Call me when you get lost!

— DJ Drama, Hot Wind Blows

Before breakfast this past Tuesday, I sat in a beach chair with a book in hand. I wasn’t reading, though. I was eavesdropping on the young family with two sons under the age of ten and their dog talk to the San Luis Obispo local who was roaming the cliff’s edge looking for people to impress with his canine knowledge and obedience training. He was as boastful as the fog was large, and I watched as one of his doggies snuck away. It took a few quiet steps up into the hotel restaurant’s outdoor area and found a place to curl up under a table. The family finally escaped the conversation, and the overconfident pet owner looked around to see he only had one of his two charges by his side.

By this point, I was making way into Marisol for eggs and such and walked past the stray dog found by some of the wait staff. “His owner is whistling for him on the path, I think,” I said and watched relief cross their faces. One of them hustled down the steps and waved him down, and I went inside for some coffee and bacon and an unexpected delight: a house-made English muffin!

And I was grateful.

Tiffany would join me in short order for some breakfast of her own. Her birthday was the reason I had planned this trip up the coast. It’s a milestone year for her, and the pandemic has delayed the international travel I would’ve otherwise tried to provide for the occasion. But California is open, and we are vaccinated, and a resort at the literal edge of the Pacific meant lots of outdoor space and good weather just a few short hours from home in a place she’d never been.

We listened to cookout classics for the ride up, stopping briefly in Oxnard and for a while longer in Santa Barbara. If you’re going up the coast, how can you not stop at La Super-Rica Taqueria at least once? I had the chilaquiles for the first time, and they were a revelation.

Our map apps have taken to sending us on a scenic detour over San Marcos Road (state route 154) when we go up and down the coast, which puts you through the mountains for nearly nine miles before plopping you back out on the 101. Those twists and turns are a lot to deal with, but it’s beautiful. Also beautiful? A time that feels like your own.

Those few days where I could choose anything from sitting in a beachside park, watch surfers, day drink, nap, workout, or whatever came to mind—including doing nothing—was precisely the reset I’ve been touting to my team. It felt necessary after the hyper-long term stress of the last year and a half. Instead of worrying about getting others sick or coming down with the deadly disease myself or elections or the police, there was an exceptional sushi dinner and drinks at the Madonna Inn. There were cupcakes, mimosas, and flower petals. There was conversation and quiet and an excellent deli found just as we were leaving.

There were 90s tunes for the traffic-free ride home.

There was a return to a mostly empty office Friday, including my first ride on the bus in seventeen months.

There was a weekend with Duke.

There was Summer of Soul and Black Widow and Why Women Kill Season 2.

There was clarity in what routines serve me and which have become meaningless burdens.

And, today, there is gratitude.

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