San Simeon in March

I’d spent most of the day sorting through photos from my road trip but when I came across the ones of San Simeon, California, I stopped to reflect on the beauty of that evening and morning. It’s amazing how pictures can awaken memories and take you back to that moment in time. And even though it’s over a year since I was on the beach there, it feels as though it were yesterday.

I arrived in San Simeon from Santa Barbara on my way to San Francisco. I was driving the Pacific Coast Highway when I saw a sign to the (William Randolph) Hearst Castle. I’d heard about the castle for years so I exited to satisfy my curiosity. And even though the castle was quite a few miles off route, the beauty of the area made the drive worthwhile. It’s a wonder I even made it to San Simeon that evening given all the stops I made for photographs.

Ordinarily I didn’t talk on the phone or listen to the radio during my trip but that day was an exception. I’d looked forward to driving along the ocean from Los Angeles so I was bubbling with excitement and wanted to share it. As if reading my mind, my friend Andrena telephoned and I’m recalling our conversation as if it, too, were yesterday. I’d been on her mind, she said, so she said a prayer for me and called. I made several stops during the course of our conversation and can remember the scene I was photographing when we talked about upholstering her couch. How funny!

When I finally reached San Simeon and Hearst Castle, it was late afternoon, and I couldn’t resist stopping to photograph the ocean outside of town. The seagulls were everywhere as a tourist fed them. The water was choppy, and the bluffs were simply awesome!

When I finally made my way to the Hearst Castle Visitors Center, I was too late for the tour. The castle sits atop a mountain 1,600 feet from the visitor center, and necessitates a bus ride. Not to be held captive by guided tours anyway (except when I was in Mexico City a couple of years ago), I viewed the castle from the observation deck. Regrettably, though, my camera was a bit out of focus so my pictures didn’t turn out very well.

The next morning, I was out early to check out the section of beach directly across from my hotel. I figured I’d take a few photographs and be on my way, but that was not to be. Despite the misty breeze, it was so tranquil that I got so caught up in the beauty and serenity that I couldn’t tear myself away. I took photograph after photograph of the ocean, of the waves crashing against the rocks, of the birds overhead and those foraging for food, of the plants, seaweed, puddles and bluffs. Instead of seashells, colored pebbles covered the shore and after a while, I rested my camera to collect two hands full.

A couple of hours later, I headed to the Jeep but the wildflowers captured my attention, and I snapped more photos. Three hours later, I was in Paso Robles, a mere 38 miles from San Simeon! The countryside was stunning—hills, valleys, farmhouses, barns, cows grazing on distant hills, vineyards, trees growing with the slant of the hill—and I couldn’t resist capturing all of it. I’m still in awe of the photograph I took of the hills and valleys with what turned out to be the ocean as backdrop.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it to San Francisco that day. I spent the night on Monterey Bay in Marina, which, by the way, was the one and only time I slept with my weapon on the nightstand. But that’s a story for another day.