Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

A weekend to remember…

I’m now faced with a dilemma – how do you describe an experience that was so awesome it is hard to describe? J This past weekend my wife took me away from things for what has to be the best birthday present and weekend experience I have had to date in my now 44 years of life.


We live in the San Francisco Bay area, and the Pacific coast is a relatively short drive away. As watchers of this blog will know, we make frequent trips to the coast, and have kept a watchful eye out for whales each time. We once spotted one way off in the distance by its tell-tale spout, but it was really way too far off to see anything. We’ve also seen a beached (and dead) whale on the shore, but never really got a good look at a live one.


So when asked what I’d like for my birthday this year, I threw a few random ideas out – motorcycling class (as I want at some stage to get back on 2 wheels here – used to ride ages ago), trip to Alcatraz (been here for nearly 3 years but never been on the island in that time), or a whale-watching trip (as it’s something we’ve both wanted to do but never gotten around to doing, as we’ve never had the forethought to book a trip in advance). Armed with those suggestions, I left her to it. Shortly afterwards she started asking questions that made it obvious which choice she’d opted for.


Sure enough, she’d picked the whale watching option. I was just expecting an overnight trip – get down to the area night before, get out on the boat, then come home, but I soon found she’d planned for a whole weekend, and we were also going to be doing some cycling while we were down there.


My first challenge was how to deal with the stuff I normally do at work on a Friday while at the same time travelling down to Monterey at a time that’d have us avoid the inevitable bad Friday afternoon traffic. I ended up working from home in the morning, loading up the car with the bikes at lunchtime, and attending 2 meetings remotely via phone from the car on the way down in the afternoon via Highway 17, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and south down Highway 1. Fortunately it all worked out just fine – both meetings went well, and we got to the B&B we were staying a bit before 5pm.


After checking in and unpacking, we decided to go for a walk down to the beach. We were staying in Pacific Grove, and the bed and breakfast was just 2 blocks up from the beach and park at Lovers Point. The weather was a little overcast, but it was warm (for the coast), and we had fun exploring the rock-pools there. After climbing round on the rocks and acting like a couple half our age, we headed back up the hill towards downtown and had dinner.


After a lovely meal, we came out to go home, to find it raining. Still in good spirits, we dived into a nearby chocolate shop (still open) and loaded up on supplies for the  rest of the weekend before walking back to the B&B in the rain doing Gene Kelley (“Singing in the Rain”) impressions in the gutter on the way. We got a relatively early night as we had to be up and out for the whale watching trip in the morning.


Saturday morning came with the sound of my alarm clock at 6:30. We got up, washed and dressed (warm) and popped downstairs for a lovely breakfast before driving to Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf where we were to catch the trip. We checked in on time, took a sea sickness tablet each (not taking any chances) and took in the lovely morning on the wharf while we waited to board the boat. After a short wait we hopped aboard, and took up position near the front.


We set sail on what looked to be a lovely smooth sea, however appearances can be very deceptive – a few minutes out and we started to pick up the waves being caused by the ocean swell and so began what was to be a rollercoaster ride that lasted nearly 5 hours – thank heavens for that tablet. J


We sailed out across the bay and toward the ocean. Along the way we passed through many moon jellies, just swimming along near the surface of the clear blue water. About 45 minutes into the journey some folks thought they saw something in the distance, and sure enough, 10 minutes later we were getting up close and personal with a pair of humpback whales.


These whales were just passing through, but took an interest in us and circled the boat a few times giving us a few photo opportunities before swimming off in to the distance. We’d seen this sort of encounter on the TV and in movies, but nothing had really prepared me for what it would be like being so close to these majestic beasts.


I would have been happy to have gone back at that stage, but the boat continued out, and we were soon in amongst literally hundreds of dolphins who were out feeding in the waters. Most stayed in the distance, however a number swam up to us and rode the bow waves giving us some impressive views of these wonderful animals.


After sailing around amongst the dolphins for about an hour, we started to head back, but before long we’d spotted another pair of humpbacks. These ones didn’t want to play with us, but we got as close as we could without bothering them and followed for a bit until the disappeared under the surface and left us.


We continued the journey back toward the shore again, only to find these same whales up ahead of us, toying with us. We got up close enough to get a look at them and then they swam off, so we continued our journey back through the moon jellies towards the harbour. We were out for nearly 5 hours all in all, and we were left with the memories (and photos) of an experience I’ll never forget.


After grabbing some lunch and spending some time exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, we headed back to Pacific Grove and the B&B where we caught our breath for a bit. Later that afternoon, we decided to watch the sunset over the ocean off the point at the aptly named Sunset Drive. We hopped on our bikes and cycled around the coastal road, stopping on the way to take in some of the beautiful scenery.


We got to our vantage point about 20 minutes before sunset, and set up to watch one of nature’s spectacles. The sunset was beautiful, and having recharged our spirits with the sights, we headed back to the B&B, stashed the bikes, and headed off for a wonderful meal before going to bed, exhausted but happy after a wonderful day.


Sunday after breakfast we decided to cycle the trail that goes from Pacific Grove, following close to the coast through Monterey, Seaside, and into Sand City. Not having cycled for a while, we didn’t want to push things too much, but a lot of the track is flat, so we cycled until we started to hit the dunes on the other side of Sand City. We jokingly referred to this as our “4 city whirlwind cycle tour”. After a few stops to take in the views and some pictures, we turned back and spent some time in Monterey taking in the sights, sounds, and experiences of the “Seafood and Music Festival” that coincidentally was running that weekend. After some shopping, food, drink, and music, we hopped back on the bikes and cycled back to the B&B to load up the car and head back for home. We cycled about 25 miles in those 2 days and thoroughly enjoyed it. On the way back we stopped at the outlet mall at Gilroy for a little shopping before getting back home late afternoon on Sunday.


It was a wonderful weekend. Some of it planned, some of it we just did on the whim of the moment, but it was all fun, and an experience I’ll never forget.


To my darling wife who organised all of this for me, I say “thank you” with all my heart.


A small selection from the nearly 400 photos we took over the weekend can be found here…


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