Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.
Sunday, February 16, 2014: Up to a beautiful California morning in San Luis Obispo. Sadly, it is time for us to leave…..but happily, we are to continue our adventure along the California coast.
Exploring this portion of California has been a real treat as it reminds us how our hometown area in San Diego County was in the 1950’s…..small towns along a relatively undeveloped coast with great weather and a quirky vibe. If we were to live in California again, (which we’re not!) then this is the area we would choose…..the natural environment is beautiful, the weather near perfect, and nearly everyone we came into contact with was pleasant, considerate and unhurried.
Saying goodbye to our new campground friends, Kit and I hit the road at 1145 and made tracks toward Oxnard, California…..a mere 130 miles to the south. We hopped on CA-1 which took us through SLO Town before it merged with US-101.
A bit further south, we passed through the town of Pismo Beach where CA-1 once again separated and meandered on down the coast as US-101 headed more easterly.
US Highway-101 and State Highway-1 parallel and intertwine along the coast of California and provide the most scenic way to travel north and south…..the alternative being the Interstate Highway System. CA-1 generally follows the coastline and offers incredible views of the blue Pacific whereas US-101 meanders more inland through the coastal mountains and an amazing variety of agricultural fields and vineyards. We were tempted to stop at many of the farm stands and wineries, but we had an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables onboard and drinking wine in the middle of the day certainly made sense, but not while driving, so on we motored.
Stayed on CA-1 where possible and as mentioned, this scenic coastal highway provides a very picturesque route with near constant views of the Pacific Ocean.
Being prime Grey Whale watching season, Kit kept constant vigil for the telltale spout…..unfortunately the whales were being shy today. California Grey Whales migrate during the colder months from their summer waters off Alaska to warmer climes along the coast of Baja California. As our brothers in the constant search for warm weather, the California Grey Whales are the Snowbirds of the aquatic world!
There are many areas provided along CA-1 that you can pull over and better appreciate the view. I stopped at a few of these pull-offs and at one, while staring out to sea, The Pacific Surfliner came zooming by.
This Amtrak train services coastal communities and connects to a number of commuter rail lines. Not a bad way to explore the coast of California as The Surfliner generally follows the shoreline.
At 1600 we pulled into Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center and was surprised that the campground was near full. Well, it is a three day weekend…..what else did we expect? Retirees have a real problem differentiating between weekday and weekend activity, and then throw in a Monday holiday we tend to get even more flummoxed. However, with the kind assistance of a couple of neighborly spotters I was able to jack knife our little rig into one of the only remaining open sites.
I walked over to thank the group of good Samaritans, including a Hispanic fellow that looked and talked very much like Cheech Marin, and immediately got pulled into the middle of a 70th birthday celebration. There was lots of food and drink and a piñata full of airline sized liquor bottles…..it was going to be a long night!
Monday, February 17, through Friday, February 21, 2014, Point Mugu NAWC: Woke to a subdued sunrise as Ol’ Sol was having difficulty penetrating the coastal fog, which this morning I could relate to.
Something seemed odd about our first sunrise while camping at Point Mugu. Shouldn’t the sun set over the ocean? Looking at our relative location on a map I noticed we were camped on a part of the coast that actually lay more East to West…..so that explains that!
Soon a lot of clattering ensued as people were breaking camp from their long three day weekend. Whenever a number of folks drive off with their campers in tow, Kit and I smile at each other and say: “Well, there goes the neighborhood”. OK, it’s a dumb joke but never fails to elicit a chuckle or two.
Following breakfast, I went out on “Scout and Patrol”. At the far end of the beach I came to a National Wildlife Refuge and Sea Lion Rookery.
Nearby, on a prominent point overlooking the Pacific Ocean I noticed this granite memorial.
On January 20, 2000 Alaska Air Flight 261 was on a routine flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Seattle, Washington when it developed a catastrophic failure. Eighty-eight souls lost their lives as the airliner plunged into the Pacific…..but not before an experienced flight-deck crew tried everything they could to bring the crippled airliner into an emergency landing; including attempting to fly the aircraft upside down to compensate for the malfunctioning controls.
