The Cambrian

Kathe Tanner: Option hopping

Kathe Tanner writes for The Cambrian.
Kathe Tanner writes for The Cambrian.

Some happiness comes from keeping your options open and not locking yourself into a specific plan or a mind-set. Occasionally, it just takes longer to kick in. We were suffering from a creeping case of cabin-fever weariness on that beautiful weekend. Rain was forecast later in the week, so it seemed that if we were going to get away anytime soon, it was now or never.

Our mini-trip to Monterey was to be footloose and unfettered, with nobody special to see, no deadlines, no appointments, no hotel reservations made.

Ooops. Time out. I’m not willing to be that footloose and foolhardy. I’m not even packing a toothbrush until we know we have a place to sleep.

A quick call to a familiar hotel not only netted us a reservation, but it was for our favorite room.


Not quite. Once there, we discovered the reservation clerk had

forgotten to mention something crucial: The hotel was being renovated. The basement garage was roped off. Half the rooms were torn apart and being painted.

Husband Richard is violently, asthmatically allergic to paint fumes.

The good news? There was a vacancy at a sister lodging; we’d stayed there before and liked it.

The bad news? It was in Marina. There went our concept of casual strolls from our hotel to the aquarium or down Cannery Row.

Options open, Kathe.

As we unloaded the car, the rain began. Rain? What happened to “clear and sunny?”

Daytime driving in downtown Monterey resembles an Olympic snowboard-cross race. Navigating overcrowded, narrow, twisting roads in the rain, at night, after a long day of packing-driving-switching hotels-and-unpacking sounded like torture.

Yes, we went out to dinner. We found a nearby grocery store and ate our do-it-yourself meal in our snug, dry hotel room.

Saturday, the aquarium quickly filled to overflowing

with groups of pushing, yelling, running children without anybody obviously in charge. Our favorite exhibit had been replaced by one that didn’t attract us nearly as much. The maitre d’ seated us in the restaurant, but the waitress forgot we existed.

We left.

We switched options again. We drove along the sun-drenched shoreline, then turned inland to twist and turn along the historic streets.

We stumbled on an art museum, and discovered a lecture by a marvelous artist whose work we loved immediately. However, the hall was standing room only, hot and stuffy. Again, we left.

And so it went.

Checking out the next morning, we were a bit disgruntled about how our short-term getaway had worked out.

At our customary King City pit stop, we made another options-open switch. Instead of taking our usual brisk stroll around the gas station, we headed for San Lorenzo Regional Park at the edge of town.

The entry sign said “$8 all day.” That’s an expensive walk-about.

As we were turning around to leave, I told the gal at the entry kiosk that all we really wanted to do was stretch our legs. She smiled, waved us in and then called out, “Don’t forget to check out the museums!”


We parked amid a cluster of small buildings, and were amazed to find a couple dozen large farm implements on display outside. Each had a sign explaining what year it was made, what farm job the equipment did and whose farm had donated it.

We wandered happily for a while, learning a lot about early 1900s agriculture.

Then we realized the next building was a restored train depot. Husband Richard had worked 13 years as a Southern Pacific Railroad train dispatcher and his father was the Salt Lake superintendent.

The depot was closed, but we spend an intriguing half-hour peeking into all the windows. “That sounder to the telegraph key needs a Prince Albert tobacco can,” he mock-groused knowledgeably about the lack of the classic, budget amplifier.

Reenergized by our accidental finds, we tried to give the attendant some money as we left and told her about Prince Albert. Laughing, she handed back our dollars and said, “Next time you stop by, bring us one.”

See? You just never know where you’ll find the highlight of your vacation … or your life. Just keep your eyes and your options open.

E-mail Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribunenews . com. Read more “Slices” at