To San Luis Obispo and back again

I woke up Thursday, June 22, 2000 with a mysterious need to visit San Luis Obispo. I selected Friday as a vacation day weeks before when the summer vacation schedule was being set. I had noticed I had no days off in June and picked a Friday at random thinking I could surely come up with a plan for it by then … Friday morning I called around San Luis Obispo for a hotel to stay in during my visit. After far more hunting than I expected to need, I found a Travelodge that had a room for Friday and Saturday night. I made a two-night reservation after confirming that I understood that it was too late to cancel. “Yes, I’m sure I’m coming”, I told the woman on the phone. She told me my confirmation code was “Maxine”, which was her name. After getting off the phone, I sprung my carefully considered plan into action. I grabbed my already-packed bags and jumped into the car.

Well, almost: I ran around the apartment trying to think of everything I needed (clothes, cameras, shut computers off, oop did I pay that bill?!, etc). About 2:30pm I lugged my bags to the car, stopped for gas, and zipped onto the highway thinking I would stop for lunch/dinner on the way down. An hour and twenty minutes later I was about 25 miles south of Mountain View on 101. Traffic sucks. I was grumpy. I was hungry. Finally the traffic cleared up and it was cruisin’ time. It was so nice to be moving again that I kept passing up chances to stop for food. I drove the remaining 160 or so miles to San Luis Obispo non-stop.

I arrived in San Luis Obispo around 6:00pm, checked into the San Luis Obispo Downtown Travelodge and set out into downtown San Luis Obispo for food and a good dose of not driving. I wandered around downtown until I found Pizza Solo which I was seeking because of the recommendation of a friend. It was excellent. Upon finishing dinner I wandered out of Pizza Solo on the way back to the hotel. I didn’t make it far before seeing the Downtown Centre Cinemas. After descending the stairs to the box office, I saw that Shaft was playing in ten minutes. So I watched it. It was fun. Then I walked back to the hotel and fell asleep.

On Saturday, I woke up around 8:30 or so and peered out the door.

I got in the car and headed south to Pismo Beach after getting breakfast at a Denny’s along the way.

I walked along the beach for around 3 hours. It was a nice, sandy, relatively uncrowded beach. The Pacific Ocean is COLD. When I got there it was all cloudy but about halfway through the walk, the clouds burned off and it got all sunny and nice. It was a nice long walk along the water line. Near 1pm, small planes started flying over quite a bit. It was a bit annoying. There was also this really neat parachute-big-fan-something contraption that a guy was flying over the water in. No pictures from Pismo Beach, though, because there were too many people to really get scenic shots. On one part of the beach, vehicles were allowed. It was really weird to see cars on the beach. That can’t be good for them, especially the one guy that was driving a jeep in the water (well, had the jeep in the water about mid-hubcap depth (ankle depth) and was fishing next to it.

After Pismo Beach, I de-sanded my feet and drove along the coast for a while skipping the first couple entrances to 101. I ended up in San Luis harbor/pier. I parked and walked out on the pier and checked out the seafood restaurant at the end (too nice/expensive — I was in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals). So not having found food, I shot some pictures of the harbor area.

Then I got back in the car and, on the way back to the last 101 entrance I passed, saw a side road labeled “water access”. So I took it and ended up at this little rocky-coast-beach area. I walked out onto the rocks and shot some pictures of the picturesque cliffs/ocean hitting rocks/etc but decided to skip going down to the beach.

Back into the car and down the road and onto 101 north for a ways. I saw a McDonalds and, since it was now about 3:30, stopped and ate some quick bad food. I didn’t want to spend too much time finding and getting lunch since I still had Montaña de Oro (a huge park) to visit. I picked up some sunscreen and water at the mini-mall the McDondald’s was in, having noticed I was a little toasted from my time on the beach. Getting the sunscreen was closing the barn door after the horses were gone, but I figured it couldn’t hurt for later. I slathered some on when I got back to the car.

I jumped back on 101 for one exit or so and drove to Montaña De Oro on a two-lane road through farm country listening to a country music station. It was fantastic. I passed a tractor. A few miles later I saw men at work in the closed lane in the middle of the road: they were laying cable.

Some time later I arrived at Montaña de Oro state park. I drove around for a while looking for information, found a map and decided I wanted the Ocean Bluff Trail (DANGER: STAY AWAY FROM CLIFF EDGE). I read the warnings about sirens (“if you hear a siren for 3-5 minutes, return to your car and tune to some radio station for further information”) (this area is near the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant). No sirens during my stay, though.

I finally found the ocean bluff trail entrance and got out of the car and broke out the film camera for this walk (but still had in the backpack the video camera and in my pocket the digital camera). It was a nice walk along the cliffs. I stayed away from the edge as the sign recommended. I shot lots of pictures. After I had turned around and was walking back to the car along the trail, I saw a deer right after using the last frame of the film camera’s roll. Figuring I wouldn’t have time to change rolls before it ran off, I pulled out the digital camera and snapped a picture. (It didn’t really come out). Then I changed rolls hoping to get the deer with the other camera, but by then the deer had run off.

By the time I got to the car, my legs were explaining to me politely that, having walked 5,187 miles today up and down hills and along sand, it was time to go back to the hotel room and shower and get dinner. So I went back to the hotel room and showered. It was nice to be clean and in range of food. It’s amazing how dirty, tired, and hungry one could get outside.

After showering, I walked downtown (ow ow ow my legs) to find someplace to eat dinner at in downtown San Luis Obispo. On the way I stopped at a 7-11 and bought some .. aspirin! Then I went to the “Big Sky Cafe” (subtitled: Modern Food). It was excellent, I had salmon and garlic mashed potatoes. I drank about sixteen thousand cups of water.

Finished dinner and walked around in SLO for a while. Got an ice cream cone. It’s a nice town.

On Sunday the plan was to drive up California State Highway One and see the scenic coastline on the way home. Woke up at around 8:00am, checked out of the hotel, and set out on the open road, thinking I’d catch breakfast on the way. A few miles up 101, I turned around and sheepishly slunk back to Route One; I had forgotten Route One joined 101 in San Luis Obispo and not north of it.

Now on track, I headed north on Route One. My first stop was in Morro Bay to see if I could get a picture of the rock. I drove around Morro Bay a bit, but clouds and fog foiled my plot to get a good shot. I ate at a Denny’s in Morro Bay, my hunger finally overwhelming my desire to find something else. I jumped back on Rt 1 and drove up a bit more and got off at some beach. I shot a few pictures of the cloud-shrouded rock in the bay, topped off my gas tank, and set up north.

I got off Rt 1 and drove through Cambria. It seemed nice enough but no pictures.

My next real stop was at Hearst Memorial Beach. It had a long pier with people fishing on it and a nice beach. It also had a little store: I also bought something to drink and a postcard (“San Simeon at night: a completely black card”).

The next notable stop was several miles north at a nondescript “scenic vista: wildlife viewing” area where some elephant seals were laying about on the beach. I watched for a bit and, of course, shot some pictures.

I made several more scenic vista point stops along the way and shot many pictures.

The remaining stops were all pretty nondescript scenic vista points (named as such or not). By the time I reached Pfeffier Big Sur State Park or the other stops I had planned along my route, I was too tired to stop and enjoy them.

I drove up to Monterey, admiring (and occasionally stopping to photograph) the spectacular views along the way. Towards the end of the trip I was getting pretty tired and was ready to get back on a nice superhighway and get home.

I grabbed a bite to eat in Monterey and headed up Rt 1 to Rt 156 (which was plagued with traffic) to Rt 101 to home.