Passing through Cannery Row, a waterfront street in Monterey, California named after the famous John Steinbeck novelAs I grow older, I find myself moving further away from the idealistic and closer into the cynically humorous and sometimes mildly deranged authors. I don’t know if I’m regressing or just coming to terms with the fact that I don’t know everything. And like most people, I am a deeply flawed human being who does what she can to get by. I do remember being somewhat self-righteous in my early twenties and admiring John Steinbeck’s works a lot. This doesn’t mean I specifically had him in mind while driving through Monterey in Central California’s Pacific Coast.
After over seven hours of gazing at deer, zebras, the historic Bixby Creek Bridge, and the remarkable McWay Cove of the Big Sur coast, we were looking forward to a relaxing walk break. Not that those wondrous sights weren’t deeply calming, it’s just that beauty of such grand proportions can get quite overwhelming. I also needed to see ordinary people milling around where they live although word has it that Monterey is quite the tourist trap. California in general can be perfect for moments of isolation and reflective thinking, but another thing I learned about myself this year is that I really am over 90% city animal. I love being surrounded by strangers especially if they seem to be having a good time.
And indeed they seemed happy to be walking down Cannery Row, the historical site of a number of now-defunct sardine canning factories. I haven’t read the 1945 Steinbeck book of the same title, but Trip Advisor had this waterfront street as number 19 of 56 attractions in the area. As a frequent US road tripper, most of the stuff on Trip Advisor are hit or miss but I often find myself looking more closely at the ones on the bottom part of their lists. The street name, formerly a nickname for Ocean View Avenue, became official in January 1958 to honor John Steinbeck and his well-known novel. Today the area around Cannery Row is a marine sanctuary and home to a large population of California sea lions.
One possible source of joy for the people that day was Santa cruising around town at 5-10 miles per hour in a Harley motorcycle. Can’t say I’ve ever asked Santa for anything but at least he was cheerful and even smiled at me taking photos of him.
I also managed to snap a photo of the Cannery Row Brewing Company building. People on Yelp are pretty harsh on this place and this establishment holds an average rating of 3 out of 5 stars. A word of advice on Yelp: the places with 4 stars tend to be overhyped, the ones with 4.5 or 5 but with a really low number of reviews (7-70 is a good range) tend to be excellent, and the 3.5-rated places are often your safest if not the most un-American-tasting (always a great thing) joints. However, the Cannery Row Brewing Company holds a 3. That is a rating to be nervous about, although I haven’t really tried this place.
And lastly, I posed in front of the Steinbeck Plaza at the corner of Cannery Row and Prescott Avenue. I don’t know how John Steinbeck would have felt about this generic-looking mall with a pool hall and a Johnny Rockets but I guess Monterey is just giving Americans what they want. Supposedly, once you’re in the plaza near the bay, you get good views of the shoreline to the east and McAbee Beach which is only usable during low tide. Overall, Monterey was an interesting little detour, but my sights were solely set that afternoon on one of the greatest ramen spots in America: Ramen Dojo in San Mateo. It is an hour and 40-some minutes away from the Cannery Row by car but according to Google, you can ride the public transportation for 3 hours and 32 minutes if you’re lucky. I know I said places with 4-star ratings tend to be overrated but with Ramen Dojo, definitely believe the hype.