5. National Park Road Trip…April/May/June 2016

day 12…5.2  
 I was pretty stoked to be heading towards the coastI LOVE THE PACIFIC OCEAN!.  I would be going over some of the same territory I covered last year on my Pacific Coast Highway trip, but it was my favorite part in California.  Im not much of a wine drinker, I dont know that much about it but I wont ever turn it down (unless some great beer is the other option).  There are so many wineries in California & I happened to be driving through an area with several of them.  The reason I chose Scuplterra to stop at however, was Id read online about how their grounds are filled with pretty cool sculptures.  The wine was secondarybut I wasnt complaining.  I found my way off the highway to the winery, parked & went inside before looking around.  I figured if I was going to try to some wine, a walk afterwards would be better than one before.  For $10 I could try 8 of their selected wines.  There were only a couple of other customers inside & so I quickly began the tasting their wines.  My wine teacher was pretty nicekind of fancy & a little horrified I was traveleing by myself, but informative about the wines.  I hit 8 different tastings but she kept pouring.  She said they had lots of wine leftover from the weekend, so I was benefiting from the leftovers.  Number 12 or 13 (I lost count) was a PortI LOVE PORTS!  Ive never had a Port I didnt really, really likeshe even offered me a second tasting of it, but Id had enough.  We talked about the history of the winery & all the artists involved in creating such a cool place.  The inside was filled with funky paintings by several artists & then there were the sculptures outside.  I took a nice long walk around the property taking it all in!

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My next stop was Paso Robles…the home of Firestone Walker brewing.  I’d been here last year, but I wanted to see if they had anything super special on tap I shouldn’t miss.  They did not.  I can buy their beer at home, so I left without drinking a drop!  The drive from here to the coast is along these fantastic beautiful rolling lush mountains.  I could just stare over these large open spaces for so long…boy would it be magical to jump on a horse & just ride & ride & ride!


One of the little towns I drove through last year, but didn’t explore was Cambria.  There were many restaurants & a few little shops & I was going to stop this time.  I’d used Google to help me find an eclectic artist’s store….which happened to be on the West End of the little town….another section of a few blocks filled with more little funky shops than restaurants.  I hit gold when I went into Artifacts & one of the two women in there asked me where I was from, etc.  I asked her where I should eat.  She gave me the name of a cafe on the East end & said “I had the best burger of my life there!”…well, of course that made me want to try it!  She gave me a couple of other suggestions & then about 4 or 5 shops she thought I might like.  I drove down to the East end, but the cafe was closed on Mondays…bummer!  I went to her second choice…Indigo Moon.  I ordered Artichoke & Blue Cheese soup along with an order of Sweet potato & Goat Cheese wontons….it was all super delicious!  I went to the little shops she suggested & they were all perfect…funky & unique!  It was about 4:40 & most of the places closed at 5, but my last stop was a small old house at the end of the block called Patricia Griffin Pottery.  I walked into a working pottery studio & was greeted by a redhead with a huge smile.  She showed me around & told me her method of decorating each piece of pottery.  She also gives classes & showed me some of her student’s art.  She was so delightful & fun & sharing…it was an awesome experience.  She told me she’d just been in Kansas City for the Potters ‘convention’…6,000 potters were there.  She said it was fantastic & we visited a little about Kansas City.  I told her my husbands cousin was well known potter in Kansas City & as it turns out, she knew him.  Evidently he is well known around the country with potters. It’s a small world sometimes!  I drove down to Moonstone Beach & got my first look at the Pacific!  WOWIE!  It’s so beautiful & powerful!

