Thursday, May 11, 2023

Road trip home, Day 1

Sorry for the blog silence, dear readers, but we've been traveling. Let me back up a few days so you can follow us home. I'll put up a blog post for each day on the road.

Monday morning, we left my parents' house and headed north. Before leaving California, Younger Daughter had two specific requests for touristy things she wanted to do. The first of these was to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Well, this was no hardship for me. I'd been to the aquarium once, about twenty years ago, and was eager to see it again. This facility is world-famous for good reason; it is, without question, the be-all and end-all of aquariums.

It took several hours to drive to Monterey. Younger Daughter had purchased our tickets in advance, and it's a good thing she did.

The facility is vast and airy. (You can take a virtual tour here.)

I had to refrain from taking a photo of Every. Single. Exhibit.

One of the most impressive views was an overhead circular tank in which sardines swim in an endless circle. Since sardines school in huge numbers (it's their survival tactic), this emulates their natural behavior to a startling degree.

The aquarium is noted for its enormous tanks. This is their Open Sea tank.

The scale is so off-the-charts, it's almost hard to grasp. By the way, all the seawater is piped in from Monterey Bay, one of the benefits of the aquarium being located where it is.

Unfortunately it was quite dark and hard to take photos in this exhibit room, but the collection of animals housed in the tank is impressive.  Hammerhead sharks, a school of sardines, rays, sea turtles, and an array of massive fish swam around in majestic dignity. There was a few moments of excitement when one of the hammerhead sharks chased a lone outlier sardine that got separated from its school. The pair disappeared into the dark depths of the tank, so I don't know if the shark caught the fish.

You can see the school of sardines at the lower-right portion of the tank.

Hammerhead shark.

Sea turtle.

When we had sated ourselves with the Open Sea exhibit hall, we moved to the next awe-inspiring tank, which featured a kelp forest.

I believe this is the tallest tank in the world. They wanted it to encompass the entirely of these gigantically tall kelp plants, as well as the ecosystem surrounding them. The aquarium kindly provides viewing from two levels, as well as abundant seating for those (like us) who just wanted to sit for a while and absorb the beauty.

Divers enter the tank for maintenance purposes.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from both these incredible exhibit halls and explore the rest of the biomes on display, but of course we did. Here Younger Daughter is watching sea otters.

Whale models are suspended from the ceiling.

We were fascinated by the leaping blennies on display.

Younger Daughter had never heard of these creatures, and they were amazing to watch in real life.

This is a walk-under exhibit in which crashing waves wash over the top. It illustrates how kelp as well as all the other sea life (both plants and animals) adapt to wave action. (And it's fun to stand underneath.)

Everywhere we went, we saw displays set up for a variety of circumstances: interactive displays for children, feel-able models for the visually impaired, interpretive signage for those seeking more information. Cool stuff.

Coral reef.

Some little kids enjoying the coral reef.

Look at the polyps on this beauty!

This is a display of the "fat innkeeper worm."

Younger Daughter and I were both crouched down looking at the display when the worms moved.

"I thought it was a model!" we both exclaimed at exactly the same time and with exactly the same words.

Younger Daughter was especially fascinated by rays, and stopped to watch them whenever possible.

A godwit.

Huge groupers (?), lurking shyly at the edge of the tank.

Sand dollars. Most people only ever see the dead animal's skeleton.

A defensive crab standing on top a sea star.


Brittle stars – lots of them clustered together.

Since the aquarium is perched literally right on the edge of Monterey Bay, they built an artificial tide pool.

The abundant outdoor decks offer superb views across the bay.

 A nearby rock is a popular grooming spot for cormorants.

The tops of a kelp forest are visible...

...among which wild sea otters lounged (I think that's a grebe at lower right).

Here's an enlargement.

We spent hours soaking in everything we could, and left only because the facility was closing.

But our day was not over. We traveled from Monterey to San Jose, thankfully with not too much traffic, which was mostly going the other direction.

At a restaurant, we met up with two of my brothers and their wives, and the six of us stayed visiting until the restaurant closed. Then we talked some more on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. Then we went to visit one of my brothers at his house. Unfortunately neither brother could offer us hospitality for the night – one was in the process of fumigating his house for termites (apparently an intensely invasive process lasting at least a week) and the other had just moved and was literally living out of boxes.

So around 10:30 pm, Younger Daughter and I crawled into a Motel 6 of regrettable quality and steep price (among much else, the toilet didn't flush!) which, despite its drawbacks, was the most affordable lodging we could find.

Aside from the motel, the day had been wonderful and we enjoyed every minute of it. Stand by for the rest of our journey home.


  1. That was wonderful. Thank you for inviting us to come along with you.

  2. How awesome! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Back when I was stationed on Monterey, the Naval Postgraduate School had a wonderful hotel that was only $35/night for service members. It’s a pity you weren’t able to stay there.

  4. I have thoroughly enjoyed your trip....thank you for the narrative and photos!