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Doc Mishler and friends

Doc Mishler last rode the coast road fifteen years ago with the two horses pictured on the right: Chief Free Spirit and Keep The Faith. At that time, Doc trotted from Montana to Washington D.C., by way of California, after surviving a cancer diagnosis and its treatment and reading the book, How Then Shall We Live, a text that weighs the question, “How shall I live, knowing I will die?”

What was then a personal journey to celebrate life after beating a terminal diagnosis is now a ride to raise our awareness of hunger, in particular regard to starving children.  Doc says, “There are children in the world who are so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.”

This ride is Doc’s mission. For more information about his church community, please stop him on his way south along Highway 1.

Doc can use a place to board his horses each night, so stop to offer your place when you see him.  Today he’ll depart Pescadero to travel to Santa Cruz, then on to Monterey, and then El Sur Grande, a day’s ride southbound until San Diego, where he will then head east-northeast to D.C.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

This is the tale of two Fradkins:

1. Philip Fradkin 1974 and 2011
2. Philip Fradkin, father and Alex Fradkin, his son.

Philip and Alex have published The Left Coast – California On The Edge, written by Philip, with accompanying photos taken by Alex.  The two have spent the past five years writing about, and snapping images of, the choices that we’ve made the past one hundred years in utilizing our shoreline.

These choices entail lumber production, preservation of open space, farming communities suffering withdrawal from the reverberating booms of mass housing developments, exploited fisheries, beaches as recipients of sewage line detritus, a globally-influential harbor, and, armed Feds.

After reading the text and viewing the photos, one walks away with a throbbing question, How does such a mixed-use coast mediate conflicting interests?

The Left Coast is not the archetypal published fare of coffee table books waxing poetic on images of uninhabited coastline or long rural stretches of the coast road.  The Left Coast charges the reader to consider how our current imagery of California is no longer that of the plein air artists, who, at the turn of the nineteenth century, captured landscapes and coastscapes without power lines, asphalt, and buildings.

Two of my favorite photos taken by Alex are not typical “landscape-y” or “coastscape-y” photos.

In the chapter entitled, “The Military Coast,” a photo of a young servicewoman is dwarfed dockside before the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier, home-ported at NS North Island, San Diego.  Philip writes,”Beach replenishment – viewed as a God-given, or rather a navy-gifted, right in San Diego – is a bit of a misnomer.  To replenish is to make complete again.  The beaches had been historically narrow, the Silver Strand being a thin barrier spit when the Hotel Del was first built.  They bulked up only when wide beaches were seen as a profitable tourist attraction, chambers of commerce promoted their mythic existence, and the navy supplied the sand – a massive thirty-seven million cubic yards to the Silver Strand since 1940, making it the most modified beach in California.  There was a second purpose for the so-called replenishment.  The sand was meant not only to give pleasure but also to protect coastal developments, which in San Diego County had been “built too low, too close to the beach, or without sufficient setbacks from the cliff edges.””

“The navy began dredging, with the clean sand going to replenish the nine beaches stretching from Oceanside to Imperial Beach.  Problems developed.  An unexploded mortar shell was found on the Oceanside beach where some of the sand had been pumped ashore.”

My other favorite photo, found in the chapter, “The Recreational Coast,” is, “RVs camped on beach.  Oceano Dunes, 2007.”  Ocean Dunes SVRA is a hot land-use debate between those who believe beaches are for feet versus those recreationists who desire to drive motorized vehicles across the beach and along its sand dunes.

The Left Coast is not Philip’s first published effort.  In 1974, Philip published California, The Golden Coast, which included photographs by Dennis Stock to support Philip’s text.  Dennis’ photos evoke that blissful, dreamy California of which we vacation along the coast road to experience, the coast that enviros fight for; photos perfectly-suited for a glossy coffee-table book. California, The Golden Coast, makes a delightful companion piece to The Left Coast, that is, if you can find it.

Alex accompanied Philip on the field research trips for this book, thus these two books tie together: In 1974, father and son travel the coast, for father to write a book. Thirty years later, father and son embark upon a journey to produce a book together.

Purchase The Left Coast – California On The Edge.

Alex’s website.

Philip’s website.

I want to experience uncrowded beaches in California, when the only hazard might be a sloth of grizzlies feeding off a whale’s washed-up carcass.  I’d like to regard old growth redwood forests, when they weren’t yet old, and certainly not pockmarked by logging.  I’d like to see skies blackened by birdlife, including a condo of condors.  I want to see 10 pound smelt and 60 pound salmon swimming our creeks and rivers.

If you too want to travel back in time, then A State of Change, Forgotten Landscapes of California by Laura Cunningham is the sweetest prehistoric treat you’ll ever find.  Laura Cunningham presents a California from the good old days.

A State of Change looks like a textbook, and is heavy like a textbook, but it is a beautiful, artfully-informational book.  A State of Change represents Laura Cunningham’s life work.  She spent the past 30 years sleuthing, “Since 1980 I have traveled all over the state tracking the remaining vestiges and relictual pieces of semi-pristine landscapes in order to flesh out the narratives that I found.  The clues to the past yet remain, if one is willing to patiently seek them in the field.”

