Best friends just became better... Celese and I got engaged!!!
It all happened a few weeks ago during a three-day surf trip to Big Sur -- one of our favorite nuggets in California. Nothing better than a classic loop starting from San Francisco blasting south on Hwy. 101 towards San Luis Obispo and working north on Hwy. 1 through the heart of the Central California coast. Every trip to Big Sur for us entails a mix of funky stores, eccentric food, remote hikes, random accommodations, and of course, the search for perfect surf. But this one turned out a little more special for us.
Day 0: Sausalito - Morro Bay
Not much to report on this leg of the trip. Highlights included the smell of garlic driving through Gilroy and the vast line-ups of tract housing in nowheresville. Throw in an In-n-Out, Target and Home Depot and you've got the American Dream. Not bad living, huh? Ugh.
Celese, in typical fashion on our loop, passed out by King City leaving me with the harrowing effort of one-eyeing the drive to Morro Bay. In between listening to the chatter on the AM dial and the Engadget guys' podcast, I had plenty of time to think of how I would propose.
Similar to past trips, we hit Morro Bay late in the evening and went scouting for cheap motels. You'd be surprised how fast motels fill up in this sleepy coastal town. This year... we donned the Motel 6. Nothing but the best for Celese.
Day 1: Morro Bay - Sand Dollar Beach
We've been blessed with great surf every time we hit Morro Bay. Not sure if it's been good timing or just a great break. I knew it would be good again this year. The swell size and angle were setting up just right. But before jumping in the water, we needed to energize with some Kitty's Kitchen grub -- nothing stellar, but oh so good. You know what I mean.
After breakfast, we hit the water by 8:30am and surfed for close to 3 hours -- lots of great rollers that quickly built up to 3-6 foot faces as you hit the line. Celese caught some great waves. I was so psyched for her.
From Morro Bay we made our way north to the quaint town of Cambria for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants -- Wild Ginger Cafe. After some yummy Vietnamese rolls and Thai chicken wings, we continued our loop.
I knew the swell was building and would most likely be too big for Sand Dollar Beach on Saturday. So, I hit the gas hoping to get a quick sesh before nightfall. The waves looked doable from the bluff, and I saw two other surfers in the water, so I made a go of it.
After a brutal paddle and countless duck dives, I finally made it past the break -- only to find myself alone in the water with a building swell. The waves easily crested 8-12 feet as I searched for any make-able wave to take me back to the beach. I love Sand Dollar, but it was too menacing for this kid.
That night we stayed at great new place -- Treebones Resort -- which is situated on a stunning hillside overlooking the Pacific. The cool thing about Treebones is that you stay in modern yurts or at one of their campsites. We missed out on the yurts because they booked up months in advance. In fact, the campsites fill up quickly as well. Even when camping, you get full access to the lodge -- dinner and a killer hot tub that seems to float over the Pacific.
Day 2: Sand Dollar Beach - Big Sur
We woke up Saturday morning to thundering surf below us. I knew right away that surfing at Sand Dollar would be out of the question. This quickly proved to be an internal dilemma as I had convinced myself on the drive Thursday night that Sand Dollar would be the perfect place to propose to Celese.
"Hmmm.... should I ask Celese to marry me in the morning? Is the sunlight at a good angle that time of day? If I ask her to marry me in the morning, would it be insensitive to scout out surf later in the day?"
"Sand Dollar is the perfect place to propose -- the bluff, the beach, the water, and our history there. Do I risk finding another spot or just go with the sure thing?"
I really wanted to surf and I really wanted to find a perfect place to propose. I thought through my emotions a little longer and decided I could get the best both of worlds. It's what got me here. No sense in stopping now.
After a yummy homemade waffle at Treebones (another bonus to stay here), we packed up the tent and hit the road. For shits and giggles, we pulled into the Sand Dollar parking lot to check out the waves. I threw the ring in my coat pocket in case I found the "right" moment. We peered over the bluff and watched in awe as 20-25 foot bombs hit the crescent-shaped beach. Fortunately for my ego, a few local surfers stood in amazement and shook their heads as they strolled back to their cars. No go at Sand Dollar. And no go on the proposal -- just didn't feel right. Onward.
