All posts tagged California


San Franciso Treat

Saying goodbye was difficult when I left Freedog Farms. It was a reminder and the tough reality of my American Walkabout, making great friends and having to leave them. But thankfully the drive up the Pacific coast highway was good for my soul. The chilly morning fog hid the ocean from view. The road rose high into the mountains and looked out onto a sea of puffy clouds. Then it descended slowly into the gray gradually revealing the rocky coastline hidden below. I have always loved fog for hiding and revealing the landscape as it pleases.

After getting through some slow going traffic Anuk and I arrived in the Bay area in the early evening. I figured out to add two hours to whatever google maps says the travel time is and that was a closer estimate of my actual driving time. It felt like summer in when we met Adam and his wife Lejla at their cute apartment on the edge of Palo Alto. We took a lovely suburban walk to the local grocery store where we picked out ingredients to make my version of buddha bowls, a combo of roasted vegetables, pasta, beans, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and seasoning. Anuk and I were very grateful for being able to stretch our legs, and I discovered that she absolutely loves acorns! So I grabbed her one for later.

Sadly Lejla was called into work so she couldn’t join us the next day. Adam drove Anuk and I to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a bit foggy here and the air was brisk so my jacket came in handy. Adam had already explained that the temperature varies greatly in the bay area. It could be 80 something where they lived, and 50 something by the water, and somewhere in-between in the city. We parked and walked halfway across the bridge. It was slow-going; Anuk was distracted by everything. The cars were loud, the people traffic was heavy, and the bicyclists were barely able to fit in between, and to top it all off Anuk ate something that didn’t agree with her. I carried her most of the way and set her down about every 100 feet or so she could throw up. By the time we made it back to where the car, she had cleared it all out, and she was happy to trot along again away from all the chaos. Despite the puppy challenge, I’m glad we went. I generally try to limit my visitation of the most touristy spots, but the golden gate bridge was worth it. It is an impressive masterpiece of architecture, giant and staggeringly high up and free to visit (other than paying to park).

Our next stop was Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of the hippie movement in the 60s. The street was an interesting mix of shops, restaurants and San Francisco style architecture. The people milling about seemed punk, musician, homeless, employed, shoppers, or possibly some combination of these. One asked us for money. I had joked that now I had a dog, I could officially be homeless, but only if I used a rope for a leash. I was only a rope away.

We grabbed lunch at Vegan Burg. They had the impossible burger which Adam had been talking about, so of course he had to try it. Its is a vegan burger that is supposed to be the closest thing to real meat. He said it tasted like a whopper, and funny enough I have seen that they are selling them at Burger King now. I got an Avocado Beetroot Burger (a vegan burger with beets and other healthy deliciousness) I don’t want my veggies to taste like any kind of meat, thank you very much.

We walked around the street and grabbed some espresso. Adam is a true coffee connoisseur; he has a real espresso machine at his place. It was no surprise there is a store on the street that sells everything tie-dyed. But I passed on the tie-dyed velour jumpsuit and found clothing more my style in second-hand stores like Buffalo Exchange. There was also a great vintage store that I would have explored more, but by then we were feeling done in the summer heat. I was carrying a heater around, Anuk had tired of walking and now sat in her puppy papoose, but the heat was making her squirmy, so we headed out.

We picked up one of Adam’s friends on the way back. They had camping plans for the weekend; his friend I had also met in Zion was having a bachelor party, and they needed to buy supplies. They dropped Anuk and I off at the apartment on their way to Cost-co. And I spent the evening working on artwork for Adam. He was putting together a podcast that he needed a graphic for. I came up with a rough portrait of Adam with ideas that bounced around his head in various colors showing the impact of ideas on the mind. I left the mouth space open so he could easily insert the title of the podcast, which at that point was still to be determined. Lajla came home, and she and I had dinner and hung out. I was pleased to find we had a bunch in common, just another reminder of how like minded people can find each other in so many places outside of our normal worn and beaten paths.

New friends
Fresh home-made espresso for the road
A clean car

Construction traffic on the 101
& being passed by at least a dozen ferraris

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Freedog Farms at Cactus Flower Ranch

(Photo of highway 101 heading north to San Francisco)


My next farm stay was in California, just a hint north of Santa Barbara directly off of the 101. I saw my temperature gauge drop to a comfortable 70 something degrees when I neared the Pacific coast, and I immediately opened my windows. The fresh air filled my car carrying the wonderful sweet smell of the sea. It raised my spirits immediately; I was on the coast again! I could even see the ocean from parts of the 101, and I couldn’t wait to get my feet in the sand again. Anuk was also in better spirits because we had the chance to stop at a park along the way with actual grass, trees and shade. I told her about the beach, and she just stared at me the same way she always does oblivious to what I’m actually saying, yet she enjoyed being talked to all the same.

