Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving and Camping in Lake Cachuma

We spent a couple more days at Camp Figueroa enjoying the sunshine, reading, tossing the ol' pigskin and hanging out with Royce. It was strange and wonderful to be in such gorgeous weather at the end of November.
On Thanksgiving morning we woke up around 7am and drove to Goleta to volunteer at the community center. Our first task was to de-shell and stuff about 300 deviled eggs. Next, I was assigned to tear apart a dozen turkeys with my bare hands. I had a great turkey-tearing partner named Kurt Monahan. Our biggest obstacle would have to be the extremely hot turkeys straight-out-of-the-oven burning our fingers red. After the first two, it wasn't so bad. Chris mashed 100+ pounds of potatoes that were incidentally only half-cooked. Overall, it was a very productive and pleasant day. We cooked and dined with wonderful people. We also were able to take home some leftovers for ourselves and a plate for Royce too.
A dining room scene towards the end of dinner. Around 300 people showed!
Great people, great food!
Some of the kitchen staff after dinner was served.
The back entrance to Michael Jackson's magical Neverland. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us in.

On Friday we met up with Amanda and eight of her friends at Lake Cachuma campground. We set up camp and headed to a Danish town called Solvang. We bopped around, checked out the little shops and snapped some photos of windmills and other Danish crap.

Me, Stacie, Andrea and Amanda under the windmill in Solvang.
Amanda and Chris danced a Danish jig in the middle of town. An artist painted a rendition of it.

After Solvang we drove to Los Olivos for some more bopping around and wine tasting.
Group photo at a Los Olivos winery.

At $12 a pop most of the wine tastings were pretty pricey so Amanda, Chris, Toshi, Mike and I made an executive decision to slam a couple 40s of domestic beer and munch on some fire cheetos instead.
The classiest broad in wine country right here.
Throwin' up our gang symbol "dod".
Toshi and Amanda drinking a forty.
Flamin' hot Cheetos, a bag of peanuts, and two forties. Living the good life.

After the wine and bud light tastings, we headed back to camp. We tried a new drink Chris and I heard about called Siete y Tres which is seven parts red wine and three parts Coca Cola. Not bad! I recommend Franzia for the red wine portion.
Besties reunited at the "bomb" fire. :) Oh Amanda...
Toshi serenaded us with his guitar. He really tore it up on the guitar. The Mario theme song was probably my favorite.
Andrea and Amanda snuggled up by the fire. It was a chilly night!
Chris also serenaded us on his guitar. We all joined in for some of the favorites like "The Joker" and "Brown Eyed Girl" (or green eyed girl in Amanda's case.)
Everyone bundled up chilling by he campfire.

Group photo the windy morning of departure.

We are currently in beautiful San Diego staying with Amanda and her great roomies Brian and Steve. Also, we will be heading home to Michigan for three weeks starting December 16. Looking forward to some quality time with family! xo

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Figuero, Figuero, Figueroa!!

We set up shop at the Oceano county campground for an evening. We rode our bikes down to the beach during the day and lounged around while trucks and dune buggies ran up and down the beach.

That night we drank a 12 pack on Keystone Light and watched several hours of 30 Rock, the Office, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia online. The next morning we headed out into the wilderness yet again for a few more days cozying up with mother nature.
Our first attempt to find a camping spot was a bust. We drove up and down a winding mountain road (we seem to find a lot of those) to find out that the ENTIRE FOREST IS CLOSED TILL JULY 2010.
Discouraged at the loss of about 40 miles worth of gas we shifted gears and made our way the next site on our list.
We turned into Figueroa recreation area on Saturday and made our way up into the hills.

Along the way we passed by the back entrance to the Neverland Ranch. A nondescript gated entrance on the quiet road.
That evening we met Colin. Colin biked into the campground from Santa Barbara. He is a crew member on a $35 million yacht. The ship is docked in the harbor at Santa Barbara, and he decided to use the last few days of his leave to camp out here from a recommendation from one of his crew members.
That night Nikki was walking around the campsite and just happened to shine her light on the ground where she found this.
She screamed and ran back to the Dod. We assumed the darn thing was alive. The next morning I noticed he was still there. He was either dead or very patient.
After throwing a few rocks at him I decided he must be dead and Nikki approached close enough to snap this photo. Nikki, however, is still not sure he's dead, just lying in wait.
The next day Colin introduced us to Roy and his dog Betty, a fellow pair of transients roaming the coast in his self-made trailer.

