TO BIG SUR WITH BUD
I love nothing better than to get in the car and just go. One of the best road trips I ever went on was with Roseanne several years ago. At the time she was still recovering from a broken heart and had just run into her ex-boyfriend, with his new girlfriend on Thursday night. Saturday morning she walked in my room and said, “I want to go somewhere. Would you want to go to Big Bear with me?”
I’m not a big fan of the local mountains, the drive to get there takes you through the “inland empire”, an area that was probably beautiful when someone started calling it that, but today is currently blanketed in a layer of dark brown smog most of the time. The road to the mountain resorts is windy and I’m not a person who gets car sick, but I remember being truly challenged on that highway. Of course the nausea may have been precipitated by my insistence on reading in the back seat of the car. Oh and the whole bag of candy corn that I ate during the ride probably didn’t help either.
In any case going to the local mountains doesn’t bring up happy thoughts. I had recently read about a little town up near Hearst Castle called Cambria and having never been there thought that would be a fun place to check out. So we each grabbed an overnight bag and set off about 9am. It was this time of year so the sky was clear and the air was cool, but the sun was out to give us a little heat. We hit the 101N. and I lit up a joint as we listened to “This American Life” on KCRW. God I love that show.
By the time we got to Ventura I needed to eat breakfast or I was going to get cranky and we’d lost the radio signal, so we stopped and grabbed a quick bite to eat at a coffee shop. Roseanne, or Bud, as she is known to those friends who are family, didn’t really want to talk about running into the ex-, or how it made her feel. It had been months since they broke up and she really had moved on, but it had thrown her, seeing him with another woman. Especially since he was wearing clothes that she’d bought him.
We got back on the road and turned up the music and Bud decided to partake in some bud so by the time we got off the 101 at San Luis Obispo we were pretty well baked and figured it would be an excellent idea to stop at the Madonna Inn. We got some cookies at the bakery and bought some postcards in the gift shop and then we looked around and stumbled into the bar, which, if memory serves was replete with red leather and carved wood. It looked like something from middle earth where hobbits would party. And it had a dance floor. With the right people heading up for an evening of dinner and dancing and cocktails at the Madonna Inn could be such a great time. You could really dress up. In pretty much whatever you wanted. It would be hard to look overdressed in that room.
We head up Hwy. 1 and ate our cookies so that by the time we pulled into Cambria we weren’t really hungry. And the couple of puffs of pot we had smoked made decision making difficult. The conversation went like this,
“Do you want to eat here?” Here being a little pizza parlor. “Oh, okay. I guess. I don’t know.” Then when we got in the pizza parlor with all the local tweeners staring at us I decided that no, I did not want to eat there. In fact, I didn’t want to stay in Cambria. I wasn’t feeling Cambria.
It was about 1pm and we decided to just keep going north up Hwy. 1. And to keep taking hits off the joint. With the music turned up really loud and the windows down. Bud was driving so I actually got to see more of the spectacular drive than I usually do. Usually I have to pay attention because it’s a two lane highway that runs along a cliff high above the ocean, so I really appreciated being able to relax and enjoy how incredibly beautiful the central California coastline is. When we got to Big Sur I suggested that we stop at Nepenthe for a drink so we could figure out where we might want to stay because now it was 4pm and I was pretty much done with being in the car.
So we sat at the beautiful long redwood bar, watched the sun begin it’s descent and drank a few beers. Bud was remembering when she was last in Big Sur with her ex- in November. They had stayed at the Ventana Inn, just across the street, and he had asked her to move in with him. With our combined beer and pot buzz we spent the next half hour trashing the guy and toasting to the fact that she didn’t move in with him and make what surely would’ve been the biggest mistake of her life and somewhere along the way she decided that we should go stay at Ventana so she can exorcise any remaining love for the demon.
I was drunk enough to think that was a fine idea especially since it was getting dark and I didn’t want to drive in the car anymore. Bud called across the street and at 5:30pm Ventana had one room left, a suite on the meadow which normally went for $475.00, but because it was so late in the day they gave it to us for $375.00 and we thought it was a total deal. In retrospect it really was. We ended up in what was basically a two story cabin with a balcony that overlooked a meadow and beyond that, the ocean. Downstairs we also had a porch that the french doors opened onto and on both the balcony and the porch there were rocking chairs, rustically constructed out of spruce of some such wood.
Not wanting my buzz to die we immediately made dinner reservations for Ventana’s restaurant out in the woods. The fact that we didn’t pack the clothes for this kind of destination and the insanely exorbitant prices did not stop us. We were on a roll. Following the path through the very quiet grounds that reminded me of a very posh and expensive camp for grown ups we headed out through the meadow toward the woods, passing a couple lovingly intertwined on a random hammock. I remember thinking that it was a nice touch, the hammock, but I wouldn’t really want to lay there on the side of the trail – intertwined or not.
As we headed into the woods, and these were serious woods, like Hansel and Gretel woods – the kind that you could imagine bears and other critters living in, especially if you took a couple puffs of pot before you decided to walk into them, in the dark – what little light there was from the moon completely disappeared. The only thing lighting the path were tiny, unobtrusive malibu type lamps, and this was not a paved path. This was a path that you practically needed hiking boots to walk on – it was an uneven dirt trail that wound through the forest where critters most definitely did live because we could hear them skittering as we went past.
