The Salinas Trip

I arrived in California a day early, which gave me a full day on Friday to explore the Coastal Highway. I’d been told how beautiful it was, but wow!

Carpet of Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway
Carpet of Flowers on the
Pacific Coastal Highway

Driving down the coast from Monterey, where I was staying, is like watching a highlights reel of nature’s beauty: cows grazing in lush fields, flowers carpeting gentle slopes, waves crashing into steep bluffs, redwood trees towering above everything else — all side by side in an almost impossible array of glory adorning the road that winds along the coast.

Pacific Coastal Highway

Pacific Coastal Highway

Pacific Coast

Pacific Coast

Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway

Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway

Canopy of Redwood Trees

Canopy of Redwood Trees

I was lucky. The weather was perfect. And with my jetlag, I was able to get a very early start. So I drove southward from Monterey, stopping frequently to appreciate each new vista.

One thing the road lacks is amenities. There are precious few gas stations (selling unleaded for over $5.00/gallon), and only a handful of restaurants. I had thought to bring a muffin with me, but especially after trekking through the redwood forest in Big Sur, I wished I had more. I stopped at a place that advertised “European espresso,” but I didn’t have high hopes.

The cafe was part of a complex that included a few art galleries, and the prices were what you’d expect from a tourist destination. I paid $17 for a hummus wrap and a bottle of water.

But unlike most tourist spots, this place had a talented chef preparing the food. The wrap, augmented by fresh vegetables and offset by a spicy dressing, was delicious. The staff was efficient and very friendly. And the view was outstanding. It’s hard to charge $17 for a wrap and water and have a customer walk out satisfied, but the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe pulled it off. If you’re driving down the coast, stop by. Look for the “European espresso” sign from the road.

Dining at the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe

Dining at the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe

The next day I presented to the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, offering three back-to-back sessions on the broad theme of “Lost in Mis-Translation”:

  • “The Bible Doesn’t Say That.”
  • “What Did Jesus Quote.”
  • “The Ways We Read The Bible.”

St. Paul’s, the Salinas church that housed the event, boasts an impressive history. The author John Steinbeck attended as a child, and the civil-rights activist Cesar Chavez used the church as a base of operations. It was an honor to present there.

I found the audience friendly, welcoming, and engaging, so it was with reluctance that I left at the end of the event. I had to be in New York the next morning, so it was with equal reluctance that I boarded the red-eye that evening.

It was an exhausting trip, but rewarding in so many ways.

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