Exploring Central California

Leaving the town of Ramona, where we had lived for the last two years, felt like something out of a dream. Bits and pieces about traveling in the motorhome were slowly coming back to us.  We were remembering the things we used to tie down, what we used to move, how to maneuver such a large beast, how to hook up the Jeep, and more.

We realized the other day that we have been living in the RV for almost exactly three years — we sold our house in May of 2015. But living in and traveling in an RV are very different.

Our first day of travel was our longest planned drive. With a goal of getting as far away from L.A. as possible, we created a route and destination that did just that. We weren’t sure how having such a long driving day as our first day on the road would go. But we planned to do it anyway.

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We drove out of the familiar landscape of Southern California, through rolling and rocky foothills, and eventually to flat, agriculture land (which we did not find very pretty at all). Things were going well. I was working from the road, and Andy was driving Erv like a pro. We made one pitstop on the way to get gas (ouch) and take the dogs out for a bathroom break. The large parking lot made for an easy stop. But — as is what always seems to happen with Ted — he took one step off the pavement to relieve himself and immediately stepped in a bunch of foxtails and burrs. *Sigh*

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We were soon back in the RV, making sandwiches before heading out on the road. A few days prior, I had mentioned to Andy that our refrigerator looked like it was coming out of its spot. He said it was normal. But now, as we rested in the sun at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, there was no denying it. The top portion of the fridge was coming out of its spot, a huge, gaping hole appearing behind it.

Andy found out a screw had busted loose, and, crappy RV make that it was, there was only one more screw holding it into place. We couldn’t continue to drive like this and risk the fridge we had paid so much for three years ago flying out from its spot. So, Andy got some tools from the undercarriage/basement and set to work.

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The fun thing about an RV is that you don’t have power unless you have a generator or are plugged into shore power. So, Andy fired up our now functional generator, plugged his power drill in, and we pushed the fridge back into place — he screwed it in while I held it up. Teamwork!

In a matter of a few minutes, we were ready to hit the road again — secure fridge and all.

We soon entered into the area outside of Paso Robles. The landscape changed dramatically, and we were in rolling green hills filled with trees and grass — and vineyards. It was absolutely stunning. Our mouths hung open as we made our way through what seemed like paradise. We’d clearly forgotten how much we loved and missed trees (or buried it deep inside ourselves because we loved other parts of SoCal).

“I’d buy land here,” I told Andy.

He laughed and said, “We could never afford it…but so would I.”

It was beautiful.

We came around a corner and saw what we thought might be water. Spread out before us were emerald green foothills and valleys with a backdrop of the glittering ocean. My heart ached at the beauty.

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We were soon driving up the coast, absorbing the stunning rocky and sandy shoreline. After a brief GPS mishap, where it brought us to the wrong location, we found our first camping spot at Hearst San Simeon State Park. Though we had a reservation, the man who checked us in wanted to know if we’d like to pick a different spot. We handed the choice over to him and asked him to put us in a secluded spot that would fit us.

He chose a nice place in the trees, much better than our reserved spot. We could only faintly see one other camper down the way from us. Andy parked us like a champ, while I directed us into the spot.

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We pulled the Jeep in next to us, unpacked some of the necessities to make it feel like home, and set out to explore.

We’d been driving for about seven hours and desperately needed a hike. So, we leashed up the dogs and headed down a trail in the campground that said dogs were OK (some did not allow them).

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There were rabbits and quail running everywhere. And our boardwalk soon led us to the ocean.

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We combed the beach for a while, looking at the gnarled driftwood and hunting for sea glass while enjoying the sound of crashing waves. We stayed until sunset and then headed back home.

Our first camping spot was perfect. We kept having to pinch ourselves to make it feel real. We were really back on the road again. Our site had no hookups, so we were dry camping — a big step to go from full hookups with internet to nothing at all. We barely got a cell signal (in fact, we turned our phones on airplane mode so our batteries wouldn’t die so quickly because they kept searching for a good signal). We were camping for real — but in the comfort of our home.

We stayed two nights at San Simeon, so that we’d have one full day to explore the area. At night, we fell asleep to the sounds of frogs and crickets, which eventually quieted to let us hear the distant waves crashing on the beach. The nights were cool, so we had our windows open in back but ran our furnace for Pica up front. The second night, we found that we hadn’t run our generator long enough to charge our battery, so we lost the furnace in the middle of the night. It was a bit chilly in the morning.

We also found out that our generator puts off a lot of exhaust, which we can smell inside (not good for us or Pica). We weren’t running it for longer than needed to charge up a little bit, but I think in the future, we will need to keep the compartment open when we run it.

