Monterey, CA

Home: Veterans Memorial Park hiker/biker campsite

Day 1

The night passed without incident, and we woke to a clear pre-dawn sky. It was wild to wake up with the tent fabric stretched tight as a drum, which indicates that it had actually dried out overnight rather than getting its normal soaking.

Veterans Memorial Park hiker/biker area.

Again, no one besides us used the picnic table for any breakfast. Sid, after simply standing in the dark last night by himself for a long time, had slept under the moon without setting up his hammock. “Half of the good stuff happens at night” was his reasoning, and as people who always wish it would be warm/dry enough to set up our tent without the rainfly so we can see the stars, I could get where he was coming from.

In the gray light, I saw a park worker come over and talk to him for a moment, and later we learned it was to tell him to stop with the marijuana smoking. He ranted (righteously) to us how smoking marijuana for his Parkinson’s should be far less of an issue than the other campers idling their pickup trucks for an hour in the morning, to whom nothing is said.

Later on I came across him similarly ranting to Chris, the host who runs the campground, and from their conversation learned that the issue was really the large bong that a child had apparently seen and asked his parents about. Which, seems kinda lame on the parents to make an issue of it, but once made, it made sense that Chris had to at least say something about it.

After breakfast I found Rett having a nice talk with Sean, the sleeping-bag guy, about his background and story. He had apparently gotten a lead on securing a Thanksgiving turkey dinner down in town the next day, and offered to Sid to share if he was successful. He sounded like a guy hoping to do the best he could to make the holiday feel how he remembered, which is not very different from what we’re feeling out here. What Rett hadn’t heard from him was his ranting to no one in particular about “fucking dumbass bitches” in the bathroom that morning.

My takeaway was that everyone starts with a family in some form, and then walks a path that leads them to this solitary road-life. And perhaps the dividing line in my head between these classes of travelers (which had already started to become more blurry) comes from whether the solitary road-life choice is made willingly and with full agency, or is more forced up the traveler? Is this life the first choice of many (like it is for us) or the 10th and only-remaining choice?

Anyway, making personal connections with these guys, and seeing a bit how the campground is run, made us feel comfortable enough to not just stay another night, but to leave all of our stuff and our bikes at the campground for the day. One big factor was that the campground provided lockers for 75 cents where we locked up most of our bags. We kept our bikes locked to the fence, and removed the seats just for an added bit of deterrence.

And then we walked down the hill! First stop was Alvarado Street Brewery, whose beer list didn’t have the non-IPA selection we’d been expecting, but had good food.

Rett has given up on her bike and secured this bad boy as her new ride. Just think how much more bad-ass she’ll be by flexing her ankle to depress the gas pedal and spew diesel smoke while passing cyclists, than her previous wimpy-loser state of using solely her own muscle power to tug all her belongings up a hill.

Then to the main event of the day, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The route took us along the waterfront trail, where we immediately saw a dozen harbor seals sunning themselves on individual rocks in the water. And a short distance later we got a brief view of a sea otter! It really made us wonder why we we’d paid >$100 for tickets to the aquarium!

Hello Mr. Seal!
Harbor seals in the harbor, not the aquarium.
Backstroking otter in the harbor, with an egret thrown in for free.

But after a wait in a long line, the aquarium visit was probably worth it too. It had been a long time since I’ve been to an aquarium, so it was a bit mind-blowing to be reminded of all the wild and crazy stuff that lives under the waves we’ve been looking at for the last couple of months.

Of course none of this stuff in the ocean would have the perfect lighting that it does in the aquarium tanks!
Moon jellies, we think we’ve actually seen these (or something related) on the Oregon beaches.
Somehow this jellyfish had tiny rainbow LEDs inserted into it?
Aquarium otter.
Aquarium otter.
Two fish going against the grain; we’d like to hang out with them.
Rett and a big ol’ rockfish having a chat.

Once we were done at the aquarium, our walk back to do a Trader Joe’s run brought us past even better wild sea otter action, with an otter having dinner being hilariously followed all the way across the harbor by a couple of seagulls waiting for him to drop some crumbs. We didn’t see anywhere near that kind of action at the aquarium’s otter exhibit!

The sea otter has some food in his mouth, and more waiting on his belly.
And of course a jetty full of sea lions too.

Watching all that stuff slowed us down enough that, after groceries, and pressed for time before dark, we called an Uber to take us back up the 400 ft. hill to the campground (shh, don’t tell anyone!)

Back at camp we found Kyle, a 28-year-old Bob-trailer-towing bike tourer (see how I feel the need to specify his age and equipment to indicate which side of that blurry class-line to sort him into?) We had seen him a couple days earlier at New Brighton, but not really talked then, so it was good to get another chance to know him. Like us, he cooked and ate at the shared picnic table, and had a similar slow-but-onward traveling style, so simply his presence helped make the campsite feel more “normal” than it had the night before.



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One response to “Monterey, CA”

  1. Swati Saxena Avatar
    Swati Saxena

    Interesting line of thought re: chosen/dictated homelessness. Heard an interview with creator of this podcast – – and it made me think about how close people are to homelessness and we don’t even realize.
    To echo Sid, I’ll be a (vegan, animal activist) ranter too – those creatures in the aquarium would have had a better life in the wild.

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