Friday, June 27, 2014

'Kayak Kid' takes to the Moss Landing waters after abstaining from the sport for decades


Pelicans at Moss Landing were part of the lure to get Cookie back in the kayak after an accident derailed her.

Cookie musters her intrepid bravery chip and prepares to kayak again.


A KAYAKING KID am I now,  thanks to friends who coaxed me back onto the water.
They knew I'd had a kayaking accident on my one and only attempt at the sport -- hit by a wave in the South Pacific and overturned in Bora Bora.
So I'd been reluctant -- even though that was 20 years ago.
The soothing setting of friends' redwood forest home
prepared our travelers for a tranquil time in the kayak.
They assured me that the waters at Moss Landing, near Santa Cruz, California, were welcoming and gentle.  And that we would return before the tide made kayaking difficult.
AND SO it came to pass.
We ladies sipped coffee on the redwood forest patio of our hosts while the boys put the kayaks on top of the van.  The girls packed jackets and waterproof booties in the economy car and we met at the pretty little village.
Moss Landing is a quaint, historic fishing town smack in the middle of California's Monterey Bay coastline. Although I'd traveled this stretch of coastline many times, I'd never stopped to savor this hidden treasure.
Moss Landing is at the red "A" marking
BESIDES galleries and shops, there are many nature related activities including whale watching and simply walking the unspoiled beach. Beautiful, historic accommodations and fun restaurants lure tourists. In fact, surfers were readying to ride the waves as we unpacked the kayaks. I fortified myself with herbal calm pills.
Brad Smith, old friend and college buddy of Keller's, guided me into our kayak and helped me arrange myself comfortably.  I was in the front.  Keller was in the rear, and soon we were paddling our way out into Elkhorn Slough, internationally known for its splendid
Brad Smith, left, and Bruce Keller: a water-laced friendship.
wildlife viewing. Brad and his wife Maggie led the path into a marshy panorama.
SOME FOLKS venture out into the harbor in search of whales, but because of my
long ago mishap, our friends recommended staying in the calmer inland waters of the Slough, which provided us close-up views of dozens of river otters.  We could hear them crunching on crabs, opening them on rocks or their own breast bones.  Crack, crack, crunch, crunch.  It was wonderful.
A river otter basks in the sun and readies himself for his water borne meal.
The Monterey Bay's river otter diet consists of crayfishes, crabs, and other aquatic invertebrates. More daring otters also eat frogs.    They dine on the water, lying on their backs, with their food on the chest. Takes dining al fresco to new heights!
DESPITE CONCERN that otters compete with game fishers, the fishes otters like are mainly non-game species. Otters  also occasionally prey on birds, rabbits, and rodents if they get too close to the water. Thanks to Brad's and Maggie's kayaking expertise, we watched sea otters dining for a couple hours.
Maggie and Brad Smith enjoy the serenity in their kayak.
Then came the pelicans, the other star of our adventure, also adept at eating on the run -- or shall we say "on the fly"?
WITH ITS showy plumage and distinct feeding methods, the brown pelican we watched at Moss Landing sets itself apart from seven other pelican species. It's a small species, and the only one known to dive and dine. Most pelican species feed by corralling fish into shallow waters through a group chase before scooping them up with their large beaks. Brown pelicans have their own method: once they spot the light reflecting off the scales of fish, they plunge
Brad packs the kayaks up again.
into the water from heights of up to 70 feet, scoop up fish, drain water through their beaks and tip their heads back to swallow. Air sacs beneath their skin protect them from injury when they hit the water.
KAYAKING got us up close and personal to the otter and his neighbor the pelican -- with dozens near us on the shore, and many swooping overhead to fish and frolic. We also saw many large sea lions and smaller seals.
And a fish lunch, made to order, after the adventure.
I NOW trust kayaking, and will try it again.  I found it to be a relaxing sport, with sound instruction (which I obviously didn't have my first fateful time), and with good equipment, which Brad and Maggie provided.
The Inuit word, kayak, means "man's boat" but we girls held up our end!
We weren't exactly "at one" with our kayak -- Keller is a better paddler than I  -- but after a couple kayaking hours, we looked like we knew what we were doing.  Mostly. And from the beginning, I was relaxed, calm, full of wonder, grateful for kind friends and the opportunity to conquer an old demon.
The Sundial Bridge in Redding, Calif., is world famous and a wonderful walking adventure.