As we pulled out of the lot, I thought about the local surfers and questioned where they would go with these conditions. The waves were too big for anything exposed to the north or west, so it had to be a south facing break. Where could I find that in Big Sur? Then, I recalled a photo from an old issue of Surfer's Journal where they showed two guys scouting out surf at Andrew Molera State Park from a hillside. Judging from that shot, it looked like it faced due south which would protect the break from a direct hit but still produce enough energy to surf.
I knew that surfing at Andrew Molera would require a 1-2 mile hike so I wanted to find that same viewpoint from the photo to check out conditions. When we approached the park entrance I scoured the hillside for any roads that would give us that vantage point. On our first try we meandered up a dirt road, turned the bend, and saw a pretty thing...
As we zipped down the road, Celese notified me that she would opt out for surfing that afternoon. So, she dropped me off at a closer roadside trailhead so I could get a headstart while she parked the car -- what a gal! Before I made my way to the beach, I ran through my checklist:
Board - check
Wetsuit - check
Booties - check
Wax - check
Ring - check
Towel - check
Cool. Got everything.
When I arrived at the beach, the conditions were awesome and everyone with a surfboard in the surrounding 50-mile radius knew it as well. The place was packed. Oh well, might was well join in on the fun. So I geared up, looked around to see if anyone was watching, stashed the ring in my fleece pocket, and then stuffed my fleece in my board bag. Should be safe. No prob.
Actually, the crowded surf gave me plenty of time to scout out "the spot". After an hour of contemplating clever "Will you marry me?" lead-ins sprinkled with a few rides, I looked back towards the beach and could see Celese hanging out near my board bag and towel -- and RING!!! Shit, did I hide it well enough in my bag? Better get in... quick.
As I approached Celese, I noticed that she was sitting on my board bag just a few feet from the ring. While I took off my wetsuit, she placed her hand near the tip of the board bag and asked, "What's that? Did you bring a fleece? Can I wear it?"
"Hold on there nitro. Let me get it that for you."
And with one motion, I managed to bring the fleece out of the bag while removing the ring from the pocket. One of my better moves to date and one I could never repeat in a lifetime.
In classic form, I asked Celese to take a hike to the point to which replied "Ehh... it's kinda cold. Let's go back to the car." Sigh.
After some prodding, we packed a small backpack and made our way to the point. As we hiked to the point, I noticed a beach cove that was roped off due to a hairy descent from the bluff. Perfect. We scurried down the eroded dunes and hopped onto the beach. It was windy and far from ideal to propose, so I looked for a spot protected from the wind. After few hundred yards of walking on the beach, we turned the corner and voila.
We sat down for a few minutes and for the life of me, I can't remember what I said. But at some point, I must have proposed because Celese had a gleam in her eye that I will NEVER forget. We embraced for a long time and gazed out to the Pacific just laughing -- everything was perfect.
As we made our way back to the car, Celese commented on how it would be nice to stay at a better place than a cheesy lodge in Big Sur. Check.
Knowing this was going down at some point during the weekend, I secretly made a reservation for one night at the Ventana Inn. When I sprung that surprise on her, she was so stoked. And who wouldn't be... the Ventana rocks!!! We lived it up for the remainder of the trip -- lounging on our private hammock, soaking it up in the Japanese hot tubs, and taking in endless views from every spot on the property.
Day 3: Big Sur - Sausalito
Time to go home. Thankfully, the Ventana Inn has a late check out time of 1pm giving you plenty of time to soak up every last minute of nirvana. On the way north, I went back up that dirt road to check something out. Would it work? Maybe? Yep.
Surfers spend countless hours looking for that mysto spot. That spot that leads to complete bliss, perfection, and happiness. I found that spot on this trip. But it wasn't a surf break. This spot will be ingrained in my spirit for a lifetime. This spot marks where I began a new chapter in my life of complete bliss, perfection and happiness. A spot where best friends became better.
BTW... he hit some great surf in Santa Cruz on the way home.
[Check out my photo diary of the trip]