Monday, November 30, 2009
We got up and out of camp early this morning and rode a short ways down the beach to have a relaxing breakfast while watching the rising sun. We ate our granola and Greek yogurt (thanks Staci!) and watched the waves. A nice man walking by stopped to inform us that not 100 yards away in the ocean were porpoises, surfacing and swimming by in their pod. It was good to round out our ocean mammal sightings. Later that morning, while washing dishes at the surfer shower on the beach, I pressed the wrong water spigot button and instead of getting a spray near my feet as I had planned, I got a nice spray from the top faucet and completely soaked myself. Thankfully it was cold that morning and I was wearing my full raingear. Greg laughed for a full two minutes :)
We rode back into the town of Dana Point to find a shop with internet and ended up 1.5 miles inland and up in the hills. We spent a long time here working on the blog and on the internet. At about noon we finished and found a conveniently located "all you can eat" pizza and salad buffet. YUM! We got started riding at about 1PM.
Today we rode through the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base north of San Diego. Much of the path was a wide deserted road that was the bike path. Later we got to the actual base where people work and live. One rule while riding through the base is that you must ride single file. Now when I see that the Marines are asking me to ride single file, I ride single file. I had been giving Greg a hard time about riding single file because we kept ending up next to each other talking. Then as he was riding behind me he yelled, "Hey Dani, look behind you!" I couldn't look back and safely steer so I waited for the vehicles we heard rumbling behind to pass. They were huge hum-V, tank like trucks with four wheels. They must have been fifteen feet tall and painted in camo. The exhaust emptied, unmuffled, at our ear height. They were very loud and when they all passed, there were maybe 15 vehicles total. But the best part about this encounter was that on the back of each and every one of these monster vehicles was a sign reading "STUDENT DRIVER."
We got through the base, which had been nice riding and shortly after entered Oceanside and then Carlsbad. We got to my Uncle Tom's house at about 4:30, just in time to see him get home from work. Tom works as a teacher in the mechanical engineering department at the University of California San Diego. That night Tom, his friend Barbara and Greg and I had a nice dinner of salmon. We have a nice cozy bed here and we plan on taking tomorrow as a rest day in Carlsbad.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Day 44 62 Miles
This morning, Steve and Linda made a great pancake breakfast for us with fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh ground coffee, and some great blackberry topping. After we ate breakfast Steve and Linda let Dani and I take out their awesome Co-motion tandem for a spin. We think we are going to have to get a tandem for our next tour. They are just so much fun.
We got all packed up and Steve and Linda rode with us to the grocery store and then to In n Out burger for lunch. I have wanted Dani to try In n Out since we have gotten to California, so this was a big deal. If you don't know what In n Out burger is, it is a small fast food chain in mostly California that has great burgers and fries and shakes. That is all they serve. They have a secret menu, so you have to be in the know a little bit to be able to order your burger or fries with special fixings on them. I only know Animal style which gets you sautéed onions, cheese and thousand island dressing. Very good. Dani and I had burgers with four (yes four) meat patties and four slices of cheese (called 4 by 4) and we had them Animal Style. We each had an order of fries and each had a shake. It was so yummy, but we got so full.
After lunch we said our goodbyes to Steve and Linda. We can't thank them enough for all of their great advice and especially for such a nice place to stay. Their friends just invited us right in and fed us a great supper. We were even telling Steve and Linda about how we had been looking for a small cutting board for weeks. They responded by offering us a very nice perfectly sized bamboo cutting board from right off of their shelf. We couldn't believe it. They are so nice! Thank you Steve and Linda!
After we left In N Out, we were running a bit late, but we figured we would be alright. We rode through L.A. and it was much easier than we had ever imagined. Almost all of the riding was on bike paths. Some of it was along the L.A. river which is now nothing more than a concrete aqueduct with a trickle of water in it. I could just picture Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator riding the motorcycle with the sawed off shot gun flying down the aqueduct trying to escape from T-1000.