Remembering that our new friend Mike from CSLO had flown for Alaska Air following his retirement from the Navy, I sent him the above photo. Mike remembered the day vividly as he was piloting a similar aircraft full of passengers an hour behind and heard the horrific events unfold over the radio. A very sad day for Alaska Airlines and the families that lost loved ones.
Our campsite is on the beach and the weather is perfect, of course. However, the water is a little bit chilly for swimming but the air is warm by day and dips to a pleasant 50 degrees overnight.
This stop is all about exploring this area of California…..so one day we drove up the coast to the town of Carpentaria just to poke around.
Along the way we passed many California State Campgrounds that were located on the beach. Just a little past Oxnard, we pulled in and checked one of them out and discovered it might be a neat place to stay for a few days.
There are no hookups and the price was a bit steep but the views were incredible. Having direct access to the beach would be worth the inconvenience and the cost.
In less than an hour, we pulled into the town of Carpentaria, the self-proclaimed “World’s Safest Beach”.
So how does a town justify such a claim? Well, the slogan has very little to do with the lack of crime; although I bet this sleepy little town does indeed have a low crime rate, but more to do with marketing. Back in the 1920’s, when tourism was a growing industry, few folks knew how to swim and therefore were fearful of large waves and the resulting undertow they spawned. Carpentaria is somewhat protected by the offshore Channel Islands so the commercial advertising on billboards leading to the coast of California all touted this “safety feature”.
The beaches of Carpentaria may not be any safer than other California beaches but they sure are just as pretty.
Again, still too cold to swim but with a consistent breeze and the beach lightly populated on this weekday morning it made for an excellent kite flying venue! A win-win, as Kit wanted some quiet shopping time and I wanted some quiet kite flying time!
After a few hours, I folded the kites and decided to walk the village streets to see what else was about. Near the center of town, I came upon this sign identifying a major historic site.
Cities and towns in California have not been in existence nearly as long as those in the east…..so, I guess out here even native vegetation counts as an historic landmark.
Kit texted me it was time to eat so we decided on this uniquely named place. Not being sure if it was a Mexican place or if they specialized in French cuisine we walked in to find out.
Turns out it was Mexican and pretty good at that! Deciding to hold desert till later we joined the late afternoon walkers and got in some exercise. That all ended when we happened upon a place called Crushcakes Café and had some great coffee and a few (one each) of these!
Kit is all smiles after a handful of Crushcakes! (again, only ONE, kt)
On the drive south back to the campground we paused at the Bluffs of Carpentaria and watched the sun set into the western sky.
Another great day on the road!
Our campsite was pretty isolated once all the weekenders had left. We could have moved a lot closer to the water but with no one in front of us we had a nice view as it was.
The beach was pretty much abandoned and was just a short jaunt down the camp road.
Those footprints in the sand are mine. The nice warm steady breeze made for excellent kite flying, which I did a fair amount of! Got to try out my new Kite…..A Prism Delta…..yea another one…..I’m a bit out of control! Why another kite? Well, once you get into the sport you discover that just like fishing or golf, different pieces of equipment are “needed” for different conditions. And, so far, Kit has bought that explanation.
I also walked the beach every morning. Since I have been wearing shorts for the past few months my legs have gained some color…..however I have also been wearing tennis shoes so my feet are pearly white.
As I was standing at the surf line trying to snap a photo of my weird looking feet a rogue wave came ashore and almost knocked me on my bum.
Now, that would have looked pretty silly, if there had been anyone around to witness it, which there wasn’t. Well, down the beach a bit was this guy just sitting on a rock.
But he wasn’t paying any attention to me anyhow…..otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get to within a few feet of him as I was.
On our exploration trips about the area we were constantly amazed at the large amount of terrain that was in farm production, mostly growing strawberries.
Interspersed with the many fruit fields were these sod farms.
Some poor shmuck actually has to mow this grass frequently before it is mature enough to market. Harvesting is accomplished using huge machines that slice the soil just under the roots then roll the strips up for transportation to the garden centers.
Since we explored as far as we cared to up north, we decided to see what was down south of us. For one thing, I wanted to get up close to the Mugu Rock which I had been seeing out the window of the camper for the past few days.
