Still cold, but still having fun
14.04.2013 - 16.04.2013 65 °F
I've generally planned and managed this trip pretty good, but did flub up this end of the trip a bit. Once we'd hooked up the car to the RV and started out of the Rancho Oso campground, I noticed the RV fuel was a little lower than I'd thought. I had a 1/4 tank when we turned off of Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara and had figured it would get me over Hwy 154 and I would fill up in Buellton on the way north. However, Hwy 154 is so steep and curvy (as well as the other two roads into the campground - which also added distance), that I wasn't 100% sure we'd make it. As we headed down Hwy 154, I kept trying to do calculations in my head about how many gallons I had left and how far it might be to Santa Ynez (which also had a gas station and was a little closer then Buellton). I thought I might make it, but so many stretches of this road had NO shoulder I was afraid of running dry and not being able to get off the road safely. (We'd been over this road several times in the car now, so I had some idea what to expect I thought). Anyway, not wanting to turn a nice trip into a nightmare, I decided to be prudent and pulled over in a scenic overlook we'd seen previously that had lots of room to park, unhook the car, take it into Santa Ynez and pickup up a gas can at the Ace Hardware behind the gas station, fill it up and return. Plan worked perfectly and that's exactly what I did, but just for fun I also checked the mileage - we were only 7 miles from the gas station! We would have made it with a couple of gallons to spare. Oh well, it's still better to be safe than sorry.
In the meantime, Mom & Grizzly stayed with the RV while I went for the gas. It was still morning, so Mom had a bit of energy and decided to walk over to the overlook of the Bradbury Dam.
Since I'd already bought the gas can and gas, I went ahead and added it to the RV. We stayed a bit and had a nice lunch, then tanked up for real in Santa Ynez and headed out. Somehow, I managed to drive right by the Anderson Pea Soup place (without stoping), get back onto Hwy 101 North and behave myself. After a relatively uneventful trip, we made our way up to the Arroyo Grand exit and just headed west until we ran into Pismo Beach.
We stayed at the Pismo Beach state park north campground, which is just north of the main beach complex. Travelling by RV, it's fairly easy to 'set up camp'. This was a dry camp - no plug in's to worry about, so I just unhooked the car (I have this down to about 10 minutes now, maybe less). We loaded Grizzly & Mom into the car, locked up the RV, and drove back down to the main beach. You can access the beach from the campground, but it's a small hike over the dunes, which would be difficult for Mom. However you can drive right onto the main beach, so I headed there. Mom could enjoy the beach without ever leaving the car seat!
This was a Sunday afternoon, maybe 4 or 5 PM and the beach was FULL of kite boarders! We couldn't figure out how they kept from getting all tangled up together. In fact I overheard one of the beach patrol rangers describing it as 'crazy'. (There was a kite board rental vendor set up on the beach, which probably contributed to the chaos. Anyway, it was all very entertaining to watch.
We stayed quite some time watching all the activity, but eventually did have to head back to the campground and fix dinner. Mom was pretty tired, so she stayed in the RV while I took Grizzly for a walk over the dunes to catch some waves. Of course, Grizzly tried to catch every shorebird he could find and, of course, never succeeded...
& again later to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, I got busy and lost track of time, so didn't get back to the beach until after the sun was already down, but it was still pretty.
The next morning, I was bound and determined to check out the area a bit more, but first had to take Grizzly for a walk and photograph a few birds. The second bird looks rather plain grey when sitting, but has a distinctive grey/white pattern when flying that reminded me of a magpie, but not as black and not as long a tail. Mom and I both kept discussing it and later I had an opportunity to ask some experts at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum and we all felt it was probably a Northern Magpie, a different subspecies. Hmm, the crazy things you learn when you try not to...
One of the things that makes this area special is the Sand Dunes, so I figured I'd try to take a Hummer Tour of them. However the Hummer guy didn't want to take only one person out, and he didn't have anybody else interested so I had to give that idea up. Not quite brave enough to rent an ATV and try duning myself, I thought I'd at least try to get a good picture of the dunes. Turns out this was harder then I thought. We had picked up a map from the park ranger and it showed three ways onto the beaches & dunes, the campground where we were staying (low dunes only), the main beach where we'd seen the kite boarders, and another road about 10 miles south that looked like it led into the big dunes area called 'Oso Flaco', or skinny bear (as had been observed by an early explorer).
We drove back out onto the main beach just for fun, there weren't any kite boarders today (Monday). We did get some good shots of the beach, the view to the south, and to the north.
However the sand dunes at this part of the beach didn't seem any bigger than at the campground, so I decided to drive south and check out the Oso Flaco area. Ten miles can seem like an awfully long drive when you're not familiar with an area! Along the way, we passed several fruit stands (I indulged in large, fresh avacodo's 4 for $1, tomatoes and a basket of very large strawberries for $2.) Then shortly after, we passed hugh strawberry fields, hundreds of acres I'm sure (this is just a small portion of what we passed).
Some fields had workers out harvesting strawberries. There were other types of crops also, some sort of lettuce I think (there weren't any crop labels and I didn't stop to check).
Anyway, we eventually did make it to Oso Flaco. This consists of a large, dirt/gravel parking lot and some honey buckets. A fairly long, straight road (not accessable to regular vehicles, only ORV - Off Road Vehicles) leads past a lake - Oso Flaco Lake and then up into the sand dunes.
Oso Flaco Lake:
I thought I might get a good shot of the dunes if I hiked up the ORV trail a bit. I was wrong. Every time I'd come to a crest, instead of a nice vista, there'd be another crest to hike up. There were a lot of plants, wildfowers and birds in the dunes however hiking through soft sand on foot can be quite difficult. Each step sinks in and slides around, so take the effort of two or more steps.
After giving up on any grand vistas on this route, I went back to the lake to try the ADA accessable walk across the lake and through the dunes. There were a LOT of cliff swallows darting around the lake catching bugs, which was also interesting in it's own right.
I crossed the lake and started through the dunes again and it was much easier hiking then through the soft sand, however there still weren't any awesome visita's of vast sand dunes and I was getting worried about leaving Mom in the car for too long, so headed on back. So if you want to see pic's fo the sand dunes in this area, you'll have to google them.
On the drive back however, we did pass an interesting looking old building so I stopped to check it out. It is only open Sundays from 1 - 3, so we didn't spend too much time here. It is an old train depot for the town of Oceana.
They also have a few items on display to help it look more like a train depot, like a baggage cart and a couple of old cars.
Mom had been a great sport all day while I wandered around looking for sand dunes (maybe a little dunny in the head?), so I thought I'd treat her to a nice meal. This place looked interesting, so we gave it a shot. Mom is very fond of Flan and has ordered it many times before, but swore this was the best flan she'd ever had (I'd have to agree).
So I don't have any pictures of the spectacular dunes in Arroyo Grand/Pismo Beach area, but did get some nice shots of the dunes around the campground and the area in general.
By the time I was hooking up the car to the RV to leave the area, it looked like Mom & Grizzly were getting pretty comfortable here.