Around Town: Editors Picks
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Best Reason to be 55 (or to Marry Someone Who Is)
YOU CAN BUY A HOME IN CARMEL FOR LESS THAN HALF A MILLION DOLLARS
We''ve all bemoaned the fact that the Peninsula is the least affordable place to live in the nation, but here''s an often-overlooked solution to the housing crunch: get old! That''s right, grey hair and wrinkles earn you the right to own your own property in Carmel for less than half a million. Both Del Mesa Carmel and Hacienda Carmel properties in Carmel Valley offer condos starting in the $300,000s, unheard of in a community where $2 million can get you a fixer-upper with a view. Not only do you get to live in paradise, but you get a homeowner''s community center and library, and in the case of Hacienda Carmel, access to the Carmel River, hiking trails, and several golf courses. So cancel that Botox appointment and start baking in the sun and lie, lie, lie about your age. Either that or start trolling for octogenarians.
Best Place to Get Naked
Highway 1, Big Sur, 667-3047.
While there may be other lovely places to get naked in the county, the multimillion-dollar baths at the Esalen Institute are a sanctioned nudist''s paradise. And lovely they are: after the 1998 El Nino storms wiped out part of the cliffside paradise, architect Mickey Muennig recreated the baths in various levels, some handicapped accessible, most exposed to the wildness of the Pacific. There''s only one snag: If you''re not a workshop participant at the Institute, you can only enjoy the baths between 1-3am, and have to shell out $20 for a reservation. Of course for those of us who are shyly embracing the right to be naked, stripping under the cover of darkness might be welcomed. Esalen''s stance is to "encourage each individual to choose what is most comfortable, either wearing a swimsuit or not, and emphasize that the environment we strive for...is one of personal sanctuary and respect for the human body." But even for the most modest of us, how better to enjoy the natural hot springs that flow out of the ground at 119 degrees than in our own skin?
Best Reason Not To Get Mad When Cal-Trans Closes Off Lanes on Highway 1 In Carmel For Three Months
THE HIGHWAY 1 WIDENING PROJECT THAT SAVED HATTON CANYON
It wasn''t fun to drive Highway 1 between Monterey and Carmel last fall. Night after night, the traffic backed up and ground to a halt as lanes were closed in both directions to let huge, tortoise-slow dirt trucks amble past with their grimy loads as if they had all the time in the world, and were getting paid overtime to boot, whereas we, on the other hand, were missing Episode 52 of Survivor: The New Jersey Turnpike. Didn''t we move to Monterey to get away from this shit? But when it was all done, and the spanking new lanes let us whizz past the mouth of the Valley in nothing flat, we realized that not only was it worth it, it was really worth it-for decades, the pundits and miser-mouths had been saying, "Pave over Hatton Canyon! Only a freeway can save us from LA-style traffic jams!" Man, were they wrong.
Best Reason to Wander the Streets of Carmel
Oh, honey. It''s not very often that one has the good fortune to brush against the uber-famous on the streets of Carmel, and spotting Mr. Pitt is akin to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yours truly will never forget the day she/I had an eight-word conversation with his Royal Gorgeousness somewhere along 8th Avenue ("Nice hat, Brad Pitt." "Thank you very much.") He''s very tall. He was, indeed, wearing a cool hat, and accompanied by his lovely wife (who isn''t very tall). There have been other freak sightings of Brad around town, so try not to lose hope if you haven''t been so lucky yet. Your time may come.
Best Place to Run and Ride or Run and Hide
THE BACKCOUNTRY OF FORT ORD
It is baffling that more people don''t use Fort Ord, but then again, if you don''t it''s your loss. From entrances at East Garrison off Reservation Road or Toro Park and Laguna Seca off Highway 68, you can ride a bike or run to your heart''s content. It''s ideal and deserted but make sure you grab one of the free trail maps provided at the trailheads by the Bureau of Land Management. Check out your route because unless there''s a race at Laguna Seca, you''ll have the abandoned roads all to yourself, as well as miles and miles of excellent backcountry trail. Not only is Fort Ord great recreational habitat for people, the animals seem to love it, too. Deer, bobcats, turkeys, hawks and other creatures can be seen fairly regularly out there. If you''re out on the trails at dusk, you''ll be treated to spectacular sunsets, serenity and solitude interrupted by nothing more intrusive than a pond full of frogs earnestly croaking themselves silly.
Hottest Local Stud
SIR GALLANT VALNTINO
He''s tall, dark and handsome, and I''m in love. He''s Sir Gallant Valntino, a bay-colored Arabian stallion whose lineage can be traced back more than 3,000 years to a hardy band of Middle Eastern desert horses. Valntino lives in the Mt. Toro foothills, the son of the four-time U.S. and Canadian National Champion horse. He''s also an Arabian working cow horse champ at the Monterey National Horse Show. He''s sleek and extremely affectionate. Alas, his heart belongs to another -his owner, Terrie Foreman. "My baby," she calls him, as she scratches his tongue. I''m in love, and out of luck.
