you're reading...
Birding in the Face of Terror

A Sort of Homecoming: Central Coast Revisited, 2010

My rental car & a stretch of Santa Rosa Creek Road as it climbs the 2,000 foot high ridge east of Cambria.
My rental car & a stretch of Santa Rosa Creek Road as it climbs the 2,000 foot high ridge east of Cambria.

by JP, 6.20.20

Birding in the Face of Terror began as a short story completed a few months after 9/11/01, with little beyond a journalistic account of the events on and around the bus trip with the American Birders Association to the three sites we visited. Upon finishing it, I knew there was an avalanche of related material and many thousands of words left unsaid, so I started expanding it into a novel. But sometime in mid-2002, my efforts hit a major psychological wall, and the project went on the shelf, not to be picked up again until 2009.

I’m kind of a writer’s equivalent of a method actor: I strongly prefer to write directly from experience, and I need to be presently immersed in that experience to make that work, or at least have it very fresh in my mind as opposed to describing it from recollection. (I blame the fact that I have a very poor visual memory.) Having been eight years removed from living in the part of California where the West Coast narrative takes place, I was very dissatisfied with my ability to reconstruct many vital scenes, so I decided a return trip was very much in order.

In March 2010, I left Ithaca on a Greyhound bus with Las Vegas as the destination. I rented a car there for the trip to the Central Coast, and then flew home from Vegas at the end of the trip. (Both the car and the air fare were significantly cheaper there than anywhere in California.) When I had decided on that mode of transportation to begin the trip, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I had given myself a “method writer’s” perspective of a long-distance bus passenger to study. But as soon as we started rolling west, I was flooded with memories about the whole period of my life leading up to the bus driving job,  and of that freewheeling time leading up to the fateful day with the birders. I poured it all into a Moleskin notebook, writing almost non-stop for the 2 1/2 days to Las Vegas, many details that would bring life and texture to Pedro’s journey.

27062_104557689579024_3843826_n

The bus trip was quite an adventure in itself. I caught an awful cold on the first nearly sleepless night crossing the Midwest. Then the bus, carrying all of my stuff except my phone and a wall outlet charger, left me behind at a quick rest stop the second evening in Salina, Kansas, and I had to scramble to find a one-way rental car to chase the bus 435 miles to Denver –I overtook it on the outskirts of the city around 11:30 PM, dropped the car at the agency’s local office miraculously close to the bus terminal, and was there waiting when it pulled in, and oh boy was the driver humiliated when he saw me and found out that I was a pro driver and knew exactly what he did wrong. THEN, due to a rockslide on a small portion of I-70, we had to do an enormous detour through northern Colorado that added about four hours to the trip to Grand Junction. But through it all I managed to arrive in Vegas as scheduled and in reasonable health, despite little more than a few gasps of sleep since New York.

27062_103817569653036_1790904_n

The Central Coast portion of the trip was much smoother but also incredibly fruitful in bringing back the vivid details that give the West Coast narrative of Birding its strong sense of place. It’s pretty amazing when I think of it: I had lived in the area for less than two years total. It was my first time there since late 2001, and I haven’t had occasion to get back there since, yet traveling in the Central Coast felt then, and I suspect still would now, like a homecoming.

When Waldo took over the project in 2017 after its first failed publication, I simply gave him access to my Facebook photo album containing these images and more than a hundred others, and he took it from there. I’m a little jealous of his ability to write direct from his imagination, but in the end, I wouldn’t trade this experiential, journalistic “method writing” for anything. I think we both brought our strengths to the table to create an amazing piece of semi-fiction.

