The Coast of California

by Bob Sparrow

Borrowing a format from friend, fellow adventurer and blogger, Jeff Kane . . .

The music: Coast of California, a haunting melody sung by the Kingston Trio

The wine: Big Easy, a Syrah blend from central coast’s Fess Parker Winery

Hwy 1     I recently had the pleasure of experiencing 137 miles of the natural beauty of the California coastline. The occasion was a golf trip for a milestone birthday celebration for friend, Judy VanBoxmeer, put together by husband, John. It was an opportunity to make a drive I hadn’t made in over 35 years – up State Route 1.

State Route 1 is arguably the most scenic road in America.  It has several aliases: Pacific Coast Highway or PCH to the locals, Cabrillo Highway as well as just Highway 1.  It was built piecemeal in various stages, with the first section opening in the Big Sur region in the 1930s.  It stretches as far north as the little town of Leggett, CA, in Mendocino County and in the south it terminates in Orange County, which I will probably do as well.  Leggett is the home of some of the largest Redwood trees in the world, including the famous ‘Drive Through Tree’.  But we weren’t going as far north as Leggett, we were headed to a place called Pebble Beach – perhaps you’ve heard of it.

legget tree


Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 join together just south of the college town of San Luis Obispo and then splits again just north of SLO with Hwy 101 staying inland and Hwy 1 heading for the coast where it meets up with the Pacific Ocean at Morro Bay. Over the next 94 miles to Big Sur, the road hugs the coastline in spectacular fashion, passing through the little towns of Harmony (pop. 18), Cambria, the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco; then, after you pass through San Simeon (pop. 462) you have to force yourself to turn away from the spectacular coastline and look high up on the mountains inland to see Hearst’s Castle – an adventure for another day.


Bixby Creek Bridge

From San Simeon to just below Big Sur, the road really traces the coastline closely. This drive is not for the timid or those prone to carsickness; it is a winding road with barely enough room for two cars to pass. During our trip the road was narrowed to just one lane three times, due to either the road having eroding below us or from rocks having slid from above. Thankfully there are numerous places to pull over and watch the sea lions sun bathing, the surf crashing against the cliffs or the sun sinking into the Pacific.

As we entered the Big Sur area, the road turned inland just a bit and we found ourselves deep in a forest surrounded by trees of every description, coast redwoods, bay laurel, white oak, fir, pine, as well as the endangered wild orchid. Although Big Sur is sparsely populated (about 1,000), its beauty and serenity attract a good number of musicians, writers and artists throughout the summer.


Moon over Pebble Beach

As we leave Big Sur and cross over the iconic Bixby Bridge, we have about another 15 beautiful miles before we are greeted by the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea – southern gateway to the Monterey Peninsula.

As we sat down for dinner outside at ‘The Bench’ just off the 18th green at Pebble Beach on a beautiful evening, I was reminded that we were only a few days away from the ‘longest day of the year’ as the last group of golfers were just teeing off on the 18th hole at 8:55 p.m.

Our stay at the Inn at Spanish Bay started with a most beautiful day to play the Links at Spanish Bay, which is laid out along the coastline, and ended with the traditional kilted Scotsman coming over the dunes at day’s end playing his bagpipe. The following day we played Pebble Beach, fog was included at no extra cost, although it seemed like there were some extra costs in there somewhere!  It was not as beautiful a day, but . . . hey, it was Pebble Beach! There is no real need to discuss my golf scores on these fabulous courses; the pleasure was in the beauty. The pleasure was in the beauty. bagpiperThe pleasure was in the beauty!

Great scenery, great friends and great expense made for a fabulous trip. I believe that every Californian MUST take the Hwy 1 drive at least once in their life.


Below is an aerial video from YouTube you might enjoy (Thank you son, Jeff for helping with the IT).



