The four of us stood on the San Luis Pier and looked out at the glistening sea. Not a cloud was in the sky. The sun warmed our faces, but a brisk wind encouraged us to pull our jackets closer and huddle together. This was the first stop of the Chamberlin women’s weekend getaway.
It was mid-November as Heather and Jen (my daughters) and Marlene (my daughter-in-law) left family, pets, and cares behind and headed up the central coast of California. Our destination was Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. This is a beautiful drive through rolling hills with moss-draped oak trees, grazing cattle, and rows of grapevines marching into the distance. We were accompanied at intervals by the ever-changing timeless sea.
Periodically, the four of us go on a little road trip, but the events of 2020 had delayed this refreshing respite. On this trip, Jen offered to drive, and we experienced a packing miracle: we got all of our necessities into the back of Jennifer’s Scion. She could even see through the back window!
There are unwritten rules for these trips. Bathroom breaks do not have to be negotiated; they happen as needed. We eat whatever we want at no set mealtime. No subject is too deep to discuss, fattening snacks are always on hand, and there is a ban on guilt. Activities aren’t planned, nor are there “have to see” agenda items. The trip just unfolds.
We knew the corona virus restrictions would intrude, but we were determined to be flexible and relaxed, reveling in being together with no testosterone involved (not that we don’t love our men, but you get the picture). So, as we waited for a table at a small restaurant, we decided to explore the working pier. The smell of processed seafood accompanied us as we walked along time-worn boards. We stopped to watch some sea lions play on a platform in the bay, tried to spot sea otters and whales, and took selfies.
Finally, Heather received a text that our table was ready. To be fair, Lu (Heather’s nickname) did tell us the food at this little café was not very good, but “The onion rings are great,” and the view was spectacular. Sitting in a window booth on a pier, what do you order? The seafood special, of course! So Jen, Mar, and I ordered soft-shelled crab sandwiches. Lu, as expected, had the gorgeous, golden-crusted, fragrant onion rings and a salad. What was on my plate was also fragrant, but not in a good way. A creature about 10 inches long had given its life for me, although to tell you the truth, it looked like it might crawl off the plate at any minute. Sad, skinny legs hung out of the buttered ciabatta, surrounded by romaine leaves and a lot of sliced tomatoes. I nibbled a skinny leg, then, taking a deep breath, decided to take a bite out of the middle of my sandwich. As a young girl, I had been strictly taught that you do not spit anything out. Once in your mouth, it is down the hatch. So with watering eyes and grim determination, I swallowed.
It was about that time that I noticed two of my dining companions were unusually quiet. Heather chatted on, crunching through her onion rings while I tried to forget the awful crunching of the softshell crab. I turned to Jen, and our shared look required no words. Her crab was hidden under the romaine leaves as though sheltering in a kelp forest. I’m pretty sure she had hidden it there. We both turned to Mar, who whispered, “Do you like this?” her face creased with concern, and brown eyes large. In the end, I had tomatoes and romaine on the buttered ciabatta, which was toasted and surprisingly good. It did faintly remind me of the awful lunchbox tomato sandwiches with the pink bread that my mother used to make. But with several glasses of iced tea and one onion ring, I was okay.
Our next stop was the little town of Avila, with a string of tourist shops along the bay, including candy and ice-cream venues. Jen bought dark-chocolate-covered almonds—health food, really. But more importantly, we would survive until dinnertime.
To be continued …