Featured, Going Solo, Green Spaces, Photo Essay, Road School, Road Trips

Road School Results: Going Note-less in the Bay Area


On a recent short visit to the Bay Area, I chose to take absolutely zero notes, in the hopes of answering my guiding question for that particular trip:

How effective is photography as a form of note-taking?

Well, I’m ashamed to admit that I cheated–I only spent one of my two days note-taking-free.  Why?  Because I spent the second day fully researching a topic for The Suitcase Scholar (visiting the Napa Valley solo–stay tuned!) and I needed to take notes.

Yes, I realize that sounds like a lame excuse.  But still, I managed to go one whole day without writing anything down.  And it was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life.

Though that had little do to with the lack of note taking and everything to do with what I did that day–I drove solo down Route 1 from Pacifica to Carmel.

It.  Was.  Amazing.

And honestly, even without photos, I don’t think I’d need to have taken notes to remember it.  Though to not have taken photos would have been a sin.  It took me eight hours to drive from Pacifica down to Carmel–with brief side drive-through tours of Santa Cruz and Monterey and about an hour spent on the 17-mile drive–and then back to Pacifica.  The only thing I did was drive and stop and take photos; I didn’t even pause to eat.  I watched early morning surfers, admired the mingling of fog and early morning light, drove through seemingly endless fields of artichokes (yet did not stop at any of the shacks selling fried artichokes–why did I not do this?), and gaped in awe at every new breathtaking turn.   These are my notes…


My first stop–the public beach in Pacifica. Hello, California beach town. I highly recommend it. And if you’re hungry, there’s a wood-sided TACO BELL on the beach. Yeah.


I should not have taken this photo. But I assure you, I came to an almost-complete stop. The point? How beautiful the morning light is, even when not part of an epic ocean vista.


I have never seen more beautiful light. Anywhere. Also, this bridge is pretty awesome. Did I mention I loved this drive?


I have a fear of tunnels; there is a tunnel right after the town of Pacifica, at the start of my drive. But THIS is right on the other side. Fear of tunnels, conquered.


This lighthouse houses a hostel. How broke-ass kids get out here, I have no idea. But man, it was gorgeous. No cell service, either. Perfect.


This is the view from the lookout at the base of the lighthouse. I have a thing for succulents. They were everywhere.


There was a BIG ‘No Parking’ sign in the patch of ground upon which I pulled over. And many, many tire tracks. And clear paths where people walked out to the edge. I didn’t listen, either. Sorry.


At this point, I stopped taking photos with my real camera for a good hundred miles. I’m now south of Monterey, along the 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. Which I drove on whim simply to send photos of this to my golf-loving father.


This is just a few hundred yards down from the last photo, also on the 17-mile-drive; the golf course was still across the road. These were the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I cried.


I drove back north the same way I came–up the coast, instead of taking the shorter, inland way ‘home’. It is different in the other direction; at one point I turned a corner, and it was just all kite surfers. I gasped, audibly, alone.


See? Different in the other direction. This was my favorite vista. EVER.


And then there was this piano, on the edge of this epic cliff. A woman speaking a language I could not identify was playing it when I walked up. It was only slightly out of tune.

So how effective is photography as a form of note-taking?  Pretty effective.  As I scroll through my (hundreds) of photos from that day, I remember where I was.  I remember why I took each photo.  And I remember how I felt the entire time–totally in awe, and completely at peace.  Except for during my brief run-in with a cop in Carmel (I was using my iPhone as GPS–not texting.  He did see the difference, though I maintain that there very much is a difference.)

But beyond photos-as-notes, there’s something that really should be…noted…here.  And that is this: the photos above are a small part of what really was one of the best days of my life.  I smiled.  I sang along with the radio.  I cried tears of awe and joy.  And I did all of that all by myself.  I will never, never understand why people do not travel solo.  Because if I didn’t travel solo, I would never have had this day.  And that would be a damn shame.

Disclosure: No one hosted me, no one told me to take this trip.  This was a trip I wanted to take and found a small sliver of time (and more than a small amount of money) to do.  Why?  Because some trips need to be taken.  And they need to be taken now.  Life is short.  Live it. 

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