Monterey Bay Mystery Trio

Here is a trio of stories to commemorate and celebrate some fun recent events

of my time in Santa Cruz (and the areas close by!)

Hope all is well for you folks and that you enjoy my rantings!

The Case of the Crazy Camper

Santa Cruz has continued to bless me with cold, but perfectly sunny and clear, ocean-side, bike-ride magic time. The town is known for the curious characters that dwell here: hippies, bums, transients, green party whackos and the like.  This results in a lot of visual stimulation as you wander about town. Anyone from a big city has seen a car decked out with crazy paraphernalia. Maybe it’s the colder climate or the conservative town I grew up in, but they are new to me, and I still get a kick of these decorated, belief-bearing vehicles. So, I decided to take a few pictures of this for my friends and family who haven’t seen so many of these gems. I snapped a few photos with my iPhone until my hands were too cold to make the buttons work, and as I did, I imagined the person who owned this piece of work. Was it an old man with greasy gray hair and a long beard, the kind of guy who never quite recovered from the 60s? Or was it a young woman, daughter of a priest from the Midwest, who headed for the coast to rebel? Who knew? As I placed my phone back in my jacket pocket, I heard a creak on the other side of the camper and noticed two feet step out onto the ground in its shadow. In some kind of “wasn’t me!” instinctual reaction, I threw my leg over the bike and pedaled hard before they could round the corner. As I rode away, the small shot of adrenaline settling down, I wondered: was I afraid of being scolded for the pictures? Afraid of being lured into a two-hour political conversation with a coo-koo? Or was it really that I didn’t want to know the identity of this person who wasn’t afraid to get some attention and be weird?  Or was I worried about revealing my small-town awe at something so apparently usual??

The Quaking Redwoods

Excited for some quality time alone together, John and I headed to Big Sur last weekend (that way we wouldn’t have to fight over who got to call Lo and Josie first). With winter still waiting to rear her ugly head and cry buckets of rain down on us, the blue skies and sunshine welcomed us as we drove down HWY 1 and grabbed a campsite in Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We picked a site at a tri-fecta point of sycamores, redwoods, and oaks to enjoy all the best foliage. After a fun day of river rock scrambling, blazing hot hiking in the hills, and way too much hot chocolate, we were pooped and ready for bed at 7:20pm. I decided to steal a quiet moment alone (bathrooms were far away) in the ring of redwoods behind our tent. The moon was nearly full and a warm breeze coming off the hills made for a perfect night-time scene. Suddenly, I was startled from this woods-dream by a thundering sound and the earth literally moving beneath my feet! Excited and semi-terrified of earthquakes, I ran to John to tell him what I had heard and FELT. He was nice enough to humor me and come over to the spot where I had been. After waiting breathless for about 70 seconds, there it was! A rumble and movement of the ground beneath us!  John tried to blame it on a car door slamming, but I have NEVER experienced a car door that could move the earth. My explanation? The tall, tall redwood was being blown about by the aforementioned wind; because redwood trees have most of their foliage in the top third of their height, the center of gravity is quite high, and the wind was causing the tree to tug at the roots in the ground as it tipped back and forth. Yea, that OR there is a colony of fraggles living beneath that ring of redwoods, and they were having a kickin’ party.  I did have a psychedelic dream that night about a super triple-decker airplane taking us to a neon striped planet that resembled something Lisa Frank drew (hot chocolate high), so it could be that we imagined it????

Stone Soup

I have been happy to discover that in my time living apart from John during the weekdays, I find time to cook awesome, healthy meals in spite of the pull to eat fried eggs and chocolate cake every night. Recently, my menu has included: pan seared salmon and bok choy with avocado salsa, cinnamon orange yams, gouda panini with golden raisin vinaigrette, pomegranate kale salad with toasted pine nuts, brussel sprout fried rice, and a very nice green lentil soup. Enough bragging about my awesome chef skills (I can follow a five ingredient Martha Stewart recipe) and back to the soup. I am generally into following recipe preparation advice, but every time I make a recipe with bulk grain or dried beans, I scoff at the recommendation to glean or inspect them for impurities. Pssh! I can handle a couple under-ripened wheat berries or some rice grains in my quinoa; I am no high class cook! The same held true for the lentil soup, and it came out great; I even froze half to eat next week. At work, I sat down to eat a bowl of this re-heated delight. Lentils, the hearty little buggers, require some light mastication, even in soup form. I was gently gnawing away when CRUNCH, my teeth were nearly shattered by an amazingly hard and terrifyingly large “nugget” of something in my bite of soup. I moved the nugget with my tongue to the front of my mouth so I could grab it, and, I tell you no lies, I spat out a pebble!  The little guy had made it from factory to box to bulk bin to plastic bag to measuring cup to soup pot to Tupperware to soup bowl to mouth!!! Working as a geologist, my immediate thought was to get it identified. I took it to my boss who claims to be (and quite likely is) one of the few geologists in the Survey who can still ID a rock based on visual observation alone. As I held the rock out to him with excitement and an ache in my tooth, I explained its origin, and he simply looked at me and said, “You didn’t glean the lentils, did you?”  I pouted and turned to leave, pride hurt, and he called after me, “Looks like feldspar.” (pictured below) How can a little rock travel so far in our food system? How did my tooth not break with that awful crunch of discovery? How did my boss know I had lentils for lunch????????


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