A brief pandemic travelogue: Carmel, California

I wrote this on February 10, during the week we drove to Carmel, approximately 5-6 hours away from SoCal by car. Just a few observations I jotted which I’ve procrastinated over. Trips quickly retreat to hazy memory once they are done and “real life” takes over. Photographs and diary forms are the best way to recapture the moment before it is swallowed whole by the mundane urgencies of life.


Road trips are fantastic for the airplane-wary like me.  They offer leisurely traveling that allows you to enjoy the Zen moment, an appreciation of each passing mile your tires discard behind.  You are spared the frantic dashing and lunatic pace of packing and hot rodding the luggage to the car or van, rushing to the airport terminal, getting prodded by charmless TSA robots and that overall coronary urgency of “get there as fast as you can” which turns this travel leg of your journey into the least enjoyable moment of what should be a wonderful time.

Road trips with time to kill are the essential spirit of travel. The road trip I’m on falls into this category, and the destination of our road trip certainly helps bolster the charm quotient.

My wife and I decided we would not let our trip degenerate into a joint battle with pointless stress.  We packed lightly, took our time and left at a decent hour and drove north on the 5 to the 46 (James Dean, yo) before meeting up with Highway 101. This would deliver us to Carmel, an enchanting village nestled in the middle of what I call the “Dream Coast.”  I have not travelled enough to claim any authority, but I officially declare here that the Central California coast which spans a magical length of enchanted forest and cliff abutting the Pacific Ocean is one of the most lovely stretches of land in the world.

Carmel, California
Carmel

A couple of things so far:

Road tripping offers the opportunity to reconnect with long forgotten songs you’ve relegated to the past. My 2012 model car is not “smart” and my 12V power outlet is broken, meaning I’m reliant on local AM and FM broadcasts for driving entertainment through Central California’s rolling hills. During a stretch of Highway 46, after we cleared a Mad Maxian wasteland of horrible dusty moonscape scarred with oil derricks, a vaguely familiar song came on the radio.

Whoa.

I had forgotten all about this song.  As I listened, it became a clearer musical memory as it rushed forward from discarded past.

Slow an’ Easy.  Holy crap.   That was ages ago.  I was still a child in my 20’s.

Whitesnake was not my thing.

I was more of the pentagram-carving evil degenerate type, and my bands of choice were Slayer, early Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, and other social miscreants in band form who sang about the gloomy side of their alienated inner life than songs about chicks and booze. Still, Slow an’ Easy was a masterpiece of of the time, borrowing a bluesy, sultry tone that combined with a vast stadium rock riff. One more song to add to my immense library of musical detritus that never seems to stop growing, especially after road trips.

And this traveling during the pandemic thing.

Hotels are sparsely staffed. Rooms are not cleaned daily for the duration of your stay (for the safety of our guests and employees…). This is fine by me as I seem to have a nagging issue remembering to hang the “do not disturb” sign out and end up yelling “no, not right now!” when the cleaning ladies threaten to enter. The real problem of pandemic hotel living is the end of the classic “continental breakfast.” You could always count on joining a group of half-asleep messy-haired guests while you filled your little tray with hard boiled eggs, wrapped pastries, fruit staples, package juices and bottomless coffee before trudging back to your messy room.

No longer.

Due to COVID-19 life, intimate continental breakfast line-ups are a viral threat to all and you’re lucky to get this now.

Pandemic Continental Breakfast

 

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