After a bit of traffic coming through Santa Barbara, and getting a little turned around we found Freedog Farms. Sierra met us at the gate and led us onto their comfortable homestead. Bandit, the great pyrenees puppy excitedly greeted Anuk. They were face to face, Anuk with her head bobbing out of the car window while she stood on my lap, and Bandit tall enough to easily stick his head in my Mini’s window. He was only seven months old and already 90 pounds of fluffy white farm dog. I had been introduced to this breed on the farm in Tennessee, so I already knew what excellent farm dogs they are.

Anuk shied away trying to hide from Bandit, being only about 10 pounds at this point, but she eventually warmed up to him. The two were playing together soon enough, unequally matched in size, but equally matched in eagerness to play, and neither knew when to stop. Thankfully Sierra had an adjustable fence that we put up so Anuk could be penned up for her safety and so everyone could get a break from their loud, rambunctious and often yelp-highlighted play. Bandit after all didn’t know his own size and would step on her occasionally or try to carry her off by her collar. And when Anuk gets excited she barks very loudly. It was amusing to watch, but also stressful being unsure if at some point Anuk would be trampled.

After we arrived Sierra gave us the grand tour on their UTV (utility terrain vehicle) of their 43 acre property. We weaved our way all over the property on worn-in paths and new ones carved by her husband Darin, until we arrived at the very top of the nearly treeless hill. It was a magnificent view, and we could survey the property and surrounding area. The 101 cut through the middle of the landscape with sloping hills rising up on the other side of the highway. The dry yellow grass stretched out to meet clusters of rich green trees and the occasional farm building. The hills rose up tall enough to hide the ocean that lay beyond, but the fog rolling in almost daily reminded me that the sea was not all that far away. I decided then that I would walk/run up that hill every morning with Anuk, which we did with Kate Bush’s song “Running up that hill” in my head.

We stayed in their large tee pee style tent set up on a partially shaded area a little ways away from the main barn house. It had two cots set up inside; I slept on one and put my stuff on the other. There was plenty of room inside to set up my camping chair and stand-up fully to move around. I was very appreciative of these accommodations after sleeping on the ground in a small two-man tent with a puppy. It was very hot inside during the day and melted any toiletries I mistakenly left inside, but it was pleasantly cool at night, hovering around 50 degrees. I had access to the bathroom, kitchen and living area downstairs in the house. So I could make breakfast and lunch on my own schedule, and relax on the couch during down time. I usually shared dinner with Darin and Sierra.

Darin and Sierra were new owners with many ideas of what to do on their farm. So I was there in time to help start on projects. One of the first projects that Sierra had me work on was painting some signs for vegetable and herb labels; white paint on rustic barn wood. And then I worked on their Freedog Farms sign; acrylic paint on a giant re purposed canvas. It was great work. I also helped Sierra with various building projects, like setting up their raised beds and building a fence to keep deer out of their plant nursery. When they purchased the farm, it came with loads of tools, tractors and a fully-equipped workshop. Many projects didn’t even require a trip to Home Depot. And I tell you it was so fun to watch Sierra work; there wasn’t anything she backed down from. She clearly had a knack for building and knew her way around power tools, no instructions required. I would watch her drive by on the 4-wheeler pulling a trailer full of wire mesh, wooden frames and other various parts with the biggest grin on her face. When I offered to help, she would occasionally accept, but mostly she wanted me to continue with the painting projects.

Darin and Sierra were great hosts, showing me around town, introducing me to the best places in town: farmers markets, breweries, restaurants, and even the Apiary (which specializes in mead, cider and hard kombucha). Darin is skilled in the art of beer and wine, and he loves to share his knowledge and expertise. They really took me in and invited me to stay with them at their place in Carpenteria for a few days. Anuk became one of the pack. In addition to Bandit, they also have an American dingo named Reno and a yellow lab name Titan Dan. There are also three additional dogs in the mix at their place in Carpenteria, but Anuk spent most of her time following Bandit around.

While I was with them at Carpenteria, Darin invited me along to pick out a new surfboard at Channel Islands in Santa Barbara. I’m sure a lot of big names pass through those doors, and it was a pretty big deal to get a tour of their facility and warehouse. I also got to tag along to the Surf N’ Suds beer festival, sampling beers from all over. Anuk was mostly happy to sleep through this event, so I just carried her from one spot of shade to another while people stopped me constantly to pet her. Everyone loves a puppy!

Darin took Anuk and I to Jalama beach and Santa Claus beach. Anuk loved being able to run free on the beach, dig in the sand and play with the children. The California kids were so cute with their beach hair and their loose-fitting wetsuits. They were drawn like a magnet to the puppy, and they ran circles around her always keeping her pounces away from the youngest one of them. Anuk attempted to chase the lab Titan down the beach, but he was too fast. Once Titan was on the chase for his ball, that was his only focus, so that kept Darin pretty busy. He would throw the ball for him out into the ocean. Titan would bound right into the water swimming out through the waves to retrieve it. Anuk didn’t even like to get her feet wet in the chilly water. I was happy to swim briefly. The cold water was refreshing on those warm sunny days, and the air was dry enough that after I got out, I dried off in no time.

