A bittersweet holiday at a destination filled with memories. It was a week of relaxation, reflection, and a few tears.

A few months ago, as we anticipated the upcoming holiday trip to Pismo Beach I worried about Indy’s health. Would he enjoy the trip? Would he have a health crisis when we were there? Would he be too frail to travel? Would he still be with us in December? I wasn’t planning to write about the trip. Would I have anything interesting to share, as we have been to Pismo Beach twice? Would the post be a downer because I’m sad that Indy is not with us? But by the end of the second day, I changed my mind.


Travel Planning

In the weeks before the trip, Michael was very busy preparing, shopping, and baking. He made a big effort to bring things that would make the holiday enjoyable. He downloaded some of our favorite movies and packed a few games. Then there was the food… The pantry included fancy meats and cheeses, artisan bread, marinated jerk chicken to grill, pizza dough, homemade Jamaican banana bread and pumpkin pie, all the fixings for smores, champagne and a special port. Michael even packed a few holiday decorations that he ordered to lift our moods.


holiday decorations on fireplace at Tides Inn Pismo Beach


The drive up the coast took longer than anticipated due to holiday traffic. There were alternating periods of light drizzle, short downpours, and bright sunshine. The sky was filled with beautiful clouds and a rainbow (Indy saying hello?). We arrived in Pismo Beach just in time to unpack the car and catch the first sunset of the week.




Unexpected Reflection

Over the past few weeks, as I grieved Indy’s death, I thought about other loved ones – people and dogs – who have passed. And I reflected about my life and getting older. The second day of the trip I experienced two ‘signs’ that brought some serenity (and tears). We went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. At the checkout a book caught my eye, Feather and the Riddle of Anubis by Chris Ramey. I noticed the illustration of a dog and subtitle ‘A Book About Love, Loss, and Egyptian Magic’. I opened the cover, saw the author’s handwritten note and a pawprint, and thought yeah, this book is calling to me. It is a tribute to Chris’ mother Destry, who passed away the same month and year as my mom. Feather, the dog on the cover, is her dog – a dog she rescued. More about the book soon…


A Special Walk on the Beach

Later that day I went for a solo walk on the beach while Michael napped. I saw lots of dogs, thought of Indy, and got a little sad. I spotted a man playing fetch with a beautiful black Labrador. The dog crouched in an alert stance and watched intently as the man hoisted the ball in the air. He watched the ball as it approached then jumped into the air and caught it. I stood and watched a few tosses. Then the dog turned and saw me. He grabbed his ball, walked over, dropped the ball at my feet and looked at me. I started bawling. I threw the ball (not as good as his person), he retrieved it and brought it back a few times and then headed back to his person. I watched for a few more minutes and saw the dog go over to another person and drop the ball to play. I felt a little disappointed – but that was ok; I still cherished the moment.


Labrador playing on beach in Pismo Beach


The Holidays

On Christmas Eve we took a walk around downtown Pismo Beach and headed to Tastes of the Valleys – a wine shop and tasting room. They do a changing flight of five pre-selected Central Coast wines. We tried a rose, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and zinfandel. The Brochelle Vineyards zinfandel was yummy and we bought a bottle for later.


Pismo Beach street sign


On Christmas morning the ocean was feisty. The usual paddleboarders were not around. Instead, there was a small group of dolphins in the surf. Later, we took a walk to get some activity. We stopped for a snack at Cypress Beach House, the rooftop restaurant at the Inn at The Pier. As we walked through the restaurant, I saw a beautiful yellow Labrador at a table with her people. I stopped and asked if I could say hello. I crouched down; Riley came over, wagged, and gave me lots of kisses on my face. [Thank you, sweet girl, for showing me some doggie love when I needed it.]


Cypress Beach House Pismo Beach


When we returned from the walk, I grabbed Feather and the Riddle of Anubis and read the entire book. It started with a dedication to Destry Ramey. We shared a love of travel and animals. I felt inspired by her optimism and generosity and wished I had the opportunity to meet her. Destry’s favorite day of the year was Christmas – the day I read the book! I should note that Feather and the Riddle of Anubis is a kid’s book, but I think adults will enjoy reading it (I did). I don’t want to give away what happened, but I will say the final chapters were comforting (and caused some tears). I finished the book as the sun set and sky grew dark. I watched the ocean, listened to the waves, and drank a toast to my mom.


Feather and the Riddle of Anubis


Out and About

One day we took a short drive to explore. We went to downtown San Luis Obispo for lunch at Luna Red then a short walk and stop at one of my favorite stores, Junk Girls. On the way back, we went to Avila Valley Barn – a very popular spot. They have a restaurant, sweet shop, huge store filled with produce and goodies galore, and lots of animals. I saw pygmy goats, goats, lamas, an ostrich, and a cow inside the various enclosures. Happy children carried around large bundles of fresh lettuce as they visited the animals to give them a snack.


We returned to the hotel just in time for bunny o’clock and the sunset. (Every afternoon around 3:30 PM an adorable bunny emerges by the house to munch on the grass. I named him Feather after the dog in the book.) Michael grilled kabobs, a giant stuffed mushroom, veggies, and corn for dinner then we made smores on the fire pit as we watched the ocean.




A Peaceful Routine

On the last full day of the trip, the waves were extra feisty. They matched my mood as my thoughts shifted to leaving this peaceful place.


Pismo beach stormy waves


While I will always love exploring new places, I have also found enjoyment in returning to familiar places. One of our favorite destinations is Ibiza and I imagine we will continue to visit as often as we can. I’m grateful we found another favorite that is much easier to reach. A place where we can smell the ocean, watch the waves tumble in and out and listen to them roar. We develop a routine to manage the things we need to do in our daily lives. This week I realized that we developed a Pismo Beach routine. It is not a busy, gotta get stuff done routine – it is routine that invites us to do things that bring joy or serenity. Eating breakfast at the kitchen table gazing at the ocean and cloud covered sky. Going out for a few hours to explore. Coming back to the hotel for bunny o’clock followed by sundowners and the sunset. Having a home cooked or take away dinner while gazing at the view. Then relaxing on the couch playing connect four or just watching the fire and listening to the waves. One thing was missing – Indy – but he was with us in our hearts.


Chumash Highway CaliforniaScenic drive home on Chumash Highway (Highway 154)


Where we Stayed

We stayed at Tides Inn & Cottages in the beach house. There are many hotels in Pismo with an ocean view, but the beach house is special because of the space. The open plan kitchen, living room, and game room all provide an ocean view. The large outdoor patio has a dining table, sofas, and a fire pit with views of the ocean and pier. And I can’t forget Michael’s favorite part – the outdoor BBQ (he loves to cook, even when we travel). As noted in a previous post, the interior has seen better days. However, this year they remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms and plan to update the rest of the house.