Posts Tagged With: California

My Gift of Fear

Essential Reading

In 1997 I read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. He appeared on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show  which got me thinking about trusting my gut when it comes to creeps who prey on women.  Well, who knew that 15 full years later all of that invaluable knowledge would come into play?

The crux of The Gift of Fear is learning to pay attention pre-incident indicators (PINS)— charming manipulation, too many details, forced teaming— also known as the signs that someone is up to no good.  de Becker  implores women  to NOT be nice to everyone, especially people who make you feel uncomfortable and NICENESS is exactly what gets a lot of women in trouble.

I booked a room at Gorda Springs Resort just south of Big Sur.  Nothing was available in Big Sur proper so I took the ONLY room available within the outside range of my budget.  The place had TERRIBLE reviews online but I gambled because I really wanted to spend a few days in the area.  I’m glad I did because Gorda Springs Resort is just fine.  It’s clean, it has a comfortable bed and a fireplace in the room.  It’s perfectly fine.  There’s no cell service though and if you’ve read this blog you know I’ve promised some special folks that I’ll check in every night.  Without any cell service or Internet it can make this difficult.

Turns out, Gorda Springs Resort isn’t as much of a resort as it is a room on top of a general store.  The view is great– straight out to the Pacific– and the price is right.  The door to the room locks.  Safety was sort of on my mind since my cell phone didn’t work.  Luckily, I  found a pay phone on the side of the general store and planned to make a call as soon as I put some stuff in my car.

I was on the driver’s side of my car when I heard someone someone trying to get my attention.  I noticed the

Not too far from Gorda Springs Resort

man in the shiney, black, BMW 7 Series parked in the next spot gesturing to me through his partially rolled down window.  I can’t tell you exactly why, but this bugged me.  When our eyes met he tried to wave me over and said, “I have a question for you.”  I just said OK and continued with my business.  I thought, if this guy wants to talk to me he can get out of his car.

I was standing at the back end of my car with the hatch open when this stranger dressed in khakis and a golf shirt approached.

“Hi ma’am, how are you today?”

Fine.  Again, I can’t tell you why but this guy bugged me.  It was like he was standing way too close to me or something.

“Can you get a signal around here?  I can’t get a signal around here and I really need to get in touch with some people, so I was wondering if…”

I can’t get a signal.  I can’t help you.

“I know, I know.  We’re in the same boat.  We both need a signal, right?”

There’s a pay phone.  I managed to avoid the guy’s intense stare and overwrought smile.

“Yeah, I know.  We can use that if we need something.” Nervously laughs.  “But, see, I’m trying to get in touch with some people who are wiring me some money…”

I slammed the hatch and looked him in the eye— I can’t help you.  

Seriously?  The “wiring money” line?  That line is an actual example in The Gift of Fear.  It’s like the guy wasn’t even trying to be a good crook.

“Oh, ok.  Well, I see you’re traveling.  Where are you from?  Oh, I see, Florida.  What part?”

From Oprah.com

I ignored him and made sure my car was locked.  It was such a mistake to stand behind my car with the door open so no one could see us– he could have clubbed me in a hot second.  I practically invited the guy to see everything inside my car.  And, he got a good look at my license plate.  Ugh, was Oprah’s work in vain?  Did Gavin de Becker teach me nothing?

I was so pissed.  This guy disrupted the good thing I had going at Gorda Springs Resort.  I’d just started to feel ok about staying there and then he and his nefarious ways interrupt the whole thing.  I went to the pay phone and called the hotel where I really wanted to stay to see if they had any cancellations.  I didn’t want to take any chances now that this guy had me unnerved and knew the contents of my car.  As I was being turned down by the other hotel I noticed him approaching another woman in the parking lot.  There was a single man standing not too far away but the creep didn’t approach HIM.

I went inside the general store to see if someone in there could tell him to scram.  The only person working was a woman who could have been 17 or 45.  We started talking and I realized she leaned more toward 17.  She told me he’d approached her too and asked her how old she was and if she had a boyfriend.  Since no one else was working the only person with any authority was the man who managed the place next door.  She went to get him.  It really chapped my ass that this guy in the parking lot thought he could target women for whatever he was up to.  But, it chapped mine even more that we had to get big Daddy Manager next door to take care of it.

As Daddy Manager was summoned I made my I-made-it-here-in-one-piece call from the pay phone.  While I was talking, I heard the creep call out to another unsuspecting woman.  She ignored him. He let out an odd cackle.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

A minute or two later, while I was still on the pay phone, he walked by and said, “Hey, Florida.  I’m sorry I upset you.”

Big Sur, California

As he interrupted my conversation I noticed the manager walking toward us.

The person on the other end of my conversation said, “What?  I think I lost you for a minute.  What did you say?”