Turns out it was not formed by any geological forces but by modern man as he laid out the roadbed for CA-1, The Pacific Coast Highway. Rather than go to the trouble and expense of tunneling through the mountain, a highway cut was blasted.
Years of erosion has given the remaining part of the mountain a distinctive “volcano” shape. Mugu Rock and the surrounding coastline have been featured in many movies, TV shows and commercials…..especially if high performance cars are involved.
Next Kit wanted to see how Malibu had changed since last we drove through in 1975. The city of Malibu is long and narrow stretching twenty-seven miles along some of the most expensive real estate in the US. As far as the eye can see, there are multimillion dollar estates bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Malibu Hill (slide) area to the east. As far as the eye can see, there are expensive homes down the coast…..
…..as well as up the coast.
Driving through Malibu I spotted a number of interesting cars. Among the everyday (for Malibu) cars such as Corvettes, Jaguar’s, Porsche’s and Maserati’s, there were a number of Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and this two million dollar, 430 mile per hour, Bugatti Veyron!
Nearing lunch, we decided to stop at the local grocery store and get something from the deli. Then next we were on a search for a nice beachside picnic spot. Oh-oh…..the afternoon fog bank is moving in early!
Deciding to head inland to a warmer and drier location, we made tracks for the Santa Monica Mountains. Soon we found ourselves on Mulholland Highway, a locally famous road that Los Angeles sports car and motorcycle folks like to challenge.
Being a weekday, there was little traffic but it was pretty evident this road would test the skill and courage of any driver that blasted through here! The following photo was grabbed from the internet and shows a portion of Mulholland Highway known as “The Snake”.
Even at our subdued speed it was a real challenge. Very few guardrails and hairpin turns punctuated by white crosses festooned with plastic flowers caused me to be extra vigilant. And yes, we did find a place to pull over and enjoy lunch.
Well, Kit and I leave Point Mugu in the morning. As I was sitting with my evening cocktail enjoying the end of the day, I attempted to decide which is more brilliant. A California sunset over the ocean…..
…..or a California Sunrise over that same ocean?
Tough to decide isn’t it?
Saturday, February 22, 2014: Up to sunny skies and a temperature of 67 degrees. Breaking camp, Kit and I were on the road by 1000 heading south. We found or way to US-101 and headed into Los Angeles County. The traffic almost immediately became heavy and aggressive.
Yep, that’s a ten lane super highway in the photo above…..and it is not even an Interstate! Cruising with our truck and trailer in the middle lane at 60 MPH we were passed as if standing still…..on both sides! Wonder where everyone is going in such a hurry on a Saturday morning?
Pulling off onto the Ventura Freeway through Burbank we came across four separate traffic accidents in a few short miles! Nearing Pasadena we jumped on I-210 heading east and an hour later moved over to US-57 heading south until we came to US-60 which took us toward Riverside. Shortly after noon we pulled into Riverside National Cemetery, the final resting place of Kit’s mom and dad.
After paying our respects we decided to stay right there and enjoy lunch in the camper, surrounded by all the patriots and heroes lying in eternal repose.
On the move at 1415 we pieced together a number of back roads as we made our way to Oceanside and our next camping opportunity. At 1630, we pulled into Del Mar Beach and RV Resort on the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton and picked a nice beachside campsite.
Following an excellent trailer cooked meal and some vintage box wine we settled into our beach chairs and watched the day end in spectacular color.
Stay tuned for more fun in the sun!
Kit’s Bits: It’s been a real treat to finally have the time to explore the California coast. During the time we lived in San Diego as adults, we were so pre-occupied with our daily routines; Bill still in the Navy (sea and shore duty), and me with 3 young kids to care for. We never had more than a couple of free hours a week to scout around and discover things. Another place we checked out during our stay at Point Mugu was Port Hueneme. It’s been on my bucket list for years and is a nice little town. Something else I noticed in the central part of CA is the vast farm lands and orchards. While I couldn’t identify anything beyond lettuce, it was a big surprise to see so many productive farms, sometimes, right down to the ocean! All the small towns have Farmer’s Markets, some with entertainment, crafts and prepared food for lunch or dinner! Being able to obtain locally produced vegetables and fruit, meet up with friends and neighbors reminds me of home!