July 30, 2016

San Luis Obispo Camping Trip

The kids and I tagged along with Kurt on his Varsity Challenge Campout again this year. This time the scouts went to Camp San Luis Obispo, which is an Army National Guard base. One of the other leaders is in the Army so he got clearance for all of us to camp on base and for the boys to be able to use some of the army training things.

While Kurt was off doing cool camp stuff, the kids and I were on our own to explore the area. I had never been down to SLO before so I asked a friend, who used to live down there, what the kids and I should do. She gave me some ideas and we were off. It was really fun because I had no idea where we were going, what we were going to do, where we would end up and every day was so much fun! We were so blessed to stumble into some fun places.

Monday, July 25th
This was driving day. It took us about 6 hours to get there and by the time we got on base and set up the camps (we were camping in a different location from where the boys were camping), it was time for dinner. Cooking for 60 people takes some time and we didn't eat until after 9 pm. The kids and I then headed back to our camp and to bed.

Tuesday, July 26th
My friend had said that Montaña de Oro had some good tide pools so I knew I wanted to head north up to that area. It was only about 10 minutes north up the freeway from the base. I had no idea where the tide pools were but we set off to find them. Right next to Montaña de Oro is Morro Bay. You take the same road and then there is a divide where Montaña is to the left and Morro is to the right. When we came to the split, I felt prompted that we should go to Morro first so I took that direction. Again, I had NO IDEA where I was going but it was really fun. The kids were in good moods and thought this was a fun way to explore. 

I stopped at a camp ground registration booth and said "I have no idea what to do around here. Can you give me any advice?" She gave me maps to 3 parks and said they were all dog friendly (we had Cooper with us so we needed dog friendly places!). I parked the car and looked at the maps. I then went back and asked her if there were seals anywhere that we could see. She said "absolutely" and gave me the street to turn onto and said if we continued down the embarcadero, that we would see otters with their babies too! I had no idea where the embarcadero was but wow, that sounded fun so off we went!

Love, love, love the trees at the beach.

We ventured off and turned down the road she had said but I didn't know where to park or where we had to walk to so we just pulled over and parked the car. We got out and crossed the street and walked to a little deck over looking the water and the seals were right there! We just stumbled right into the right spot!

That was pretty cool ~ we walked right to it!

We then ventured further down the road, hoping that we were on the embarcadero. We saw this big rock and wondered if we could drive out to it. Sure enough, we could and there were TONS of birds all over it. I was trying to get a picture of all the birds but you can't really see them, but trust me, there were TONS! We found out later that this rock is the famous Morro Rock. We had no idea. I didn't get a better picture of the rock because I didn't know it was special but apparently it is. It is a volcanic plug. Pretty cool. 

We then found the otters and their babies. They were a little hard to see but they were so cute! They were playing and rolling around in the water. So sweet!

We then went a little further around the rock to where the road ends and parked the car. There was nice beach right there. The sand looked so white and soft. We just had to get out and touch it! We all took our shoes off and walked in the sand. Evan wanted to explore down the beach a little bit to where there was a rock levee thing so we walked down there. We found little water crabs and watched them walk around. It was a lot of fun!

All of the sudden, I felt the strongest impression that I needed to get back to the car, like NOW! Then I remembered that I had left my purse right in the center cup holders where anyone could see it. I had thought we were just going to be right in front of the car and didn't think we would walk so far away. I said "kids, we have to get back NOW!" so we headed back toward the parking lot. The kids didn't fight me or complain or anything. They just took off with me booking it back to the car. The parking lot sat higher than the beach so you had to climb over the rocks to get back up to the road. I came up over the rock and standing right there was my aunt . . . who lives in Huntington Beach. 


I had seen on Facebook that morning that she was in the vicinity because she had posted that she had gone to Hearst Castle on Monday, which was 45 minutes north of us. I never expected to see her here but there she was, just standing there taking a picture. So I walked up to her and said "Hi Aunt Sandra!" She was so shocked to see me! It was the funniest thing!

Her and her friend were on vacation too and had come up the coast to explore the area. Her friend had already started walking back down the parking lot to their car so if I hadn't gotten back right then, I would have missed my aunt. Perfect timing! We laughed and laughed about running into each other. My aunt called my uncle and said "hold on a minute" and then handed me the phone. I said "Hi Uncle Dick." He was like "Hi. How are y-. Wait. What are you doing with Aunt Sandra?" It was the funniest thing!

By this time, it was about 11 and my aunt and her friend were going to go north to Cambria for lunch. They had been told of a really good restaurant up there and they wanted to try it. They invited us to go along so we did. It was a really cute place called Robin's Restaurant. We sat out on the covered/mostly enclosed patio area.

