June 18 – 20
With a familiar four-hour drive ahead of us to Morro Bay, we dawdled leaving Oakland, timing it so that we departed not long after Jessica and Kris left for work, needing to leave before 10am regardless as our on the street nearby expired at that time.
On the road, just as we were clearing the area around San Jose, we stopped at a Starbucks for a coffee re-fuel. Understanding there are different camps regarding this giant of the retail coffee world, we come down on the positive side, not addicted to the place but certainly regular customers.
Their coffee is consistently good, and the quality of their food offerings has improved dramatically over time; we like the breakfast sandwiches that are offered, interesting combinations of meat (ham, bacon, etc.) and cheese (gruyere, sharp cheddar, etc.) on a English Muffin, ciabatta or croissant bun. This time around we passed on food and just got a large latte to go; fortified we finished the drive through familiar territory, getting off Highway 101 in Atascadero to stop at a Vons to do some grocery shopping.
While there, hungry by now, we picked up a turkey, avocado and bacon sub at the deli that was so good we greedily consumed it in the car before driving the final 20 miles over highway 41 to Morro Bay. I’d last been on this road many years ago when we would attend the Great Western Bike Rally on Memorial Day weekend, camping at the fairgrounds in Paso Robles along with dozens of other cycling enthusiasts.
I recall doing the ride once with Irene and Ric and once with Heather and Ron, (Joanna doing Mom duty back in camp, taking the kids for a short ride around town), sixty hard miles with two significant climbs (Atascadero to Morro Bay and Cayucos to Paso Robles), but we were all in good shape at that time and it was just a good ride in the end.
We arrived at Morro Bay State Park for the next three nights with Kim and Marty to join us the next day. We set up camp, something we’ve gotten good at having done so with our current equipment many times in the past, generally less than an hour to put up the tent (Marmot Limestone 6P), inflate the sleeping pads (Thermarest Neo-Air Dream), spread out the sleeping bags, set up the stove (a three burner Century), the chairs and a host of other small but essential duties.
We’d end up enjoying this site, but conditions weren’t optimal. First off, its beach camping in a way and dirty sand tends to infiltrate everything you own. Second, that close to the ocean, the constant breeze seemed to make it chilly all the time, particularly as our site had lots of shade, rarely affording us any direct sunshine.
As the day waned, our sandwich lunch a distant memory, we made the short drive back into Morro Bay to stop in at Mi Casa, a highly rated Mexican joint on the main drag. We would walk away later thoroughly satisfied with an all-around nice meal. First there was the fourteen-dollar picture of margaritas. Yes, that’s right, under twenty dollars and yet quite good. Whether they were tequila or wine based we didn’t care because for that price, what does it matter?
Although I almost ordered the Machaca (one of my favorite dishes and so hard to find), we ordered a three-item combo to split, which included a bowl of very good albondigas soup, managing not to eat so many chips and salsa (see my prior entry on eating too much free bread) that we could actually attack our dinner with gusto. Each of the items, a taco, Relleno, and small burrito were uniquely good and all for the incredibly reasonable total of $40, including that pitcher of margaritas.
Up the next morning, we killed time in camp, then walked into Morro Bay to fill up on coffee and pastry at Sun-N-Buns, a local bakery just off the waterfront. On the way in we stopped to watched two male turkeys engaged in some form of mating standoff, circling each other in a battle to capture the affections of the group of females nearby, all of whom seemed to be more interested in eating than rooting for one or the other of the males.
The bakery is a warm and cheerful place with a very good selection of baked goods all made in house. If you hold on to your coffee cup you can get re-fills all day long, which if we were a local would draw us there every day. We walked back to camp, a cool overcast morning with a stiff breeze that required us to wear our Patagonia Nano-Puff jackets and then climbed into the car to drive to a nearby Ralphs to pick up provisions for that night’s dinner.
We’d decided to do a tried and true camp favorite, grilling pork tenderloin on the campsite fire ring and grate and cooking potatoes with bell pepper and onion in foil placed near the coals. Kim and Marty arrived around 4pm and as we stirred up the first of many Gin and Tonics that would be consumed that night, dinner got made and eaten, while Marty manned the efficiently made and tendered campfire as we talked the evening away until it was time for bed. Our first night of camping in the month since Santa Fe was off to a good start.
Great Western Bike Rally: http://www.greatwesternbicyclerally.com/
Morro Bay State Park: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=594
Marmot Limestone 6P: https://www.marmot.com/limestone-6p/29110.html
Thermarest Neo Air Dream: https://www.thermarest.com/dreamtime
Century Stoves: http://www.centurycamping.com/stoves/camping/
Patagonia Nano Puff: https://www.patagonia.com/product/mens-nano-puff-jacket/84212.html