I laugh in the foggy morning when I see that I was only a quarter-mile from a National Forest campground. Ha! I was probably better off in my private, free site.
This is a grand part of the coast, even in the rain. The bluffs and promontories are pronounced and covered in lush vegetation and the first appearance of redwoods. I pass the Essilen Institute and stop, considering trying to get in. Two things deter me: first a big sign that says, “RESERVATIONS REQUIRED.” The second is a beautiful, spotless woman in a spotless BMW that emerges from the gate as I contemplate it. Suddenly I’m very aware of what a wet, nasty mess I am.
The beauty peaks as I climb over and into the Big Sur valley. The rain also peaks, so I stop and spend a long time hanging out in the State Park lodge. They serve me a very big veggie burger and leave me alone to ruminate and refill my coffee cup again and again. I try to get Shirleyanne on the phone, but she’s out. I finally have to admit the rain is here to stay and head out into it.
The coast remains gorgeous and wet all the way to Carmel Highlands where I finally reach Shirleyanne at work. I’ve already passed her house, so she invites me to go there and wait for her. She lives in a converted garage with two small dogs, one of them deaf and blind. It’s a tiny place, but nice.
I haven’t seen Shirleyanne since I was about 6 years old, but when I she her she seems just like I remember. I don’t think she has guests often, but she’s very gracious. She brings a chicken home and puts together a nice meal for us. After eating I flop onto her sofa bed while she and the dogs sleep in the loft above the kitchen.