A week after we got engaged in Colorado, Juliana and I took a ten-day road trip up the California coast -- from San Diego to Napa. We had pre-determined our stay-overs. Our longest leg went from Solvang to Monterey, with an excursion to Hearst Castle in-between. Shortly after passing through San Luis Obispo, we rounded a corner and I was confronted by an enormous rock that shot out of the earth to form a massive monolith. My imagination screamed -- it looked like something from Lord of the Rings. As if I had just spotted a yeti in the forest, I scrambled to unearth my camera and was able to quickly shoot a few fleeting pictures.
How was it possible, I asked, not to have known about this magnificent natural structure? Everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly, that I didn’t have time to mark down the town. When we returned home, a forensic search with Google Earth revealed the town to be Morro Bay, with its iconic centerpiece conveniently named Morro Rock.
Within a two week time span, I encountered two life-changing rocks: Morro and the one I placed on Jules’ finger.
Last year, in trying to find a new extended weekend vacation destination, I brought up Morro Bay. The town had its isolated charm along the ocean. The enchanting Paso Robles wine region was nearby. And it had a huge rock. We went and had the most amazing time.
A few weeks ago, we made our return. We spent two afternoons touring wineries -- some familiar and others new. Everyone was so incredibly nice and welcoming. We had fun conversations at every winery we visited.
L’Aventure had some of the best wine we drank all trip.
The cats of Whalebone.
Terry Hoage Vineyards.
Chris, the very kind owner of Oso Libre, talked to me about the science involved in growing grapes. I loved this stuff. The sheep naturally prune and fertilize the vineyard grounds. There is a green turbine that sits on the vineyard floor. Since his vines are located at the bottom of a valley, the cold air drifts down from the hillsides and takes residence at the low point. This could potentially harm the grapes. The turbine breathes in the cold air and shoots a column of air over two-hundred feet high. This method raises the temperature enough to preserve the grapes. It was fascinating to hear all of the nuances involved in growing grapes. It’s a fragile balance one has to maintain. The wine at Oso Libre was excellent, too. We bought two bottles.
Walnut trees at Adelaida and me holding a five pound bag of walnuts harvested from the grounds.
It’s possible I’ve lived in an urban area too long when the site of a squirrel excites me. But we saw lots of fantastic animals this trip including wild turkeys, deer, sea lions, otters, blue jays, hawks, quail, longhorn cattle, jackrabbits, lizards, and the aforementioned squirrel.
Otters in the foreground of the Morro Bay power plant.
We loved our hotel room along the Morro Bay embarcadero. Our view:
Oh, how badly I wanted to get in that crane and lift boats.
And then there is my beloved Morro Rock.
Jules and I at the base.
Waves crashing upon the barrier adjacent to Morro Rock.
I woke up early Sunday morning to do a quick drawing of the rock from the bench outside our hotel. While I can easily take a thousand pictures, nothing locks in a moment, place, or feeling more powerfully than when I sit down in an environment and draw my surroundings. A connection is made.
The morning marine layer had enveloped the scene which muted the colors and softened all edges and shadows. It was a chilly morning. I had become so engrossed in drawing that by the time I finished I realized that my fingers and feet were numb. The drawing is 8x5” and was done in a Moleskine sketchbook.
Here is a picture of my simple plein-air drawing materials. I consider this my “coffee-shop” arsenal -- ideal for park-benches and coffee shops.