NEXT UP:  Location, location, location.  The Sundial Bridge in Redding, Calif., is a wondrous, walkable work of art. It's in a pretty city you might never have visited.  And it's both a bridge and the world's largest sundial.  And a unique B&B is walking distance from the bridge.  What makes a B&B special? Find out next as we visit the Bridge House Bed and Breakfast, and take a stroll across the famous bridge. We're about travel, the arts and adventure, with a sense of fun. Join us on a northern California wildlife trek, a return to Hearst Castle, and our picks for "hot, hip coastal hotels." Explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A gypsy's life for me -- I'm never so happy as when I'm roaming

Cookie at Oceanside Harbor in southern California, with Nick and Nora, beginning a recent two-week odyssey. 


Cookie, right, age three, sister Peny
with their mother Ellen. Already,
she was a "seasoned" traveler.

I KEEP my  passport renewed and ready to go, and my bag is always packed.  I could be ready to head for the airport with a half hour's notice.
I don't really care where I'm going, as long as I'm on my way.
Keller christens a new adventure with champagne!
When people say "Oh, I've done Paris" (or the Amazon, an African safari or the Antarctic) I cringe.  They've done the place! Impossible.

A Bedouin takes to his transport at the Pyramids in Egypt.
Just as no two days are alike, no two trees exactly the same, or no two people identical, no city, island or place remains static.
We don't eat a single meal and say we're done with dining!
I'VE BEEN on more than 100 cruises and each one offers new excitement and experiences, even if the ports might be repeats.  I've been to Paris a dozen times and never fail to feel its magic anew.  I've been on the Amazon three times and hope I have another three trips in me.
Ditto, my many trips to Ireland, the Hawaiian Islands, and Australia and New Zealand, where I'll return in November.
Two kids with wanderlust:  Cookie and Keller at Belem Castle in Lisbon.
My mother took me on my first road trip when I was just over two and my sister Peny was not quite one.  We drove to Kansas in a green Oldsmobile, with my grandparents, Gus and
Olive Nystul, to visit my great-aunt Lillian and her husband Ronnie.  It was a month of total magic to me and I vividly remember the drive-in stops for milk shakes, the Mount Rushmore sculptures, the motel rooms, menus I collected, stories my grandpa told and movie ticket stubs.  It was my own Yellow Brick Road and I've followed it ever since.
I DISCOVERED a few months back that my great great grandfather was ambassador to the Netherlands from his native England.
That explains both why I am a die-hard Anglophile, and why I have incurable wanderlust.
Cookie, right, and her sister Misha on Mission Bay, San Diego.
Many of my favorite travel memories have to do with water -- bays, oceans, rivers.  Others have to do with theater, and I'm waiting for a play right now in Ashland, Oregon, an all-female production of "Two Gentlemen of Verona."  The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is another ever-changing tradition for me.  Each play is unique -- each "Two Gents" spectacular.
The scholar Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
MARK TWAIN believed travel to be "fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrow mindedness."
And Jack Kerouac referred to his love of each "new, crazy adventure  beneath the skies."

Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido was a surprise find,
as our travelers happened upon it while picnicking in Kit Carson Park.
 Many of us love travel and live for each new trip. It enlarges, enlivens, enlightens! It gives energy.  It's mother's milk.
Keller's grandmother was a travel agent in Minneapolis.  She immigrated from Sweden, took many tour groups back to her native land, and was around the world five times by the time Keller was ten years old.
He, too, came by his wanderings naturally, lived in Saudi Arabia and has traveled the world.
OUR BEST times together are on our travel adventures.  Whether it's a day trip to the country (where we often stumble upon magic) or a month-long odyssey to South America or the Far East, we are grateful for each new day together, and the opportunity to share the world's wonders as a team -- partners in life, adventure and this blog.

