After many years now of vacationing with children, it's been my conclusion that they are unable to really appreciate scenery. After a couple mountains, a couple stunning vistas, they have, as my daughter said, already seen it: "It's just another mountain." Mostly the conversation in the car is about food, my son (who is 14) continuously asking when we will eat again, where we will eat, when we can stop for a snack, and so on. I forgot how much a 14-year old boy's life revolves around the next meal.
But speaking of food, we have eaten well, as well as badly. At the Ahwahnee, there is nothing bad on the menu. Every meal is good, from the breakfast buffet to the various dinner offerings. But in Monterey (our next stop), the food is overpriced and bad -- areas like Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row (a la John Steinbeck's book of the same name), simply gouging poor tourists who don't know any better. It's awful.
But I digress. We left Ahwahnee, not tearfully but reluctantly, and proceeded northeast and then east toward Modesto, in the central valley, and then south of San Jose, and on to the Monterey Peninsula, where we booked a hotel in the adjacent Town of Pacific Grove. We intended to see the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite on our way out, but I missed the turn, and so we proceeded down the mountains, through hill after hill of cattle, and down into one of the most fertile areas of the country, California's central valley. Lots and lots of agriculture here, all irrigated of course with water mostly brought down in aqueducts from the Sierra Nevada mountains. It's beautiful country, and also hot (almost 97 today), quite different from the cool nights and moderate days of Yosemite (which is, at its lowest in the valley, at 4000 feet above sea level).
Well, it's lunchtime, and after much discussion over what fast food, we chose McDonalds. The kids were pleased. Like the elderly, they like the familiar; like the elderly, they are not usually pro-new experience.
Well, I think it was lunch, or was that a snack, and if so, which snack? I feel like a hobbit, eating seven times a day, which we would, if my son had his way.
We move on. This is longer than I thought, maybe a 5-6 hour drive from Yosemite to Monterey. Soon, south of San Jose, we are in the hills again, beautiful pastureland, and then over the hills, fighting a headwind, and into Monterey and then the adjacent Pacific Grove. This town of mostly B&Bs and a very functional yet not too hip downtown began as a religious retreat center. It's change reflects the secularization of American society, but mostly the demand for waterfront property. Average price of a three bedroom home in 2006: $850,000.
Well, the best thing about Pacific Grove is its quiet atmosphere, and its views. The only good thing about Monterey is the Monterey Aquarium, which is awesome. The food they serve there is excellent too. That was of interest to my son, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. It's the best one of its kind I have been in, and I have been in some very good ones. I particularly like the views of the bluegill tuna (a huge fish), and the sea bass (almost prehistoric looking), as well as watching the sea otters. They are a picture of joy and made us laugh.
Tomorrow? Carmel, and then Big Sur: Eastwood, Kerouac, and Oprah come to mind. And or course, the scenery, supposedly some of the most spectacular in the country. My children don't seem to be excited.