Monday, April 28, 2003

Fun scenic drive this weekend -- we [*] went down the California coast on highway 1, from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. We encountered some difficulty getting through the Big Sur Marathon. (I didn't know it was going to be taking place along 26 miles of highway 1.) They batched up hundreds of cars and had us wait ~20 minutes until the northbound traffic went through, and then we all went south. During the wait I ate some snacks (Cheetos); it kept me from starving before lunch.

We ate in Big Sur. Both of us weren't too hungry because of the snacks, so we split a turkey sandwich. The restaurant had a garden patio setting, with hummingbirds, an orange tree, and a lemon tree. Relaxing. It reminded me that I need to find some good hummingbird plants for our backyard.

Along the way south we saw over a thousand elephant seals. I've seen cows, goats, sheep, ducks, geese, emus, ostriches, coyotes, horses, mules, and lots of types of birds on these scenic drives. But this time I saw zebras. They were grazing with cows in a field overlooking the Pacific ocean. Apparently they're descendants of zebras owned by William Randolph Hearst.

We stayed in Pismo Beach in the Sea Gypsy. It has a great location -- it's on the beach, and our balcony faces the beach (no obstructions in the view). We watched around 50 surfers on Sunday night. Then we listened to the ocean all night. I need to get an ocean sound generator now.

I read a tide schedule. I noticed for the first time that the peak occurs a few days after the full moon. I should have expected the full and new moons to increase the height of the tide, but it never really clicked until now. What I don't understand is why the tide gets higher and higher each day until a few days after the full moon, then it drops quite a bit! Maybe this is something to do with the geography of Pismo Beach. I'll have to investigate.

We walked along the beach and then the pier. Waves are weird. We watched the waves going back out to sea interact with the new waves coming in, forming rather interesting ripple patterns.

We were trying to find a replacement camera battery. We walked to a local store and asked, but they said they didn't have that kind of battery. They tried to sell us two AA batteries instead. Even though the contacts are in a completely different place, the voltage was wrong, and they were a different size. They insisted that the AA batteries would work just fine!

For dinner we ate from Del's Pizzeria. We ordered a pizza ($13.55) and a salad ($3.75) and we had a coupon for a free drink ($2.00). Delivery was supposed to be free. Somehow the total ended up being $22.58. I didn't question it that night but the next morning I realized it was a bit too high. We tried calling them to find out what happened but they were closed. Bah.

The next morning we sat on the balcony, watched the waves, and read. I read half of Linked by Albert-László Barabási. It was great! The author provided many "interesting mathematician" anecdotes that I hadn't read before. Stanley Milgram was a strange guy. So is Paul "My Brain is Open" Erdös. I stopped at the point where the author started describing how the web, Google, Bose-Einstein condensate, and Microsoft were related. Woah. I'll finish the book next weekend.

We then drove around a bit, went to the "As Seen On TV" Store. It's amusing. But I didn't find anything really interesting.

For lunch, we went to Tortilla Flats in San Luis Obispo. The thing that drew me in was all you can eat tacos, fajitas, tostadas for $7 ! Needless to say, I ate a lot (three big tacos, a mini chimichanga, a fajita, chips/salsa, rice, and some fruit). It served as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Driving up 101 isn't as interesting as 1. I took a detour -- highway 25 by the Pinnacles. (I didn't actually visit the Pinnacles; I was just taking the scenic way.) The highway ends up in Hollister, which has grown quite a few suburbs. Huge houses, huge strip malls, huge parking lots. But no huge highways; it's still a tiny two-laner. I guess there's lots of land around here, and it's closer to the Bay Area than Sacramento.

It was a fun trip. Things I need to read more about:

  1. Why do ripples form when ocean waves collide on the beach?
  2. How are tide schedules calculated?
  3. Stanley Milgram
  4. Paul Erdös
  5. Bose-Einstein condensate
  6. Can you get a tan through a window?
  7. Does sunlight really help you heal faster? (During this trip I read in Scientific American that bright light can help your eyes heal.)
[*] "We" means my wife and I.