We had a great time chatting and visiting with each other. After lunch, they were going to explore the cute little town of Cambria and all the little shops and antique stores. They invited us along but I said my boys and little shops don't mix very well =-)

We said our goodbyes and we headed back down to Montaña de Oro. By the time we got back down there, it was high tide so it wasn't the best time for tide pooling. We drove to a Visitor Center only to find out it was closed. We didn't know where to go or what to do. A ranger happened to drive by so I stopped her and asked. She had seen Cooper so she said the only thing we could really do with the dog was go to the beach that was right across the street (she said this about 3 times). By this point we were pretty tired so sitting on the beach sounded nice.  We headed over there but the beach was all rocks and wasn't what we were looking for. We stayed for a little bit and let the boys play "run from the waves" and then we decided to head back to camp.

Along the way we found a frozen yogurt shop and had to stop for a treat!

While we had been out playing, Kurt and the boys had been in the shooting simulation range. They loved it!

After they finished playing training, they headed down to Pismo Beach for the afternoon.

My friend had recommended that we eat at Firestone Grill in SLO so that's what the kids and I did for dinner. The tri-tip sandwich was amazing! So tender! And that bbq sauce - delish!

Wednesday, July 27th
While we were getting ready that morning, Kurt had text me pictures of what the boys were up to. It looked fun so we headed over to check it out before we left base for the day.

They were playing on a HUGE climbing wall! And they let Evan try it! While Kurt was gearing up, Evan got a head start!

Dad quickly caught up to him!

Evan got almost to that middle log before he decided that was high enough for him. He came back down but Kurt kept going.

He made it to the top!

What a great father-son bonding experience!

Then we headed over to this contraption. I don't even know what it's called but it looks like fun!

Kurt made it to the top of this one too!

He said he only did it because I was there and he had to impress his woman! Ha ha! Funny guy! He also said he had to redeem his man card after screaming like a girl last year at the Grand Canyon. You earned it back baby!! You did great! Your woman is very impressed!

After that, the kids and I headed south toward Pismo Beach. My friend had said to check out sand highway in Oceano and go out to the dunes. Again, I had no idea where that was but off we went! We were in Pismo and saw a sign that said Oceano Dunes and so I turned down that road and came to a gate that let you on the beach. I, once again, told the person that I had no idea what I was doing and asked if this was the place to go out to the dunes. She seemed a little confused by my question but said this is where we could drive on the beach and go out to the ATV/Recreational dunes so I paid the $5 and got a pass onto the beach.

Best 5 bucks I have ever spent. We had a great time!

I LOVED driving on the beach. My kids were laughing at me because I was having such a great time. It truly was so fun. I don't know what it was but I was having a blast.  The tide was out so there was LOTS of room on the beach to drive. 

We just kept driving and driving and driving and then we came to another gate where trailers were coming in. We continued down the beach and came to where all the rental places were. There was every kind of sand contraption/vehicle imaginable for rent. 

Then we came to the camping section where people go camping at Pismo. Kurt has always wanted to camp there. I haven't been too thrilled of the idea and honestly, after seeing it, my opinion hasn't changed. Sorry honey! The camping section is in loose sand and it just looks so stressful trying to pull trailers into there. I get that you are right on the dunes and can just ride out of camp in the Teryx but I just wasn't feeling it. The wind off the ocean was blowing right into the campers and they all had plywood up trying to block the wind and sand. It kind of looked ghetto. Ok, so maybe I'm a snobby camper, I don't know. Plus, if you don't get back far enough, high tide can come in and get you so you have to get far enough back but the further back you go, the looser the sand becomes. The whole thing just seems so stressful to me. I don't know. I am probably a party pooper because tons of people love camping out there. It's still on Kurt's list of places he wants to camp at so I'm sure we will try it out at some point. 

Kurt was at Pismo Beach twice  on this trip and never made it far enough down the beach to see the camping section. Poor guy. He wanted to see it so bad but they never had enough time for him to get down there.

We kept driving down the beach until we came to the STOP sign that says you have to turn around. We headed back along the beach. When Kurt and the boys had come out the day before, they said it was legal for 14 year olds to drive on the beach so I may or may not have let our 15 year old drive for a little bit on the beach. She may or may not of had a blast driving on the beach too!

I had her pull over and stop and we got out to play in the water.

My Tahoe on the beach

We had a great time! Even the dog enjoyed it!

When we camp at Dillon Beach, Kurt is always looking for sand dollars. He wants to find a whole sand dollar but all he finds are bits and pieces of them. Well, at Pismo, there are whole sand dollars everywhere! Your girls found lots of them for you daddy!

We were standing there playing in the water and, at times, it was like a freeway on the beach. So many people coming and going, back and forth down the beach. It is a little crazy because there aren't any lines painted in the sand so you just have to make sure you don't hit anyone else. It is like a free for all and drive wherever you want. It was a little like playing Frogger (or Crossy Roads, for those more current players) trying to get from the car to the water. I should have parked closer but I didn't know. Live and learn.

