You never know what you’re going to get when you drive to the northern California coast in August. We made the trek over the mountains twice last week only to find ourselves enveloped in a cold grey haze. I wanted to take a long walk on the beach for my birthday, but the dark sky and heartbreaking amount of trash at Pescadero Beach made it difficult. Instead, I stubbornly insisted on picking up the candy wrappers, Chavez Supermercado plastic bags, crepe paper streamers, colorful napkins and other bits of trash left behind from someone else’s party. My husband knew better than to try and dissuade me. Rather, being the supportive and wonderful man that he is, he ran back to the car for a garbage bag and pitched in to help.
When our bag was full, we got back in the car and drove further south to the Bean Hollow Coastal Trail. I needed a change of scenery. With a cold wind blowing, we zipped up our jackets and settled into our beach chairs – binoculars in hand – to enjoy our view of the Harbor Seals. A short while later we spotted a whale and the dark cloud hanging over me blew away. We had found my smile, now we needed sunshine and strawberries.
Freezing our butts off, we got back in the car and drove even further south, to Swanton Berry Farm. Before heading out to pick berries, we stopped by the farm stand for some hot coffee and homemade treats. Honestly, how can anyone resist Olallieberry cobbler with real whipped cream? Or luscious cheesecake with berry topping? Sitting inside the cozy farm stand with our coffee and delicious desserts, it was finally feeling like the sort of day we had originally intended. We struck up a conversation with a Danish family here on vacation and before long we were showing their two young sons how to play Shoot the Moon, just as we had done with our nephews in prior years.
Feeling much better, we were ready to pick strawberries. With it being a Monday, we knew the plants might be picked over, and sure enough, the field closest to the farm stand was. But further up Highway One – down a long, dusty, dirt track – we came upon another field (Swanton’s Coastways Ranch) bursting with ripe berries. Here we found ourselves on top of a small hill that sloped gently toward the ocean, behind us was nothing but forest and up above were clear blue skies. With the sun was shining brightly, we were all alone except for the resident birds and the girl in charge. It was heavenly. Gently strumming a guitar, the girl smiled and warned us that the field closed at five o’clock. With less than half an hour we set straight to work and managed to pick over three pounds in fifteen minutes! Supremely happy, I made my final birthday request: dinner, nothing fancy.
JP read my mind and drove straight to our favorite gas station taqueria in Pescadero. What? Didn’t your mother teach you to never judge a book by it’s cover? With a huge smile on my face, we feasted on shared plates of the lightest, most addictive freshly fried tortilla chips, my all-time favorite pico de gallo, damn fine tacos al pastor and the best carne asada super burrito in the entire state. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday dinner. As we were leaving, we ran into a nice young man who was bicycling down the coast. He had gotten permission to pitch his tent in the yard next to the gas station and was locking up his bike as we were getting ready to drive home. Over the course of two weeks, the young man (who reminded me of my nephew DJ) was bicycling from San Francisco to San Diego. After talking a bit more we wished him well and offered him some of our freshly picked strawberries. He was thrilled.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to spread the love.
Thanks sweetheart for being so patient … for helping me find my smile. xoXOxo