San Simeon State Park

January 4, 2018

The beach by Morro Bay. I told you it was paradise. Yet I left.

I managed to work my knickers into a fine twist about the office ladies at Morro Dunes RV Park. I even wrote a two page screed about it, although I’m not sure it will appear here, and an epic lengthy scathing Yelp review, which got lost because apparently Yelp doesn’t save drafts for you and I didn’t want to publish it until I was safely away. Now that there might be a possibility I will go crawling back, I’m very glad it didn’t go live.

Anyway, I was mad at them and I decided not to stay on, although I liked Morro Bay, a lot, and I like the idea of staying somewhere for more than a day or two, and I am trying to wait out at least some of the winter so I don’t end up dying in a blizzard in Montana or something, but they wouldn’t give me a campsite I liked, so I left. I had found a listing for an RV park in Cayucos, which is to say essentially Morro Bay North and online it was super cheap and I thought aha, I will go there and stay a week and that will show them! So I called the Cayucos park and left a message and nobody ever got back to me but bah, I didn’t care.

I went over there this morning. The man in the office said they were full, but they had had a cancellation for tomorrow and I could stay a week starting tomorrow. I didn’t know where the hell I would go tonight but I thought, ok, I’ll go to one of the state parks with no hookups and come back. Yes, I said to the man, and then I said, oh, and how much is it? $360 he said, smiling, you get one night free, so $360 for seven days.

Please recall that Morro Dunes was charging me $246.00 for my bad site and that made me mad.

Please also recall that the going rate for RV parks with full hookups is about $20 to $30 a night everywhere else in the entire USA except Maryland’s Eastern Shore and even there it’s only $40.

Uh, I said faintly, um, no perhaps not, and he said, fine, and picked up the phone that was on hold and gave the last site to the guy on the other end. Now parks lie a lot about how busy they are, like every time you call an RV park they will automatically say Oh we are full! And then they will slowly allow as to how they might have just one tiny spot left and then when you get there the place is essentially empty. But I could see the whole park and it was in fact full. It was in fact a trailer park, not to put too fine a point on it, but a fancy trailer park, which is fair since on Zillow trailers in Morro Bay go for over 200K and, you know, if you can afford to spend that on a trailer you can afford to hire a landscaper to put in a tiny tasteful trailer garden.

I had thought – assumed – that since it was now January and raining and gray and cold, that the RV parks would have more openings. Hmmm. Well, I thought, I have a backup plan.

I went on up Route 1 and, after I got briefly lost – thank you Garmin and your total inability to parse a search term! – I found San Simeon State Park, which was my backup plan. The girl at the kiosk said they had lots of spaces, but only for one night. “You have to reserve online,” she said, “Because they print out the reservations from online and bring them to us every morning and that’s how we know what’s booked. So tomorrow you have to come up here and we’ll let you know if you can keep your site or not.”

That is” I said, “Um not the greatest system.” And it is not. It is a huge pain in the ass for me to unhitch and rehitch the trailer, but the spots are small here and so I had to unhitch. I don’t want to go back through the whole thing again tomorrow morning if I don’t have to.

Oh well! I have a spot. It has no electricity or water or sewer. There is no cell reception at all. There is no wifi. It costs $35 a night and for that I guess I can use the scary bathroom or take a scary coin operated shower. I’m pretty much at Hearst Castle though and so I decided I would stay for a couple of days, if, that is, someone online hasn’t taken this spot, and go visit Hearst Castle tomorrow.

I took my phone up to Cambria, which is the the nearest town, to see if I could figure out what to do next. I’ll make a reservation for tomorrow for the spot I already have, I thought, and then I’ll go to Paso Robles and go on a wine tour, and stay at an RV park there, and it will be cheap, because it’s inland. I can stay there for a week and drink wine and get some work done and I can always drive to the beach.

In Cambria I parked at the only grocery store. The Garmin recommended that I go to the Albertsons in Morro Bay. Of course it did. And indeed, in the parking lot of the oddly named Cookie Mart (it seems to be just a grocery store, no more nor less cookies than anywhere) I only had roaming data, so no internet. I couldn’t google. I couldn’t get to the Reserve California website to book my site. My apps worked only intermittently but I got the phone number for one of the three RV parks in Paso Robles and called it. Yeah, said the lady, hmmm, we’re pretty booked but I could do a week starting Sunday.

For $360.

