May 28, 2013
By Susan Spano
May 26, 2013
Wild and lonely, on the Central Coast about 45 minutes southwest of Lompoc, Jalama Beach County Park is one of those places that puts the golden in the Golden State. Getting here over mounded hills and through moss-bearded oak thickets is glorious enough, and then you see the beach stretching for miles from Point Arguello to Point Conception. The 23.5-acre park, donated to Santa Barbara County in 1943 by the Richfield Co., has a small restaurant and store, a handful of cabins and camping sites, but nothing more to break the spell of clashing coast and ocean. Swimming is allowed, but the surf is often rough, better for body and kite surfing, fishing and beachcombing. The tab: Two nights in a prime tent-camping spot, $86, plus a $6.50 reservation fee. A cooler full of beverages and snacks, $50. Two dinners and breakfasts for two at the grill, $75. Plus the cost of gasoline to get here.
Campsites 53 to 64 ($43 a night) are prime, directly overlooking the beach. There are seven cabins ($110-$210 a night) and 109 sites for tent campers and RVs ($23-$43), each with a grill and picnic table; 31 of the sites have electrical hookups ($38-$43). Reservations are accepted no more than six months in advance; there are minimum stays for weekends and holidays (www.sbparks.org/reservations,  736-3504).
Sure, you can cook out; that's what the fire pits are for. But for my money ($5.95), if I never eat another hamburger in my life, let my last be a "World Famous Jalama Burger," served at the Beach Store & Grill. McDonald's empire builder Ray Kroc once called it the best burger he'd ever eaten but was rebuffed when he asked for the top-secret sauce recipe. The grill also serves tasty fries, halibut burgers, homemade clam chowder and a variety of breakfast burritos. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
When the tide goes out, a Whoville of sea creatures is revealed among the rocks and reefs that punctuate the long stretches of empty beach. The fascinations are endless, including living sea urchins and stars, clam colonies, sand dollars and the occasional beached baby seal. Consult a tide chart first to make sure you don't get stranded by incoming waves.
The lesson learned
Spring is the windy season, drawing deliriously happy kite surfers. But camping, I had to pile boulders in my tent to keep it from blowing away; to sleep, ear plugs and a sedative were required. For reference: Summer is the busy high season, winter sometimes inclement. Best time to visit? September and October.
May 24, 2013
When I started reading River Town,
by Peter Hessler,
I little expected that I’d get hooked. But after finishing his first book about serving with the Peace Corps in Sichuan Province, I went on to Oracle Bones
which weaves deep Chinese history together with the author’s experiences living in Beijing, covering the dramatically-changing PRC for The New Yorker.
His greatest gift is the way he tells the stories of average people—from students he taught in Sichuan to migrant workers—upending many assumptions proliferated in news reports about the lives and feelings of contemporary Chinese. Country Driving,
Hessler’s third book, depicts the automobile revolution in China, with millions of newly-middle class people now buying cars and highways unfurling all across the country, a phenomenon that mirrors what happened in the U.S. some 60 years ago.
Now Hessler latest, Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West,
published earlier this month, is on my list, too. Required reading for China-watchers.
From the first annual SPEAK UP! contest, June 23, 2018, Muhanga, Rwanda
Syracuse Archaeological Museum, Sicily
Proshyan School bathroom with water tank
Takar and Kataro are my favorite Armenia reds
School time in Armenia.
Garni Temple, Armenia
Big Sur from Soberanes Point
Artichoke Pickers by Henriette Shore
On the way to the beach
Jalama Beach, CA
Hello, little sea urchin!
Famous Jalama Beach Burger
Three by Peter Hessler
Spring time on the Big Sur Coast
Jalama Beach, CA
Motya Charioteer. Image from www.telegraph.co.uk.
Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA
Homesick for Rome
Therme Vals in Switzerland
National Socialist Party poster from Vogelsgang
Image courtesy of Tylas at English Wikipedia
Vintage Naples Historic District
From Palm Cottage
Borobudur frieze; Buddha's life
Borobudur at sunrise
Shikellamy State Park in Pennsylvania
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Image courtesy of Politics and Prose
Image courtesy of John Wehrheim.
Lotusland in Montecito, CA
Ganna Walska of Lotusland
Image courtesy of Flickr user ViaMoi.
Conques Church. Image courtesy of Flickr user Seligr.
Weiming Lake, Peking University. Image courtesy of Flickr user ImGump.
The Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel near Santa Barbara
Agrodome, Rotorua, New Zealand. Image courtesy of Flickr user _gem_.
Vandalized images at Painted Rock
Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons user BenFrantzDale.
A map of Chicago, Illinois, imprinted in 1913 from the United States Geographical Survey’s historical topographic map collection. Image courtesy of the USGS.
Image courtesy of Flickr user hattiesburgmemory.
Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Flickr user alobos flickr.
Image courtesy of Flickr user joiseyshowaa.
Nonfiction, Travel, Human Interest
A new collection of travel essays by Susan Spano
Tracking Colette in Paris and Burgundy
A draught sinks Lake Powell, revealing lost wonders of Glen Canyon
Rome's Most Roman Neighborhood
Studying Mandarin in Beijing
Around the world and back to New York
Divorce. Why do we do it? And what does it do to us? fourteen prominent writers have pondered these questions and have set down heir thoughts and personal stories, in this gathering of sometimes irreverent and always intelligent essays.
"A disarmingly candid, invaluable collection."
"Anyone who doubts that men, too, suffer in divorce should be required to read this."
"A rare, unusually focused anthology of original essays that both entertains and instructs."
APU International School
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