On one of my free days in Carpenteria, I borrowed a beach cruiser bike. I settled Anuk into a shoulder pouch that I had made and took her out for a ride. We made it all the way to the beach and back. It was cool enough for a sweater, but warm enough for shorts. She was scared at first because of all the loud motorists, but she eventually settled in against me with her head tucked into the bag. Most people didn’t pay any attention until she popped her head up. I got quite a few smiles on that ride. To my chagrin I realized the way back was all uphill. I made it all the way to the entrance of the avocado farm (where their place is) and then the hill rose steeply. Then I had to get off and walk the rest of the way. It was quite the workout!

Back at Freedog Farms, they got their water tanks tested. We knew that the water wasn’t up to par for drinking, but they got good news that they had more water than they previously thought. Water is such a precious commodity out west, and we were conserving everywhere we could: turning the water on only to wet and rinse while showering, flushing the toilets only about once a day and being thrifty while washing dishes. They also have a wonderful device that pulls the humidity from the air and filters it, and that was the water we drank. Its interesting that there is such a drastic difference between east and west coast in relation to water. Though of course it would be in everyone’s interest to be good stewards of water everywhere on our planet. “Agua es vida” (water is life), is what they said on the farm in New Mexico.

While I was still here, I received word from Adam, one of the guys I met camping in Zion. He was looking for some artwork for his podcast. He asked if I would be willing to exchange some artwork for a place to stay in the Bay area with he and his wife. He also offered to show Anuk and I around the dog friendly places in town. I accepted his offer and made arrangements to leave.


Darin & Sierra
Driving a 4-wheeler
A wonderful introduction to the Santa Barbara area
The Apiary
Anuk and Bandit


The struggle with drought and fear of fires
Having to leave

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Joshua Tree, California


After we left Zion and Utah, the plan was to head to a campground in Nevada just outside of Las Vegas. It turns out it was in a state park, and when we got to the gate about 4ish the temperature outside was over 100 degrees. I quickly realized that there was no way that we could camp there and that we should just keep heading west, hoping that we could make it to California, hoping that it would be cooler there.

As we drove on through the desert heat, each pit stop proved just how uninhabitable the area was. Climbing out of the car felt like stepping into an oven, and neither the dog nor I could manage it for very long. As soon as I found enough reception I searched airbnb for a room to rent. It would be a necessary splurge. I found a reasonably priced room that allowed dogs just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. The trouble was that it would be nearly 10pm by the time that we got there.

As we drove on through Nevada I watched the temperature gauge increase as we headed west going all the way up to 107 well after the sun went down. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could live around there. (My apologies if you do.)

When we made it to our airbnb, I was exhausted and I tip-toed into our room and proceeded to get ready for bed. Anuk however was overdone from being stuck in the car for so long without any exercise or play. She started to play and bark and bite out her frustration. I tried my best to quiet her, but she refused to be settled. Still being a new ‘mom’ I didn’t really know what to do to stop her from barking. The ‘neighbor’ in the next room angrily told me to quiet the dog up, that everyone was trying to sleep.

I took the dog out for a walk. The neighborhood road was under construction and covered by packed dirt. The ‘yards’ were also mostly dirt and had very little vegetation that I could see with my head lamp. I walked Anuk up and down the street reasoning that she was as miserable as I walking through the dirt, tired and frustrated from the road. And I hoped that I could walk her enough that she would also be ready for sleep. It was either that or the two of us would be sleeping in the car that night, which at that point seemed a more welcome option than sleeping next to our angry ‘neighbors’. Finally she settle down and we went to bed. I scarcely slept, thinking that she would make noise and get us kicked out at any moment. So I woke early the next morning and took her outside before grabbing a quick shower. This airbnb required that the guests wash and dry their sheets and towels before remaking the beds before leaving. So I began doing laundry as I packed us up to leave. I wanted to leave before anyone else was awake in the house.

Then the door bell rang, The work crew that were re-doing the roads said the red car outside needed to be moved into the driveway. I explained that it wasn’t my car but possibly someone else staying there, but everyone else was asleep. He asked if I could please wake them and have them move their car. Now I had to purposely wake my angry neighbor. How dreadfully fitting! I knocked on the angry woman’s door first. Of course she grumbled that it wasn’t her car.

Then I knocked on the door across the hall. There was no response. I knocked again. Still no response, but I heard a little movement. I paused for a few minutes and then knocked again. There was a slow amount of movement and then a young man came to the door. He owned the red car out front. I apologized for waking him, but explained the situation. He was nice enough about it, and went out to move his car.

I packed our things up in the car and remade the bed with clean sheets. Then got Anuk and I back in the car and on the road by about 7 am. The further I drove away, the better I felt. It was by far my worse air bnb experience so far.

I found a lovely coffee shop that had just opened, ordered some coffee and a vegan cookie while we enjoyed their patio and waited for Joshua Tree National Park to open. We had a long drive ahead that day, but I am thankful that we drove around the park a little bit to take some photos, and ease my nerves from the night before. I must say that God continually brings me to beautiful places to refresh my soul on this journey.

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