Out here in the land of Steinbeck it doesn't feel like Silicon Valley; this is lush farm country, nestled in hills more meadow than forest and ever mindful of being the Pacific Coast. San Jose is more like Tampa in its relation to the ocean: you know it's close by, but it doesn't affect you. You don't necessarily even see it unless you make a specific pilgrimage to do so.
I've come to Pacific Grove on such a pilgrimage, to stand overlooking tidepools and listen to the surf. The beach is fairly crowded but still feels isolated; you need a heavy jacket to protect against the wind, and the ocean waves drown out conversation that is not right next to you. The ocean is a deep blue that, to eyes used to the Gulf of Mexico, seems unnatural.
My trip takes me down to an area I've visited before: Big Sur. This is a less a town than a handful of businesses clustered on the Pacific Coast Highway, homes hidden in the forest. I'm not there for long, though; just long enough to wish I'd come much earlier, to remind me that I'd like to spend an overnight out there sometime, in the Big Sur River Inn or just camping.
The return trip is straight up the PCH to 85 over the low Santa Cruz mountains, with a stop to look at stars--although the view would have been more striking in Big Sur itself, it amazes me how much of the night sky remains visible here even close to the million-plus population of San Jose.
I need to do this more often.