Fast Car/Carla

I’m back! This week is “two for one” week to make up for last week.

As I mentioned in my last blog I was slated to be on a panel yesterday at Merrimack Pharmaceutical to discuss clinical trials in MBC. Well…. I had my nails done with Kelsey and she took me shopping and bought me new boots and a sweater to wear to this occasion. I set my alarm for 11:00 AM (the struggle is real), put on lots of make-up and my Metavivor pin, set my GPS for Cambridge and was off. I actually arrived a little early and strolled to the Dante Alighieri Society where the talk was to be held. Hmmm…..the doors were locked. I tried calling the organizer who had first contacted me, exchanged several e-mails and asked me for a 200 word bio–ya, as if anyone can limit me. Went straight to voice mail. I circled for a few minutes and rang the door bell. A sweet little Italian man let me in and apologetically explained he didn’t know anything about it. Next entered another cancer patient and her husband—-she was older than me and wearing a chemo hat. She was PISSED! She and her husband had driven two hours for this. Phone calls were made and someone from Merrimack would be right over. The other woman ramped up, aiming her anger at everyone.  I figured she was cranky because she was exhausted and likely not feeling too well, and let’s face it–who wants to drive 4 hours? I became my best Zen Barbara and turned to the sweet Italian man and told him it wasn’t his fault, his building was beautiful and we would sort it out. After all, cancer world is often scary and unpredictable and this wasn’t the worst that could happen (hey, it’s not a Pet Scan). The man puffed up in pride for his building and the other patient visibly deflated and let go of her anger. A very embarrassed young man named Joe arrived from Merrimack. He told us they had unexpectedly laid off 25% of the company on Monday and that our organizer was one of the people let go–now she was really having a bad day! With that announcement Joe (my new friend) gave us a Merrimack tote bag, stainless steel travel mug and a tee-shirt. Swag!!! Then he walked us to the parking garage and paid our parking tickets as he continued to apologize and I was off. The weather was sunny and beautiful and I have Sirius Satellite radio. It was A-Ok. How was your day?


Some peeps have asked me to elaborate on my California trip and I don’t need to be asked twice! Yay, a travel blog Barb!

We spent several days in Big Sur at Deetjen’s, a half mile from Nepenthe. Nepenthe is a site with two restaurants on different levels on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a gift shop (I’d say amaze shop) on the lowest level. Think incense, chimes and Buddha’s everywhere with beautiful handcrafted goods, definitely my kind of place.  Big Sur is a rugged 70 mile coastline where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.






The weather was perfect–cool enough in the evenings and mornings to use the wood stoves in our rooms and warm and sunny in the afternoon for hiking.  We had our sunniest breakfast on the lower deck of Nepenthe, positively glowing. Big Sur is wild and desolate, with one hilly, curvy road along the cliff side.  Nothing appears from the cliff to the horizon but deep blue water and white clouds–breath-taking. Most people skip Big Sur because it seems inaccessible and too rustic. It is, but the views are unbelievable and the hikes easy enough for me.

We walked down to the waterfall at McWay Falls where a mountain stream empties into the ocean and got a tip to hike to Partington Cove via a cave chiseled through the mountain. We climbed upward at Limekiln, in the dense forest, to find more waterfalls. I managed to transverse the mountain stream 6 times with Tim walking backwards holding my hands and Carla behind me. Last imagetime we tried this in the White Mountains I fell into the stream and hit a rock–lots of gory blood and a scar to prove it! This time we were way more successful–my PT would be proud.

We walked on the beach where the river converges with the icy Pacific. Carla and I  looked for driftwood while the boys photographed.  imageBecause of the severe neuropathy in my feet they were burning by midday. I found soaking them in the icy cold streams and ocean really helped to keep it at bay. Yay!

At the art exhibit at the Vendana Hotel we saw wooden sculptures of condors hanging from the ceiling, as well as impressive photographs of Big Sur. We thought we saw a lot of condors until a woman told us she’d been looking for one for over a year. Condors are pretty rare with a wing span of 9 feet. I think we were looking at turkey vultures, lol. But I’m pretty sure the bird that flew up and over our windshield and scared us all was an actual condor, just sayin.