Cookie and Keller take to a kayak, and manage to stay afloat. A peaceful estuary at Moss Landing reveals gorgeous and graceful clam-crunching otters, huge sea lions belching and making other noises not appropriate to mention in polite company, and dozens of pelicans preening and lunching.
We are about travel with a sense of fun and adventure off the beaten track.
Visit us Wednesdays and weekends at:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Northern California farm offers flowers, fruit, veggies and peace


James Walker Hayes washes freshly picked produce at the organic farm he and his partner, Kelle Martin, run.

The historic Point Arena Lighthouse, above, is a few miles
back toward town from the farm, then up the road a bit.

THE APPROACH  to a gardener's Eden is a good half hour outside of Point Arena, Calif., down a winding country road dense with fir, cedar, pine and redwoods.
You know you're going some place special because it's serene, peaceful, picture-postcard perfect. The air smells terrific. Purple Martin Farm puts a person in a happy state of mind.
James Hayes and Kelle Martin welcome us for a three-day stay.
Dinner is served -- with a freshly picked salad. 

WE ARE surrounded by beauty, both inside their house and throughout the property, with its various greenhouses, sheds and wine making shop, all spread across artfully landscaped grounds.
Blooming vegetables are ready for harvest. Apricots the size of lemons are picked for snacking. Pears aren't quite mature but show promise. Various apples in various stages....

James is proud of the enterprise's secondary offshoot, wine making. 
 Figs will be enjoyed soon. Flowers bloom everywhere and the couple has used native rock to frame footpaths and set off shrubs and ground cover.
HARD TO imagine anyone working in this idyllic setting, but there's elbow grease aplenty and chores underway. Who needs marijuana with this natural high?
Song birds tweet a tuneful hello and
Millie, the dog, welcomes our Yorkies, Nick and Nora, after voicing momentary distress.
Soon, the three canines are romping together, exploring the lush acreage above the Pacific Ocean in this unspoiled corner of Mendocino County.
Hayes and Martin have been farmers for more than a dozen years, since Martin earlier scouted out the property to fulfill her desire to live off the land and grow her own food.
Fruit trees were just about perfect for picking in early June.
Hayes, a gifted musician, had been playing in various popular bands.   His creativity extends to the outdoors and he shares Martin's love of the land.  Together they decided to pursue an organic farming endeavor, which has grown into a successful venture.
FOR SEVERAL years, the two have grown much of what they consume, eating what is available in each season and selling surplus to markets and restaurants.  One of their major clients is Uneda Eat, a small, upscale restaurant in downtown Point Arena specializing in "local, organic and lusty" meals.  We sampled gorgeous rabbit and tenderloin with amazing appetizers and salads, made with Purple Martin produce.

A picturesque pond on the property is surrounded by trees and shrubs.
Usually, there's something left of the bounty for guests, friends, neighbor and family.  Hayes' father, Jim Hayes, lives in nearby Point Arena, and is an occasional dinner guest at the farm, stopping at the store for the odd jug of lemonade or pound of coffee beans the couple need to fill out a meal menu.
THEY TRADE their bounty for the few things their industrious efforts don't provide -- meat and poultry, goat cheese and sometimes jams, chutney or other specialty items.
One of Kelle's magnificent bouquets graces the couple's kitchen table,
with newly harvested squash, lemons and apricots.
When we visited last week, James (happily, he's my nephew) made a call to a friend who provided gorgeous lamb chops in exchange for wine. (Thanks again, James and Kelle, for the wonderful meal.)
Hayes makes his own gluten-free bread, using interesting yeasts and cultures, including sauerkraut juice! We sampled his delicious, tangy sour dough bread with homemade strawberry preserves.
Lamb chops, fresh off the grill,
are a treat -- traded for wine and veggies.
Purple flowers attract bees and human admirers
at Purple Martin Farm near Point Arena, California.
THE COUPLE'S work ethic is of the Old School.  Hayes' dad is a New Yorker who gave up a thriving but intense law practice to become a successful potter in the more laid back environment of northern California in the late 1960s.  James' late mother, Peny, was a gifted musician, artist and dance teacher, who also loved to
Kelle traveled the world -- France
to Australia -- before settling down.