Laura Cunningham is an illustrator and a paleontologist.  She attended UC Berkeley (paleontology) and UC Santa Cruz (natural science illustration).  California’s Historical Ecology is her thing, “The lack of animals that were once called abundant, the new weedy plants, even the lowered water tables all call attention to profound changes that mark a major discontinuity in the long flow of California’s ecology.”

A State of Change considers both the hedge nettle (described as a “very leafy sweet marjoram” in Fray Crespi’s diary from his overland exploration to 55° north with Pedro Fages in 1772) and both acorn and buckeye pestled by natives as a dietary staple.

A State of Change informs us of grizzlies too.

The earliest written documentation, provided by Spanish explorer Vizcaíno in 1602, Monterey, “…beached whales scavenged by grizzlies.”  In 1769, Pedro Fages’ diary notes from a location a few miles west of San Luis Obispo, “In this canyon were seen whole troops of bears; they have the ground all plowed from digging in it to find their sustenance in the roots which the land produces.”  William Brewer, botanist of the California Geological Survey in the 1860s, found at Monterey, “a whale…stranded on the beach, and the tracks of grizzlies were thick about it.”  Laura tells us that “herds” of bears roamed the “coastal prairies of the San Francisco peninsula.  A grizzly was found swimming to Angel Island in 1827.  In the 1860s settler Jonathan Watson once saw three hundred grizzlies in a single valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

“All of this abundance of food may also explain why grizzlies in California did not hibernate like their Rocky Mountain cousins,” writes Laura.

The grizzlies’ large population and perennial presence explains how the grizzly became extinct within only 50 years after the mass migration of the California Gold Rush, bringing seekers and settlers, overland and across the Isthmus from America, Europe, and Asia.  The Spanish already had abused the privilege of living amongst the grizzly, “Soldiers and gentlemen lasso a grizzly up in Loma Prieta by the paws and neck, muzzle it, and drag it back to the bull pit (Corralitos or, “little corral”) to celebrate Easter or some special occasion, such as the inauguration of the governor.  The bear’s leg would be tied to a pole, or to the leg of the bull, and a fight would erupt.  Sometimes the long-horned bull would win, goring the bear.  But another time, the bear would swing a mighty paw and knock the bull off its feet, killing it.”

“Many bears were poisoned with strychnine and trapped by stockmen.  In the Santa Cruz Mountains, grizzlies held out into the 1880s, then were gone.  By 1888 grizzly numbers had declined noticeably in the Santa Ana stronghold, and by 1898 bears were considered “shot out,” though isolated reports of grizzlies continued until 1913.”

I leave it to you readers to pursue locating Laura Cunningham’s book and examine its contents further.  A State of Change covers a range of prehistoric and historic flora and fauna.  Also check its sources:  the Bibliography runs from page 319 to 343 in a dense 6 pt. font.

A State of Change is a Heyday book.  A website dedicated to the book is located here.  A preview of this beautifully illustrated work is found on Google books.

Dude gave me his name, but I didn’t ask his permission to share, so I’ll tell you that dude’s name is “Noah.”  Noah’s hitched rides from Shasta County to the San Mateo County coast.  He has no specific destination.  New Mexico, ultimately, then back home.

“Lightning Fields, New Mexico,” I suggested.  Noah hadn’t heard about Lightning Fields.  I told him about Just John, riding a tricycle, heading south a couple of years ago, and that his plan was to reach the southern end of the Coast Road, then turn east to New Mexico, bound for the Lightning Fields.

“An electrical dude,” observed Noah.  “I’ve been reading about Tesla and his inventions.”

Noah’s traveling south, dependent on hitchhiking to reach the next destination.  “Riding a bike would be better,” says Noah after I tell him about Just John riding his tricycle.  “More independence, travel at one’s own pace, stop wherever and whenever, and, more room to pack more supplies.”

Noah’s belongings fit within a modest-sized backpack, larger than what we slung across our backs when in school, but smaller than an expedition backpack, which may be more suitable for Noah’s coastal trek.  A black canvas shoulder bag holds items requiring frequent use, such as Noah’s bullet-shaped, stainless steel thermos.

Noah’s tanned skin from the past couple weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures contrast to this week’s winter weather of snow at 1,000 foot elevations and hail storms at sea level.  After a long rainy hitch that brought him through Marin County and across the Golden Gate, and a complicated navigation through the drizzly city, Noah got a ride from San Francisco, through Pacifica, around Devil’s Slide, then down the coast and up to Apple Jacks in La Honda.  “I’ve enjoyed two good woodstove fires and really good music in the past 24 hours.”

Atop Noah’s long, brown, sun-kissed curls, sits a green felt hat, with a stubby brim, adequate-enough to provide sun and rain protection.  Noah’s summer-weight, black pin-striped suit is layered underneath by a red tee, and a green wool v-neck sweater, topped by two thick scarves.  Birkenstocks on Noah’s sockless feet display signs of wear at the heels.