A view from the road leading to the avocado farm. I didn't dare drop in for a visit, just stalked it a little from outside the gate.
A view from the road leading to the avocado farm. I didn’t dare drop in for a visit, just stalked it a little from outside the gate.
A great representative shot of the view from near the crest of Route 46, from the momentous trip in Pedro's adolescence in which "a lust entered my body...one that I have spent the rest of my life bent on satisfying." I have similar pictures from the 2010 trip, but I didn't have the kind of wide-angle lens to begin to do it justice (no photograph I've seen really comes close, but this is better than most). From http://visitslo.com/places-to-stay/north-coast/
A great representative shot of the view from near the crest of Route 46, from the momentous trip in Pedro’s adolescence in which “a lust entered my body…one that I have spent the rest of my life bent on satisfying.” I have similar pictures from the 2010 trip, but I didn’t have the kind of wide-angle lens to begin to do it justice (no photograph I’ve seen really comes close, but this is better than most). From http://visitslo.com/places-to-stay/north-coast/
This is from even higher up the ridge, a favorite spot of Aubray's and mine. This is about where the gravel Cypress Mountain Road tops the ridge heading west from the now abandoned mining towns of Klau and Adelaida. We found it in 2000 on one of our many spontaneous explorations of the local backroads, at a time when the marine layer of fog covered all the ocean and most of the immediate coastal area that we could see and we were in the bright sun high above the clouds, as though we were in heaven. There was a For Sale sign from a local real estate company not far from this spot, selling a significant acreage. I called when we got home; the asking price was $750,000. We were about $749,250 short as I recall. That anecdote almost made it into Birding, but I couldn't find a place for it.
This is from even higher up the ridge, a favorite spot of Aubray’s and mine. This is about where the gravel Cypress Mountain Road tops the ridge heading west from the now abandoned mining towns of Klau and Adelaida. We found it in 2000 on one of our many spontaneous explorations of the local backroads, at a time when the marine layer of fog covered all the ocean and most of the immediate coastal area that we could see and we were in the bright sun high above the clouds, as though we were in heaven. There was a For Sale sign from a local real estate company not far from this spot, selling a significant acreage. I called when we got home; the asking price was $750,000. We were about $749,250 short as I recall. That anecdote almost made it into Birding, but I couldn’t find a place for it.
27062_103633939671399_6457768_n
From Ragged Point looking north along the Big Sur coast
A found image showing the area where Pedro wanted to have his mountaintop hermitage, probably near the trail that he hiked in Act V.
A found image showing the area where Pedro wanted to have his mountaintop hermitage, probably near the trail that he hiked in Act V.
From Ragged Point, looking south back toward San Simeon and Cambria
From Ragged Point, looking south back toward San Simeon and Cambria
27062_103633999671393_8025580_n
More of those rumpled hills so distinctive to central California. I could stare at these forever and never lose my fascination with their shape and smoothness.
More of those rumpled hills so distinctive to central California. I could stare at these forever and never lose my fascination with their shape and smoothness.
A couple views of Cayucos from the north side of town. "a beach town that was taken out of a time capsule sealed in southern California in the early 1950s"
A couple views of Cayucos from the north side of town.
27062_103634083004718_5588698_n
“a beach town that was taken out of a time capsule sealed in southern California in the early 1950s”
Hollister Peak, just south of Morro Bay heading toward SLO
I hardly spent any time in San Luis Obispo itself, which was a shame. I did make a somewhat foolish effort to hike to the top of Bishop Peak (at 1546 feet, the tallest of the Nine Sisters) in the late afternoon, and got about yay high. After a scrumptious tri-tip salad dinner at the Firestone Grill (sister establishment of Cambria's Main Street Grill), I headed south to Santa Maria to spend the night in the car and wake up before dawn to re-create the drive on Sept 11.
I hardly spent any time in San Luis Obispo itself, which was a shame. I did make a somewhat foolish effort to hike to the top of Bishop Peak (at 1546 feet, the tallest of the Nine Sisters) in the late afternoon, and got about yay high. After a scrumptious tri-tip salad dinner at the Firestone Grill (sister establishment of Cambria’s beloved Main Street Grill), I headed south to Santa Maria to spend the night in the car and wake up before dawn to re-create the drive on Sept 11.
Sunrise along Route 166 near Cuyama. Not as spectacular as the one on Sept 11, 2001, but it had the right color scheme.
Sunrise along Route 166 near Cuyama. Not as spectacular as the one on Sept 11, 2001, but it had the right color scheme.
This is the exact spot where the bus stopped for the first birding venture outside the town of Maricopa (fictionalized as "Bonanza") . This is where the birders had to stick near the shoulder of the county road and use their scopes due to the land being owned by Big Oil.
This is the exact spot where the bus stopped for the first birding venture outside the town of Maricopa (fictionalized as “Bonanza”) . This is where the birders had to stick near the shoulder of the county road and use their scopes due to the land being owned by Big Oil.
"Metal crested petroleum woodpeckers" near the first birding site.
“Metal crested petroleum woodpeckers” near the first birding site.
Heading back west and looking south toward the foothills, one of the views we had on the way to "Azucar Mountain"
Heading back west and looking south toward the foothills, one of the views we had on the way to “Azucar Mountain”
From Cerro Noroeste Road ("Azucar Mountain Road" in the book). This was right about where the golden eagle scene occurred --yes, that really happened.
From Cerro Noroeste Road (“Azucar Mountain Road” in the book). This was right about where the golden eagle scene occurred –yes, that really happened.
The lodge near the summit of Mount Pinos, or "Azucar Mountain." Birding location #2
The lodge near the summit of Mount Pinos, or “Azucar Mountain.” Birding location #2
A found image from Mount Pinos, showing the extreme southern end of the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevadas in the background
A found image from Mount Pinos, showing the extreme southern end of the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevadas in the background
Birding location #3, a modest campground whose name I don't remember; it became Meseta Centrada in the book. Not a very photogenic place, in fact in 2010 it looked like it hadn't been maintained for a while.
Birding location #3, a modest campground whose name I don’t remember; it became Meseta Centrada in the book. Not a very photogenic place, in fact in 2010 it looked like it hadn’t been maintained for a while.
My day of exploring the birding sites went quickly, cut short by the need to head east back across the Mojave and get set up for a last night of sleep in the car before my red eye flight home. Though shorter than I'd have liked, the trip sure did the job I'd set out to do, as I came back with far more in my notebook and my mind's eye than I'd have ever expected.
My day of exploring the birding sites went quickly, cut short by the need to head east back across the Mojave and get set up for a last night of sleep in the car before my red eye flight home. Though shorter than I’d have liked, the trip sure did the job I’d set out to do, as I came back with far more in my notebook and my mind’s eye than I’d have ever expected.
Moonstone Beach, Cambria
Moonstone Beach, Cambria
27062_104557736245686_3465635_n
27062_104557729579020_7234723_n

OTHER ALBUMS

Back to Birding homepage

Back to Not Two homepage

About Waldo Noesta

Enough about me. Let's talk about you....

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Soul Mysteries

is the journey of souls

Creative by Nature

Glimpses of a Creative Universe, by Christopher Chase...

Noesta Aqui

The wordsmith shop of Waldo Noesta

Biopantheism

Honoring the Divinity of Animals, Earth & Nature

The Conscious Process

Considerations on the Process of Recognition and Liberation

The Eye of Guyus

A Philosophical and Spiritual Guide

Non-Duality America

We hope you enjoy our vision! Spread the love.

%d bloggers like this: