California Bicycling

Have you ever been to Southern California? In the winter time? The weather there is absolutely amazing!

Except for a few weeks in January, the days are all sunny, in the 70s, 50% humidity, and cool at night for sleeping. No air conditioning is needed and very little heat in the winter. One July a few years ago I spent two weeks visiting my brother in Oceanside, California for a summer vacation. My wife, Marianne, decided to visit her friends in Munich, so we took separate vacations – a great idea to recharge the old batteries.After a wonderful breakfast of buttermilk pancakes (the real thing, my brother is a great cook), I borrowed his bicycle, strapped on a backpack containing a good mystery, a cherry yogurt, my notebook, a book of poems I wrote and my camera. Three miles south led me to the charming town of Carlsbad. I noticed a stained glass store and stopped in to talk to the owner and watch him work on a beautiful piece of his own design. I took a picture of him with his piece over by the window so the morning sun could highlight the rainbow of colors in the glass.On the left a few streets further I saw a dance school letting out. I took a picture of one of the aspiring dancers as she put on her dancing shoes. I introduced myself to the dance instructor and promised to bring the picture to her later in the afternoon. The subject I chose happened to be the instructor’s daughter, so she couldn’t wait to see the finished picture. A wonderful aroma of baking bread caught my nose and I bicycled around until I found the source. A small arcade of stores contained a bakery which served coffee and Danish on a covered patio. This spot became a favorite of mine in the next two weeks, enjoying a second breakfast and talking with the regulars. A few were even poets! One of the regulars mentioned that he didn’t have any hobbies but he liked to collect poker chips. A few days later I came across an antique store. The proprietor said that on of the antique boxes he had for sale contained some old poker chips. He said I could have them all for two dollars. They made the poker chip collector very happy. Of course I had to take a picture of the lovely Mexican girl behind the counter with all those long loaves of fresh baked bread.In the center of town stood a lovely fountain in a small park. Across the way I spied an unusual boutique selling fish related items. The owner painted beautiful pictures of exotic fish, framed and matted them for sale. Among her creations was a mobile of various reef fish made out of tin and hand painted to look like the real thing. A nearby poster of an underwater scene made a perfect background for a picture of the mobile. The result fooled a lot of people into thinking those fish were real!By now it was one o’clock and by the advice of a local, I traveled to a restaurant which had in its window two huge vats of gleaming stainless steel surrounded by shiny clean pipes, valves and all the paraphernalia needed to make beer. My kind of restaurant. The deli inside made me up a huge sandwich accompanied by a frosted mug of their own brand of beer, a strong, but light ale with a definite hops flavor. Delicious.Retrieving a double set of my photos from Motophoto, I retraced my steps and dropped off the extras to the owners. Of course I refused any payment, thanking them for being so generous with their time and making my stay in California a pleasant one. A few days later I was approached by a young man whose mother owned the fish store and asked me to take a few pictures of himself for use in his acting career. I did so and accepted the cost of the enlargements. I hope he makes it.During the next two weeks I made many friends on my rounds in Carlsbad. One day was spent on a nice fourteen mile ride down the coast along the ocean. The scenery was magnificent! Another day found me riding the coastal train on a trip up the coast to La Jolla. The conductor was nice enough to allow me to take my bike on the train. Some other highlights included a session with a piano teacher who politely listened to my songs, offering some expert advice, and a visit to an artist’s shop. The artist, who was in his nineties, rented a small ramshackle bungalow on the main street on the outskirts of town filling the front room and porch with his paintings. They were priced reasonably, and seemed to be worth every penny. One I liked was a painting of a red chicken I swear looked casually annoyed. He claimed that one of his paintings, bought by President Kennedy, hung in the White House. I noticed that he didn’t have any food to eat and asked him what he liked. He answered that he sometimes made a big pot of black bean vegetable goulash on his hot plate which kept him in food for a week or more. So I went to the local outdoor vegetable market and bought all the necessary ingredients and left them on his porch. I counted this as my good deed for the day. Much too soon I was home again, sporting a California tan, a bunch of photo memories, and lots of story ideas.

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