When we got to the restaurant which was dark and woodsy with glass walls I was starving! We ordered an excellent bottle of wine and everything that looked good on the menu. Of course I also had to order dessert because they had chocolate mousse cake and I LOVE chocolate mousse cake. I couldn’t eat it by the time dinner was over but I decided I would carry it back through the forest with me. If I got lost trying to get back to the Inn at least I would have a snack until help came.
The walk back seemed like it was a lot farther than the walk there, probably due to the food and the fact that we had been drinking pretty much non-stop for the last five hours. I’ve never been very good at that. It just makes me want to go to sleep. But Bud had other plans. She wanted to hit the Japanese baths that dot the property. She wanted to do everything there was to do, and damn it she was on an exorcism mission and I was her wingman so I couldn’t go to sleep just yet. We went back to our two story tree house and donned our complimentary, super luxurious, white terry robes. Now, Roseanne is not a “naked in public” person so I was surprised that she was cool with the fact that since we didn’t have bathing suits we were either going to have to wear our clothes in the bath or be naked in public. But she had also been drinking for five hours.
So we roll into the bath house closest to our location, at least that’s what it seemed like to us, but who knows. It was deserted and that worked for me. When you step out of the women’s shower room into the chill night air, you step into the gender specific area, which is small. In the middle of the two gender specific areas is a co-ed area that is larger and has steps that you can sit on, thus immersing yourself up to your chin. We moved to that area and were enjoying the total hedonism of sitting naked in hot water up to our chins with the gorgeous clear night sky above and an excellent buzz. That moment was short however, because we were soon joined by a naked couple in their 60s, which in and of itself wasn’t problematic, but the man kept asking me to stand up and press the button to make the bubbles go. And there were no bubbles and the thing he wanted me to stand up and press was a pine knot. And explaining that to him didn’t get him to stop asking. So we duck walked out of the co ed, naked in public pool, slipped back into our robes and went out into the night to try to find our way back.
Once we got to the room I collapsed on the couch in the living room in my pristine robe and got out my chocolate mousse thinking to watch television and have a snack. Bud pulled one of the rocking chairs out into the meadow and when I looked out the french doors all I saw was a tiny druid in a white hooded robe who looked to be rocking back and forth in mid air. I passed out shortly after that and when I woke up the next morning my chocolate mousse was all over the front of my robe and I had a horrible hangover. Horrible is actually an understatement. This was an epic, red wine, throbbing temples, someone is trying to poke my eyes out of my skull from inside my brain hangover.
But there was free coffee and breakfast set up in the main lobby. It was quite early so I didn’t bother to do more than put on sunglasses, brush my teeth and clip my hair up. Bud looked a more pulled together but we were still into wearing our complementary robes so we did. I picked up our complimentary newspaper that was lying on the doorstep and we stumbled toward the main building. I have never wanted, or needed, a cup of coffee so badly in my life. I put my newspaper down on a table out on the deck and headed in to get a cup. Sadly, there was someone there in front of me and he was taking up every bit of space to make his cup of coffee. No sharing of the coffee table for this guy who I just knew was some USC frat boy on his honeymoon. As he lingered there taking his time and hogging the space I moved closer and closer thinking that I would drive him off by standing in his personal space, but he wouldn’t be rushed. He finally moved on and I got my coffee and some meusli and guess what? When I got back to my table this blonde woman was sitting at the table right next to it. Yes, it was about shade, but still I didn’t want to be that close to people. And wouldn’t you know it the coffee hog came out and joined her. Great!
So I’m sitting there all pissy and annoyed at having to deal with the mere presence of other people, although I did offer to share my paper when she asked me where I got it, and Bud comes out with her tray and sits across from me. She is making really big eyes and slightly gesturing with her head to the couple next to us. I’m thinking that she also finds them annoying and so I’m nodding in that “I KNOW!” kind of way. But then she starts silently mouthing something at me. And I’m squinting through my hangover trying to understand what she’s saying and all of a sudden the world comes into focus and I realize that the coffee hog isn’t some USC frat boy, it’s JFK Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette. And I also realize that it’s their first anniversary and this must be what they’re doing to celebrate – they’ve come to stay at Ventana where they’re sitting next to a deranged looking woman in a chocolate smeared white bathrobe who stands too close.
All kinds of thoughts ran through my head starting with – he’s much better looking in pictures and she’s much prettier in person. Then I noticed that they weren’t really talking to each other, that they appeared to be more like a couple you’d see where he’s taken her to the obligatory breakfast after a one night stand and they’ve realized that they have nothing to say to each other. The whole vibe was strange. She was taking pictures of a little bird and he was reading the paper and ignoring her. Then I started to think about how hard it must be to be them with people staring and the press hounding...
And that I was wearing a chocolate smeared bathrobe should any photographers be hiding in the bushes stalking these people.
I told Bud I was going to go get ready to go and took off. The drive back was beautiful and relaxing and I drove to give her a break since we basically drove up and turned around and came back. But my favorite part of a road trip is the part in the car. And that road trip was one of the best ever – worth every penny because it’s such a great memory and the exorcism was successful. Bud was a much happier girl after that trip. As far as remedies for a broken heart, bruised ego that’s got to be one of the top three.