sing. She moved from Montana to a northern California
commune in the early
1970s, where she met the senior Hayes.  Before her untimely death from leukemia in 1986, the couple had two children: James and his older sister, Amarylla Penelope Hayes Ganner, who lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Steve, and kids, James and Peny, recently featured here.
YOUNG HAYES lived a nature-driven life as a child and remembers growing up with a cow, fresh berry pie and a huge
garden on the family's Manchester farm property.
James on bass, Cookie on piano, a young rising vocalist
and Millie the doggie, enjoy an evening music session.
a voracious reader and turned me onto "slow food" articles and books about nutrition and organic farming. Kelle's parents, too, were grounded in the land and her five siblings visit the farm and sometimes aid in its upkeep, clearing brush and harvest.
The advantages to organic gardening are, of course, control over what you grow.  You plant the seeds, nurture the young plants, make sure the soil is rich and clean, provide
James, right, and Kelle, left, with his father, Jim Hayes,
and his auntie Cookie, aka Christene Meyers.
adequate water and pinch off excess.  Eventually you have eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes and, if you're James and Kelle, a half-dozen kinds of lettuce and salad greens.
THE DOWN side of organic gardening is the necessity of adequate insect and pest management. "It's a continuing challenge," Hayes said.  Because insects are mobile and can outsmart farmers, they need to be "outwitted" rather than eliminated.  During our brief visit, we observed the destruction by a lettuce eating pest who virtually wiped out an entire row of produce overnight.
So Hayes and Martin are studying how various insects go about sustaining themselves and collecting the necessities of life, hoping to use their knowledge to manipulate the critters into actually protecting crops.
Hayes' musical talent carries on the tradition of his mother's
family, the Cosgriffes. His dad sings and appreciates.
MEANWHILE, the hours are long and the two get weary. But they're not party poopers. Besides the gardening, harvesting and wine making, they are both accomplished cooks, and served up several feasts during our too brief visit.  They also staged a couple concerts -- with a young neighbor singing, myself on piano and Hayes on bass. He still plies his musical trade in a couple local bands, having played in venues in San Francisco and up and down the coast since his teen-age days.
Rows of beautiful onions, broccoli, greens and herbs await picking and cleaning.
Now in their late thirties and early forties, Hayes and Martin stay fit in their outdoor endeavors, hikes and keeping the acreage groomed and productive. She is also known in the county for her spectacular floral arrangements, which she markets for special events, dinners, weddings, memorials and other celebrations.
For more about their enterprise, contact Purple Martin Farm at 707 882-3709 (you'll get a voice recording, probably, because James and Kelle will be at work outdoors.)
Uneda Eat's phone is 707 882-3800 on Main Street, Point Arena. Reservations are recommended.
Bon appetite!

Moss Landing pelicans preen for kayaking nature lovers.
COMING UP:  Our California idyll continues with a serene morning on an estuary near Moss Landing, with pelicans overhead. Launch yourself into a nature preserve, surrounded by sea otters. And learn with Cookie how to stay dry in a kayak! We're about travel with a sense of fun and adventures, off the beaten track. Tell your friends about us:
and look for us Wednesdays and weekends.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Naked truth: Californians take the cake for close-ups with fun, flair



Penelope Margaret Ganner, our great niece, pauses in her Redwood City garden, south of San Francisco.

Kristen Keller and her boyfriend Zack have fun. They
  drove from South Lake Tahoe to meet us in Sacramento,


BEFORE WE launch our road-trip revels, we offer this photo essay.  It's a preview of our
Music is a family tradition.  Cookie plays piano
with James on bass and a young, talented vocalist friend.
upcoming "California Top to Bottom" series, a pictorial look at some of the personalities, critters and characters we encountered on our 17-day foray from San Diego to Mendocino County -- from the state's sunny southern tip to the foggy north coastIn between we enjoyed dozens of activities, dinners, communions with nature and surprises.
A giraffe at B Bryan Preserve near Point Arena plays to his audience.
We met Keller's daughter Kristen and boyfriend in Sacramento, my niece Amarylla and family near San Francisco and nephew James and partner at their farm north of Point Arena. We shopped, looked for healthy take-out and paid a dime each for paper bags.

Kayakers enjoy a close-up view of nature at Moss Landing near Santa Cruz.