Um, I said faintly, I will think about it.

I went into the store, which was a lot like the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly in Charleston SC circa 1979. I’ll grill, I thought, I’ll get some charcoal and a hunk of local fish and I’ll grill it. I asked the lady in the seafood area if any of it was local.
It’s from Santa Monica,” she said, “That’s down the coast a ways.”
I know where Santa Monica is,” I said, smiling, “But where was it before it got to Santa Monica? Like, was it caught there or did it just come frozen from Asia on a container ship?”
She nodded at me secretly when I said ship and frozen.
“I don’t know,” she said loudly, “I know it came from Santa Monica, that’s all I know, what it was doing before that, I don’t know.”

It was in Hong Kong, I thought, in a factory farm staffed by child slaves. I bought some salmon anyway and drove back to the camper. I know better than to think there is actual local seafood anymore; it’s 2018. I don’t know why I asked.

The rain got harder.

I decided to go to the beach.

I put on my bright yellow LL Bean rain jacket (I am, at the end of the day, my parents’ daughter; they liked LL Bean and yellow foul weather gear.) and walked along the muddy, desolate path towards the beach. I walked under the freeway. It was just as cheerful and uplifting as paths under the freeway always are. I skirted the big brown frothy slough of despair, looked at the sad ducks, headed toward the beach and realized: You can’t get there from here. There’s a big brown frothy slough in the way.

I turned around. Surely, I thought, I can walk over to the next path, I can see another path.

_MG_5833I walked through the wet campground. There was no other path. I went back to the camper and consulted the map. The only way there was to drive past the campground, towards the other, dirt, tent campground, and take the boardwalk. I found the boardwalk and a place to park that looked illegal but didn’t say it was. There were a lot of signs warning against ticks. Ticks, they said, there are a lot of them. They carry Lymes Disease. They suggested a variety of methods to keep the ticks at bay. I hadn’t done any of them. The rain picked up again.

I followed the boardwalk and came out under the cheerful freeway on the other side of the slough of despair and LO there was the beach, which was covered with huge black rocks. The fog was rolling in. It was so goth. I walked towards the rocks and felt like I was in a 1950s play, like Waiting for Godot, only Godot was a whale or something, kelp, possibly. Waiting for kelp. It was the most existentialist beach I have ever laid eyes on. The waves kept crashing over the black rocks and the rain kept falling and the fog kept getting thicker. I thought perhaps a Cure video or a John Carpenter movie might break out.

It was awesome in its complete and total awfulness. Everything was so bleak! I started singing BLEAK BLEAK BLEAK BLEAK as I marched through the rain. Bleakity bleak! Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

This is kelp. I know it looks like the worlds bleakest sex toy but it is kelp washed up on the beach.

The boardwalk on the way back smelled like wet wood and fall leaves, like October, like my childhood. I thought about the ticks. I thought about how insane the mosquitoes probably were here in the summer, what with the slough and the creek and the boardwalk and the bleakness and all. I thought it was a good thing that they didn’t have alligators here because I was fairly sure that if there were alligators one would soon be lurching my way. I wondered why there weren’t any vultures, circling, since it seemed like their kind of place. I wondered if my car had been towed except I figured it would take longer than an hour or so for them to get it together enough to notice my car, locate a tow truck, get the tow truck to come – logistically, it was unlikely. And it was there, thank the gods, and I got inside and closed the door and then I laughed for a very, very long time. I am still kind of laughing, to be honest.

When I got back to the camper I lit the coals – every so often when I’m at a store I buy an aluminum foil roasting pan and a bag of self lighting charcoal. Then, when the mood takes me, I put the roasting pan in the fire ring, the coals in the roasting pan and the old oven rack I brought with me across the whole thing. Tonight I put potatoes wrapped in foil, including one that was cut up with butter and salt and pepper, into the coals. Then I boiled brussels sprouts in a pan on the fire until they were hot, drained them, wrapped them in foil with butter, mustard, lime juice, salt and pepper and put them in the coals. I doused the salmon in soy sauce, cumin, hot sauce, chopped garlic and lime juice from Pasadena and put it on the fire last of all. I sat at the wet picnic table on a paper bag and drank utterly delicious zinfandel from Paso Robles (it was on sale at the Albertsons in Morro Bay) and I laughed some more. Because BLEAK is just as okay as hell, sometimes.

And I still don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.

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