The story of how I knocked #30 out of the park goes like this.
The headquarters of my office happen to be in El Segundo, California. I have only been there a couple of times. As luck would have it, we scheduled a quarterly meeting in LA which I was expected to attend. Since one never knows how long one will have one’s job, I took this little business trip as an opportunity that might not come again before 35 has come and gone, rented an SUV and planned out a drive.
After running my original plan of trying to make the drive from Hermosa Beach to San Francisco in about seven hours by several friends, I was unofficially declared insane and reinforcements were called in. The final plan became this: rent the SUV for the business portion of my trip on the company card, take Friday off and begin the drive that morning, driving the 101 to San Luis Obispo before cutting over to the 1, otherwise known as the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), for a scenic drive like none other until Monterey, where I would stay the night in a potentially crappy motel, and continue the drive to San Francisco airport on Saturday morning. From there, I would catch my flight to Seattle to visit my dad’s family (where I am writing this post from right now).
I was on the road by 11:00 am on Friday morning, and managed to hit an In-n-Out in Santa Barbara with some guidance from my mom and her iPad on my headset. (For those of you who don’t know, In-n-Out is to native Californians what football is to most state university towns. It’s in our blood, and I am no exception to its devoted following—I mean, I took a picture of it for God’s sake. So, to essentially run across the only one on my route right at lunchtime I took as a very good omen. And I was not let down.) I was cruising on the PCH by early afternoon.
Oh friends, this was a magical journey. The magic began with two back-to-back surprises, the likes of which I couldn’t have dreamed up. The first: after driving about 20 minutes on the PCH and taking in the ocean air, I noticed a bunch of people lining a fence on my right, for some reason facing away from the ocean, and I did a doubletake when I saw what they were looking at. Zebras… wha?!… Yes. A herd of zebras. Running and playing up close and then off in the hills and then back up close. As I watched dumbstruck and giggling, I silently thanked the universe for the gift, wherever it came from.
Not wanting to dawdle too long lest I lose daylight, I hopped back in the car and kept going, elated by my safari moment. Not ten minutes later I noticed another group of people overlooking the shore, and veered the car into the lot to take a gander. Again, it took me a moment to take it in. Rocks? No. Seals. Dozens of seals, rolling and yawning and squawking (yes, seals squawk, I didn’t know either) and throwing sand all over themselves. (In the picture they look dead, but I promise, they weren’t.) I assumed they were settling down for the night; it looked like a big seal sleepover.* How was this happening? I inwardly rejoiced. This was my second miracle in a matter of minutes, and I hadn’t even gotten to the good part of the drive yet.
Well, the good part of the drive somehow managed to also exceed expectations. I caught myself saying “wow” and “oooh” out loud as I crested hills and rounded turns and breathtaking image after image filled the sunlit air in front of me. At one point I caught tears rolling down my cheeks, I was so happy to be there, blasting my lady music and doing this thing that I had dreamed of and being so rewarded for it.
It was a day like none in recent memory, a day of triumph and grace.
To wrap up what could be a terribly long story, I had a comfy night by my lonesome with pasta and beer in my Monterey Surf Inn motel room, tried not to think about bed bugs and hit the road again the next morning. The final leg of the trip was not quite equal in beauty to the first, but was still satisfying and lovely. I managed to turn my car in at the airport and get to my gate with time to spare. Exhale. Victory.
I am now in Seattle and you may be wondering what my second one down is, now that I’ve nearly worn out my welcome with the tale of #30. Let me just say this and leave it, because it’s enough: #32 is also officially complete.
*A later Google search and a closer look at my pictures led me to discover that the seals were called Elephant Seals, native to that part of California, and they had come ashore to form a colony and breed. I didn’t notice at the time but realized that in the picture almost every seal has a pup next to her. They were all mothers with their young; some had just given birth. I also discovered that the zebras that seemed like some kind of illusion were actually the property of Hearst Castle, which owns miles and miles of land, much of which houses exotic animals that had always run freely, more so in decades past. The zebras seem to be hanging around. Maybe just for me.