Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cool It, California

Winters in California are... well, frankly, they're kind of weird. Although my muggy former city, Houston, rarely got into freezing temperatures, the cooler weather of the winter months was usually consistent and chilly. Rarely did I go a winter's day in Houston without wearing a light jacket or coat. California's weather is a little more unpredictable, especially here in the valley. Some days can be as delightful as early summer, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s; other days can be downright cold, clammy, and foggy. I've used both my air conditioner and my heater during my California winters, and can even recall doing both in one month last winter. All this being said, I was still surprised to see snow on the Grapevine (I-5) last weekend.

Snow in Southern California!

Now, ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered crossing the Grapevine if I was aware that it was snowing on the mountain - but I had a good reason for taking the chance last weekend. My very good friend (EP) was coming to visit all the way from Florida, and I wanted to be at the airport to pick him up when he arrived. Much to my surprise, the other side of the mountain was much warmer... and sunnier! It is soooo Californian of me to be in the snowy mountains at noon only to find myself on a warm, sunny beach by sunset. Sigh. I had a couple of hours to kill before EP arrived, so I decided to spend it toiling around on the Santa Monica Pier. I'm such a sucker for a good sunset :)

Sunset over the Pacific from the end of Route 66

Pacific Park at dusk

After picking up EP from LAX, we headed towards home, stopping for some amazing Chinese food along the way. We didn't do much else, however. We wanted to get to bed - we had big plans for our short weekend together! On Saturday, we headed for the Central Coast Valley. As we winded our way through the vineyards of Paso Robles, EP was amazed at the variation in climate and topography as you cross California. We saw winery after winery, making notes to plan a future getaway to explore them all. I was surprised to hear that EP had never been to the actual Central Coast coastline, so we headed even further west to Cayucos and Morro Bay. 

There is a fabulous vantage point to look at the bay when you make your way on Highway 46 over the mountains. I must have always timed my previous visits during the dry season because I had never seen it as green as we saw it that day! It was one of the most beautiful scenes either of us had ever seen... (click the picture below to see it larger)

Looking over Morro Bay (with Morro Rock in the far distance)

We took our time cruising through Cayucos, stopping to enjoy some delicious brown butter cookies from the Brown Butter Cookie Company. They are seriously to die for! We enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie each while swinging on the beach and enjoying our afternoon. (Thanks for the cookie, EP!) After we were done, EP bought a few more for friends and colleagues back in Florida before we headed south to Morro Bay.

I have been to Morro Bay several times since moving here - I actually manage a couple of properties out here, which is one of the reasons I even knew the little piece of paradise existed. I always discover something different every time I come, and this time was no different. Much to our delight and surprise, we discovered a couple of sea lions playing in the bay that day. They were so cute! EP had never seen them in the wild before, so it was quite a treat. We watched them for several minutes and took some pictures, before deciding to head back home.

Hello, little guy!

As we headed east, the sun slowly started to set over the Pacific behind us. It made such a lovely light on the hills! EP and I decided to take advantage of the lower light, and pulled over for one last photo on the Central Coast. 

EP and I basking in the warmth of a winter sunset

Back home, I took EP to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in town. EP is a Texan, and had really missed Mexican food since living in Florida. We decided to take it a little easier on his last day of visiting. I treated him to a piece of Matterhorn birthday cake (his birthday was the week before), and he treated me to a yummy burrito (which we smothered in a delicious green chile sauce from back home). We watched Pitch Perfect, and I showed him around town. I also made sure he experienced In N Out for the first time - boy, did we do a lot of eating!

While his trip was short, it was so good to see him! We got to share a lot of stories with each other, and finally got to catch up with one another's lives. I look forward to visiting Florida - maybe a birthday trip is in order for me in 2013? Guess time will tell. It's truly wonderful to have friends like EP in my life - a person who knows me outside of "work" me, and loves me anyway. Thanks for visiting, EP!

Until next time...

--- Becks

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