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

CU Campus

     CU Campus

We’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to Denver to see family.  We enjoyed fabulous times in their spa-like back yard, a great meal at Shanahan’s, and a lung-collapsing walk at the 5200 foot elevation.  It all seems like a dream now that we are experiencing record heat in the desert.  Were we really feeling chilly just a week ago?  To compensate for today’s triple-digit temps, I’m going to harken back to that time long ago – last week – to describe our day trip up to Boulder.  Maybe just thinking about it will make me feel cooler.  Or more confused – read on.

First, it must be said that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the country.  It’s little wonder that Denver is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation – good jobs, good housing and spectacular surroundings.  We have been to Denver a few times so this trip our daughter thought it would be fun to venture up to Boulder.  We were excited to see a city that we’ve read so much about – a burgeoning tech community, fun college town, and haven to hippies and retirees alike.

The beautiful Flatirons

The beautiful Flatirons

So off we headed for the 45 minute drive and decided to take Dash the Wonder Dog along for the ride.  After all, Colorado is one of the more “outdoorsy” states; you can hardly walk a block without seeing someone with a dog.  Or two.  In Boulder more than a third of the population owns a dog so we expected Dash would be in his element.  As we approached the city the first site that came into view was the Flatiron Mountains, a range of five peaks that have a sheer upright face.  Images of the Flatirons are ubiquitous symbols of the city of Boulder.  The city government, the University of Colorado, and many businesses make use of this symbol in their logos, advertisements, and marketing materials.  The mountains form a perfect background for the CU campus.  Combined with the hundreds of trees and the park-like setting, it has to be the most idyllic school in the country at which to goof off rather than go to class.  The center of downtown Boulder is home to the Pearl Street Mall, a four-block pedestrian mall that has cute shops, numerous restaurants and more than it’s fair share of street “performers”.  We found a parking spot close by and embarked on a tour.  We drifted in and out of many of the stores and in each one, Dash the Wonder Dog received oodles of attention.  In one store the clerk asked to have her picture taken with him.  In the kitchen and home store the clerk engaged me in a long discussion about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  So far, we were loving Boulder.  For a fleeting moment, recalling the forecast for Scottsdale this week, I thought perhaps we should go home, pack up and move to Boulder.

Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall

About half-way through our tour of the mall we came to the restaurant that our daughter suggested for lunch.  My husband ran in to take a look at the menu (to say he’s not an adventurous eater would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions) and to see if we could sit at one of the tables on their patio that abutted the mall.  He came out of the restaurant with a rather stunned look on his face.  I assumed that the “special of the day” was elk ear or moose gizzards.  But instead he told us that not only was Dash not welcome on their patio, but that dogs were not allowed AT ALL on Pearl Street Mall.  Whaaaaat?  Just five minutes before Dash was sashaying around the place like he was the mayor.  And now he’s not allowed?  Sure enough, we looked at the signs on a pole at the entrance to the mall and in addition to No Spitting, No Loitering, and No Bikes was the sign I hate most of all – No Dogs.  You’d have thought one of the people who worked in the stores might have said something.  I’m guessing that they are secretly dog owners who think the rule is stupid.  We finally found a restaurant perpendicular to the mall where Dash could join us as long as he was tied up on the street side of the patio.  He was not amused.  After we got back in the car, I did a quick Google search and sure enough, Boulder, contrary to what one might expect, is not a dog-friendly town.  Turns out that “man’s best friend” is not allowed in any restaurant patio or to be off-leash at any time.  Uniformed Animal Control agents patrol the city and are quick to give out citations for any violations.  Geez, I guess we were lucky that Dash didn’t end up behind bars.

So, what was my impression of Boulder?  It’s truly a spectacular city with beautiful views, a vibrant college campus, great shopping…and stupid dog laws.


