California Dreaming

To Pacific Grove to Visit Friends, Monterey Aquarium


September 17 – 22, 2009




Part I:  Flights from Memphis to Sacramento

Part 5: Santa Cruz

Part 2: Sutter Lawn Swim Team Reunion

Part 6: Monterey and Pacific Grove

Part 3: East Sacto Neighborhood and Cemetery

Part 7: To Sacramento and Flights Home

Part 4: Lodi-Clements for Sac State Fraternity Reunion

Link to 2005 Sig Bust Reunion

Updated Oct. 20, 2009


About 85 photos mainly taken during the trip by Betty Nolan are posted at in five separate albums under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email for instructions on how to access. The 17 photos taken by Betty Nolan in and around Pacific Grove, CA are in an album labeled “2009 – Pacific Grove.”




PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. – Sept. 20, 2009, Sunday   To Pacific Grove from Santa Cruz


Heavy fog hid most of the Santa Cruz Municipal wharf from our nearby hotel room view early Monday morning. But by 7 a.m., we could hear the sea lions barking.


The dreary morning reminded me of my wonderful times there with friend Pete Siller in the early 1960s; we learned it was rare to see sunshine until lunchtime or later. That didn’t stop us from body surfing even though we sometimes couldn’t see the approaching waves until they were almost on us.


With the high prices charged on this 2009 trip by the hotel restaurant for food that was less than outstanding, I made breakfast out of a few honey-roasted almonds and some trail mix from the in-room bar, plus a glass of water.


I checked my email on Betty’s nifty, netbook computer, which we hooked up to a free Internet service connection in our Dream Inn room. I was pleased to find an email from Marc Rush, who kindly provided us driving directions to his home in nearby Pacific Grove.


We drove about an hour on U.S. Highway 1, through the main source of strawberries we buy in Memphis, the farming town of Watsonville, CA. We also passed by Kilroy, site of an annual garlic festival we’ve seen celebrated on TV, and Castroville, which I had remembered as promoting itself the artichoke capital of the U.S. during my days of driving through the area.


We quickly realized that the town of Pacific Grove is beautiful almost beyond belief. It is located near the entrance to the plush “17 Mile Drive,” an exceptionally scenic strip of California’s coastal refuge. Living large there are multi-millionaires. Their homes are incredible mansions built near the craggy coastline’s rocks that are pounded unceasingly by blue Pacific Ocean waves and cascades of white spray. Pacific Grove is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of 14 such areas protected by the federal government. I recall the wonder of snorkeling with my fraternity brother Pete decades ago in several of the nearby tidal pools along that gorgeous section of coastline. 


Pacific Grove is the winter home of millions of migrating Monarch Butterflies, better known for spending the cool months in Mexico and Central America. It is on the southern tip of Monterey Bay (as opposed to Santa Cruz on the northern tip of the Bay) and is only a few miles from the famous aquarium that hosts tourists from around the world.


Marc Rush and wife Susan purchased a small, wooden home in Pacific Grove nearly three years ago. It had been very intelligently remodeled to provide a sleeping loft they use an office, loads of cleverly designed storage and living spaces and a tiny back yard that is home to their Australian Shepherd dogs. They keep, breed and sell and the lovable, intelligent dogs.


The couple has been married for 29 years and are fabulously happy with their new digs. With the dogs’ natural attraction to dog-lover Betty, the two Rush pets quickly made friends with us.


We drove around the town with Marc and Susan. They showed us a home gaily decorated in bright colors and painted butterflies done by a loving husband so his partially blind wife could enjoy seeing his work. We also drove by a locally celebrated yard statue of a moose painted to look like a butterfly. Local residents plant scads of beautiful flowers in their yards that are set off by the twisted shapes of Monterey Pine Trees growing wild in the area.


Monterey was the U.S. center of sardine fishing many years ago. It formed the backdrop for John Steinbeck’s book, “Cannery Row.” For reasons not fully understood even today, the sardine fishery and fleet pretty well died out in the middle of the 20th Century, leaving large cannery buildings of corrugated tin standing empty for many years. Some of the historic, metal buildings have been renovated into other purposes, including the terrific Monterey Bay Aquarium founded 20 years ago.


We joined Marc and Susan for a lunch at one of their favorite restaurants, First Awakenings, near the Aquarium. We were served huge salads we couldn’t finish.


Thanks to their membership in the Aquarium and guest passes they lent us for the outing, Betty and I got into the seaside museum at no charge. We saw its outstanding display of California aquatic life including sea otters, big sharks, assorted fish and other marine animal and plant life of all sizes. There was a special exhibit of Sea Horses from around the world, including a few as big as carrots.


Pacific waves crashed on the black rocks of the shoreline adjacent to the Aquarium,  tossing white spray up in the air. It was a splendid view and treat for us to enjoy the museum in the company of the truly nice Rush couple. We all walked to a nearby beach and saw several sunning harbor seals along with dozen or more cormorant birds and seagulls larger than those we normally see when at our vacation home at Gulf Shores, Ala.


At mid-afternoon and facing a good drive back to Santa Cruz, we said our goodbyes to Mark and Susan and drove with heavy traffic through rich farmland; crops were being picked by Bracero labor from Mexico. Due to the success of our meal at Stagnaro’s the previous night, upon our arrival we walked the length of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and enjoyed another delicious meal at the celebrated restaurant. I went the coconut shrimp and Betty had a large bowl of delicious, steamed clams served in a tasty broth.


After a long but hugely enjoyable day, we retired earlier than normal, about 9:30 p.m. after leaving word for a wake-up call at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. We wanted plenty of time to make the three-or-four-hour drive from Santa Cruz to the Sacramento Airport to catch the 1 p.m. Delta Flight to Salt Lake City, with a connection there to Memphis.


Continue with Segment 7, return to Sacramento  /  Return to Nolan Travels Home Page