I met a couple in another vanagon in camp last night, and they told me that there was a great VW van garage in Los Osos. I needed an oil change, so I went looking. They did not have a garage name nor address, but when I asked a clerk at a gas station, she pointed the way. As I cruised up the street to the garage, I could not believe the number of Westy's! And then, there it was :'), GOWESTY. Incredible. The most infamous Vanagon/Westfalia dealer on the west coast and probably all of the states. I have done business with them on-line, knew they were south, but had forgotten the location. And here I was! Probably a hundred vans here between the ones for sale, and here for service. I was in Westy heaven. Before I even went inside, I walked the property looking everything over. Nice vans, and got a lot of good ideas viewing the various setups and modifications. Plus, these folks know what they are doing, for sure. All types of custom built racks and apperatus for servicing and reconditioning. Anyways, not only did I get an oil change, I picked up a couple of needed parts that had proved to be elusive.
I went into Morro Bay for a while, had lunch at "the rock", while witnessing a peregrine falcon come down from the top, and swoop across the bay into a flock of assorted sea birds near the sand spit! I could not make out the actual kill, but it landed on a sand bluff and joined me in lunch :'). That was pretty cool! There were also 4 otter lounging on their backs just inside the bay, and 50 feet from roadside. I saw them when I was here in November too. Always a group of people gathered there, oohing and aahing and taking pics. I figure the chamber pays the otters well to hang in this spot :). I had made it a light lunch, as I wanted to sample the $1 BBQ oysters at Tognazzini's Dockside 2. They have a huge banner out front and it had been driving me nuts so far not to have tried them. WOW! Grilled to order and topped with a fresh garlic seasoning sauce, these babies were delicous! It is a great day, shorts and a tee, but I hear that a change is in the wind (artic front) for later in the week :(. I want to make my way south to see if I can get beyond its reach. Stopped for gas on the way out and a 1949 Ford Woody pulled in! It was cherry! Polished wood board on the rack, the windshield shade visor, the whole nine yards. Gee, am I already in So'Cal? I left with beachboys music singing in my head hoping this to be a good omen weather wise.
I made a stop at Camp San Luis, which states it is the home of California's National Guard. I indicated to the sentry that I was pulling around out front to see the collection of aircraft, and he waved me on. As I walked the fenceline taking pics, I heard an "excuse me sir" and it was the guard. He said he could not allow me to park here, but if I truly wanted to look at the aircraft, he would gain me access to the gate, and let me go into the section where they were. "Absolutely" Just a license check and I was in like slim! I must say that I just love interacting with the military personnel. They are absolutely the most polite and professional people I have come across. I want to reach out and shake their hands and thank them for their service, but you can tell it is all business when they are on post, and I want to extend back as much respect as possible.
I drove in to Avilia Beach and to Pt. San Luis harbor. You can park out here overnight, but pretty drab.. I meandered up Cave Landing road (with a name like that...) and found myself in a unofficial park at the top. There is a seacave at the west side, and trails leading out to a rock outcropping to the east. Must come back here manana! Caught the sunset from the bluff and then headed through Pismo beach to Oceano dunes. Spotted another must goto on the way, Dinosaur Park. The kiosk was closed at Oceano beach, and postings everywhere about fines and more for ilegal camping. Nice, a catch 22. No iron ranger, so how do I make myself legal? I drove the mile south across the beach to the marker where camping starts. It appeared that the poles indicated high tide line, and as I made my way up, the sand continued to soften. I concluded that trying to do this manuever in the dark was not a good idea, and so made my way off beach and camped at the developed campgrounds. I later realized that the beach sand stuck to the undercarriage of the van. Being as it is from below the high tide line and loaded with salt, and vanagons are very suspect to rust, I vowed to find a self service carwash to spray off the underside, and not venture out there again.