Are You Ready For Summer?

by Bob Sparrow

stonehengeWhile some people like to call Memorial Day the ‘unofficial start of Summer’, I like to call Memorial Day the official recognition of those brave men and women who paid the ultimate price for preserving our freedoms.  The ‘unofficial start of Summer’ when I was a kid started at about three o’clock on the last day of school – which was typically around the middle of June.  However, the ‘actual start of Summer’ in the Northern Hemisphere occurs this year next Monday, June 20th at exactly 9:34 a.m. PDT when the sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator, but you probably already knew that.  So during this last week of Spring I’m going to help you prepare for Summer.

As sister Suzanne explained last week, preparing for summer for those in Scottsdale means getting out of town.  But some of us, who actually have to live in the same house all year long, have to ready ourselves in other ways. To wit:

Summer Songs – Nothing says summer like a great summer song, so I’ve put this compilation of ‘A Baker’s Dozen Summer Oldies’ together, burned them onto a CD and will be listening to it all summer.  If you’d like a copy, send a self-addressed CD envelope to me and if your among the first 25 to do so, I’ll throw in some old Ginsu knifes that I’ve had lying around here for several years.

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer – Nat King Cole

A Summer Song – Chad & Jeremy

In the Summer Time – Mungo Jerry

Summertime – Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald

Summer Nights – John Travolta and Olivia Newton John

Summer (from Four Seasons) – Vivaldisongs-of-summer-660x265

Summer Breeze – Seals & Crofts

Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams   

Summer in the City – Lovin’ Spoonful

Summer Wind – Frank Sinatra

Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran

The Boys of Summer – Don Henley.         And for my friends in Michigan . . .

All Summer Long – Kid Rock

 Or you can just put on some Beach Boys.

Exercise – Remember the New Years’ resolution about losing that weight and really getting into shape?  Yes, round is a shape, but just a reminder that you have about 4½ months before you start nibbling on that Halloween candy and attending those holiday parties.  Now is the time, even if it’s just walking, to get out of the house.  What are you doing still sitting at your computer?  Go outside!!  You can finish this later.  It only goes downhill from here anyway.

Summer attire – No, you haven’t lost that weight and so you’re not buying that new wardrobe, but hey, it’s summer, buy some loose fitting Tommy Bahama or  Margaritaville stuff along with a pair of Sanuk ‘beer cozy’ flip flops – the most comfortable flip flops you’ll ever own! Find them at REI – you may even find other cool stuff there that will get you outside.

BBQ – Yes, you can still do your favorite chicken or ribs recipe, but make this summer the one that your bbqguests rave about your ‘new’ barbecuing skills.  Try some rack of lamb as well as grilling some fruit and vegetables – watermelon, pears, how about grilling some lettuce for a Caesar salad?  Corn and artichokes are awesome on the grill.  Be different this summer.  You can find a recipe for grilling almost anything on line.  Go crazy – you’ll thank me later.

Summer Blockbusters – I understand that it’s early, but so far it doesn’t look like Tinsel Town will bust too many blocks this summer. So far we have The Conjuring 2, Warcraft, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, X-Men Apocalypse; Alice Through the Looking Glass (featuring Johnny Depp wearing his wife-beaters).  Clearly Baby Boomers are no longer the ‘target market’.  Reruns of M.A.S.H. and The Twilight Zone may be of more interest.  You should be outside anyway!   

Travel – What about travel? you’re asking.  Summer used to be the time for those trips to the mountains, the beach, the national parks as that’s when our kids were out of school, but most of our reader’s kids have kids of their own, so I suggest that you stay away from those places and spend the summer planning to go there in late September or early October when the kids are back in school and the weather is still nice.  Beside, ‘summer gas’ is more expensive that ‘winter gas’.  What?!  Yes, the oil companies would have us believe that they are two different products, but we understand supply and demand economics.

Sunblock – If you take nothing else away from this blog (which is very likely), take this: being tan is no longer cool, it’s asunblock sign that you don’t understand actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma.  I don’t either, but just put on sunblock!

Summer Quotes – I’ll leave you with some summer quotes.

