——————–Day 1——————-
Renewed, rejuvenated, escaped and recovered from the devilish vortex of Los Angeles, I awake and get to know my host, Tim, a bit better. He is a grad student in Industrial Engineering at local Cal Polytechnic University, and is a very nice and laid back guy who likes to laugh. He’s got things to do, but quickly points me to a nearby hike that is visible from his house: Bishop’s Peak. I took this picture from the driveway:

After a few minutes walk I come to the trailhead and start up the wide trail. While the mountain looked impressive, I imagined I would reach the top in under an hour.

As the elevation and the sun rose, so did the temperature, all the way to 80 degrees (in February). I was a fool. My eyes proved much bigger than my now-chafing thighs. I’m no stranger to long and strenuous hikes, but I had worn my city boots and ultra-thick indestructible Carhartt pants and was paying dearly for my underestimation. But I was halfway up and the view was already excellent.

The area’s green and rolling hills felt warm and inviting after braving the winter all alone in the sharp South Sierras. But if I was to consummate my ambitions of summitting the peak, I had a while to go.

After much huffing, puffing, and cradling of my tender loins, I reached the top and climbed up a rock formation to reach a flat plateau-like vista. The view was spectacular; you could see the whole city.

I turned around and looked towards the coast and took another picture:

 Soon I met a couple of college students, Tony and Rachelle, who had climbed up as well. They told me to follow them and took off across the ridge to another high point. At the very top of a precarious rock formation there was an army ammo box bolted to a rock in a life-threatening position. Inside was a bottle of water, assorted Jesus propaganda, pens and a journal with various signatures, diatribes, poems, and other forms of expression. It was like a strange guestbook from Narnia or something. I drew some strategically offensive mustaches on the many Jesuses that were in the box, and Tony wrote a quick segment of prose in the book to document our passing. For what was apparently an upper-middle class white college town, I was surprised at the amount of proclivity I had stumbled across in less than 24 hours. What surprised me just as much, though, was these relatively clean-cut and square college kids’ willingness and ability to prance and jump about these dangerous rocks and crags. Not that I disapprove; in fact, I had been doing the same thing in Arizona the whole time I lived there, but it was always met by some mix of admonishment, concern, and amazement with my peers. But here, jumping, running, and even dancing on uneven natural surfaces where a fall can kill you is the norm. Awesome!

We chatted a bit more and cleared up some confusion when they explained that people had taken to calling the place SLO (pronounced ‘slow’). I thanked them and trekked back down the mountain. In my sweaty state of exertion, I craved the ocean, and figured nearby Morro Bay would be a good place to see the sunset.

I had figured right. The bay and its namesake; Morro Rock, reveled in the sunset like a painting.

At this point I was a bit swept up in the beauty of the scene and realized that after 2 weeks of meandering on the coast, I had yet to enter the ocean. Without hesitation I stripped down to my shorts and ran into the icy water. Bystanders pointed, stared, and probably explained to their onlooking children that I was on drugs as I emerged from the freezing cold water with my hands outstretched to the sky. It was so invigorating; why the hell wasn’t everyone doing this?

A towel and a jacket later, I found my way to the shoreline to relax and play some guitar as the sun disappeared. The surf was uneven and playful and sent just enough mist at my perch to be refreshing.

After nightfall I returned to Tim’s place and joined he and his roommates in an impassioned match of Halo 4, before crashing soundly on the couch.

——————-Day 2——————
After my Sequoia extravaganza and the prior day’s hike-in-Carhartts debacle, I was exhausted. I resolved to laze about and regain my composure. I think I did just that, because I can’t remember what the hell I did that day.  Here is a picture of the downtown train tracks that appears to be from the time frame. What was I thinking?

Edit: Ok now I remember. There was a farmer’s market that night so I went downtown to busk. I was discouraged initially after being kicked out for not having an expensive permit, but soon I found a busy thoroughfare and ended up making great money. Take that, the Man. 

The prior day I had gotten in touch with Lindsey, a friend of Kimba’s and she tracked me down at the market and presented me with a palmello, a huge and exotic fruit she described as sort of a cross between a pomegranate and a grapefruit (not genetically). It tasted better than both and I quickly devoured it, making a huge mess. She brought me to an upscale wine joint where a stiff funk band was playing what everyone wanted to hear and I met her cool, chinese, and hilariously fast-paced friend, Kat. I had planned on leaving in the morning because my host Tim had to leave town, but Kat offered to let me stay at her place and promised to entertain me the following day. Her demeanor inclined me to believe her, so I accepted.