Daddy Manager towered over the creep and was making the point that he should move on.  I exhaled.

Oh, I’m sorry, I’m here.  I was just calling to let you know I’m safe.  

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Categories: People on The Stretch, Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Hotels California

I spent two weeks making my way up the coast of California.  After a few days in Los Angeles, where I survived an earthquake that was felt by me and and only handful of other insomniacs, I hugged the coast almost all the way up the state.  Along my drive, I stayed in a lot of different places— a few dumps, a co-op, and my three favorites…

The Madonna Inn

San Luis Obispo, California

You may’ve heard of this fantastic vintage hotel on the west side of US Route 101 in San Louis Obispo.  The 110 differently themed rooms and their cave showers—- showers made feel like you’re bathing in a

My Cave Wall

cave— are something to see.  There’s the Cave Room, The Safari Room, The Pony Room…it’s more than you can imagine.   I stayed in Currier and Ives which didn’t have a cave shower but it did have a cave wall.  I was a little disappointed about my room sans cave shower, but my friend Desiree said she and her hubby left with near-concussions from their dangerous cave shower experience and somehow that made me feel better and worse at the same time.   The on-site Gold Rush Steak House is a five-year-old’s dream birthday party setting, yet full-grown adults make reservations well in advance to dine in this pastel wonderland.  Pink leather bankettes circle the white tree blooming faux flowers in the center of the room.  Five different five-layer cakes sashay their way through the dining

Which one does your inner five-year-old want to order?

room balanced on the finger tips of young servers who want nothing more than to make your experience the most it can be.  The mens’ restroom has a line out the door waiting not to use it but rather to gawk at the waterfall urinal. My favorite part was not my crazy room or the waterfall urinal, believe it or not, but the dance floor.  It’s a place where the over 70 set go to get loose.  For real dance— jitterbug, tango, foxtrot, swing.   I hung around watching and listening to the big band and was shocked when a self-proclaimed “stag” in his 80th decade asked me to dance.  It didn’t occur to me that anyone would ask because I was so incredibly out of place.  But, I always say yes to a dance so the stag led me to the floor.  I was as

The Stag

nervous as a 7th grader– terrified I would step on his foot and send him to the hospital.  So, I stared down at our feet.  He asked if it’d been a while since I’d been dancing.  I told him it had.  He said, “Yeah, you seem a little tense.”  Within an eight count he pegged my overall disposition.  After our one dance together, I watched the stag work the room and marveled at the moves out on the floor.  It’s definitely a couple’s dancing scene but no one’s left out—  three people danced together in a way that made them look like two and one woman tore it up on her own.  But this couple in particular caught and held my attention for a long time.  They reminded me that common interest is the golden thread of a relationship.  There is indeed, as my friend Michelle likes to say, a pot for every lid.

*Tres Sabores

St. Helena, California in Napa Valley

Tres Sabores Vines

If I could stay here for year or more I would.  Julie Johnson, the owner and wine maker at Tres Sabores will treat you like family as soon as you arrive.  Their adorable Labs, Moose and Boozy Rouge, welcome you at your car door before you can even put it in park.  Moose can spot a dog lover in a second and gives a weary traveler as many excited tail wags and non-slobbery kisses as you’ll let him.  There’s a cute guest cottage about 40 yards from the main house that doubles as their tasting room.  They’re in the process of building a separate tasting room but being part of the action was really fun for me.  It’s private and cozy but also in the center of it all.   If you stay up late enough, which I do, you’ll  hear Julie open the cottage’s barn doors to let the night air in to cool the barrels.  I did a little tasting around the valley but found that tasting alone isn’t as much fun as sampling Tres Sabores’ bone dry Rose and reading under their

gorgeous oak tree.  I relaxed under their olive trees too, sunned by their pool, wrote some posts for this blog,

The Best Reading Tree Ever

plotted my path, and delighted in doing nothing.  I cannot recommend this quiet, refreshing off-the-beaten-path guest experience enough.  You’ll leave your stay with enough wine to round out your collection for the rest of the year.  Promise.

If you want to see/taste more of the action in the valley, some recommendations from locals:

Frog’s LeapMondaviDomaine CarnerosSt. Supery Vineyards

*Thank you Ash and Chip for sending me to this wonderful place.