Big Sur is also covered in varied, dense green grasses and feather-like pampas grass. Hard to describe. We ate at Deetjens, Nepenthe, the Big Sur Tap Room and the Big Sur River Inn. We saw the base camp and lots of fire fighters there to fight the fires that have been spreading since the beginning of the summer. On our way out, to Carmel, we ate a memorable lunch at Rocky Point—-an incredibly beautiful and unexpected expanse of Big Sur with Adirondack chairs facing the sun with fires blazing inside and more beautiful photography of the surroundings.image

We spent a night in Carmel by the sea. Our hotel was lovely and 2 blocks from the ocean with breakfast, yay! But after all the natural beauty we had just observed it was kinda hard to appreciate being in a tiny, crowded, very exclusive and wealthy town.

We skipped the 17 mile road to move on to Sonoma and the yellow chaparral woodland.  I was surprised how easy it was to get around Sonoma and Napa on a potentially crowded long weekend in peak season. We arrived in Healdsberg and headed to a wine tasting room. This is a weird phenomena in which vineyards have wine tasting rooms in town in case you can’t make it to the actual vineyard, which kind of defeats the point, but hey it didn’t stop us. First stop–Toad Hollow. Since it was just the 4 of us and Bill likes to ask more questions than me, no, really, we learned a lot from them and some tips of where to visit. Dinner at Pizzando and bed. Next day we headed to Sbragia Family imageVineyard and an incredible view of the October vineyards and a private wine tasting. They directed us to Bella Vineyard next where we could dine on cheese and crackers and apples in Adirondack chairs before going into the caves imagewhere they store the wine and conduct the tastings. This one had crackers and finished with a salty dark chocolate peanut butter cup–my kind of place! Since we were splitting the wine tastings–2 people could taste for the  price of one by sharing–Tim Blanket began buying a marble coaster at each vineyard with their logo on it. Next we went to Ferrari-Carano in honor of our beloved Carla. It was huge and Disney like with perfectly manicured gardens and statues. We love Carla but realized we didn’t like the big name vineyards. The Mom and Pop small family owned businesses were better suited to us—more private and quiet with free rein to roam and photograph. Those wines are not available on the East coast or really anywhere except to their wine club members because they produce so few barrels.image

That night we headed to Asti where my friends Tom and Dave and their golden lab live on a beautiful estate overlooking a vineyard. We had dinner outside at sunset–really, does it get any better than that? Wine, food and friends, blissful. image

The next day we decided to take a break from all that wine sipping and headed to the coast, via Rio Nada and Guerneville.We landed at the little town of Jenner (population 135) where the nice wildlife officer directed us North to see the sea lions lounging on the dark sandy beaches in the warm sun. We saw two frolicking seals but it took a while before we realized the pelican we were admiring was standing next to a raft of sea lions!!! We are so stealth! Onward to Goat Beach and Bodega Bay!!image

That evening we revisited some shops in Healdsberg, stopped by Toad Hollow to get a coaster, checked out some art galleries and dined at Chalk Board were the hostess was from Walpole! Go Red Sox!


In the morning we followed Tom and Dave’s advice and went to the Hanna Vineyards before it opened to look at the amazing views—who drinks wine at 10:00AM?? We spent about an hour hanging, photographing, and talking with the vintner. Onward to Calistoga, in Napa, in search of a bakery. Cute town with a cool farmer’s market–all that fresh produce and hand-made stuff. Lots of attractive hippies with dogs. We stopped for a moment at Chateau Montelana but decided it was too big and fancy for us and headed instead to the Robert Young Vineyard, home of the “whites”–I mean wine people. It was lovely and Robert White’s grandson was one of the tasting room guides. imageWe didn’t stop there, going to my favorite, Hawke Wines. We sat under a beautiful arbor with bread and oil, lots of time to chat. Like we hadn’t had enough? Nope.