Best Reason to Get Out of the House
LOW TIDE ON DEL MONTE BEACH
Tide books available through the Moss Landing Harbor District.Call 633-2461 to find out where they can be found for free.
Sure there are better beaches, especially if you''re looking for sunny, sandy expanses on which to soak up the throngs in thongs. It ain''t Ipanema. No, the point of going to Del Monte Beach is to go at low tide when it becomes an ideal walking or running surface stretching from downtown all the way to Sand City. At the right time of day, a firm yet soft natural highway appears from beneath the waves. On it you can just go and go and go. Seabirds, otters, seals and if you''re lucky a few dolphins will join you on your jaunt. At dawn or dusk, you''ll get the added treat of BOB-the Big Orange Ball-making a sunny spectacle of itself, once again. There are times when the panoramas can be truly transporting, when a thin veil of fog obscures Monterey just enough so you don''t recognize it. With sailboats and fishing boats coming and going, you might believe for a minute that you''re somewhere on the Mediterranean.
Best Way to Enjoy the Stunning Beauty of 17 Mile Drive Without Paying the Absurd $8 Gate Fee
RIDE YOUR BIKE IN
It''s annoying enough that Pebble Beach Company won''t let us take pictures of their Lone Cypress, but they''ve got the entire gorgeous coastline locked up as well, and we have to pay eight bucks a pop for the pleasure of enjoying it. That really burns us up. Some locals have perfected the casual "wave and drive," trying to breeze through the gate as if they live in PB-that rarely works. Some try to pretend they have dinner reservations at Roy''s or the Lodge, but the gate guard invariably calls to make sure. There''s even the brazen few who say they''re going to the Pebble Beach Post Office, taking advantage of the little-known law that says an American citizen may not be barred from a federal office building. Any-thing to avoid that damn gate fee. But really, the only legal, hassle-free, and truly beautiful way to get in to PB for free is to ride your bike. Until last year, they made us sign in at the gate, but no more. Just sail on past the guard booth, wave gaily at the tourists, and enjoy the ride.
Best Place to Watch the Stars (tie)
MONTEREY INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH AND ASTRONOMY
offices: 2000 8th Ave., Marina, 883-1000.
There are those among us who look up into the black heavens and ably pick out constellations. Then there are those of us who have trouble distinguishing between a plane and a planet. And finally, there are astronomy buffs, who lug around giant telescopes in the back of their pickups, drive out into the wildness of Carmel Valley, and teach the rest of us about the moons of Jupiter. The Monterey Institute for Research and Astronomy (or MIRA), runs the Oliver Observing Station at the top of Chew''s Ridge-and uses a 36-inch reflecting telescope to star-watch in conditions that are among the world''s best. And while you might not get your hands on the actual telescope, the MIRA Observer''s Group offers star parties and tours of the station. Of course, you''re free to drive out into the starry chilled air on your own, and gaze naked-eyed at meteor showers from the back of your own pickup.
Best Place to be an Introvert
BOTTCHER''S GAP, PALO COLORADO CANYON
I need green. When my mind is starting to take on a life of its own with endless to-do lists, and deep breathing isn''t cutting it, send me down the coast. The sooner I feel walled in by mountains and trees, the calmer I feel. And while I don''t necessarily need to be totally alone, just a single good friend and my dog are about right for company. Palo Colorado isn''t too far from town, but remote enough where to feel like I''m literally leaving my responsibilities behind. The easy trail down to the Little Sur River provides a perfect resting spot to unpack a lunch, a book, and a journal, and kick it until the return to civilization is welcomed.
Best Place to Listen to the Rain
UNDER A ROCK
We don''t get it often, and sometimes the precipitation on the Peninsula is merely heavy fog disguised as rain. But when we get socked in with a good wet spell, the landscape here shifts, downsizes, and the urge to hunker down and be cozy intensifies. Personally, I prefer being under my down comforter as the rain pounds my skylight in my bedroom. Sometimes it''s nice to pull a creaky lawn chair out onto the tiny covered space outside my front door, grab a journal, and be halfway between the worlds of shelter and downpour, watching the smoke from my elderly neighbor''s chimney rise into the wetness. But the best experience I''ve had listening to the rain was in Big Sur, huddled under a rock outcropping with two other friends, as the hollow inside of the rock resounded like a percussion section, and the land outside breathed out that wet earth smell, and the vegetation answered with a resurgence of growth.
Best Reason to Live Here
Simple. Pull out a map of the U.S. or even just California and look at how far all those other places are from the ocean.