WE STOPPED in 33 towns and overnighted in 11 venues -- from dog-friendly hotels on the beach and the varied city and country homes of family and friends. Our first stop was Los Angeles for time with our theater-loving pals, the Hulberts, and a fabulous production of "Porgy and Bess" at the Ahmanson Theater. Our revels ended with seafood lunch in Oceanside, at a favorite harbor eatery in the town of Keller's childhood. 
We stayed with friends in Downey and near Santa Cruz, and we enjoyed favorite hotels in Bodega Bay, San Simeon and Santa Barbara.
We even babysat one night, so our San Francisco niece and her husband could have a rare date night without kids.
We enjoyed the little people -- but were reminded why childcare demands the energy mostly available to the young!
Amarylla and Steve Ganner enjoyed an adult date night
while our travelers babysat for James and Peny. 
Sea lions bask in the sun at Moss Landing near Santa Cruz.
  the Bay Area, we headed inland through farm land -- Pixley, Fresno -- away from the coast and toward Sacramento. 
WE FEASTED on berries, cherries and avocados, homemade tortilla chips, fig bars and delicious dehydrated beets slow-baked in oil and sea salt.  Then back to the coast highway and up to Bodega Bay and north, past Sea Ranch, Gualala and north of Point Arena. We saw where Alfred Hitchcock filmed "The Birds" and watched many wonderful birds ourselves -- pecking at trees and lunch, and fortunately not humans.
CALIFORNIA cleans up when it comes to interesting people -- from playful tots to colorful, opinionated adults, to a 93 year-

old bugler who serenades folks on the beach near Santa Barbara. 
All loved showing off their state -- whether sharing music, fresh produce and sunshine, or a ride on a kayak to a nature preserve.
Not all the characters we encountered were human. We also met giraffes, otters, zebras and, of course, plenty of canines in this dog-friendly state.
WE DRANK plenty of wine -- some homemade -- and feasted on lamb, cod, mahi mahi, duck, chicken, beef, shrimp, mussels
Bugler Dezso Tenke plays his instrument daily, here for
tourists at Ventura Harbor. His "Taps" won cheers!
and crab. Always with plenty of gorgeous salads and vegetables. 
We played music, hiked, took photos, and watched sea lions bark for scraps and power.

We forded rivers and took to the streams and a magnificent estuary where pelicans flew over our kayak.
It was a magical 17 days. 
Jim Hayes plays with his iPod at the Point Arena Cove. 
We are back in San Diego, rested and revived with hundreds of photos and happy memories.  Did we really drive 1,541 miles?  Or were we "California dreaming"?  
WE'LL BE writing about our visit to San Simeon, the Central Coast, and the Hearst Castle. 
We'll take you to the glorious Purple Mountain Farm in northern California.
Its flowers and food are known and loved by locals and tourists.
Bailie serves with a smile at the
popular Oceanside Broiler.
We'll kayak with pelicans, seals and sea otters. We'll visit a wildlife preserve which is saving endangered animals before they become extinct in their native Africa.

James Brian Ganner plays on his new instrument -- 
his recently delivered piano, which came from San Diego
 to his Bay Area home so he can take lessons.
WE'LL VISIT fruit stands and we'll share some fabulous meals and recipes -- home cooking as well as organic produce prepared in small, hip and healthy restaurants.  
We'll talk about piano playing and music as a family tradition.  We'll show music is a conduit for socializing  and making new friends.

It's going to take a few days to come down.  Meanwhile, come enjoy with us......

One of our "California characters" is Cookie's nephew and Keller's friend, James W. Hayes, far left. With his partner Kelle Martin, Hayes makes fine wine and grows organic vegetables in northern California. We'll visit Purple Martin Farm for a look at the gorgeous flowers and vegetables that find their way to Point Arena's delightful restaurant, Uneda Eat. (L-R: James Hayes, Christene "Cookie" Meyers, Jim Hayes, Kelle Martin, Bruce Keller.) We're about adventure with a sense of fun, weekends and Wednesdays at:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Travel tight rope: take a road less traveled,but balance planning with spontaneity


One of the continent's largest markets was a surprise find for our travelers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

The rugged Costa Brava provided a scenic vista with surprising views.