We had to ride a few roads, but mostly we were on the beach going down the bike paths with all of the people walking dogs and roller blading. The path ended in Newport Beach. Here we got back on the Pacific Coast highway for the first time since Malibu about 80 miles before. L.A. is huge! We were making good time, but we were starting to realize that we would probably have to ride in the dark to get to Dana Point and Doheny State Park.
Around Laguna Beach a cyclist out on a Sunday ride named Tom rode with us and asked about or trip. He was genuinely concerned with our safety and rode with us so he could guide us through Laguna Beach. He said the Pacific Coast Highway gets very busy their, and the city refuses to change the bike route through town. The city is worried that if they change the bike route, if any cyclist gets hurt or hit by cars, they could be held responsible and sued. So instead they keep the bike route on a six lane highway with no shoulders. Luckily Tom guided us through all of the town right to the very end. It is so nice that people like Tom are concerned enough to help us out. We would have never known about any alternate way through town, but he showed us much calmer streets with bike lanes and gave us a little tour of the town. Laguna Beach seems very nice.
We arrived in the City of Dana Point a bit after dark, and found Doheny State Beach. We went to the campground, but we could not find the entrance station to pay for our site. After looking for it for almost a half hour we gave up and just set our tent up in one of the sites. We had some supper and headed for bed after a very long day of riding.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Greg and "Chompy" our new mascot crocodile that now rides on Greg's front rack. We found him at Leo Carillo State park on our Picnic table. He gets to be the third member on our trip, but he doesn't even have to pedal. He is that cool
Day 43 45 miles
Today we woke up to a dry tent again. It is so nice to have things finally drying out. In fact, last night some warm dry air moved into the area. We had a nice warm breeze blowing through the dry leaves still hanging onto the sycamore trees. It was a nice sound to sleep to. Any way, we ate a bunch of bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and packed our gear and headed out. We came into Malibu and found a coffee shop so we could get internet and check to see if anyone in L.A. responded to our warmshowers host request. We were so disappointed when we found out that no one had. Where to stay in L.A?
We used the powers of the internet to start searching hostels and hotels in the city. We quickly found what we usually find, hostels are within ten dollars of a hotel. We found a hotel in Torrance for $62 per night and booked it. While I was booking the room on the phone I received a phone call from a number I didn't know. When I got off of the phone I check my messages and it happened to be a warmshowers host, Steve, in Hermosa Beach. I called Steve back and he said we were welcome to stay at their house for the night. What luck! I called the motel right back and cancelled our reservation.
We left the coffee shop and rode through the rest of Malibu. We could not believe the money just dripping from this area. I started pointing out all of the vehicles to Dani that cost over $100,000. There were a bunch. We saw multiple Ferrari's, Bentley's, and even a Rolls Royce, many Porsche's, an Alfa Romeo, the list goes on, and all of these cars just in a small area. Riding through Malibu was the worst riding conditions. There were many cars parked along the shoulder and they were pulling in and out and opening and closing doors right in our riding area. Then to add to the scariness, there were three lanes of fast moving traffic buzzing right by us so we were squeezed into tight spots more often than we would have liked.
Once we got out of Malibu we rode onto the sidewalk/bike paths that line the beaches along the L.A. area that you have probably heard of or seen. We were hoping to see some of the body builders or other odd people out on the sidewalks along Venice, but I think it was to cold for the locals. It was only around 65 degrees. We took our time and saw the sights as we rode along the bike path. We rode to the Hermosa Pier at around 4:00 pm. We called Steve and he gave us directions to he and Linda's house, only four blocks off our route!
When we arrived at their house, Steve and Linda instantly made us feel right at home. We were expecting a place in the yard to pitch a tent, but they provided us with a bedroom and futon with our own bathroom. It couldn't have been any better. After we unpacked a bit, they told us we could shower up if we wanted because we were invited to a second Thanksgiving dinner at their friends house! We took really nice showers and got all cleaned up for the first time in awhile.