In the morning I tried accessing a geocache planted on the far side of the lagoon. Found it would require some wading, and decided against it. Went around to the west side and up the dunes to the beach. Saw a nice cluster of monarchs in a tree on the way, an osprey on the morning winds and also a hummingbird posing for me. The beach itself is more like a freeway with a joggers path next to it ;'), so I headed back to camp, taking in a very nice native plant garden tended by volunteers, on the way. First stop is at Dinosaur Park. No plaques or other info explaining the name, and no one who could tell me the significance of the name! Everyone assumed it was due to the seacaves below. I finally ran into a county ranger, and he said there had been a minor find in the 60's, but the name is attributed to the caves. It was very nice walk, and I met my first "valley girl" of the trip. She was transplanted, so I had nothing to fear :O. She was very outgoing, and we talked for several minutes, although I am not sure how much of my description of Big Sur and Los Padres was actually getting through... Definitely a trippy conversation, but very entertaining. It was a good affirmation to skirt the general LA area in travels further south. I later learned that the local Kayak outfitters does tours of the caves. I saw none while here, and the seas into the caves did not look too inviting. Made my way towards Cave Landing, stopping at parks and overlooks on the way. I have been doing very poorly with caches, and why should that change now? I am searching through a "saber"? plant for one, when the dogs in the backyard adjacent go wild on me! Muggled by dogs, no less! Alas...Nice views out here anyways, so I am glad I came. At cave landing, I realize that there is much more here than I bargained for! The cache above the cave is named " I see naked people". That beach is another 1/4 mile down from the cave, but, as the cache logs indicate, there are creepy lurkers perched up top in the rocks! Good grief, it is clothing optional, so why not just take a walk on the beach already!! I got to the cave, and there was 3 guys sitting in it drinking beer. hohummmm. Went up top and searched for the cache w/o luck. Took some pics from the vista, but can't help feeling like I am being sneered at for having a camera out here :'). I went over to the southwest side of the bluff to seek another cache, but it was in the rock that extends in the water and 30' lower. Cannot find a trail to it, but do find a "private" nude beach with a couple of guys in the surf, so I just give up and go back up to the parking lot. Ventured west to the sea cave, but can get no closer than a few hundred yards, so I end my stay here...I drove up to Santa Maria, found a coffee shop, and worked on the blog for a while, and then Wal-Mart camped for the night.
Got an early start in the morning (5:30 am), had breakfast at Perko's, and out to Gualdalupe Dunes. The dunes rise to 450' and are the highest on the west coast. It was just 8 am and still chilly (29 last night), so I bundled up and set out for a short walk along the beach. Yeah, sure... The dunes were 2 miles or more south from the parking lot. Once I realized this, and also the fact I was halfway there, I continued on. I was really impressed by the surfing couple who trekked out to the surf below the dunes to surf! Does anyone know why surfers usually jog or trot to the surf? My guess is it is a fitness thing. Anyways, I made it to the base of the dunes, but by now was out of water and my camera batteries were dying. Not sure how eager I was to attack the dunes anyway. They did give me a vision of the sahara, for sure.
Back to the van, and I headed back to Pismo beach. Laundry, the van washing and few other odd and ends, and made camp at North Oceano Campgrounds. I walked up the beach to downtown, and went after "Young and Agile" cache. With a name like that, how could I resist? Well, after a dozen feet up an old oak, and I spotted the cache another fifteen feet out a limb! This would require shinnying out the branch to a height of around twenty feet, with no other branches for support. Visions of cast and crutches went through my head. Call this DNF "older and wiser" I guess ;'). On the way to the wharf I tried for a cache placed under the boardwalk. No find, but a homeless encampment instead. Man, am I ever running cold on caches :(. I hung out on the wharf for a while, as it is really neat to watch the surfers and boogie boarders from overhead. They are daring, falling off of the waves just before they get to the danger zone of the pilings! Another DNF of a cache hunt on the north end of town in the dark, then a walk through town and back to camp for a nice warm fire.
Finished out my time in the area with a driving tour east, stopping in Arroyo Grande to log geocaches and on to Lopez Lake. This was not my kind of setting, at least not in the dark, and I took a Forest Service roadeast to explore alternative camping locales. I will learn one day not to start an adventure on a FS road after dark...