California Edition 4: San Simeon State Park and Pismo Beach

June 9 – 15, 2021

This bogisode covers our first of what will be many stops along the California coast throughout the rest of June and half of July. The Hunt family interlude represents a big portion of this blog which is a slight stray from the nature stuff but a large portion of what makes life great, especially if you have a wonderful family like we do. Our entire time here included sand, sun, and seals as you would expect along the coast of California. We hope you enjoy.

Travel Journal

We saw our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean as we crossed over the mountain range from Paso Robles along the 46. Not since our time along the Oregon and Washington coast June 2020 had we been to the west coast and it is certainly striking to see, especially from the top of this coastal mountain range. We soon descended to the intersection with the 1 that runs north south along the west coast where we’ll mostly travel for the next few weeks. We turned right and quickly came to the small town of Cambria and then a small beach front parking lot called Moonstone. Since no dogs were allowed on the beach we walked Toohey along the boardwalk and enjoyed taking in the scenes and smells of the ocean. 

San Simeon State Park

We left continuing north to our destination, checked in and set up our camp at San Simeon State Park. The site was an unlevel asphalt pad but with a slight distant view of the ocean across the tree tops. We walked the park to see what all the fuss was about confirming that we indeed had a good spot based on others we saw. After a while our friend, who we had met while camping near Lone Pine and who was the new camp host here, drove up. We shared stories over beers and got all caught up on life. He left us for a while but returned later for some more stories, beer, and a nice camp fire. We shared a phone call with his daughter who we’d also met outside of Lone Pine before turning in for a cool night sleep accompanied with sounds of distant breaking coastal waves. 

We agreed over the fire to go for a bike ride the next day, so we gathered at our camp in the morning. Our host had suggested the ride from camp that extended east, inland from the coast. I initially fought that route suggesting that we ride the coastal highway but I soon caved as I figured we could pick up the coastal road a bit later. We set off east and I quickly was glad I caved as this ride turned out to be amazing. The hilly, winding road took us through ranch lands, a valley with cows, horses and several flocks of wild turkeys. I stopped when I saw a gobbler proudly displaying his feathers, maybe trying to entice one of his crew to mate, but whatever it was it was interesting to see. The morning colors across the fields and through the trees was magical and the hills were a solid workout with short steep grades slightly reminding me of cycling in the English countryside. We rolled through the area with the last few miles stepping us steeply uphill until we finally flew the white flag of surrender, turned, and headed back. The descents were fun but worrisome as the road was pot-holed and with a sun/shade mix making it tough to see the hazards. But fun nonetheless. We got back to camp and wanted more time on the saddle so we said goodbye to our host and set off north along the 1. We rode with a steady headwind until we got to the San Simeon fishing peer where we decided to turn around. We were now heading south with the nice tail wind and the coast to our right side. We stopped in at all the pull-offs to take in the sights which were beautiful. We finally made it back to the pooch, who was sleeping comfortably in the Tacoma while protecting the assets. It was one of our favorite rides with so much scenic diversity, all beautiful, and making us give thought to what a bike packing trip along the coast would be.

Hungry and tired from the ride, we showered and set off for the small town of Cambria in search of food. We found the Cafe on Bridgestreet, a 5-star Yelp place, operating out of a historic cottage with seating outside in quaint funky gardens. I fought really hard not to order the featured hot pastrami sandwich and instead went for the chicken cobb salad which was an enormous amount of food. We recommend you definitely check out this place if you are in the area (https://www.cafeonbridgest.com). 

While driving through Cambria we noticed a sign for Nit Wit Ridge and feeling like I was being called home, made the turn. We drove up a really steep road and found the most interesting house. This California Historical Landmark designated structure is also known as the Poor Man’s Hearst Castle and rumor has it the original owner constructed the house using scavenged pieces from the real Hearst Castle construction. It is privately owned, but uninhabited, as the previous owner sold the water meter to pay back taxes which by law makes it uninhabitable. The new owners allegedly operates tours and have an online a gift shop. You can find more information about Nit Wit Ridge by following the link www.nitwitridge.com

From there, we drove north to see the elephant seals as they sunned along the beach. Along the way we stopped at a pull off by the highway to watch the herd of zebras who were a novelty of the Hearst family. We then drove a short distance down the I where we found the parking lot to watch the seals. They were actually sunning while molting their skin based on this was skin molting season for seals. We saw many seals snoozing with patches of skin falling off their body which was kind of gross. These large sea animals appeared so peaceful, sleeping with an occasional grunt, using their fins to toss sand on themselves as they basked. They would occasionally and clumsily move up and down the beach a few yards before crashing back into relaxation. There were hundreds of these animals and watching them on the beach simply made me tired. 

Our final morning at San Simeon State Park started with a run before we departed. Our camp host friend suggested a trail for us that left from the back of the park. We followed the single track trail as it climbed a hill into a heavily forested area, passing through a recently controlled burn site, and then dropping down into a low marshy area following along a boardwalk. There were spots of wild flowers all along the trail mixed in with poison oak, blackberry vines, and other grasses and trees. We made our way back to our friend and camp host’s site to say so long and then to our camp to eat some brekkie and pack up the rig. 

