Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Oregon Trail, Part II: A new beginning

It is Monday, August 31st, 2009. Courtney and I planned to leave at 6am, but after breakfast, some last minute packing, and about 20 minutes of me rigging the bikes onto the 'Hollywood' trunk mounting rack, we end up leaving about an hour and a half behind schedule. As locals know, there was a huge fire in the valley, and as we crested the hills on the 405, headed for the 101 north, we saw an orange and gray wasteland. As we took the interchange onto the 101, with the huge plumes of smoke behind us, I thought it was strangely fitting. Driving away from a wildfire and leaving Los Angeles were literally one and the same.

The first stop was Santa Barbara, a quick coffee pit stop, a visit to the courthouse, and back on the road. The courthouse is a historic site, and it is beautiful. From the observation deck of the tower, the tallest building in town, we looked out across the entire region, and for the first time it really sank in that this was going to be an amazing trip.

The main attraction that day: the Hearst Castle. Basically, if you haven't been there, it's Xanadu. Hearst had two pools, one indoor and one outdoor, several guest houses that were ornately decorated and furnished, and a main house that was designed to look like a church.

As we were guided around the grounds, I was blown away by the opulence. But much more than that, I felt a kinship with the owner. I understood, or at least sympathized with the desire to create a perfect place, a paradise on earth.

The place was absurdly large for just a single family and (albeit many) guests. And yet, from the point of view of sustainability, it was more efficient when working than many middle class single family dwellings today. The owners and designers had no care, not one thought about sustainability, but the technology of the day demanded that things be done a certain way. No central air meant that everything had to be naturally ventilated, no running water meant that pressure was provided by gravity, and supply to the house was balanced against irrigation to the operating ranch run by the Hearst family.

Not to say that it was a beacon of sustainability, it was absolutely not, it is just amazing how unsustainable our lives have become in such a short period. Today the average working class house hold consumes more energy and probably wastes more water per person than the Hearst Castle, which was the symbol of opulence at its prime, when Charlie Chaplan played tennis there with Bill Tilden.

We finished the day in Cambria, an exquisitely charming little town with three shops offering local wine tastings and not one fast food chain. The hotel had a barbecue available for guests, and we bought fixings for dinner at the local grocery store, the Cookie Crock Market, where they made their own sausage (delicious), and potato salad (possibly more delicious). Like a movie script, when we asked about the 'Cambria sausage' that they were selling, and if it was any good, the man the behind the counter said "Yeah it's good, I should know, I made it."

We took our bikes off the rack (only 15 minutes this time) and rode along a semi well kept trail to the coast. It was the first of many times on this trip that we walked out to the edge of the ocean and were greeted with a beautiful view.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like such a nice trip! Cambria is so cute (my parents go there for special occasion weekends away, special anniversaries and such), and Hearst Castle is definitely something to be seen at least once in one's lifetime!