As a belated birthday trip, I’m on the road with my seventy five year old mother and one of her oldest friends headed for Big Sur, Hearst Castle and points south. But let me clarify, this isn’t like traveling with just any seventy-plus ladies. These are former Army wives who have spent their adult lives in quick deployments to foreign places. So while all the hips and knees aren’t exactly working as well as they once were, the spirit of adventure is alive and well in these “ladies of a certain age.” While I wasn’t sure how far and how fast I could push two artificial hips and a severely arthritic knee, I had a lot of ground I wanted to cover. The ladies were up for it. (See pictures of this day’s activities here.)

First stop was San Juan Bautista, one of the loveliest of the old Spanish Missions on the El Camino Real. Interestingly enough, my mother (Jackie) and her friend (Gerry) instantly found their pet interests reflected there. Jackie, who is a life-long horsewoman, made a bee-line for the old Spanish livery stables that were just across the Plaza. Gerry, who is heavily involved with Iraq and troop support programs, found the display of the local parish boys who are serving and somehow managed to find a former NATO official who was coincedentally present to help her write out “God Bless the Troops” in Spanish. She’ll be including postcards from the Mission and that greeting in her next batch of CARE packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both ladies were pleased to find that this beautiful Mission has never stopped being an active parish church since its founding in 1771.

Next, on down the coast to Big Sur and San Simeon. The road was as windy and steep as I remembered it. The view was NOT as I remembered it. Because, although I’d visited it several times, the usual heavy fog had prevented me from seeing it! Today, the warm winds coming from the shore (the ones that are causing all the problems in the wildfires) has completely blown the fog away. We were treated to an incredible red sunset and an unbelievable view all the way down. Perhaps Gerry thought the view was a bit to good. Every time we careened around a cliff hugging corner and looked down 200 feet to the crashing ocean, she started madly pressing with her left foot as if she could control the brake.

When we finally made it to our night stop of Cambria, she pronounced us: “Big Sur-vivors.” I won’t say they kissed the ground. But almost.

See pix of this day’s adventure here.