This particularly large group came down the beach toward the camping section. There was probably 6-8 trucks and trailers all busting it down the beach. I was watching them all because the speed limit was 15 mph on the beach and they seemed to all be traveling faster than that. All of the sudden there was a loud BANG. They all kept going but there was a tire left behind on the beach. One of the trailers had snapped one of the tires off their trailer. They had no idea because they had a double axel trailer so there was still 1 tire on that side. His buddy, who was a little behind him, stopped and started honking trying to get the others to stop. They finally all stopped and the buddy rolled the tire down the beach to him.  We watched them for awhile as we played on the beach.

Some of the rental toys

So what do you do if you get your truck and trailer stuck in the sand? Well, just call this guy! I'm sure for a reasonable price ($cha-ching$) he will pull you right out! We had seen him down the beach pulling someone out. This was him as he was leaving.

After our fun on the beach, we headed into Pismo for some lunch. My friend had recommended that we eat clam chowder at Splash in Pismo so that's where we were headed. We drove past this and immediately had to turn around and check it out.

That is one of the super fun things about this trip. If we saw something, we just stopped and checked it out.  We had total flexibility and spontaneity. So fun!

Unfortunately it must not have been butterfly season there because we only saw 3 butterflies. Or maybe they were all out and about. Little bit of a disappointment but still fun nonetheless. 

Splash was in downtown Pismo. We found a place to park and walked to the restaurant. Wow-za ~ what a line! It must be good to be this busy! For just a second, we thought about going somewhere else but then said "No way! We are here to experience this, let's do it!" So we waited in line. It actually moved quicker than I thought it would. 

We got 2 clam chowder bread bowls, a fish sandwich and a cheeseburger. They were all pretty good! The clam chowder was one of the best soups I've tasted.

After lunch, we walked down to the pier.

On the way back to the car we found another frozen yogurt place. Yum!

This hotel in on the side of the freeway near SLO. It looks so cool. We had to pull in and take some pictures.

We might want to stay here sometime!

Thursday, July 28th
This was the day that the kids and I were going to head home but I hadn't realized that we were so close to Hearst Castle and I really thought that Kayla would enjoy taking a tour of it. My problem was that I didn't think the boys would enjoy it and we had the dog to think about. Thursday was an easy, relax, beach day for the boys so I asked Kurt if he could take our boys (including the dog) with him while I took the girls to the castle. He said yes so Wednesday night I purchased 3 tickets for us. We got up and left at 7:30 am to drive up to San Simeon.

Outside the doors they had a lot of port-a-potties and this sign on them. Apparently we have hit a whole new level of drought in Cali. You can't even use the flushing potties during the week. Sheesh!

We took the crazy bus ride up to the house. And it is crazy! Windy, curvy, narrow road in a big, ol' bus. It was worth it though. I had been here a lllooonnnggg time ago. It was with my parents so maybe I was in high school??? I don't know but I do remember being here before.

 This is one of the 3 cottages on the property.

The pool was under some restoration but it was still impressive. This pool holds 345,000 gallons of water! It is crazy big! It is the 3rd pool to be built here. Each one got bigger and bigger than the previous one.

 Another cottage

Amazing views! This is why he built way up on the hill. How they got all these supplies up here on top of this hill back in the 1920's is beyond me. Truly amazing!

This statue is 3500 years old! Yes, 35 HUNDRED years! I asked the guide again because I didn't think I had heard her correctly the first time.

These guys on either side of the door are like 400 years old each!

This book was in the main room when you walk in. It was huge. Kayla loved it! We think he must have been a wizard and this is his book of magic potions!  (It was like 3' x 2' - BIG).

This is the tile mosaic in the entry way. They have you come in a side door because they don't want people walking on all the little tile pieces.


This ceiling is like 700 years old from France! It was originally in a church or something over there. They shipped if over and reconstructed it.

Dining room

In the billiards room

The theater

The tennis courts

The indoor pool, under the tennis courts

The diving platform 

It was so neat. We took the Grand Rooms tour and we definitely want to go back and take the other 2 tours. We didn't have time that day but will have to go back. Another trip is in our future!

We drove the 45 minutes back to the base, packed up the stuff that we wanted out of the trailer, then drove back down to Pismo to pick up the boys from the beach and headed home. We made it in 5 1/2 hours.

We came from the beach over the mountains and back into the valley to this:

Smoke from the fire near Big Sur. Ugh! Gross! It was so thick! 1/2 of our drive was in this smoke. Mix that with the 112 degree temps, and we were wishing we could go back to the beach!

We made it home safe and sound and in time for dinner. Kurt and the scouts are staying until Saturday. Hoping they have a great, safe, and uneventful drive home too!

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