MY GRANDFATHER said, "When a plum falls from the sky, open your mouth."
Thanks for the wisdom, gramps. I've enjoyed many a "plum" on your advice. The trick is not letting it hit you on the head!
Keep your eyes on the prize but watch where you're going.
TRAVELING WELL  is a balancing act, as is the art of living itself.
Jerusalem's cavernous Church of the
 Holy Sepulchre and nearby 
Western Wall yielded a surprise. 
I  plan our large trips two and three years ahead, spending hours, days even weeks checking resources, making reservations, researching hotels, cruises, museums.  I scour brochures and the internet for car rental options, theater choices, eateries, hikes and outings that make the locale unique.  I consider the appeal of cities and towns themselves, weighing their strengths against our preferences.
A visit to Key Largo, Florida, prompted a cocktail party.
ONCE ON the road, though, I'm ready for adventure. I like to be happily surprised.  Good thing, because my partner-photographer Keller likes to explore.
A spontaneous city tour led us to one of South America's largest markets in the center of Sao Paulo Brazil. We're still enjoying the cumin and cinnamon from a wonderful spice shop, and we feasted for two days on the fruit.

An unplanned hike to a Costa Rica park introduced this lizard.
WE'VE TAKEN side roads that lead to dead ends, with cattle grazing in open range.  We've taken roads that lead to splendid vistas and riverbanks with migrating geese. Once, in remote eastern Spain, we stumbled upon a 12th Century village with only one other stroller and a golden lab snoozing in the sun.
BEING FLEXIBLE and curious on the road means having a more relaxing time.
 A recent  day trip in Guatemala produced friends to lunch with. 
I like to take off my watch on a sunny southern European morning. Shedding that reminder of time and the "real world" opens my mind and heart.
Our Costa Brava adventure last November yielded not only the beautiful village, but a small town with a hardware store!  Keller found a transformer to step our electronics down from 220 volts to 110.  He was a kid in the candy shop, in the Spanish version of Ace Hardware.
MEETING HELPFUL, friendly people is another bonus of flexible travel.
We've never had a problem getting grounded or back on track and we've been lost countless times.
Sailing off the beaten path yielded this lovely picnic setting near Seattle.
Don't be hesitant about pulling over into the farmer's yard if you see him baling hay.  He'll point you to the little lake down the road with a stunning view of the sunset. He'll tell you where to find watercress or a waterfall up the trail.
We happened upon a pretty park in Yuma, Arizona, which became our picnic stop on many trips between Phoenix and San Diego
ANOTHER TIME -- and this was a Keller solo -- we were touring Jerusalem with friends. Entering the Western Wall, honoring tradition, we went our separate ways -- men on the left side, women on the right, separated by a stone wall.
Keller and Cookie took time to be silly on a Las Vegas trip.
I watched from the female side as Keller followed a group of male mourners into a small room.
"Oh, my," I thought.  "He'll miss the 4 p.m. tour departure for the Church of the Holy Seplulchre.
He made the meeting time, though, wide eyed from his discovery.  He'd been invited to join the family as the kaddish was offered and took beautiful photos the rest of us missed.
IN COSTA Rica a few weeks ago, we took a hike on a trail recommended by new friends, and came upon a lizard who inflated his throat into an amazing red balloon!
Smelling the "flowers" in travel is literal and figurative.
In Guatemala, we met a couple from Sweden who invited us to sail with them and join them for lunch!
In Florida, we toured with two couples who invited us to a spontaneous cocktail hour and a fascinating boat ride where we came upon mating turtles.  Stopping to "smell the roses," we enjoyed a rare bloom in the ocean's garden.
IF YOU do get lost -- or lose your companion --  e calm.  Have a game plan before, as we do, that if you can't find one another you'll return to your last meeting place.
Finally, don't be afraid to be silly and have fun. Inspired by the crazy mix of people in
 Las Vegas a couple years ago, we changed our hair styles had  fun with a "punky" self portrait.
James Hayes, with his dog Millie, grows organic vegetables and makes wine in a
  northern California farm with a social conscience. Next up at

 NEXT UP:  California's north coast yields many pleasures, including this special farm, where wine is made and organic produce is grown and sold to a restaurant with healthy and tasteful delights for the palate.
We're about travel with a sense of fun and adventure.  Join us to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at