior. Maybe it’s just the rabble rouser in me that couldn’t stand the sight of all those billionaire mansions marring the landscape on 17 Mile, or maybe it’s just that I like unobstructed views–a little of both probably.
And after Big Sur, what could we do next? We went to Disneyland, of course, where I will not remind you of my suffering whilst carrying the 46 pound Scamp upon my shoulders for two solid days. But I will admit that I still had a mistake or two left in me. Just not the biggest one.