Next stop Santa Cruz, then maybe Monterey, unless Noah hitches straight into the Sur.

Keep an eye to the Coast Road for “Noah,” and, if you’re headed to the next town south, maybe offer him a lift.

I am not without hope of delighting to find the essential Coast Road novel.  Expectations defined in a previous post on two Coast Road-titled books ended with a request that, at the very least, when a book is titled, “The Coast Road,” then the reader better find plenty of setting along the Coast Road.

Elizabeth C. Ward’s 1983, Coast Highway 1, has it all:  A pissy, Stanford alum, University of Irvine comparative literature professor who translates nineteenth-century Spanish novelists, and intentionally grades his best student’s extraordinary paper a B+.  Jake Martin finds the extraordinary student lying dead one foggy morning, under the bougainvillea of his Spanish stucco courtyard.

“It was too late to go home, even for a change of clothes.  I bought a map of the coast highway and headed south.”   Jake Martin exits his next locations (Balboa Bay Club, San Juan Capistrano, Encinitas, even Ensenada), always in the nick-of-time.  Bullets prod his every departure.

A twist in the plot turns Jake northward, and soon he is north of Santa Monica, above Malibu, “Point Magu [sic].  One last strange rock, alone and seaward, like some forgotten giant or a period at the end of a sentence.  Beyond that are the flats of the Ventura Valley, the firing range, the naval base, the Pacific missile range, pale fields with only the tips of the summer crop greening the land.  Highway 1 hurries across it as though to get to the other side quickly, before the sea sweeps in again and wipes it clean.”

The reader finds plenty of setting along the Coast Road.  In Pismo Beach, Jake races through Oceano Dunes to evade a dune-buggying pursuer.  To reach some inland locales, such as Jake’s side-trip to Stanford campus, Elizabeth Ward writes, “I left the sea at Pescadero and turned inland through the artichokes and up into the redwood canyons that wind up to Skyline Drive.”  At Fort Point, Jake exchanges words under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge with the sergeant assigned to the case.

Penciled edits in the copy that I read, made me laugh out loud.  The first edit is found when Jake Martin carries his investigation to Pacific Heights in San Francisco.  Elizabeth C. Ward describes the streets of his location as, “…on California, between Jackson and Clay.”  A savvy reader before me penciled in three parallel lines next to this paragraph, and named each: California, Clay, Jackson.  To the right of the paragraph, this editor/reader wrote, “BETWEEN?” and then, for good measure on the page, a deeply-leaded “!”

Later, the same scribe slashed an “r” in “Monterrey,” with an admonishment, “One “ARE” in our Monterey!”

Elizabeth C. Ward includes the environmental movement and Robinson Jeffers in her Coast Highway 1.  In the victim’s photography book on estuaries of the California coast, “Jennifer had used Jeffer’s words as the only text in her book and the photographs were worthy of a poet.  The eye that had looked through the lens had lingered on the detail of wing and seed and ripple of water.  Had recorded the reflection of insect and reed and marsh grass.  It had gloried in the sweep of sky and the boundless still-spaces of the estuary.”

The gnarliest chase scene occurs, briefly, as a coast road run through the Big Sur coastscape.  “No backwoods roads lead to the safety of highway arteries further inland.  There is no escape except by foot into terrain where only the wildcat and the red-tailed hawk survive.  Once committed, there is no way out.  Set a roadblock, one at each end, and a man is trapped here forever.  Fugitive, he is defeated, finally, not by the men at either end, but by the mountains themselves and the sea swirling below.”

Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Highway 1, is fairly essential as a Coast Road Read.  It is certainly a bunch of fun to vicariously romp along its settings up and down the California coast.  Elizabeth wrote two other books, both published in the 1980s, A Nice Little Beach Town and The Lost Day.  Ms. Ward has lived in Newport Beach for most of her life.

Available Used.

A little article on Ms. Ward.

Just came across another coastal artist, Giselle Lawson of the central coast.

Monterey Fog by Giselle Lawson

Giselle paints California with a delicate study of agriculture, open space and atmosphere. Her Monterey Fog, above, elegantly captures that murky greyness we know so well, living here on the coast, yet, she’s also included in her painting the hint of light: the hope of sun lifting the fog mid-morning for a chance at a sunny afternoon.

Sea & Sky by Giselle Lawson In her Sea & Sky, Giselle gives the viewer an infinity of atmosphere between the blue-grey ocean and the grey-white sky. It could be difficult to determine the line of demarcation as the eye wants to blend the two seamlessly together. Cloud shadows hint at possible encroaching darkness. Highway 1, Monterey County by Giselle Lawson

Telephone lines and power lines are included in the subject treatment of several paintings, such as Highway 1, Monterey County. Giselle doesn’t paint them out in order to romanticize our California coastscape. Besides, these lines usually follow our roads, so to include them in the painting is also to provide the hint of a road following below the poles and lines, whether that be Highway 1 or a back road perched on the contours of the coast range.

Click any of the paintings to link over to Giselle’s site – Enjoy.


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Days until manuscript completion

Final DraftNovember 30th, 2013
Dot i's and cross t's.