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It’s pretty difficult to find places to free camp along the coast, so earlier in the day I thought I’d give Couchsurfing a shot.  I knew it was last minute, but some hosts don’t mind that & advertise it on their profile.  I had a family in Los Osos accept me for the night.  I found my way to thier house, only a couple of blocks from the ocean.  The husband & wife were a little younger than me & also at home was a twenty-something college graduate daughter.  She’s an Archeology major, but has yet to find a job.  They were chatty & very welcoming & made me feel at home right away.  The daughter had read I was a Harry Potter fan on my profile & showed me her trip pics of her visit to Leavesdon along with her Maurarders Map.  They knew I wasn’t going to visit Hearst Castle (the over the top wastefullness of these type of places make me crazy…I’d rather spend my money on beer!), so they showed me a video from Netflix about it & two of the three of them had swam in the pool!  They have the Couchsurfing routine down pat…they have someone come every week & usually stay longer than one night.  They’ve had around 60 surfers…I was only the second American though.  I slept pretty good, falling asleep next to the fire in the fireplace & before long the cat had jumped up on the mattress with me.  

day 13…5.3 
The shower this morning felt great & I was ready to leave early.  They had all given me many suggestions of places to visit & what to see & eat in San Luis Obispo—where I’d spend part of the day exploring—but also hiking info & other California places to go.  I thanked them for their hospitality.  It had been a good ‘first surfing’ experience!

One of the places I was told I must see was the Madonna Innas it happened, I drove right by it.  Its known for itkitchy decorating of the restaurants, gift shops & each room is unique….& also for it’s CAKE!  I was glad it was early, so I wasn’t tempted to get a piece…it would have lasted me for days it was so huge!  It definitely was an interesting place…colorful to say the least!

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My hosts had told me to be sure to visit the bathrooms, especially the mens.  I was skeptical, but then the gift shop lady told me the same thing…so I knocked loudly on the door, carefully opened it & asked if anyone was in there.  Evidently, there is a waterfall but it only works when a man steps up to pee in the urinial….I never figured out how I was supposed to see the actual waterfall.  But here’s the men & women’s…all of it sort of reminded me of House on the Rock in pink!

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I took the walk through the gardens & a couple of pics of the outside before I left!  The owners must have loved Pink…it was decorating everything!

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While I was still inside, I spotted a “magic gum machine”.  Just the perfect thing…I would need this for my next stop!  I plopped in two quarters & watched the gum spin it’s way out!  Once in the car, I put both pieces in my mouth & began to chew…I was headed to Bubblegum Alley in downtown San Luis Obispo…just a few blocks away from the Madonna Inn.

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It was my first stop, since my second would probably be somewhere I could brush my blue teeth.  I laughed at the wall, along with a couple of tourists from Germany…they took my pic as I placed my bubble of gum on the wall!  There’s a first time for everything!

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I found a really cool gallery called Hands that I slowly went through but didn’t make any purchases.  I laughed when I found this “brewery”…..

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The fine print on the sign says you get a straight razor shave & great craft beer!

I’d gone in & out of a few shops & that was enough for me (People & stuff overload!)   It was kind of early for my meal, but my hosts & Google had told me the food to eat in San Luis Obispo was a tri tip sandwich from Firestone Grill.  Luke & Pete have raved about west coast tri tip & so that was my next stop.

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It was a ton of meat & BBQ sauce on the best fresh warm crusty french roll!  It was pretty good, I just needed two or three people to share it with!  I ate most of it & kind of regretted it as it took hours & hours & hours to digest!  I had one more stop to make in SLO, but it didn’t open until 4pm.  I was ready to hike.  I drove out of town to the Bluff Trail hike in the Montana De Oro State Park.  The skies were overcast, but I can look at the ocean in any weather!  Soon after I was on the trail, I spotted a whale!!   I LOVE TO SEE WHALES!  (Although I don’t photograph them too well!) 


I drove up to Morro Bay to see Morro Rock (not be confused with Moro Rock that I just climbed in Sequoia).  You can drive out to the rock but not around it.  As I got out of the car, there were two guys with spotting scopes.  One invited me to look through at a pair of Falcons sitting up on the rock…pretty cool!  I drove over to the other side to watch some surfers, but they never caught a wave the whole time I was there.  It was pretty interesting over hearing the conversation of the surfers parked next to the bench I was sitting on….they live to surf & surf to live!