After meeting Steve and Linda's four cats and hanging out for a bit with them all, we went to their friends, the Miller's, house and met some of their friends. One of them has been photographing beach volleyball since the sixties and the other was a film maker and was working on a film about wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone. We had a great thanksgiving meal with all of the fixings. We stuffed ourselves with this great food and got to relax and meet some new people. It was a great night.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Carpinteria to Leo Carillo State Park (just crossed in Los Angeles County)
We flew out of camp this morning, leaving Carpinteria State Park an hour before their checkout time (8:00 AM). We rode straight to the International House of Pancakes and ordered up a good breakfast of garden omelet, eggs, hash browns and pancakes. After getting our fill of food we were looking at the map and realized that we would be in L.A. in two days time. We studied the map further and realized there is a stretch along our route for about 80 miles with no campgrounds.
We jumped on the warmshowers website hoping that we could find someone to take us in for a night in L.A. After we emailed four or five different people asking if they could host us, we headed down the road not much later than we usually get out of camp 10:30. We both were feeling pretty strong and with few hills and at times a nice tailwind, we made great time. We came into Ventura, CA on what the surfers told us was the best surfing day of the year. The waves were huge and the shore was completely lined with people watchers, wave watchers, and surfers. We stopped and watched for awhile, and a surfer came over to chat with us about his recent tour from New York to L.A.
We left Ventura and headed South to the next town called Oxnard. We made a short grocery stop here but then continued south. We couldn't believe how fast we were going. On the flats we were going between 17 and 20 mph! It is nice to actually have a strong tailwind and very few hills for once. We flew past our campgrounds we were using for a contingency plan. (We usually plan two campgrounds for the day, one if we don't get as far as we wanted, and one that is our goal). We arrived at Leo Carillo State Park campground at 3:30!! We didn't know what to do with ourselves so we went and actually took showers, and then made supper before it got dark. Amazing,. We even have time to catch up on the blog in the tent. We know more hills are coming, but we will take the flat lands while we have them,.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Lompoc to Carpinteria CA
Our Thanksgiving breakfast consisted of pumpkin pie, blueberry muffins, and grapes. We had an important event happen today, the first morning we have had where the tent fly was dry in the morning! We stayed at a campground run by the city of Lompoc. It was really nice far a couple of reasons; first of all, it only cost $5. Also, we were in a nice location at the front of the campground where it was quiet, clean, and spacious. To top things off, when the ranger came to check registration in the morning, he came over and talked to us, then gave us back our money. We thought that was pretty nice of him.
I was checking my tires and found a flat before we left. Upon examination Greg told me I had gotten a flat because my rear tire was worn almost completely down to the inner fibers. He said I should be proud of wearing out a tire because not many people do it. Yay! I plan on getting a nice tire but in the meantime I am using our spare. Thank goodness Greg thought of bringing a spare.
We really cruised down the road today. Our elevation profile told us that we only had one more major hill for the whole Pacific Coast Route. The ascent was surprisingly gradual and before we knew it we were at the top. The hills were rolling and open with cows or horses grazing, not many houses.
Then we got to University of California Santa Barbara, which is just north of the towns of Goleta and Santa Barbara. The route took us on a bike path through the campus, which was really low-key since everyone was gone for Thanksgiving. Then we rode into the town of Santa Barbara on the same bike path. There was a lot of hustle and bustle when the path took us near the ocean. There were people out walking, riding bikes, surfing, and playing. We got through the towns without any issues.
We pulled into Carpinteria around 4:15 and rode in to our campground. We were surprised to find that this campground was $10 per person per night for hiker/biker sites (usually it is $5). The staff were short with us and we were not that pleased with our location, the price, or their attitudes. It seems that in nearly all of the California State Parks the hiker/biker sites are located in the worst part of the campground, usually near the dump station, porta-potties or, in the case of tonight, the railroad tracks and also the furthest from the showers. Unfortunately the prices of these sites has also increased as we go south because many of the parks have had trouble with vagrants abusing hiker/biker sites by trashing them or bringing in shady activity. Higher prices mean that vagrants can't afford the hiker/biker sites, but it means that they are nearly as expensive as a normal site for someone with a car. Another thing that astonished us was that the hiker/biker site check out time at this campground was 9:00 AM while it was noon for the other campers. I guess we will have to pack up quickly tomorrow.
