Clip #7: Last Page of First Leg

The Cliffs hotel at Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County, CA was the last trip stop with my younger son Bobby before he flew off to Alaska and I met up with Barney’s daughters and family in the San Francisco area.

The town of Pismo Beach was officially established in 1891.Like most of southern California, it has a long Spanish heritage, but also like much of what is now the United States, it had a long indigenous heritage before that. The name Pismo comes not from Spanish but from the Native American word Pismu. It means “tar,” which Chumash villagers retrieved from the tar springs in nearby Price Canyon and used to seal their baskets and redwood tomols (canoes), which historians have declared seaworthy marvels. Descendants of the Chumash still live in many areas of California.

Our rooms at The Cliffs looked out over the ocean, and our relaxing dinner in the hotel’s Marisol restaurant was served with another spectacular Pacific sunset. Next morning we discovered Brewery Gulch has nothing on Pismo Beach when it comes to steep outdoor stairways. It was sunny and cool as we descended ninety-some steps to a windswept beach that reminded me of Dorset on England’s Jurassic coast where the TV mystery series Broadchurch was filmed. No bodies or clues seemed to be hidden here, but we did enjoy a brisk walk at the foot of the cliffs before making our way back up those steep steps to the hotel grounds.

Since 1950, Pismo has been known as the Clam Capital of the World, but we were too early for the Clam Festival, which is held in October, and we didn’t have time to tour nearby Hearst Castle because Bobby was catching a flight to Anchorage that day for (what else?) a late model race over the coming weekend. We did, however, enjoy our drive up to San Jose, much of it on winding roads through an area of undulating artisan vIneyards. Maybe clams and castles next trip.

Vineyards in San Luis Obispo County

As we neared San Jose that Thursday, my heart ached. Only the morning before, a gunman had opened fire at a public transit rail yard not far from the airport, killing eight of his co-workers who ranged in age from 29 to 63. I find it hard to process how a person, no matter how troubled, amasses enough anger (and hate?) to do something like that. So sad that this was far from the first such shooting and has not been the last.

Far too many memorials like this one at San Jose stain the recent pages of our history.

Mineta San Jose International Airport is named for Norman Yoshio Mineta who, at the age of 10 in 1941, was sent with his family to a Japanese-American internment camp in Wyoming. Mineta became a Boy Scout there, and when a local scout troop visited to have a jamboree day with the incarcerated scouts, he was paired with a local boy named Alan Simpson. Flash forward several decades, and both were elected to Congress but on opposite sides of the aisle. Still, they worked together to help pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided financial reparations to Japanese-American citizens imprisoned during WWII. In addition to serving 20 years in the US House of Representatives, Mineta became the first Asian-American mayor of a major US city (San Jose) and the first Asian-American member of a President’s cabinet (Commerce Secretary and later Transportation Secretary).

Yes, Virginia, we can all get along!

Bobby and I said our goodbyes outside the airport check-in and wished each other safe ongoing travels and adventures. I’m so grateful for the time and companionship my son carved out of his busy life to help make this trip possible. As I pulled away from the airport and headed up Highway 101 towards Palo Alto, my mind flooded with memories of the fun times Barney and I spent with family and friends in this area through the years. I shed a few tears but also looked forward to creating new fun and memories over the coming days.

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