That night we combined our resources and grilled cheeseburgers and dogs. I played a little guitar and we drank wine and whiskey into the night.
The next day we headed in to Santa Barbara. I had a little bit of work to do and we wanted to check out the city.
Colin hitched a ride back with us and we dropped him off at the harbor. A much better ride than the 7 hour bike trip he would have back to the city.
We found a parking spot near the beach and headed out on our bikes to find a coffee shop.
After I finished my work we biked through downtown, up and down State street, and stopped at a few shops, eventually making our way to a happy hour.
We found the Sandbar, which had 2 for 1 beers and half off appetizers.

It was nice, the beer was cold, and the food ("authentic" Mexican fare including chicken strips and taquitos) was decent. We sat near the outdoor fir pit and had a good time till a group of dudebros took up residence next to us in the open seats around the fire. It was time to go.

We crossed the street and went to James Joyce's, which bills itself as the best Irish pub in Santa Barbara. Great low-key bar with barrels of peanuts and a hardwood floor where you toss the shells.

We drove all the way back to Figueroa that night after checking out a few campsites which were too much for us (compared to the free camping at Figueroa).
We found a different site this time, one with a big open space up on a hill where we are able to get phone service. The next day was clear and hot and we pulled out the tent to set it up and air it out. Several weeks ago we discovered our storage bag on the roof leaks, so we dried everything out in the sun.

That night we dined with Roy again. Grilled chicken, potatoes, and baked beans. We were joined by Leonard, another resident of the road who stays mostly in the Los Padres forest area. We drank a little more wine and enjoyed a great dinner and great company.

Today is sunny and hot again. It has been getting a little cool at night and the wind has been picking up as the sun sets making a campfire a risky proposition in the dry California wilderness.

Tomorrow we're heading back into town to volunteer at the Goleta community center Thanksgiving dinner.
Hope everyone out there has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

As Roy says: "I'm not homeless, I'm a vagabond."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back to Basics

Monday and Tuesday, we got back into camp-mode at a secluded campground called Bottchers Gap. Below are two scenes of the gap.

We got down to the business of collecting and breaking up firewood as soon as we got there. It was all fun and games until I gave myself a black eye by breaking a log by swinging it like a bat against a tree. A piece flew off and whacked me right below my eyebrow. It bled for a minute but nothing serious...

San Francisco was awesome, but it was nice getting back to the campfire scene.
We found some groovy looking shrooms. Don't worry, we didn't taste them...

Trying to blend in to the background.
We hit sixty-six thousand, six hundred sixty-six point six miles!

Here's a few more scenic moments down the Big Sur:

Whoooo look at that turquoise water!

We spent the night at a different campground on Wednesday, but forgot to take any photos of the campsite. We did remember to stop for a few Kodak moments along the way from camp back to the coast.
Eight out of the ten miles back from the camp to the coast Chris cruised along down this road in neutral. I think he only had to put it in gear twice.
A view from the road.
The Dod taking a breather.
Me, taking a breather.
The Pacific would peek out from between the mountains here and there.
Hi Dod!

We spotted some blubbery blobs sunning on the sand off of Hwy 1 so we turned off to take a peek. Elephant Seals!! Not as active as the Sea Lions at Pier 39 but almost as entertaining.
They are all resting and conserving their energy before mating season. They don't do much except lay around, sleep and flip sand on each other. In fact, they stop breathing for 20 minutes at a time and rarely even get up to eat; they mainly live off their blubber. When they finally inhale, they snort and puff so the beach is noisy with their quick and constant poofs and snores.
Look at this fat guy. He was the only adult elephant seal among hundreds of younger seals. His face is one only a mother could love.
Nuzzle, nuzzle, nuzzle.
In the foreground lie a few dozen adolescent elephant seals. The fatty in the background is the adult male elephant seal and the two in the water are play-fighting.
Elephant Seals have a fascinating recovery story being thought to be extinct but making a huge comeback from only 30 remaining seals to current numbers of hundreds of thousands.
Five minutes down the road from the elephant seals, we saw zebras! Hard to believe, I know! What's next, giraffe?!

The sun setting over the Pacific with a crescent sliver of a moon hovering above.

Spending some time at the San Luis Obispo Starbucks charging up and researching nearby shower sites. Looks like we'll be spending the day at an RV park with beach access. Here's to warm temperatures and hot showers!