The Annual Parental Visit

My parents came out at the beginning of August for their annual visit; our plan for their visit was scheduled around attending the Monterey Scottish Games. Steve and I usually go to the Scottish Games in Pleasanton, and my parents have gone with us once or twice and really enjoyed it. Plus, they really wanted to see Steve wearing his new kilt as promised when we were in Scotland last fall!

Since Steve and I were thinking about planning a vacation that might overlap with those games, we scouted around for others in Northern California and settled on Monterey for the convenient date and location. My parents arrived on the Amtrak late Friday afternoon, and we started our drive down to Monterey on Saturday after breakfast. Traffic was blessedly light all the way through the East Bay, but things started to go bad as we approached San Juan Batista. We decided to take a detour, cutting west when we got to Gilroy and heading though Watsonville. I’m not certain this saved us any time as going through Watsonville was extremely slow. On the up side, though, my parents got to see a side of California agriculture they’ve never seen before and I think they found it fairly fascinating.

artichoke field

We got to the Scottish Games a little later than we’d planned, closer to 1:00 than to 11:30, but it’s a relatively small gathering, so we had plenty of time. Since it was held at the Monterey fairgrounds, I was expecting something a little closer in size to those in Pleasanton, but they were only using a small portion of the area and it was very manageable.

We had quite enough time to enjoy the piping competition. . .

Bagpipers

Bagpipers

watch the sheep dog demonstration. . .

dog herding ducks

dog herding ducks

and even caught some caber toss. . .

caber toss

caber toss

. . . before the drum major competition and gathering of the bands at the end of the day.

drum major competition

drum major competition

drum major competition

Massed Bands

Massed Bands

Plus, Steve did, in fact, wear his kilt!

Steve in his kilt

Our plan for Sunday had been to drive from Monterey south to the Big Sur area, taking our time to photograph the coast, and go on a short walk to a waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Unfortunately, we got to the weekend and found the entire area affected by the Soberanes Fire, with many roads and the state park closed. Instead of heading down the coast, we decided to just hang around downtown Monterey instead, walking around Cannery Row, then taking a coastal trail across to the wharf.

Monterey Bay

sea lions on Monterey Bay

cormorants on Monterey Bay

It was a lovely afternoon, with beautiful weather, some good shops, and wonderful company.

view from bay trail

view from bay trail

view from bay trail

We started the drive back late in the afternoon, heading back up Highway 1 to stop at one of the roadside fruit stands we’d passed on the way down. We were drawn in by the sign advertising 10 avocados for $1, with Steve and me thinking about stocking up for our foster care raccoons. Be warned, these signs are intended to get you to stop. The avocados available at this price were in the very back of the building, were about the size of a walnut, and were rotting. Even so, we got some medium-sized avocados at a decent price and a bit of other fruit as well.

Once again, the traffic looked horrible passing through San Juan Batista, as did the road we had taken the day before. There was another road slightly to the north that cut across the mountains, and traffic didn’t look too bad on it. We could have just continued north to Santa Cruz, but there was the lure of the garlic-stuffed everything in Gilroy, so we opted for the former road heading east and were on our way.

Well, as it turned out, the road we took was no short-cut. As we got to the top of the mountains, traffic came to a horrible stop, punctuated by short streams of cars to our left and momentary bursts of forward action on our side. We soon deduced that the road was down to one lane somewhere up ahead. We settled in and tried to be patient as we crawled our way over the top of the mountain. We were thrilled when we finally got through the timed light that was allowing each lane of traffic to pass through intermittently.

But, before our glad cries had even faded from the air, we came to a screeching halt again and realized there was another one-lane section up ahead. At one point, we waited a good 10 minutes without moving, and saw no cars passing on the other side. We started to contemplate with growing concern what would happen if someone decided they could still make it through just after the light on their side had turned red and then got stuck in that first one-lane section, blocking the other side from moving. This is confusing in words. Perhaps a picture would help.
cars

A picture made of words? Okay, I’m not a graphics queen. Even so, what a grand mess that would have made.

Fortunately, we all breathed a deep sigh of relief when our side finally inched forwarded again.

Wondering how I could have chosen so horribly wrong on the route we took, at one point I took out the phone to see what the traffic app said it looked like now, only to find that we had no service at the top of the mountain road. We all learned a very important lesson about relying on traffic apps in that moment – if no one has service on a road, their app can’t pick up what their traffic situation is. For all ours knew, we had pulled over and taken a 2 hour hike at the top of that mountain. When we finally got to a point where we had service again, the traffic apps still showed the road looking fine. It took a good 2 hours to go 5 miles, and we well and truly missed closing time in Gilroy, although there was no way to miss the smell of garlic filling the air as we passed through.

Given the lengthy travels of the weekend, it was nice to spend Monday mostly hanging around town, running a couple of errands, and driving up to the Marin Headlands where my dad wanted to get some pictures of the rock faces he remembered seeing when we were up there a few years ago. 🙂

Dad looking at a rock face

Dad taking a photo of a rock face

We spent Tuesday walking around the plaza in Sonoma. We go there most of the times my parents visit as just a nice place to hang out for the day and browse through the shops. Years ago, we worked out that 4 whole days was the perfect length of a visit, so I drove my parents back to the Amtrak station early Wednesday before heading off to work. Fortunately, that was also the day of their return tickets, so that worked out well. 😉

Mom, Anne, & Dad in Marin Headlands

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

rock face in Marin Headlands

rock face in Marin Headlands

rock face in Marin Headlands

rock face in Marin Headlands

rock face in Marin Headlands

rock face in Marin Headlands

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