Memorial Day Weekend The official start of summer in the desert.

This is the Memorial Day weekend and we get Monday off from work. Good, I need a break from my frantic retirement schedule. I’ll probably use the extra time to get some extra naps in over the holiday weekend. You just don’t know what kind of stress I go through having to decide each day whether to have breakfast on the front or back porch.

For our overseas friends, Memorial Day is the day in the U.S. that we honor and remember servicemen and women who have fallen in defense of our country.  There is some bunting and American flags hung in neighborhoods around the country, but most of the big ceremonies are held in national cemeteries. It’s not the joyous celebration like the 4th of July. It’s more somber.

Memorial Day is one of summer’s delineating pillars. America’s cultural summer officially begins this weekend and closes on Labor Day. The two holidays mark when public pools open and close, the beginning and end of grilling season—in places where that’s actually a thing, they frame when schools close, and the time span that it’s proper to wear white. It’s the first long weekend to get away with the family to the beach, the lake, Disneyland, or camping in a National Park. It marks the beginning of travel season—when the amateurs are loose on the roads. It’s the most dangerous weekend to be driving.

This year, we’ve had a mild May in Arizona but weather forecasts predict sustained triple digits beginning Monday. The Bee-line highway will be packed with valley traffic headed to Payson. I-17 will be crowded with even more people on their way to Prescott, Sedona, or Flagstaff, and the swells will be on I-8 for the San Diego beaches. Phoenix will be deserted. A good part of the exodus from the cities will be campers and it’s the wrong time to be in the woods. We haven’t had rain since January so the forests are bone dry. Rangers have prohibited campfires they have closed some of the choicest locations. Still, the woods are packed with people who know more, and next week, we’ll be watching stories about the new forest fires on the evening news. Camping will be much more fun after the summer monsoons hose down the forests.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour – North Ranch residents waiting for the security gate to open before escaping for the summer.

Queen Anne and I aren’t going anywhere. The streets in our little park are already quiet. The snowbirds have pulled out already and they won’t be back for months. Even the over-night spots up-front are empty with just a couple of stragglers remaining. I have the streets to myself while I’m on my bicycle ride in the cool mornings. You see, here at North Ranch, Memorial Day marks the season’s end. We’re 180º out of phase.

In college, one of my required courses was the natural history of the desert where they talked about how the flora and fauna have adapted to survive the harsh climate. I can tell you it’s true because after forty-five years I’ve learned some summer survival rules. I’ll share a few with you.

  • Pack all your sweaters away by April 15th.
  • Cover your windows with your heaviest curtains by May 1st.
  • Get your chores done by 10 am, then hide inside until the sun goes down.
  • Always find a shade tree to park under.
  • A cool drink of water does not come out of the tap.
  • Wear wide brim straw hats.
  • Pack an ice chest and shop at the Prescott Costco.
  • Never wear black unless you want a nice sear instead of a tan.
  • There is never enough sunscreen.
  • Forget about daylight savings time, the last thing we need is more daylight.
  • A green lawn is a money pit.
  • A person driving a car with all the windows down has the right of way—thanks to Bob Boze Bell.
  • You never need reservations for lunch at an outdoor café.
  • What’s a dinner jacket?

That’s a few that come to mind off the top of my head. I’m sure you can add to the list and I urge you to in the comments section. Maybe we can come up with enough to compile into a beginner’s guidebook. I’ll think about it while I sit on the front porch in my white shorts and shrunk wife-beater enjoying my morning coffee amidst the peace and quiet.

Until then — jw

Morro Bay – California

So I lied about today’s destination. This morning when we planned out our day, someone on this bus whined about staying at the beach. We checked our RV Park resource guide and the cost was less here than in Paso Robles. Besides, as we drove down the 101, the temperature there was over a hundred. It was thirty degrees cooler when we arrived at the beach.

I didn’t get to play Steve McQueen in downtown San Francisco, but I do think I launched the truck and trailer a couple of times today. To bypass bay area traffic, we took the I 680 along the east side of town. Boy, does that road need some repair. The truck traffic has crushed the pavement in the right lane, and in California, the law restricts trucks and cars pulling trailers to the slow lanes. We hit some bumps so bad that Anne woke up and asked if we were back in Alaska. It wasn’t till we made it past San José that the road improved.

We were in Salinas by lunchtime, so we stopped at the Costco for a hot dog lunch. While we were there I picked up another bag-o-socks so Queen Anne won’t have to do laundry till we get home. There’s enough of everything else in the closet to get us through to the weekend.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock is the icon that marks the southern terminus of the central California coast.

When I talked the other day about Mendocino being our favorite place north of San Francisco, this stretch of coast is my absolute favorite. Maybe that’s why I’ve returned so often over the past fifty years. I think this is where the Pacific Coast Highway is at it’s best, and I believe that William Randolph Hearst, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston would agree with me (were they alive to do so). They all had homes here.

The Dunes at Morro Bay
Wind patterns in the Morro Bay Sand Dunes.

PCH turns west at San Louis Obispo and picks up the coast here at Morro Bay. It provides some of the most beautiful coastal scenery as it passes through, Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur before it reaches Carmel. It’s 120 miles of breathtaking scenery without a stop light. You should experience the drive once in your life, and drive it in a convertible, not your fifty foot motor-home.

Mom Wants Yet Another Picture.
While out for a beach walk, a young mother tries to get her kids to pose in front of Morro Rock.

We’re going to avoid going home for a couple of days. We have a couple of nostalgic restaurants we want to visit again. I never grow tired of photographing this place and I never seem to do a good enough job at it. Then of course, there’s the central coast wineries that we love so much. We’re not in a rush and we’ll be home soon enough.


Preparation – Clothing

As a desert dweller it’s natural to ask what and how many clothes to pack when traveling above the 45th parallel. It’s part of our local culture to watch the evening news and smugly feel sorry for the people ‘back home’ suffering through another blizzard, so my first inclination is to pack everything in my closet that has goose down. However, we’re traveling during the summer, now what do I need to pack.

With a little Internet research I came to a conclusion that the weather will be pretty much the same as a typical Arizona winter with mild days and cool evenings and an occasional wet front now and then. That means we’ll need layers that can be added or removed as needed. For me that means tee shirts, a couple different weight sweaters, a flannel shirt and a waterproof windbreaker.

Neither Queen Anne or myself are fashionistas and I doubt that her highness’ entourage will be invited to a gala at a foreign embassy, so there’s no need to pack any formal wear (as if we had any). But, I think we’ll include a couple of outfits that would be appropriate for a swanky restaurant or something.

Since we’ve limited space in Fritz (the truck) and The Ritz (trailer), we won’t be bringing our entire wardrobe. We’re planning on enough to get us through a couple of weeks at a time. We’re building in laundry days into the itinerary so that we can use up our quarters (or whatever the Canadians have) in the laundromat. And since drying takes the most time, we’ll need something to read while we wait. I suggested that Anne could take the clothes down to the creek and beat them on a rock while Fred and I fished for dinner, but that didn’t go over well.

That’s our packing strategy for now; it will be interesting to see how well it pans out. For all we know, we might wind up in Freddy Meyers, shopping for snow parkas or extra underwear. Only time will tell.