Carmel, California – The Californian number plate phenomenon

Some beautiful beach towns are located in Monterey Bay. Monterey was founded in 1770 as a mission. The mission called Royal Presidio Chapel can be visited still today. It is said to be the world’s smallest basilica. From 1775 on Monterey was capital of the initially Spanish, then Mexican and from 1846 on US American California, until it was superseded by Sacramento. The Fisherman’s Wharf is pretty with all its restaurants, souvenir shops, boats, and common seals – but out of proportion to San Francisco.

We reach the neighbouring town Pacific Grove via the scenic drive with many view points, common seals and sea lions. The main attraction is the monarch butterflies that spend the winter from October to March here. They have conspicuous orange- or yellow-black markings. They cluster at tree branches in restricted areas of the town and wait for the sun to warm them up. They can start flying around only from 55°F / 13° C on. The usually flutter around midday. Particular in the American Monarch’s migration is that during one year several generations of butterflies are born and die – their life cycle is just few weeks long. But only the generation hatched out in fall fly from Canada to its overwintering grounds in California and Mexico. From where do they know that?

The third town on the peninsula is called Carmel. Carmel – there was something… Right, actor Clint Eastwood was mayor for some years. This expensive town of artists has also a Spanish mission from 1770 – very pretty. Before we want to see downtown and the beach and follow the scenic drive. We do not feel involved by the 20-foot vehicle’s length restriction. We want to have a walk at the beautiful white beach. We didn’t even park properly when the Californian legislative power is behind us – with a car this time. The officer is friendly, but thinks we shouldn’t be where we are. After a thoughtful look he agrees with us that the 20-feet-restriction doesn’t apply to us. But we are higher than seven and a half feet. What’s correct, but both of us didn’t see any sign. We apologize and ask if we can get out here on the road. We can, but – I don’t believe my ears – we can’t drive around in California with these number plates. Please, not again! We listen to his didactic lecture with rapt attention until it’s our turn. We explain him that we are Germans, travellers with own vehicle, that came with it and will leave the States with it and definitely don’t need an US American licence plate. Well, the man has got a driver’s licence; he’s even allowed to drive a police car, so he understands somewhat faster that we are probably right.

But the occurrence makes me think. That can’t be coincidence. Are tourists with own vehicle an unknown race in California? Meantime I don’t rule out that it is due to us. We are obviously considered Americans. Should we remove the American Flag on our roof rack beside the German one? Should we take off the American base caps? Or should we rather speak with a heavy German accent? I will ask the next officer.

We reach the particularly beautiful sparsely populated coastal sector called Big Sur. To avoid more problems with the authorities we sleep on the state park’s campground in-between redwoods for 35 $ the night.

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