The morning of our full day, we headed off for an adventure after breakfast. We wanted to visit Hearst Castle, which was only a few miles up the road. On our way there, we saw a sign for an elephant seal viewing area. Though we’d planned to look up where to find these guys later on, we decided to take a brief detour to see them before the castle instead.

There were hundreds of them stretched out on the beach, and I soon regretted not bringing my camera with. We made a plan to come back later with the dogs — after the castle.

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Hearst Castle was built for William Randolph Hearst by San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. Construction lasted from 1919 to 1947. It is a magnificent piece of architecture, and we were truly impressed with how well thought out it was (even in spite of the many changes Hearst demanded over the years).

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The site is now a state park, and we took a bus ride from the main entrance, through the rolling hills, to the hilltop mansion Hearst formally named “La Cuesta Encantada,” or The Enchanted Hill.

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We’d decided to take the “upstairs” tour, which included his library and study (for obvious reasons, as I am a book fiend). The castle is split up into multiple tours because they found that with so many rooms, even a four hour tour could not see them all sufficiently.

Our tour, however, was only an hour long. But our tour guide was so enthusiastic that it ended up being much longer. She was filled with information, and we were very impressed. I, for one, loved how she pointed out each and every thoughtful design characteristic that the architect had thought of. One of the first female architects of her time, Morgan took on a project several other architects had declined.

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We saw guest suites, Hearst’s personal room, and more, learning about the life of the man who’d desired such a lavish vacation home. It was fascinating.

The time soon came to see his library.

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And his study.

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Fun fact about the house, everything that is gold in color IS ACTUALLY MADE OUT OF GOLD!

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Gold statue, anyone?

The grounds were beautiful, and we could hardly imagine owning so much land in such a beautiful place.

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After our tour and wandering around the grounds, we headed back for a snack and to pick up the dogs. It was time to visit the elephant seals again.

Andy wondered why we didn’t see any with large noses. “Don’t they have weird faces?” he asked. A quick look at the information plaques told us all we needed to know.

We were seeing juveniles and females on shore who were molting. None of them really had large noses, as the males were all out to sea. But we liked to guess which of the juveniles were actually males.

They were very entertaining to watch. Aside from their bark, which sounded like a loud burp at times, we loved watching them use their front flippers to cover themselves in sand and scratch themselves.

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Trying to cover itself in sand. 

They could use them almost like fingers, and neither of us had any idea they were so maneuverable/flexible.

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We walked down the boardwalk, watching them for quite some time.

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How majestic does Teddy look?

Eventually, our growling tummies reminded us that it was time for dinner. On our way back (which was not on the way at all), we decided to drive the extra stretch of road along the ocean until we met the road close. It turned out to close just at the far south end of Big Sur.

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The drive was breathtaking. We saw a coastline that reminded us of a mixture of Hawaii and the North Shore of Minnesota. What a combination!

We made a few pitstops for photos — and to see a waterfall.

The sun was beginning to set as we made our way back towards camp. The winding roads made for a beautiful — and interesting — drive back.

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And wildlife was abundant.

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Not sure exactly what kind of deer these were. They did not look like whitetail or mule. 
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Wild pigs

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What an adventure! I thanked Andy once more for being so willing to go on an adventure like this with me. His standard response is, “No, thank you for being so willing.” We both feel so lucky to have found one another and to be on the same page with how we want our lives to be.

We’d driven past the small town of Cambria, and it looked adorable, so we decided to drop the dogs off and have dinner in town. We checked out a few restaurants on the beach, and aside from the crazy high prices, the food was not what we had in mind. A few other restaurants in town had similarly high prices, but we found a small bar and grill that ended up being a local hangout spot. Definitely more our speed — and price range.

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We chatted with the waitress for a while, who was also a local real estate agent just working there for fun. She gave us some insight into the little town we had already started to like so much. Turns out, it is just as expensive as we had thought it would be. And they have restrictions against living in RVs on your land (the entire county does). Well, that rules out Cambria (not that we were ever seriously looking here; we still want to head further north for a home).

But we did decide that we want to come back here on another vacation. The area is beautiful, with a relaxed, outdoorsy vibe that we love. There are hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife. We’ll definitely combine it with Paso Robles to do some wine tasting, as well.

What a truly fantastic first stop. A definite win.

Today, we hit the road for our next adventure. We’ve made it to our next camping spot, but I’ll keep the details of our next part of the journey for another time! Onto the next adventure!

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