We enjoyed our short stay in the area of San Simeon and would certainly come back for more exploration. Our time was perfect as with a full day we were able to explore the small town of Cambria and the coastal areas close by. We didn’t venture to the Hearst Castle as it was closed and that really isn’t our cup of travel tea anyway. 

Pismo Beach: The Hunt Family Interlude

We assembled in the community of Pismo Beach to celebrate nephew’s graduation from Cal Poly located in San Luis Obispo aka, SLO. This is the same nephew who met us in Sun Valley last summer to camp for a night with Toby the tarantula. The traveling Helkins and the Huntbaums had adjoining RV sites in a place called Pismo Coast Village Beach Resort. The nephew’s mom, dad, and sister were staying in a hotel in SLO about 15 miles slightly north and inland. 

Being a child raised on Saturday morning cartoons, I believe the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner hour was the absolute best hour watching TV. While walking Price Street, the main drag in Pismo, a sign caught my attention that had a Bugs Bunny quote on it. After a quick internet search I found the following Youtube scene with quote. In all honesty, I don’t remember the Pismo Beach reference in that scene, but do quote the left turn in Albuquerque quite often when we get directionally confused while using my best Bugs Bunny voice, obviously to the delight of Lysette.

The adventure while in Pismo Beach was keeping up with the Hunt Clan while they celebrated one of their owns success so I thought I’d capture our time in some of the characteristics being a part of this family.

  1. Laughter – this family has among them the best laughs of any family and they laugh often. You have to have some pretty thick skin and humility in this group as many times the laughter is at you but what you’ll find is it is meant to be with you. We spent lots of time laughing, sometimes until it hurt, at things that won’t be shared here but are likely not that funny outside the moment. 
  2. Active – they are movers – many times with lots of directional advice that keeps them moving in no certain direction at all, especially when more than one Hunt is taking charge. For example, we went looking for a restaurant in downtown SLO on day one in an area packed with restaurants. We walked in all possible directions in a small downtown with perfectly straight lines and right angles before finding the restaurant we wanted, and of course, it had just closed. Without panic, we simply found the next closest one which was perfect for most of us. The imperfection was not in the food, but in nephew’s sister’s place at the table. She was sitting just outside the umbrella cover and below the butt of a crow who pooped, not once but twice on her leg from 20 feet at about five minute intervals. But I digress. Activity two for the day moved us to a winery just outside of SLO that had peacocks freely roaming around and many patrons with dogs, and of course more laughter. There was a near death experience when a sudden gust of wind caught the large red table umbrella, pulling it from its stand and launching it into the air towards several sitting on the downwind side. Had it not been for the swift response of graduating nephew, grabbing the last inches of the pole in one hand while never losing any wine from his glass in the other. The umbrella would have surely caused severe damage to the family members sitting on the other side of the table. As with everything Hunt, this quickly became a laughable topic of conversation as the day went on. Active in never sitting still while even hanging around camp. There were corn hole tournaments, sing alongs to music by Queen, Jimmy Buffet, and their absent brother’s favorite, The Joker by Steve Miller.
  3. Learning – This is a well educated group who value the opportunity to learn new stuff. One instance of this was the use of the social media symbol #. The eldest Hunt member suggested it is a “hatch” tag. A moment of confusion ensued followed by a quick Google search to confirm it is actually “hash” tag. (No surprise as Lysette still refers to it the “pound” sign.) This new learned nugget was appreciated by all, #hatchtaghuntswillneverforget. 
  4. Food – Eating out has become a normal thing again in California and we did a lot of that. From pizza in SLO to an all you can eat sushi place in Grover Beach, BBQ, and sweet rolls with bacon and maple in Pismo, we ate, drank, and laughed our way through it all. 
  5. Athletics – This is a sporting group of humans who have shown skills on the ski slopes, swimming, cycling, rowing, progressive Pictionary, and urban restaurant orienteering. But nothing could prepare us for their skills at corn hole. One such amazing feat occurred during our round robin tournament where, nephew and dad were on a team. They easily lost their opening round but would later return to the championship match where they needed to win twice to win the tournament. The barely won the first but during the second match to 21 points, dad tossed all four bags in the hole to win it. It was an amazing feat of corn hole history that we now refer to as, the Steve.

One thing taught while camping is what is said around the campfire, stays around the campfire. There were so many individual great moments with plenty of photos and videos with this family but many just need to remain for future campfires. Nuff said.

After four days of togetherness, we all gathered in the small beach town of Cayucos where we parked all the rigs and cars in an old welding shop turned event center just north of town. We walked the dogs down to the beach front and enjoyed a nice seafood feast at Duckies. After hugging it out, a few starfish waves, and a video departure, we set off for a camp in Salina just east of Monterey.

Update: Not to sound like a broken record but yes, we are still on the north coast of California, across the street from the Redwood National Park, and still sitting in Kamp Klamath becoming family with all the work campers, aka hosts. This place has it all with daily temperatures maybe reaching 70 degrees, a greater chance for a tsunami than smoke from a wildfire, and a place jam packed with nature to include wildlife, rainforest, mountains, to the ocean. Well, sun is mostly only an afternoon thing and we haven’t seen anything nighttime terrestrial since we’ve been here. But otherwise it is pretty cool. We will stray from the normal with this update by tossing in a couple of photos, teasers of sorts, so you can see for yourself the wonderment of our current world.

Next up will be our travels along the north coast of California. Until then…

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