Katherine, could you please move to Hawaii? Or Paris? Ooh, or maybe Italy?! See, for the 2nd year in a row now I’ve been able to visit Katherine – my good friend and birthday buddy (ours are two days apart) – in awesome places. Last year, we met up in Chicago which was amazing and I loved it, especially with the major added bonus of getting to see some of my cousins and aunt and uncles. After seeing the sites of Chicago with my cousin, Anne, I took the train out to Katherine where we spent the weekend at her parents’ house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gorgeous! Now, Katherine and her husband Dan (known as “Army Man Dan” by our boys since he’s in the Special Forces) and their adorable baby Grace live in Monterey, California. So, that is where I spent last weekend. Really, two years in a row now of a birthday get-away, I could get used to this. Maybe this could become an annual thing – my jetting off solo to a fun, beautiful destination. I have a feeling that Mike would not be such a fan of this little brain child. I’ve been awfully spoiled though and it’s been awesome!
(I AM going to attempt to keep this weekend overview brief. Wish me luck.)
At noon on Friday, my plane touched down in sunny, hot San Jose. Katherine arrived and we drove to their house along Highway 1. Um, gorgeous! We drove by fields, ocean bluffs and sandy beaches. We stopped at a quaint produce stand that was right along the water. I couldn’t believe the price and freshness of the produce! Since it’s all grown locally it’s fairly inexpensive and delicious. We bought some cherries and enormous strawberries.
We drove into Monterey and up to “La Mesa” which is the housing development home to many scholarly military families. Dan is currently enrolled in a Masters program where he mingles with other military branches and is learning how to be a better Army Man. (OK, that is MY watered down version of what he’s learning.) I told Dan that he’d need to clear his schedule as we had LOTS of catching up to do over my weekend there. I’ve not seen him in, hmmm, 7 years and he’s been to Iraq twice since then. A highlight of the weekend was getting to spend lots of time just talking and hearing about his experiences, discussing politics and ethics and all sorts of stuff that I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you. (No, he definitely wouldn’t have shared anything too top secret with me as he knew it’d most likely end up here)!
Dan and Katherine are now the proud parents to 9 month old Grace who, uh, I’m sorry, but is one of the cutest little pixie babies I’ve ever seen! She is SO cute and was a super happy baby especially considering that she was getting over a cold and teething.
Friday afternoon, we were dropped off at the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf by our chauffeur Dan. We walked along the waterfront seeing seals/sea lions, the famous Cannery Row and even a low-budget (to say the least) movie being filmed! Back at the Mitchell home, once Grace was tucked in for the night, Dan, Katherine and I had a delicious dinner and polished off a couple bottles of wine. (You’re welcome, guys. Happy to help!)
Saturday, after a leisurely morning – including having breakfast out on the patio – we packed a picnic lunch and went to Point Lobos State Park. It’s a 10 minute drive from their house and is full of one breath-taking view after the next. We hiked for two hours along the bluffs above the ocean. There we saw more seals/sea lions (see, I’m not always sure which is which so I lump ‘em together), we saw a couple of otters and I’m fairly certain I spotted one whale way, way out. (OK, but maybe it was just something dark-ish in the water and a wave shot spray up right as I saw it. I’m totally going with the “I saw a whale” route though).
Upon returning from the hike, Katherine and I beautified for a girls’ night out. She’d heard great things about a place called Mission Ranch in beautiful Carmel (which we could see across the bay while atop a cliff during our hike). Mission Ranch is this big ‘ol awesome compound. There’s a bed-and-breakfast inn, fancy tennis courts and fitness center, a beautiful banquet hall for wedding receptions and a cozy restaurant/piano bar that looks out across pastures full of sheep (we even saw a baby lamb!) and the frothy blue Pacific Ocean beyond. Needless-to-say, the place is gorgeous, the food has a great reputation, and oh, I almost forgot: it’s owned by Clint Eastwood. Don’t know if you’ve heard of him. He was the mayor of Carmel from 1986-1988. He’s also been in a few movies. For kind of a while. And he’s won a few awards. And he occasionally plays the piano at the bar in the Mission Ranch Restaurant. So, why wouldn’t we go there for dinner?
Katherine and I split a couple of appetizers and salads – including an amazing, mouth-watering baked goat cheese with sliced almonds and sun-dried tomatoes on crostini. Yum! We also – surprise surprise – each enjoyed some wine. We had just paid our bill (or I should say Katherine did, since they spoiled me rotten all weekend) and were about to leave our table when who should walk in but Dirty Harry himself! I tried to remain calm and play it cool. I’m fairly certain I failed as I leaned over and in a quick monotone on repeat said, “Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, he’s here, he’s here, he’s here, look to your right, your right, your right…” something like that. He sauntered in, gun-slingin’ and flingin’, cowboy hat pulled down over squinty eyes…um, actually, no, he wore a baseball cap and walked up to the bar to take a stool next to friends. He walked in like he owned the place. What the heck, just who does he think he is?!
And, no, we didn’t ask for his autograph. We didn’t even ask him where the restrooms were – though I was tempted. We were trying to play it cool like all the locals who barely blink an eye when he walks in there. We did manage, however, to get slightly lost and turned around while looking for the restroom and Clint and I locked eyes across the bar for a moment. (Yes, we’re on a first-name basis with him).
Anyway, you can’t really top that. But we did conclude the evening with dark chocolate fondue (which can top anything!) and martinis followed with a movie theater-viewing of the most recent hot chic-flick. We ate and drank well. Laughed a lot. Got home late. And slept in the next morning! Dan was super-dad all weekend making sure that Katherine and I got to go out for all our fun activities.
On Sunday, after breakfast, we went to Mass at the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, also known as the “Royal Presidio Chapel.” Founded in 1770, this beautiful little church “is the oldest continuously functioning church and the first stone building in the State of California.” (According to their website).
After church, Katherine and I de-beautified, and took their chocolate lab, Riley, out for a 3.5 mile run. I’d run my 12 mile training run (for the Half Marathon I’m doing in two weeks), the day before I’d left for Monterey, so the hike on Saturday and short run on Sunday were perfect for stretching out my legs. Actually, my legs felt fine post-12 miles it was the blisters on my toes and the ookey feeling in my stomach that weren’t great. (I tried a different energy drink and will never-ever again have it). Anyway, our run was hot but scenic. We ran along a wooded trail that loops around the military housing development. Even considering that Katherine had a baby only nine months ago (and I’ve had four years to recover from mine), that hard core running-mama can still kick my butt.
When lunch drew to a close, I knew it was time to lug my things out of my cozy guest room and to bid farewell to Dan and sweet baby Grace. Katherine and I got another quality hour together in the car on the drive to the San Jose airport. It kind of killed me that we were more than half way to San Francisco and getting closer to Napa Valley ever minute. So close and yet…While I missed my boys, I tried to convince Katherine that we should just keep driving and go on a spontaneous road-trip. In the end, I know we both agreed that our supportive husbands can only handle so many of these impromptu get-aways. Hmmm, what will next year’s birthday bring…?