Shelter Cove Inn

Shelter Cove, California

I loved Shelter Cove and I loved the wonderful little apartment right on the water at gorgeous, Shelter Cove Inn.  I’d never visited a black

Little Black Sand Beach
Shelter Cove, CA

sand beach before and that’s the main reason I wanted to see this rural, undeveloped, secret of a spot on the coast.  First of all, you have to have a plan to go there.  This isn’t a place you just find while you’re driving up 101.  You go through the southern part of the redwood forrest and then hang a left at the Shop Smart in Redway and take the gorgeous, two-lane-sometimes-one-lane road to the coast.  There’s another store that sells wine at the bottom of the hill where you can pick up what you forgot at the first supermarket.  In case you forgot to buy wine.  I forgot to buy wine.  Then Shelter Cove Inn is around the corner.  There are four units and you have to call in advance because they are booked most of the year with regulars.  I got so lucky and was able to sneak in on a Friday and Saturday night.  My suite had an enormous balcony and a full kitchen where I cooked all meals for myself for the first time in a month or more.  The owners, Richard and Margaret, are the epitome of hosts.  They made sure I felt comfortable and safe and knew where everything was.  Richard made sure I knew that the water down at the beach was really unpredictable and powerful so that I would be careful on my hikes.  The black sand beaches did not disappoint, either.  It’s so remote that I saw only 4 other people there the entire day— and one was meditating.  It was the perfect place to experience California’s rock face cliffs, jagged shoreline, and booming  Pacific waves.

Categories: Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Foul Tasting

Beautiful View

I was traveling up California’s beautiful coastline and wanted to have a nice dinner with a beautiful view.  I didn’t make a reservation because so far it’s been easy to slide in at the bar for dinner—it’s low maintenance, there are usually interesting people to chat with, and locals know the best things on the menu and have the inside scoop on the town.

I stopped at the first spot recommended— stunning.  Oceanside.  A gorgeous drive up.  Really pretty.  They had valet service which seemed a little over the top since the place is so small.  I just self parked and took the flights and flights of stairs up to the entrance.

I passed a couple about my parents’ age on the way up who were positively glowing.  They commented on the beautiful night, the amazing view, and their delicious meal.  They were carrying two paper bags which I assumed were full of pastries for breakfast.  He had on pants and a golf shirt and she had on capri pants with walking shoes.

After the long hike up, I made my way to the maitre d’s stand.  As I approached I watched her eyes start at my feet, work their way up my body, and back down again.

The outfit I was wearing could be described as bohemian chic— on a good day.  I was casual and had just come from a spa.   Skinny olive colored pants, black top, hooded sweater, open toe sandals, hair in a bun.  I suppose, to the untrained eye, my outfit could be interpreted as thrown together, haphazard, slightly wrinkled.  It’s fair to say that I’d not spent a ton of time primping for dinner.  But, the judgemental body scan I got from this maitre d woman, whose own ensemble was not far from thrown together, I did not deserve.

“Do you have room for one for dinner?” I asked, noticing my voice sounded less confident than I wished.

Maitre d glanced to someone to my left.   She paused.  I got the feeling she was summoning security.

“Let me show you the menu, first.”  She pulled the bi-fold paper out, splayed it in front of me, and pressed out the crease.  “The

There isn’t a bad view along CA Hwy 1.

dishes on the left are appetizers and they’re all $50.  On the right are our entrees and they’re $75.”

I tilted my head to the left, looked her in the eye, and waited to see what she would say next.  I think she was waiting for me to say something.  I was speechless.  I’ve never been shown a menu or  given the prices of the items before I was seated at my table.

Turns out, I’ve never known what it feels to be unwelcome.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to spend $125, or more, on dinner.  But, if I did I could.  Was I dressed to the nines?  No.  Did I look horrendously out of place?  No.

“Perhaps I can show you to our bar?”

“No, thank you.  I think I’ll try another place.”  Again, with the soft sounding voice.  Surprising mostly myself that I didn’t have much more to say to this woman.

“But, you’ve come all this way and you don’t even want to see it?”

“No, thank you.  I’ve seen enough.”

Here’s the thing…

1. People are treated like this all of the time.  It’s not at all fair, it’s an awful business model, and it’s life.  There was a time

Steve and Machelle

when I would have stayed to prove some mythical point.  But, had I done so I would’ve only been supporting a place that is undoubtedly unfair to people.  Plus, bitter tastes terrible.

2. If I’d stayed I wouldn’t have found Big Sur Bakery where I ordered the world’s best crab cake and roasted vegetable salad at a fraction of the cost.  Plus a perfect glass of Sauvignon Blanc AND a butterscotch ice cram pie.  You read that right— butterscotch ICE CREAM pie.

3. If I’d stayed I wouldn’t have met an academy award-winning actor, whom I admire,  and his lady friend.  He too was rocking a bohemian chic look.  So was she.  I wondered if they were also discouraged from the same restaurant.

4. If I’d stayed I never would have met Steve and Machelle who invited me to join them at their table.  Steve’s a cowboy and  businessman.  He asked if I could saddle a horse.  I said yes.  So, he invited me to his ranch in Kansas where he’ll introduce me to a bevy of cowboys.  To that I say, “Giddy up.”

Categories: People on The Stretch, Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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