We set up our camp and went back in to town to find a place to eat a nice Thanksgiving dinner. We rode through the entire town and the only place that was open was Subway, and we couldn't bring ourselves to have Thanksgiving at a Subway. So we went to the Safeway and picked out a bunch of things to take back to camp and eat. We ended up with a quart of eggnog, a bottle of sparkling cider, cheddar-broccoli soup, a loaf of artisan bread, and gorgonzola jalapeño poppers. It was the best we could do and we enjoyed our meal regardless. Tomorrow we are going to IHOP for a hot, post-Thanksgiving breakfast, I can't wait.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Day 40 50 Miles
The further South we get, the easier drying dew off our tent becomes. It is still getting drenched every night, but the temperatures rise much more quickly in the morning, and the humidity drops. This morning we got out of camp at a good time. Within the first few miles though, I missed a turn on the map and we rode 2-3 miles out of our way, so probably about 5 miles total. Bummer. Once we got back on track all was good. We were making such good time, and it seemed like we weren't trying all that hard. We stopped in a little market for a pit stop and ate some ice cream bars to power up for the upcoming hills.
We rode through mile after mile of agricultural valley bottom. It is unbelievable how much of the state is ploughed up for fruits and veggies. We left highway one for awhile to cross over a divide where the highway would have taken us way out of the way. We were climbing up the almost thousand foot gain pretty well when Dani suddenly heard me start screaming expletives and just noises in general. I scared her pretty badly. It wasn't until she rode past where I had been that she realized why I was screaming. I had been looking up the road and when I glanced back down (on a steep grade we were only going 4-5 mph) I saw a HUGE brown tarantula pass right beneath my foot right at the exact moment my foot went down on a pedal stroke. It scared the crap out of me. Had I seen it coming I probably would have pulled over and stopped for a picture, but this thing just appeared. It was such a coincidence too, because Dani and I were just talking about how the landscape had suddenly changed to nearly desert. After my heart returned to what it would usually be at on a hill climb and Dani stopped laughing at me, were we able to continue on our way. Shortly after this, Dani found a really expensive two way radio belonging to the City of Lompoc along the road. We are going to try to return it. It looks like it is still in working condition.
We arrived in Lompoc much sooner than we had expected, around 2:30 and spent some time grocery shopping and eating lunch. We are going to head to our campsite now, and probably eat some more food to fuel up for our almost 70 mile push through Santa Barbara tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Day 39 17 miles
After seeing Dani take a fall, it was an easy decision to take an easy day today and only go 17 miles. We woke up in our hotel and decided to use the morning as an opportunity to post blogs and wash some laundry. We dilly dallied until checkout time at 11:00 and then headed out of San Luis Obispo toward Pismo Beach. I had heard of Pismo Beach before but I had no idea it is so small. It is a community of around 10,000 people, and I think all of them were at the beach. Between sunbathing, playing on the beach, swimming, or surfing there were a ton of people on the beach. I can't blame them, the beach in Pismo is beautiful.
We checked out the beach for awhile, but eventually we were lured in. We have been risding next to the pacific ocean every single day for over a month. Almost every night we go to sleep listening to waves crashing against the beach, but we have yet to set foot in the ocean. On such a warm day with such a nice beach I couldn't help myself. Dani decided not to swim because of her wounds from crashing, but I went all out. At first the water felt pretty cold, but I got used to it quickly. This was my first time actually swimming in the ocean. I kept getting further and further from shore until I was out where the surfers were waiting for the big waves to curl and break. I loved trying to jump over the waves but as I got further from shore the water was to deep to jump so I just let the waves crash over me. The current in the water coming into the shore and pulling back out are so strong. I could feel them pulling me in both directions at the same time. Finally a set of three big waves at once hit, but I could only see the first two. When the third one hit I was just coming up for air and I got a huge mouth full of salty Pacific Ocean water. It is so salty! At that point I swam back to Dani and the shore. We sat on a bench by the beach and ate a snack while I dried off.