———————————-Day 3——————————-
Kat’s house proved to be an excellent co-op commune sort of environment called the ‘Broad House’, with an interesting and eclectic cast to match. There was Gene, a Russian aerospace engineer who had worked on the first-ever private space flight. He left the industry after being blown up (literally, Kat explained) in a horrendous lab explosion, and now had dreadlocks, smoked lots of pot and ‘banged girls in other people’s beds.’ Then there was Patrick, an attorney who worked for the local newspaper who was laying low in SLO while he found ‘the big job.’ In a tree house in the back yard was Josh, a thickly dreaded wildman who would appear at unexpected moments and move and speak quickly. There were Dave and Rusty, who grew their own pot and smoked a ton of it while watching reruns of 90’s SNL. And last there was Kit, an extremely husky and hysterical pitbull mutt who guarded us all:

And of course Kat herself, who is a phlebotomist at the hospital, lives in a tent in the backyard and keeps up the organic garden.
Kat burst into Patrick’s room to roust him for our adventure. Apparently we were going to tour a local brewery and then go to a hot springs. After much rushing and nagging from Kat, Patrick and I finally got our shit together and made it out the door.
We arrived to Firestone Brewery and were confined in a small lobby and bombarded with pretentious beer-snobbery and company history. After much hooplah we were finally allowed through the doors into the secret chamber to witness the age old art in motion. To be honest, I couldn’t give 2 shits about all the highbrow stuff our enthusiastic tour guide was saying, but I was grateful to walk amongst colossal industrial equipment that was fully active. Soon the mob of note-taking bearded hipsters distracted our guide with obtuse questions about yeast propagation blah blah blah, and so overwhelmed him that I was able to slip off the tour path unnoticed and get some compelling shots of the hermetically-sealed industrial wonderland. The network of pipes, wires, cauldrons, and control panels was a sight to behold, and made so much noise that it conveniently drowned out our uppity guide.

Eventually I rejoined with the group as we were led through the bottling assembly line. Even after seeing this kind of thing ten billion times on “How It’s Made” television programs, it was super cool to be up close and personal with a completely mechanized obstacle course.

Since we’re talking about beer, I want to go on the record as saying that beer as an institution is totally contrived bullshit and I hate it. It doesn’t taste good, doesn’t get you drunk fast enough, and serves no real purpose. In my opinion, the proliferation and attention paid to meticulous detail with beer is a product of people obsessively ‘accessorizing’ their means of intoxication. I mean, this place had a bona-fide sterile and decontaminated laboratory with highly qualified scientists (Masters Degree), a mass spectrometer and other extravagantly named analysis equipment, just to cultivate their ‘proprietary strain’ of yeast to ferment their beer.

And yes, I know that beer is an ‘acquired taste,’ which is another way of saying that it tastes like shit, but if you drink enough of it, you’ll get used to it, and eventually delude yourself into liking it, because everyone else seems to. Well I tried that, and it didn’t work. After a few years and a few thousand beers, the voluntary brainwash just wouldn’t take, and I was left wondering when everyone would just snap out of it and admit that beer tastes like fucking garbage.

There, I said it. Beer seemed stupid to me back when I used to drink profusely, and it’s only lost credibility now that I don’t. The way I see it, if you want to get drunk, why don’t you just pound some moonshine and get it over with? There is absolutely no need to create and legitimize alcohol consumption and production into an overblown and pretentious ‘art form.’ I understand that everybody likes to get wasted now and again, but let’s stop making such a big deal out of it.

After the tour we headed off to the hot springs. Along the way we saw this guy, who was fervently protesting Jack in the Box. He’s “fighting for our rights as well as his.” What a champ.

The hot springs were quite relaxing and there were even friendly ducks that swam around the pool with us. We soaked for hours and I was so enthralled, I didn’t take any pictures. Eventually we returned to the Broad House where Kat took some time to point out various points of interest within Big Sur, where I was headed in the morning. Kit patrolled dutifully about and kept us all safe from the myriad of threats around the perimeter:

 I slept deeply and well, knowing it would likely be my last night indoors for some time.


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