It never fails to amaze me how I make all these observations about my travels and sometimes miss some of the biggest things. A good example of this is while I was couchsurfing in Illinois a few years back with this awesome couple, I was talking with the husband about hiking and about his hobby to visit all of the highest peaks in each of the states. He had this cool book chronicling each adventure to the top of each state. He shows me a picture of a monument and he says “You know what this is right?” I looked at the picture and did not recognize it at all and look at him and said “No.” I shrug my shoulder “Not familiar.” He urges me to look at it again, which I do and don’t recognize it at all. He’s says you’ve hiked the AT (appalachain trail) in New England right? I’m like “Yup most if it in New England.” He says that’s at the top Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. I know I’ve been to the top of Mount Greylock but I did not recognize the monument at all. I said well it’s been a long time maybe the monument is new. He assures me it’s been there 40 or more years. I said “Well I was probably hyperfocusing on a bug, mushroom, lichen or a wildflower which I tend to do.” I missed a pretty big monument on the top of a mountain, I’m thinking, it could happen, but how can someone miss a whole town that they’ve been to while completely sober? Well I managed to do just that.
A few years ago I was visiting my awesome cousin and his even more awesome wife that live outside San Fransisco. They love to host people, be great tour guides, take people around the area and show them so many wonderful things throughout central and northern California. They are gracious and wonderful hosts. On my last visit a few years ago they brought  me to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which I loved! I’m a docent at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, so Monterey Bay Aquarium was always talked about in very good terms. In my humble opinion both Mystic Aquarium and Monterey Bay are world class and based upon the conversations I’ve had with people affiliated in both organizations, there seems to be a very good mutual respect between the two organizations. I really loved the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The facility is wonderful and well interpreted. I saw this awesome presentation regarding the Giant Pacific Octopus. The octopus is an amazing creature. They are smart, really smart. In recent years scientists are just coming around to just how smart they really are.  There is a species of octopus that uses coconut shells as protection by making a house for itself. The scientific community was really stunned by the thought of an invertebrate essentially using a tool. Over recent years the aquariums have recognized just how smart they are and are offering the octopi enrichment everyday to keep the animals engaged and keep them from getting bored or depressed. One of many cool things about octopi is that the only hard thing on their entire body is their beak. They have a beak that is shaped just like a parrots beak. It’s located in the area of the body where the legs meet. An octopus can fit into any hole as long as it can accommodate the beak. The females find the smallest hole possible, for the pacific octopus probably about the size of a quarter and lays her eggs in there.  It’s the coolest thing to watch this large animal fit themselves in these tight spaces. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is laid out very well and right on the Pacific ocean which is great and allows you to watch the ocean and those cute sea otters that inhabit the area. I’d highly recommend it to anyone it. Fast forward to this year to (2015) and my awesome cousins not only hosted me again but also offerred to host my friend who came out from Florida for her first time to experience California. My friend was a huge fan of the author John Stienbeck and his book Cannery Row. The location of the book was staged in Monterey CA. It was one of the places she had on her list. We did a drive by of John Stienbeck family home in Salinas California which was much grander than I thought it would be as all the publications about his life mentioned that he came from a modest upbringing. He was very good at capturing the trials and tribulations of the common people. So we planned to spend a day going to Monterey. As we headed on our way to Monterey, I made the statement that Monterey was OK without a ton of enthusiasm. My hosts inquired, ” Just OK?” I’m like “Yup”. They kind of look at me quizzically as we go down the road. When we get there, I’m looking around and I’m dead serious when I say this, I did not remember one thing, at all, of the town. Not one, except of course the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was kind of weird, after thinking about it a bit, I believe this is what happened we were dropped off in front of the Aquarium and I evidently didn’t bother to turn around and look at the main road going through town. As we are driving down the road this time, I’m just loving this place. Monterey is a lovely seaside community. The coastline was lovely. All the little shops were cute, the park with the statue of John Stienbeck and his friends was awesome. There were remnants of the old canneries still there. It’s a very walkable kind of place. Although, John Stienbeck and his friends were well celebrated with plaques and statues everywhere, I found that there was a  lack of information regarding the Canneries themselves. All I know is that they were Canneries primarily for sardines. I’d like to learn about what canning was all about, working conditions, economics around it, impacts to the area. I think I would have enjoyed a better interpreted museum about Cannery row. All in all though a lovely experience. I did notice one thing that I’ve never seen on a beach before and that was pigeons. There were a group of big happy well fed pigeons living there on the beach. The beach seemed to appeal to them as the beach does for just about everyone, of course, it makes me wonder what great thing I missed while contemplating the beach going pigeons. I’m sure I’ll find out when I go back next time. 🙂

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Margaret Webster

Margaret Webster

What happens when an upbeat, sociable, single, empty nester in midlife, outdoor enthusiast, critter gal, science geek, history buff, treasure hunter with an addiction to brown signs and the wanderlust, embarks on a 4 month road trip in her Chevy pickup truck, loaded with a tent, kayak, bicycle, 5 changes of clothes, her laptop, and cell phone, by herself, that essentially turned into a fulltime lifestyle?

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