After we left the beach we rode ten more miles to the town of Oceano. This was not much of a town. It seems as though the biggest industry is tourism based around off road vehicles coming to the local dunes and a state off road vehicle recreation area. We tried to find a grocery store, but in a town of almost 8,000 we couldn't. We finally inquired and we were pointed down the highway to a Mexican market. I am glad we went. I have been in Asian markets before, but this place was a trip. Most of the stuff in the store was labeled in Spanish, and there was a jewelry counter directly adjacent to the meat counter. (not joking at all). We bought the fixin's for, what else, but burritos for supper. We went back to the state park campground to make our meal only to find that they no longer have hiker/biker sites. They did away with them because they were being abused by the homeless. So, we had to pay $25.00 for a piece of dirt to pitch our tent on. At least the burritos were good.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This is to illustrate how minor the scratches were, don't worry I'm perfectly fine
My fingers are pointing to the bruise from the pedal
My fingers are pointing to the bruise from the pedal
This morning we headed a mile down the road to the town of Cambria to work on the blog and try to contact some people for a place to stay in Santa Barbara. After some pastries and wireless we rode out, a little later than we liked. We stopped in Cayucos and ate a fast and not fulfilling lunch of chips and spinach dip with an "Its-It" ice cream bar. There were some really pretty beaches along the way today and we had been talking about how much we wanted to finally swim in the ocean. It is weird that we have been riding next to it for so long but have not yet swam in it. Unfortunately we were in a hurry to get through San Luis Obispo before dark. We didn't realize that SLO was actually a pretty safe town that was a lot smaller feeling than we had pictured.
We were riding along a nice side road through some farmland when we met up with a fellow cyclist out for a ride. His name is Matt Potter and we had a great time talking to him for the next several miles down the road. He told us that he is a solar power consultant working with both residential and commercial projects. But work has been slower and he said he rides his bike about 3 hours each day. We had a great conversation with him and we were making great time towards our goal.
We had gotten off of the gravelly, patchy pavement of the side road and back to a road with nice wide, smooth, recently paved shoulders and little traffic when I hit the ONLY rock on the whole shoulder. I don't know if I didn't see it, or saw it and thought it was something soft like a leaf or what, but I hit the 2x2" going about 15 mph and instantly got a pinch flat. I was able to stay balanced for a couple of seconds after hitting the rock but then the immediate deflation of my tire made steering impossible and I went down. I managed the fall pretty well and before I knew it about five people were standing around me. Greg was checking me out to make sure I was OK, Matt checked my bike, then a nurse and her family were there, plus a state trooper. The nurse checked me out and saw that my injuries were pretty minor. I scratched my left knee and had a bruise there as well from the pedal. I had a small scratch on my thumb, and other than that, I was fine. It was really amazing to see all of the good people who seemed to show up out of nowhere to help me. I'm also very thankful that I am only very superficially scratched. I will be all the more careful riding after my little run in with the rock.
Matt took us in to San Luis Obispo and to a bike shop first to get a new tube. Additionally, I am thankful that the fall didn't hurt my bike other than the flat tire. He recommended a motel to us because we knew we were not going to make it to the original campsite, and I wanted to get a shower and clean up. After we checked in to our hotel room and got showers, Matt met us downtown for some dinner. He treated us to sandwiches at his favorite place in town and after dinner we went and got frozen yogurt. Mmm, this was a good end to our day. We had a great time talking to Matt and we ended up talking into the night. One of the best parts about touring is the cool people you meet along the way. What an eventful day.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
We got out of our great camp at 9:30 this morning with no dishes to do at breakfast. There are lots of hills on today's ride. Many smaller climbs and one large hill with two peaks. I felt a little slower today going up the hills, but I was in a good mood and kept a consistent pace. We had another sunny day with great, sweeping views of the ocean below. We hit the first peak of the big hill and felt pretty good. Then we started to go down, and down and down. It seemed like were losing a lot of elevation, just to gain it all back again, and then some! Our chocolate chip cookies from Trader Joe's really helped us through the climbs today. Mmm...cookies.
