Carmel Valley Day One

 Holman Ranch, Carmel Valley, California. Photo by Anna Bush

Holman Ranch.  Photo by Anna Bush


The computer gods ate my blog so I’m starting over, beginning with the trip we took to California for the wedding of my cousin Julian James to Tristen Woodburn. Credit my cousin Anna with the spectacular photo of the Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley if I can ever upload it.

Larry and I left the house April 3 at 9:30 a.m. for an 11:30 a.m. flight., making perfect time to Bradley where we picked up breakfast at D&D. Flight to Las Vegas was uneventful, and we discovered that the young woman who was sitting in the middle seat in our row was a student at Wesleyan, as was her boyfriend who was sitting in front of us.

The Vegas airport has lots of slot machines but almost no boards for flight information. A rather small operation with twenty-five gates (I was calling them “slots”) in Gate C. I did not get to see the other two, but there is a people mover, meaning that the airport probably covers more real estate than is obvious.

Larry discovered Popeyes and chowed into some fried chicken, red beans and rice, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a biscuit. I had an enormous panini Caprese, of which I ate half in the airport and the other half on the flight to California. We lost track of time and so didn’t get your early bird seating. We were way in the back in middle seats, separated by a couple of rows.

The seriously obese guy on the aisle in my row ate a banana and a chocolate bar before the beverage service started. He hogged both arm rests for the entire flight, which was far more rough than the first leg.

The young woman in the window seat and I chatted for part of the trip. She grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and lives in San Jose where her husband just lost his job with Barnes & Noble, working on the Nook. He received a good severance and has multiple networking opportunities so she’s not concerned. He worked for Nokia before that. We agreed that we both prefer reading ink and paper books to ebooks despite the convenience. She had just bought God by Deepak Chopra, her first experience with him. She did not know he was an entire industry.

In addition to kids, the family has three dogs and two cats. The youngest of the dogs is an English bulldog mix and snores louder than regular bulldogs, which is saying something. She loves San Jose and has only felt one earthquake. The place a few 100-degree days, which are dry and much better than Texas. Also no tornadoes, though she said she only experienced one bad one in “tornado alley” Dallas. She and the dogs and the cats  all huddled in the bathtub.

She had met a friend in Vegas so they could see Elton John, whom she adores – enough to name the dog Elton. Said he (the singer, not the dog) was still good but can’t hit the high notes any more. I was sort of surprised that someone in her early thirties at the most loved such an old-school performer.

Picking up the car at the San Jose airport was a piece of cake as one walks out of baggage claim and crosses the street where the buses and cars load and unload passengers. All the rental offices are right there with the cars above in a parking garage. We were supposed to be at Payless, but they didn’t have the right size car, said we’d have to wait a half hour/forty-five mins. so they sent us to Thrifty. The young woman was all giggly at Larry. We wound up with a Ford Fiesta that he thought was much too small. The rental lady also gave us great directions to avoid the worst of the traffic, though we realized that we’d have to do the same thing we did in Oakland, which is leave the car the night before and stay near the airport.

Cousin Ashley had warned us that we were driving into the heart of Silicon Valley at rush hour and would need hours to get to the hotel. The traffic was bad for the first few miles, but we zipped into the HOV lane. Soon there was almost no traffic. We got turned around a bit in some little town.

Impression: there are vast differences in wealth within a few hundred feet all over this area. Final leg of the trip, as a climbing, twisting ride. Big discussion about whether to use the directions from the rental lady or the phone which was supposed to direct us to the Country Garden Inns. We went by the phone and were glad once we figured out that Carmel and Carmel Valley are not the same.

We reached the hotel office a minute or two before closing. It’s not a hotel. It’s a series of motels, spread out over a few blocks of a cutsied up little stretch of commercial establishments. Ash had to come collect us to find our section. Then we unpacked. I lost the room key.

After a bit of panic on my part, we went to the “meet and greet,” which was supposed to be over at 8. We arrived at 8:15 and stayed till around 9. Tristen looks radiant, so much better than when we saw her in the fall after she’d reset her dislocated shoulder. Julian looked thrilled. Met Kathryn’s mother and sister (also Liz), and a few other people whose connection to the family I’m not sure of. Ash helped me look for the key – no luck.

The room is spartan, to say the least, and the “closet,” a rack with coat hangers, is in the bathroom! But the bed was comfortable, and so was the room once I opened the slider to the patio.

Today: mooch around, go for a walk if it stops raining, which I will not begrudge because the area needs rain so desperately. Hang out with Kathryn. Ash and Julian and Skylar are going for a shave at 10 a.m. Ash said this was some new ritual. Wedding at 4. It WILL clear by then.