California Coast

We know, it's been a while. It truly is amazing how busy you can get when doing very little. Especially with only one computer between us, and often only our trusty Mifi connection. Some places didn't even allow that much; no 'cellphone' reception either. And the latter places have been some of our favourite places so far.

Nevertheless, to catch up: broadly speaking, we have followed the coast roads of California (mostly the Hwy. 101) from Emma Wood State Beach, to Santa Barbara and on past Vandenberg Air Force Base until a technical issue forced us to head inland to get a repair. 

We spent the day in Santa Barbara; Sarah made a friend.

Two attractive birds

It's a 'pretty city' as far as they go. We won't bore you with our broader opinions on US cities again, but Santa Barbara is nice enough. We parked up by the water's edge for the day, paying an extortionate (by US standards) $4 per hour, and took the bikes out around town. Did some shopping, hung out, ye know?

We camped just up the road at the El Capitan State Park:

Lovely place overlooking the ocean; a well known spot to sight passing whales too. We didn't see any whales, but we did see this little one, who was warming his/her self in the sun just by the side of the campsites.

And just in case you thought it was simply some tame little puddy kat:

What a beautiful creature. And it makes the most amazing noises at night; often described as the sound of a woman screaming. Very eerie.

Just across the road, in the canyon, there had also been recent sightings (even an attack) of the elusive mountain lion. Not entirely surprisingly, we elected not to take the canyon trails!

Beyond that, we went cycling around the (safe) trails and site, and enjoyed a few late night fires under the stars. Magical.

Next stop was Solvang (in fact, Buellton just outside). Solvang is an historic Danish town (don't laugh, Flemming), and is designed and largely succeeds in looking quaint and pretty. Not much more to say than that. Very odd to see windmills again - especially when they don't actually catch the wind, nor mill.

We went out for dinner in Buellton, to an old restaurant called AJs. Very cool, very nice food. The interior is not just decorated old-West, it actually IS old-West. Stuffed animals populate every corner; it was a bit like being in a natural history museum. Bears (including a 9 foot polar bear), mountain  lions, coyotes - you name it, they had it. Not to mention, a very good steak and a veggie meal, for Sarah. Good place. One of the best places we've found to eat out.

On from there we more or less accidentally found Jalama Beach County Park. Back at Emma Beach, we were given unsolicited advice by the park host, who told us to ignore the whole area around Lompoc. Just stay on the 101, he said, and get up to the coast again to the north. Naturally enough, we ignored the advice completely, and after a day's drive and a 15 mile slalom up a dead-end road, we found Jalama.

What a stunning place. Unbeknownst to us, it happened to be a long public holiday (Martin Luther King Day), so we were lucky enough to get the last spot. It was busy, but in a very relaxed way. Surfer-chilled.

Speaking of which, we met a surfer there, Rob, who stays on the road pretty much full-time, following the surf. This place is his favourite, even after 25 years (and one Great White sighting) of paddling and surfing the coasts from Washington state to Mexican Baja. Lovely guy; Sarah ended up trading him a painting for a beautiful abalone shell (marine gastropods to you and me). He found it once on the beach, and treasured it because it was something that long ago the local tribe of Chumash may have used as a spoon etc. As he said: 'Good trade."

After the crowds left, we liked it so much we stayed on. In the end, there was only us, Rob, and a few other long-timers remaining.

Somewhat reluctantly we set off again heading north, intending to follow the coast to a site at Montana de Oro, south of Morro Bay. This was a place recommended by surfer Rob. Unfortunately, when we got there, we were asked to move on, because the maximum RV length permitted was 27 feet. While we were there though we took a walk along the beach at 'King tide' (an exceptionally high tide).  A treacherous beach with rocks and big waves, and especially big shelf causing large rips. In the waves we saw a seal hunting, no more than 5 metres from us. Unfortunately I'd left the camera in the RV!

We followed the 1 and the 101 highways on past Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and into Marina. The latter was horrible; we stayed on a campsite (Marina Dunes RV) which was 70$ a night, and they parked you about 20m from the Highway 1. Not impressed. However we had little choice; we found out that the generator no longer worked, and the coach batteries kept tripping out. Not that they were on drugs or anything, more that they simply didn't work. So off to Camping World up the road near San Jose.

We lost a bit of time messing about there, and we were pretty much limited to either returning to the coast on the highway 1, or staying on our new course north.

We chose the latter, and after a horrible drive through busy rush hour traffic along the Bay area of Oakland and Berkley, we eventually crossed the river to Napa, and wine country. Calmness again!

We are still there, at the Skyline Wilderness Park. An odd, but very attractive place. Something of an anomaly - half way between being a state park and a private park. As the name suggests, it backs on to one of the last wild areas in this part of California, where wild boar, mountain lions and wild turkeys (I kid you not) and even a rare breed of frog, still roam. (I'm not sure that frogs roam; I do know that they make a hell of a lot of noise at night).

We took a hike up the mountain today. Apparently it's under threat from a local quarrying company (the evil Sylar corporation), so not sure how long it'll be here for yet!

Some pretty views, and a warm day. For those of you shivering back home, it's probably good to know that it was nearly 70F here today :)

 Just a few days left now, so not sure where we're going next - but likely up to some of the nearer redwood reserves. Hopefully we'll update again.... some time.

Robin Hickson2014-15Comment