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability” – Sam Keen

“Summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most  beautiful words in the English language” – Henry James

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco – Mark Twain”

“Some of the best memories are made in flip flops” ― Kellie Elmore

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it . . . in summer school” ― Josh Stern

Enjoy your last days of Spring and next week, don’t forget the sunblock!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

vacationIf it’s summer in Arizona it can only mean one thing – get out of town!  I usually look for some signs to tell me when it’s time to leave.  This week we got two – one expected and one, well, out of this world.  The expected sign was in the form of heat.  While the rest of you are enjoying the lapping of an ocean wave or the rustling of a quaking aspen, what we hear all summer is the constant thrummmmm of the air conditioner.  This past week we’ve not only had the usual “summer has arrived in Arizona” heat but staggering, breath-sapping inferno temperatures.  To add to the fun, there was an air quality alert the past four days.  So, not only did we have temperatures that looked more like a steak order, but the air looked like Los Angeles in the 60’s.  Somehow I think that when you can see the air you’re breathing it’s a sign – and not a good one.  We have a lot of travel plans this summer – Denver, Central Coast of California, Mammoth Lakes and Sun Valley – but it took the second sign to put our travel plans into action.

Last Thursday morning, at 4 a.m., we were startled out of a sound sleep by a loud “boom”.  My husband also saw a bright light flash.  I figured the light was the newspaper truck circling our court.  But I couldn’t account for the sound.  Of course, when you’re awakened in this way you are confused about what you heard.  Did the newspaper guy run into the house next door?  Or was it someone breaking into our house?  Ever on the alert, my husband grabbed a flashlight and a bat from under the bed and set out to discover what caused the noise.  Dash the Wonder Dog and I laid our heads back down on the pillow but, of course, sleep is impossible under these circumstances so I decided I’d go help find the culprit.  I grabbed the phone so I could call 9-1-1 and caught up with my husband.  There we were, in the pre-dawn darkness, skulking through our house on tip-toe looking for someone who, ostensibly, was large enough to knock down the garage door to enter our house. This was not going to end well.   Slowly we creeped through the whole house and found nothing.  My husband decided to venture outside but since we just found a rattlesnake in our yard last week, I held sentry at the front door.  There was no sign of an intruder so we put down our bat and phone and decided to brew coffee.

2016-06-02 05.03.24 (Small)We stood in our kitchen, wondering what the sound could have been, when my husband looked out the window and saw what appeared to be contrails in the sky.  I captured it with my camera (picture right) and we surmised it was a plane of some sort that may have crashed.  But when we turned on the news we discovered that Arizona had experienced an asteroid explosion!  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  Sure enough, the sound we heard was a sonic boom when the asteroid fireball broke apart.  Later in the day NASA officials confirmed that it was a small asteroid, about 10 feet in diameter, that had entered the Earth’s atmosphere near Payson, Arizona.  They estimated that the object was moving at more than 40,000 mph when it sped across the sky.  What everyone who was up early saw (and what I captured in my photo) was the smoke trail of the fireball – the winds of the upper atmosphere had caused the trail to twist and turn.  I learned a lot about asteroids on Thursday, mainly that they happen all the time.  They are considered to be “space debris,” or leftover fragments from the formation of the solar system.  Kind of like the spare parts left over from the bed you bought at Ikea.  There are millions of asteroids orbiting the sun, 750,000 of which are found in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  This week scientists have been scrambling to find the scattered bits of the asteroid so they can examine them more closely.  Their fear is that amateurs with their metal-detectors will find them first and they’ll end up on someone’s nook so the finder can say at the next neighborhood BBQ, “Hey, want to come see my asteroid?”.  In any event, these remnants tell scientists about the formation of the solar system so hopefully NASA will find them and we’ll know once and for all whether there are little green men on Mars.

As for me, I think when the universe starts throwing rocks at you it’s a sign, so this week we’re beginning our summer travels.  Stay tuned.