After the biggest hills were conquered we were riding along some picturesque winding road when I saw a GSA truck (a federal government truck) with someone outside using telemetry and looking through a spotting scope. I had to bother this guy and ask him what we was studying and if I could please look through the scope. It turns out that he is was looking at some wild sea otters and I got to look through the scope at them floating on their backs and playing in the kelp leaves. I got to see three wild sea otters today, how exciting! We found out from this guy that there are only about 2,600 sea otters in California, with strong populations around Big Sur. The females have a several mile long home range, while the males in his study were traveling over 40 miles to the north of where we were standing. We thanked him for his time and got on our way again, although I know Greg and I could have asked him questions for a long time.
We ate lunch at a picnic table at the Forest Service's fire station in Pacific Valley. Trout filets and cheese on crackers, so good. After a small climb out of Gorda, we had a great road with wide shoulders and rolling hills. Not to mention a very helpful 15mph tailwind. YES! We were cruising easily at about 19-20 for miles. We saw a turnout on this road and decided to take it so we could get some pictures of the coast. There was a huge crowd at this site and it was not until we pulled in that we realized everyone was gathered here to see the elephant seals. Elephant seals come to this beach twice each year. Once to breed and give birth and a second time in the spring to molt their skin. We got to see the groups just begin to form harems. I think the pups were all born by this time because they seemed to be pretty big by now. Elephant seals are very cute. They lounge about on the sand and scratch their tummies with their flippers. What I liked the best is the big smiles on their faces when they sleep in the sun. They also throw sand on themselves. It is very obvious which animals are males and which are females. The males have a big snout and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. The females are smaller (1,200 pounds) and lack the bulbous proboscis. It was a first for both Greg and I seeing the elephant seals and it was quite unforgettable.
We also passed the Hearst Castle State Park on the route today. We could see it perched on a ridge out in the valley. Another oddity we encountered today was the sight of zebras grazing in a pasture with black angus cattle. Yes, zebras. I can't explain this one. It has been an interesting day of mammal sightings.
San Simeon State Park Campground is just mediocre. The hiker/biker sites are right next to the highway and far from the showers. But, I can't really complain too much, we paid $5 while everyone else paid $35. Tomorrow we ride through San Louis Obispo.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
We are ready to get on the road this morning! We feel well rested and ready to make some time to the south. Got out of camp at our usual 10AM, bought some tubes in town (after getting a flat...again) and also spoke to some locals, who were very excited about our trip. They also warned us of the big hill we had ahead. It seems that every locality has their own dreaded "big hill." They also all told us of how beautiful the road ahead would be, and they weren't kidding. Big Sur and the surrounding coastline is so beautiful. There are seemingly endless miles of steep dramatic cliffs and slopes reaching into the ocean. We could see brown kelp forests far below. For some reason we took a snack break and ate a whole bag of chocolate covered pretzels. What were we thinking? That was a bad idea that stuck with us for much of the day. We won't be eating chocolate covered pretzels for a while after today's event. The hill at Big Sur was a great climb and while tiring, was very rewarding. The view from the top was great. While riding today we saw a car with a "4C" Montana license plate at a turnout. We had to talk to them because we were so excited to find someone out here who was from Missoula. The guy was in the military and originally from Missoula. It was good to see a fellow Montanan out here in California.
