26 June 2009


The California coastal road - Big Sur
It was Easter 2005. One of the best trips I ever organised. After Santa Monica and Los Angeles, we drove up to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, then back to Bakersfield via Boron and along the rich Central Valley, detouring to the breathtaking Sequoia National Park and then on to beautiful San Francisco. Three days there living on Lombard Street then down to Salinas and the Steinbeck Center, and onwards along the famous coastal road past Big Sur with its marine vistas. We stopped at San Simeon Beach to see elephant seals lounging in the sand and then it was back in our black Jeep heading for Santa Barbara County.

Seals at San Simeon

At the humble, down-at-heel agricultural settlement of Guadaloupe, I went into the gas station and asked if there were any hotels in town. "There ain't no hotels here", chewed the bored young woman behind the counter, "try Santa Maria". Another three or four miles and we were in Santa Maria. I had imagined that all hotel rooms would be taken because of what was taking place in the Superior Courthouse. However, I was wrong. We had no trouble booking into the cheap-as-chips Rose Garden Inn on East Main Street.

After showering, preening and then eating at Denny's we headed up to the courthouse. It was pitch dark by now. I guess I was expecting crowds of fans there but there was no one. We had seen the scenes on television - crowds of fans with placards, cavalcades of motor cars, police officers, sirens. But that night East Cook Street was as dead as a ghost town in a cowboy movie. Only the tumbleweed was missing.
The courthouse in Santa Maria
Squeezing through temporary barriers, we edged into the court complex when from behind a bush there appeared a small bearded man with a flashlight. He was a gruff security guard. I soon engaged him in conversation. He said he was happy that the court case was rumbling on as it had given him a couple of months of reliable income. He wasn't complaining. We shook hands with him and before I squeezed back through the barriers, I asked "Are you a Michael Jackson fan then?" He paused and grunted, "No I ain't mister! I'm a me fan!"
That was the closest I ever got to the legendary Michael Jackson. To be honest, his sort of music and razzmatazz never appealed to me but I cannot deny that he contributed to the soundtrack of all of our lives these past forty years - you could hardly avoid him - and he genuinely touched the hearts of millions.
Frances, Ian, Shirley and our trusty Jeep - Rose Garden Inn Santa Maria


  1. Wonderful picture of the California coast road. It's a place I always yearned to visit. I agree with your remarks about Michael Jackson. He wasn't my style of singer although there were a couple of numbers that were enjoyable. He certainly made his mark on the world.

  2. That sounds like a wonderful trip - I'm keen to see some more of America now. Yes, I know, this is a very dull comment. Sorry.

  3. I remember one time I was touring Newton Aycliffe by ford escort. We had breakfast in the cafe, and then wandering through the 60s concrete shopping centre I happened upon a curious little store called 'Ourprice records'. keen to meet the locals I wandered in. 'Hello' I said, shaking the hand of the proprieter, 'and what does your shop sell'. 'Records' he explained to the interested visitor before him. 'Do you sell Michael Bolton records' I asked. 'Yes, just over there, next to the Michael Jackson LPs' and so it was, a little later, searching for the long haired crooners latest collection that I brushed my hand against the plastic tab that seperated the different artists ' it said on it simply 'Michael Jackson' and I feel more than anyone now I had a personal connection with Michael that few others could claim

  4. Wow, what a great trip. Sounds like you have a hidden or not-so-hidden talent for itinerary planning, even managing the wrangle a celebrity/legal encounter into the deal.

  5. VALERIE We seem to be on the same wavelength but if you really want to see the California coast road then find a loved one or a friend and simply go! It doesn't ahve to break the bank. What's life for?
    DAPHNE Having broken your fear of flying through visiting Florida why don't you and Stephen try the wonderful west coast. You're both in work and you could afford it I am sure.
    ARTHUR Oneumpanship is a sport in which I have no interest. It's not the first time you have sideswiped my unpretentious traveller's tales. I am sorry you feel that way.
    LORI It really was a magical trip. To plan an itinerary and see it come to fruition is most satisfying - especially when other people are involved.

  6. YP, a beautiful post! I have driven on that very road.

    To people of my generation, Elvis will always be The King, not Michael Jackson. I didn't really care for either one's music.

    As you know, when the whole world is advocating A, I consider the merits of B.

    Don't pay any attention to Arthur Clewless. Imitation is the flattest form of sincerity.


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