Lastly we dined at a Tapas restaurant in Healdsberg named Bravas where they cook paella in the backyard in a gigantic pan and serve sweet sangria. We wished it would never end.image

How did this all work on our National Lampoon Tour of Northern California? Well, we have been friends for over 34 years. Bill and Tim were room mates before we got married and all 4 of us worked with kids at McLean Hospital back in the really hard old days.  Bill is always the Captain/Pilot and does all of the driving while the 3 of us rotate being the navigator. I don’t think we turned on the car radio once. We all like to talk and have the same interests. I am an idea person and Bill likes to plan and research. Carla keeps us in check. Tim is the humor. They all like to rib me about always being so happy about everything. I really am happy in those nepenthe moments—with my husband and friends doing something I want and like to do in the great outdoors with food and wine! My bliss!  I think it helps that I am fueled by steroids, adrenaline and happiness. I take my medications, soak my feet in ice-cold water and wear a lidocaine patch for pain.  It just works. I can sleep later!!!!!!

In the comments on my last post Bill related the story of finding a poem in the bramble above Deetjens laid out before a Buddha. We also had a “moment” at Deetjens when Carla found a Buddha imagehidden in a tree trunk. The sun was shining directly on it as if it glowed. It lasted only a few minutes before the sun moved and it was in darkness again. The universe is speaking to us to be more thoughtful and look closely for tender mercies.


The poem Bill found is beautiful, as follows in full:
I am That
by Swami Rama Tirtha
I have no scruple of change, nor fear of death,
Nor was I ever born,
Nor had I parents.
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute,
I am That, I am That,

I cause no misery, nor am I miserable;
I have no enemy, nor am I enemy.
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute,
I am That, I am That,

I am without form, without limit,
Beyond space, beyond time,
I am in everything, everything is in me.
I am the bliss of the universe,
Everywhere am I.
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute,
I am That, I am That,

I am without body or change of the body,
I am neither senses, nor object of the senses,
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute,
I am That, I am That,

I am neither sin, nor virtue,
Nor temple, nor worship
Nor pilgrimage, nor books.
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute,
I am That, I am That.


Hope you too find your bliss,



  1. What a wonderful trip–well, both, but the second one sounds LOTS more wonderful 🙂 I can so relate to the love of being outdoors, the wine country, good food and good friends. Let’s hope we can both enjoy this a long time to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barb, It was great to chat with your “blanket ” this morning at the Butlers. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Carla is a great person , I knew her when she was a social worker at Butler.

    So glad you’re doing well, you look great !! Your photos of your vacation are so pretty ! I loved your poem, thanks for sharing.

    Peace & Love,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorite places on earth too!

    Here’s a Big Sur poem:

    Bixby Bridge:

    So high, so precariously high
    Concrete arches span this daunting divide between sea and land
    Crossing is sure to exact a toll
    Worlds collide 260 feet below chill winds nip at the neck like a whiskered kiss
    Sunlight plays in a misty sky as dewdrops fall from a Yucca Whippli
    Eye Westerlies whip the stooped Cypress, the statuesque Sequoia, and the long haired hiker
    Coastal tides and seismic rides rub Big Sur’s cliffs raw the hammer and chisel of its scenic scrimshaw
    Highway One takes us to the edge with the candor of a
    Bohemian poem enticing us to venture beyond what’s known

    – Emily Marie Bording
    PoetryLovers mailing list

    Barb, I am doing very advanced breast cancer and am on hospice…have been following you for some time and appreciate you and what you write for us. Thank you!

    very best wishes and congrats on moving forward in life, Stephanie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barb, I was the other speaker at the Merrimack event that you describe as “aiming her anger at everyone.” I was terribly embarrassed to read this, as I had no intention of taking out the frustration of the two hour drive on either you or the lovely Italian caretaker who was clearly trying to help us make sense of this (and who quickly grabbed the calendar of events to show that the event had only recently been cancelled, as well as mentioning the group event where the layoffs were announced). My sincere apologies if this is the way I came across and you felt anger directed at either you or him; I had no idea. (I thought we were both a little “pissed” at the mix-up, to be honest, but certainly it wasn’t the fault of anyone standing there) And Joe was more than apologetic, as well as providing the insulated tote bag which for me was so timely because I could store my neupogen in it for the weekend trip I was planning. In the scheme of things, this was a small deal and like you say, not a scan (the news of which I face on Tuesday). Again, my sincere apologies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh No! Please don’t apologize, you didn’t do anything wrong. I am a creative writer and tend to embellish to make it more engaging for the reader. I mostly make fun of myself. I am sorry if I was insensitive. It was a beautiful sunny day, all good.
      Hope you are feeling well and have awesome scans today!

      Liked by 1 person

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