It was overcast when we departed from Arroyo Grande. We waved hai/bye to magnifico Morro Rock from the 1, stopped briefly Cayucos so Rama could buy a surf leash, and made one final visit to the San Simeon pier so Rama could call his granny and ma and Dave about concert tickets while cell signal was still abound.
Up and up the 1, clouds and cliffs on either side, things becoming steadily more Big Sur-ish with steepening precipices and proliferative Monterey cypress. We paused at one pullout where some surfers were suited up and descending a trail, but Rama opted to put that on hold since we had not yet figured out camp lodgings and it was still the tail end of the peak season (though schoolyears starting had us optimistic).
My brother Karl had stayed at and raved about Treebones, so we peeped that for shits and gigs, and while it wasn't the wonderland I was envisioning our peek was cursory. We drove through two campsites that were both completely full (Plaskett Creek and Kirk Creek--Plaskett Creek seemed pretty unimpressive, a big lawn with a lot of people and not a lot of plants to separate them). Somewhat disheartened, we drove on to Limekiln, which Rama's aunt and uncle had recommended. To our surprise the ranger said they had one site left, their walk-in site, which was pretty much right on the beach but also right under the big freeway (you'd better believe I morbidly envisioned a drunken midnight car careening off the bridge and down onto our sleeping tent). We deliberated awhile: locking down a site seemed prudent, and a beach sunset with bub a few feet from our campsite sounded pretty durned good as well, but we were still a ways south of the Big Sur hub we wanted to hit, and we'd be continuing farther north in the morning. And so we said nope to the back-and-forth driving, and, crossing our fingers we'd luck into another spot, hopped back on the 1, stopping at overlooks along the way to drool over the coastline.
We arrived at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park McWay Falls parking snarl, and knowing how way leads on to way, I pulled the trigger on another stop. Rama, as usual, found an "unconventional" parking spot, and we headed through the tunnel to the little trail.
The falls and all were gorgeous, but there were so many dang people swinging around their selfie sticks and just generally having no sense of space etiquette that I was happy to make it a quick visit.
You see that irritability there? That's the first sign I was starting to get hungry. I have this bad tendency to fail to realize it's mealtime until I'm already bordering on tantrum territory. Rama's just the same, which manifests in him as a subtle but maddening disagreeable OCD. It's like gasoline and fire--I'll start warning him: if I don't eat soon it's going to be ugly. He is himself feeling so fussy and contrary that he can't settle on a restaurant or picnic spot, and so more and more time passes, until I hit the place where I'm so despondent that, toddler-like, I don't even want to eat any more. Rama at this point recognizes it's dire and proposes stopping somewhere, anywhere, but by then we've waited so long I want us to end up at The Perfect Spot. So it went. We continued north on our quest for a picnic spot, not to mention the holy grail campsite, stopping to check out the Henry Miller Library. We ran into a guy Rama knew from Mill Valley and his wife, and shot the shit with them for a while, Rama and the guy about golf probably, the wife (God I'm bad with names) and I about road trips and her recent visit to Crater Lake in Oregon (I really want to go there and R and I just last night hatched a plan to poss celebrate our anniv in OR--brain wheels are in motion). Into the library, a peep and a pee, Rama drooling over giant wood slabs for sale while I gave him warning vibes that unless he planned on turning one into a table for us it was time to go. The Henry Miller Library's a cool spot though--I've seen a couple concerts there (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and my own Billy Boy Callahan), and it was nice to see it again.
We had a brief crisis at Nepenthe, where I thought we were sacking the picnic idea and getting a soup and sando, and Rama thought we were bringing our own food onto the restaurant verandah. Back on the road, until we hit the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park campground and decided to postpone food to find (proverbial) shelter. The campground is huge and there were five campsites available from last-minute cancellations (sweet relief), and after a few loops we settled on the best site, less desirable according to the ranger because it was a little rocky, but it was also less dusty and pretty private. (Within a half hour the openings were all snatched up, so we definitely appreciated our lucky timing). With that arranged, we hunkered down on our table and ate. I scarfed with great gratitude one of the pickled eggs my mom had given us, and then savored leftover tuna salad on crackers, each bite topped with a generous dollop of yellow mustard. O and there may have been cheese puffs (insert appropriate sheepish toothy emoji here). It was good. Our respective moods 180-ed, we cheerily set up the tent and headed basically across the street to the Big Sur Deli for beer, scouting the food sitch at the (effing delicious) Big Sur Bakery and (new-ish I think) Big Sur Taphouse for post-beach dinner.
Another jot and we were at Pfeiffer Beach. We emerged through the cypress onto the sand, watched a couple surfers toiling unsuccessfully in the little cove to the left of the iconic rock archway, and then headed to the other side of the rocks where Rama saw some promising waves and only one guy in the water.
I ensconced myself along the cliff-face and Rama wiggled into his wetsuit, and then he was awf.
I tried to juggle journaling, starting The House Made of Dawn, and watching Rama (for once I could tell which surfer he was because he was close to the shore and the only guy wearing booties), but mostly I was just taking surfing pics which are far too grainy for anyone but Rama's enjoyment. It was really fun getting to see him do his thing (and to know it was him I was watching), and I also got to see a whale far out, breaching under vast spiral of sea birds, and then some dolphins playing in the waves closer to the beach. Rama got out, totally soaked and stoked, and recounted his outing while he dressed and swigged a Racer.
We decided on the Taphouse for dinner. It's very cool inside, with a lot of wood, one cubby section with charmingly cramped little booths, and very appealing back with a vast outdoor seating area. We chose a table inside and ordered food (a caprese for me and pork tacos for Rommer) and beer.
The bar had a bunch of games and we played mancala (which Maddy and I played a lot as kids), the missing stones supplemented with pocket change--R had never played before and of course won on his first try. I think I won the middle game and he won the third and final--we played before and after our (very yum) food. Then back to the campsite and right into the tent.
After a swift pack-up the next morning we hit the Big Sur Bakery for blessed coffee and a yumdiddle bear claw, and then we were back onto the 1 heading north, stopping at those turnouts that called out to us.
We stopped at Point Lobos, which I'd visited on a fam trip years earlier and remembered positively. Free parking with our camping slip (woop woop), and there was a docent there lending out binoculars so people could watch the otters. We'd been spoiled seeing one up close and personal in San Simeon a few days earlier, but Rama handed over his driver's license and we walked the short dirt loop check them out. There were two of them docked in the middle of a seaweed tangle, which they apparently do to rest and sleep without drifting out to sea.
I also learned that Point Lobos has its name not from a vanished wolf population, but because the Spanish called the seals "lobos marinos," or sea wolves. I love that stuff, and it really puts me in a fairy-tale frame of mind thinking about it now. We saw a fair number of seals and then drove up to always stunning (and stuffy) Carmel-by-the-sea, where we had a beer on the beach (I admired my white toe-nails on the white sand) and picked up sandos for the road. We finished the second halves of our sandwiches at Moss Landing, an old surf spot of Rommer's. It's an interesting unpolished beach, located right off some agriculture and industry. It's also a nesting ground for the Snowy Plover, and I got a kick out of reading the signs in Spanish asking visitors to please be respectful of their habitat and stay out of the dunes. It was a pleasant and mild conclusion to our little CA vaycay, and it was fun going back home with the anticipation of an upcoming So-Cal visit and a Yosemite trip in the next few weeks.