Abandoned Cold War Naval Facility (NAVFAC) building with view of Point Sur

“We had heroes in the Cold War” — Carol O’Neil, State Park Volunteer Historian

John le Carré dismissed Cold War spy heroes as “ A squalid procession of vain fools” in his 1963 espionage novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Volunteer historian Carol O’Neil at the former U.S. Naval Facility on Point Sur State Historic Park in Big Sur, California, 25-miles south of Monterey, would beg to differ. “We had heroes in the Cold War,” O’Neil insisted in an interview on KAZU, public radio for the Monterey Bay area. …


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BATW Travel Stories is a publicly-accessible magazine supported by subscribers to medium.com. Non-subscribers may read three articles per month or, using the embedded links, all of the articles listed below.

June 2020

The Best Way to Travel Through Switzerland by Carol Canter

Cuba through the Looking Glass by Laurie King

John Steinbeck’s Valley of the World Revisited by David Laws

Taking to the Road in the Old VW Bus by April Orcutt

In the Footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe by Lee Daley

Mush Puppies by Erin Deinzer

May 2020

Peggy Guggenheim At Home In Venice by Lee Daley

The Driving Reign by Erin Deinzer

“Welcome…


A ranch in “the wilder hills” from Old Stage Road

“I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world.” [Steinbeck: A Life in Letters]

Story and photographs by David A. Laws

In The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, Steinbeck’s biographer Jackson Benson explains that “scene and setting assume a far heavier burden of meaning in his work than in the fiction of most other novelists.” …


TRAVEL WRITING PROMPT

“One of the most haunted lighthouses in the country” — Travel Channel

The volcanic outcrop of Point Sur stand high above the beach
The volcanic outcrop of Point Sur stand high above the beach
Point Sur Lightstation from Highway One. The lighthouse is on the right shoulder of the rock. Photo by the author

Story by David A. Laws

Towering three-hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean’s crashing surf, one of the West’s most faithfully restored ghost towns occupies prime ocean-view real estate just 25 miles south of my hometown of Pacific Grove, California.

Inhabited by chickens, a cow, and families with children until less than 50 years ago, the deserted barn, houses, and workshops of Point Sur Lightstation cling to the edge of a great, volcanic rock with spectacular views of the Big Sur coast and marble-topped peaks of the Ventana Wilderness. Lovers of the paranormal claim the lighthouse is one of the most haunted in the country.

Volunteers…


How a signature Silicon Valley start-up’s success decimated the company but led to “the greatest legal accumulation of wealth in history”

The first Fairchild integrated circuit contained four transistors. Photo: Fairchild Semiconductor

Sixty years ago, this month, start-up Fairchild Semiconductor of Mountain View, CA, introduced the first practical integrated electronic microcircuit to a gathering of press and industry insiders at the 1961 IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) Convention in New York. Popularly known today as a computer chip, Fairchild’s announcement echoed far beyond the plush ballroom of the St Moritz Hotel (today the Ritz Carlton) overlooking Central Park.

Under the title “In Tiny Devices a Revolution,” a photo in LIFE magazine compared Fairchild’s new chip to the size of the letter “D” on a dime. It said “their job is to switch…


Artist’s rendering of a futuristic off-planet settlement floating in space.
Artist’s rendering of a futuristic off-planet settlement floating in space.
Image: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Sixty-five years ago, William Shockley laid the foundation for the region’s domination in tech

With the past year’s rise of remote work and exodus from the Bay Area to cheaper cities, many people have wrung their hands about whether or not Silicon Valley is dead. The truth is that Silicon Valley has gone through many eras of boom and bust over the decades and has bounced back after each of them. The work may be more distributed, but the heart of Silicon Valley is still beating.

Over the past decade or so, we’ve gotten used to new tech startup founders hyping bold promises that they’ll change the world. But none have had the same…


“Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Hail Mary …”

British European Airways (BEA) Viscount. Photo: Courtesy The Flight Detective

Story by David A. Laws

The soft Irish brogue and insistent click, click, click of rosary beads from the seat behind me steadily increased in volume and intensity as our British European Airways (BEA) commuter flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland circled over London. For distraction, I searched for familiar landmarks along the River Thames. Through low, scudding clouds, I glimpsed the pagoda and glistening glasshouses of Kew Gardens tucked into a great curve of the river directly under the flight path to Heathrow.

I’m typically…


By David Laws

“What’s in a name?” — Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

First use of the name in print. Electronic News, January 11, 1971 page 1.

Fifty years ago, long before the advent of Facebook, Google, or the later reincarnation of Apple, a front-page article in the tech-industry’s leading newspaper, Electronic News, introduced a new nickname for a cluster of sleepy agricultural communities near San Jose, California. [1] Known nationwide as the “Valley of Hearts Delight” for its bountiful orchards, the Santa Clara Valley would henceforth be known as “Silicon Valley” after a key material used in semiconductor manufacturing, a booming new industry of the area.

As the fleshpots of San Francisco 60…


“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay” — Robert Frost

Pronghorn, sometimes called California Antelope Photo: David Laws

I pulled my jacket close against the chill stirring of an early breeze. A heavy silence enveloped the world in the final, darkest minutes before dawn. To the east, a gray sliver of pending morning peeked from beneath bands of straggling clouds to silhouette the rugged crest of the Temblor Range. …


Condors socialize on the High Peaks of Pinnacles National Park. Photo: Courtesy Gavin Emmons

The dusty pick-up truck pulls up at a ranch gate in rural south Monterey County, California. Against a backdrop of dry, rolling, oak-savanna foothills, three generations of hunters and their dogs wait for the driver to join them. Soaring on the first thermal uplifts of the morning, shadowy silhouettes of turkey vultures circle silently overhead. Their wavering flight pattern signals a quest for food as their extraordinary sense of smell seeks carrion for the first meal of the day.

Mike Stake, senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS), reaches into the back of his truck to retrieve packages…

David A. Laws

I photograph and write about Gardens, Nature, Travel, and the history of Silicon Valley from my home on the Monterey Peninsula in California.

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