For the return trip to San Francisco we selected Highway 101, which latches on to the Pacific coastline for much of its length and proved even more appealing than the fast-moving 5 through the state’s gut. Within twenty minutes of leaving LA urbanity the immense ocean comes into view on the left. It was calm, almost serene; yet an occasional splotch interrupted the surface: dolphins, perhaps, or a less exotic marine specimen splashed out to sample the air and instantly dove back under the waves.

Fast forward six or seven hours and we again entered Northern California, with its spectacular vegetation—dry, hardy, ancient. Far from Florida, where the soft loose sand supports only the shallowest of roots, plant life here on the west coast appears to be anchored firmly, as if set in concrete. Whereas green life in Florida depends on the constant deluge from the sky, here vegetation seems to be indifferent about water; it can take it or leave it, and if had its choice would do just fine without, thanks for asking.

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