At Half Moon Bay we got a tip from a guy named Jerry that there are walk in campsites at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park that are not listed on our map. We decided to check it out when we got there, and indeed there were 2 "environmental campsites" at the park. We just rolled our bikes on the path into the campsite...past sheer cliffs where the ocean's waves crashed below. The camp here was phenomenal. It was definitely one of my favorite sites on the whole trip. First of all because it was far from large groups of people (only 2 people camped here besides us) therefore also extremely quiet. Secondly, there was a metal food storage box so I could sleep well knowing raccoons couldn't get to our food. Last, but not least, the location was incredible. We were perched on a small flat spot of land above a rocky cliff. We could hear the waves crashing below us all night. We were lucky enough to see the sunset from our campsite. There was even a little bench positioned perfectly to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Monterey Rest Day
Yesterday we read that today would be a nasty storm so we decided to stay another day and get some more rest. We were wondering if we had made the right choice when the day started with blue skies and sunshine. We went into town after packing up our camp and set up in a coffee shop with wireless. Finally around 1 PM the storm hit Monterey. I'm glad we weren't in this storm. We heard it was even worse in the Bay area to the north, but we still got hit pretty hard. We spent the day working on the blog and using the internet. I think the rest day also helped Greg's Achilles tendon get better. Yay!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Day 34 Rest Day/Fun Day
I have been talking about going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since I knew we were taking this bike trip. I had been told how cool it was and that it was one of the best in the world. Today was the day! We got up and took our time making a great breakfast and packing up our camp. We got to the aquarium right around opening and tried to make the most of our day. We started out by going to the Outer Bay exhibit (which houses large ocean going fish) to watch a feeding that happens about 4 times each week. There were 400 pound tuna, barracuda, sardines, an ocean sunfish and huge Mahi Mahi in the tank. It was really exciting to watch them feed. The tuna swim so fast, it was cool to watch them swoop and speed, gulping down chunks of squid. A major theme at the aquarium is making good seafood choices. They have a Seafood Watch guide that gives a rating for each species you can find at restaurants, telling you if it is a good, better, or poor choice of fish. The rating is based on the whether the species is being harvested sustainably or if their habitat is in danger due to fishing practices, etc. Please check it out on their website. After the big fish feeding we went to the kelp forest to see the fish in that exhibit get fed. A diver went into the tank and handed the fish their food. He gave a talk and answered questions while in the tank. The kelp forest is unique because it is in the Monterey Bay Aquarium that kelp was first able to be grown in captivity. We went to a lecture about deep sea creatures and the research being done to learn more about these species. It has been said that we know more about space than we do about the deep ocean. What a fascinating world.
We went to the touch tanks and got to feel many of the critters found in tide pools. This was a really neat experience for both of us. There was an amazing little aviary where wild birds who were injured, raised in captivity or recovering lived. You could get really close to these birds and notice things about them that would be difficult to see in the wild. We even saw a snowy plover, which is an endangered species. There was a black oystercatcher living there because he never learned how to break open his oysters and clams. I really enjoyed the bird exhibit.
Some other interesting exhibits included the jellies gallery and "secret lives of seahorses." Monterey Bay Aquarium is famous for its jellyfish collection and it is spectacular. To see the strange shapes, colors, and movements of jellyfish is unlike any other creature I have seen. Some had spectacular arms while others displayed amazing light shows.
The seahorse exhibit amazed Greg and I the most because we saw some animals we had no idea even existed on this earth. There were sea dragons, (leafy and weedy) which can hardly be described, you just have to look at their pictures above. A different species, the pipefish, hides among the spines of sea urchins for protection. They even have a purple stripe on their sides to blend in better with the urchins spines. Another amazing thing about seahorses is that the males carry and give birth to the young.
We also saw feedings of sea otters and penguins, which was really fun to watch. Sea otters are so playful and charismatic. The aquarium had an incredible amount of activities and exhibits for kids as well. So if you have kids and you are ever anywhere near Monterey, you will not regret taking kids here. I hope you guys enjoy our pictures, we had so much fun today we stayed around until closing.
After we left the aquarium we got dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Maha's Cuisine. Mmm...new foods! Then we climbed back up the hill to our campground. We are taking another rest day tomorrow because at this point we are reading the forecast, which calls for gale-force 45 mph winds from the south and about 1/4 inch of rain. The chance of precipitation is 100%. We hadn't planned on staying another night, but we will still be just fine on time to get to the next place. This additional rest day is also good news for Greg. It will be good to have more time to rest his aggravated Achilles tendon.