It was a warm, sun-drenched, glorious Saturday perfect for one of our DayTripper escapades. You know how those work: We put on individual cards the names of all the cities, towns, destinations and wide-spot-in-the-road attractions within 100 miles or so. We toss the cards in Richard’s fedora, and then literally draw our day’s destination out of a hat. We go where it tells us and spend the day finding fun somewhere in our own neighborhood. You’d be amazed at what new things we find in those familiar settings.
Unfortunately, we already had an appointment in SLO for some long-delayed auto repairs.
Ordinarily, we’d sit in the waiting room, perhaps wandering off to have lunch somewhere. Or we’d rent a car-for-a-day and run around town in a frenzy, doing the inevitable chores and errands. Or, if the repairs were expected to be lengthy, we’d have someone follow us and bring us home.
Still, we mused, we could choose between “normal routine” and “DayTripper style.”
Never miss a local story.
This time, with the sun shining and potential adventures beckoning, we chose to do a DayTrip with a twist. We left the car and spent our waiting time hoofing it along Monterey Street and other points in downtown San Luis Obispo. In the process, we got some needed exercise in a leisurely stroll around downtown San Luis Obispo, with no pressure, no deadlines, no “honey-do” list.
It was early morning when we began ambling along, heading toward the Mission from the repair shop, peering into windows. It had been decades since I’d seen Monterey Street, Chorro and Higuera that empty of heavy traffic and bumper-to-bumper parked cars.
We read the plaque on the J.P. Andrews building, and noted smaller snippets of history on other establishments. We mused over the changes to the business district through the decades, and tried to see how many longtime businesses we could remember that were now gone.
We conjectured about what might be upstairs over all those downtown shops, other than the chamber offices and a heavy-duty exercise club. Do people really live behind those curtains in the rest of the upper levels, we puzzled? Or is it all upstairs storage and cubbyholes for working artists, accountants and a stray hermit or two?
We scoped out the flowering trees, public art and early-morning wanderers along Mission Creek, checked new restaurants and shops near the Mission Mall and the Network, strolled past the mission and got some espresso.
By now, stores were beginning to open, so we wandered through a few, giggling at a whimsical “Dog Food” book, marveling at the riot of color at Hands Gallery, splurging on a Cowboy cookie.
That kind of kind of casual, unplanned walkabout comes with some built-in caveats. It’s like shopping via public transportation in San Francisco, and it takes some mental adjusting. While you CAN shop to buy, you should only purchase what you don’t mind hauling. You have to really, truly want what you buy to be willing to lug it along during the rest of your trek.
For instance, a stunning vase in a wrought iron frame, on sale for 40 percent off, became only something to enjoy seeing. At a dozen or so pounds, it wasn’t cash-and-carry-feasible when the carry part was literal and the destination distant.
I learned by cell phone that the car still wasn’t done (sigh), so it was time to think about lunch. With so many choices, it was hard to pick (although deciding where to eat is a Tanner mental block). Eventually, we opted for a Pan Pacific meal at Thai Palace, out of the way at 1015 Court St. (Remember when there used to be a parking lot there?)
We tucked into our sweet ginger tea (no tea, just ginger and delightful!), satay kai, pad woo sen and beef flambe, and felt nicely stuffed and rejuvenated enough for the trek back up Monterey Street.
Five hours after we left our vehicle for its fix-up, we got it back.
In the classical sense, we hadn’t “accomplished” much. What we did achieve was even more rare for us than actually crossing things off the “to-do” list: We’d relaxed and enjoyed a familiar spot in a new way. We’d relearned the importance of relaxing during some enforced “down time,” rather than sitting and fretting in the repair shop’s waiting room.
DayTripping? Not exactly. But close enough.