It was time to drive back to SLO for a visit to Libertine brewery….this is the place the young girl in Fresno told me about.  I wasn’t looking forward to the drive south back into the city & then north up the coast….so imagine what a great surprise I had when I was still in Morro Bay & saw the Libertine Brewery…guess they have more than one location!  I ordered a flight:   3 of their sours (a Frambroise, Pepe laPluot, Thanks Brian Rye Saison in Bourbon Barrel) & a Kern River DIPA….this is the brewery she really loves & told me all about the lottery for their Citra beer.   Two of the sours were really good, but the Kern River Shuttle Bunny was excellent!  The atmosphere was great in the bar, the view was easy on the eyes & to top it off, the bartender put on an old vinyl record of Beach Boys hits…it was all good! 

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It headed north along the coast…THIS IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL STRETCH OF HIGHWAY!!  I pulled off to see the Elephant Seal Rookery.  They are such odd huge creatures.  


I looked the opposite way of the seals out into the water & spotted another whale!!! Yipee!!



As evening settled around the ocean, I stopped a few more times to take some pics.  Such a magnificent place!

I was so excited because I’d found a NFS road to camp off of for the night.  There were a couple of other campers lower down on the road, but I found a big pull off with this view!  I sat & read for quite awhile….I wish I could find a  place like this every night!

day 14…5.4 
I slept great last nightoh how I appreciate an awesome spot to camp!  I was looking forward to this stretch of the highway todayunsure if Ill stay another night or night, I was ready to take in all the big views.  My first pull off was McWay Fallsjust a breathtaking spot!  There was only one other person there, & I snapped photo after photo!

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The farther north I drove the heavier the Big Sur mist was.  I stopped at the Big Sur Bakery, which I’d read about before, but it was my first time here.  OMG!  The coffee was fantastic & the girl behind the counter suggested their Bacon Bowtie.  It sounded weird but was amazing…cooked bacon wrapped & baked in a croissant with a light maple glaze…ohhh…it was delish!  She was a beautiful & very friendly girl…I was their only customer at the counter this early & she told she thought Big Sur was amazing & loved living here, but she was from Jamaica & thought her part of the country was even MORE beautiful than Big Sur.  I asked her (the same question I ask all the people I meet that tell me their country is amazing) where I should go if I were to visit there?  So, in case you’re thinking of taking a trip to Jamaica, check out Ocho Rios…I hope I can someday!

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I drove up the road to the ranger station & asked about the Condors…the mist was so thick now, if one had been sitting on a car  roof, I probably would have missed it!  Then it began to rain a little & you could see even less.  Even with the super crappy weather, sometimes there are pockets of clear skies, so I decided to drive the highway again & I headed south.  Since I hadnt decided if I was going to camp again tonight or not, I stopped back at the bakery again & bought a ham & cheese croissant for dinner.  Wowthe bakery now had a line out the door!

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There are very few beaches to access along the highway…the cliffs are too high & steep.  But there was one called Sand Dollar Beach…that would be my next stop.  I think the tide was coming in so there wasn’t much beach & definitely not a seashell type of beach…it was all good sized rocks!  I LOVE ROCKS!  Even though I couldn’t walk very far out because of the tide,  I watched the waves, listened to the incredible sounds of the rocks moving with the tide & picked out a few to bring home.


The weather didn’t look like it was going to break, so I decided to move on.  I headed back up the highway, stopping to photograph & sometimes just to take in these big magnificent-even if shrouded in mist-views!  




I stopped at Nepenthe…the restaurant with the big views along the Big Sur highway.  I sat by a young couple from Philadelphia visiting the coast.  They were fun to talk to & were enjoying their trip.  I can never afford to eat here, but always stop to have a beer.  I drank a super yummy “Dark Seas” (how appropriate) Imperial Stout from Mission Brewery.  I took a walk out to the porch & one last picture of my second ‘fav’ place on the planet!

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I continued to drive all the way Monterey under gloomy skies.  I topped off the tank & went by BevMo & found a beer I’ve been looking for since last year (Luke & Pete have been looking too!)—yippee!!! & a beer to drink tonight!  

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I was on my way to another National Park—just given the NP designation in 2012, Pinnacles was mentioned to me by both the campmate in Zion & my couch surfer hosts family.  It didn’t look all that amazing, but supposedly there were condors there….seems I’ve been chasing them all over the country!  I made the drive, bought a campsite (ick) & settled in the for evening.

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