California Coast, Part 2

The rain was still bouncing down as we left Limekiln and travelled the section of road up to Big Sur for the third time without seeing anything much. Our next stop was Monterey, where it wouldn’t matter too much if it rained. We found a park in town where you could camp for $30 a night; a rare Californian “bargain”.

Monterey Aquarium was a must. Needless to say, on the day we went to the aquarium the rain stopped!

My favourite was the tufted puffins lined up looking out at the humanarium exhibit!

Overall, the aquarium was very good but at $50 each, not as good value as San Diego Zoo ($46 each with a small campsite discount). The area around Cannery Row was predictably touristy but good for a wander.

Another minor Californian disaster: when we got back to K.A.C. we found that we had a $48 parking ticket…. We’d parked in a proper parking bay, within the white lines etc – but facing the opposite way to the traffic, which seems to get you a ticket in these parts. I’ve had a quick look online and there seem to be lots of Americans who’ve posted about the very same parking violation in various parts of the country, so it’s clearly not obvious to everyone here either…… Oh well, you live and learn…. At least their parking tickets aren’t as extortionate as their dentistry…

We had a full day at Moss Landing on Monterey Bay. Whilst at Bosque del Apache a few weeks ago, Mark got talking to a British lady who’d lived in California for 30+ years and was a wildlife photographer. She marked a few places on our map for us, including Jetty Road, Moss Landing. This wasn’t in any of our books but was a fantastic place to see otters. Again, the rain held off pretty much all day with just a few light spots here and there.

When we arrived at our chosen campground for the night at Sunset State Beach (a bit further North but still on Monterey Bay), I asked for one night and the young park ranger responded that it was good we only wanted one night as that was all we could have; they were closing the following day “for the storms” and everyone had to be out by 12 noon. When I asked if it was normal to get storms in winter he looked at me as if I were completely insane…. All the other State Beach campgrounds were closing but he wasn’t sure about the inland State Parks.

It did rain constantly through the night, but just the light “pitter-patter” rain that’s quite nice when you’re tucked up in a van. The proper rain came the next day… and the next day… and the next day….. We’d wanted to go up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park just South of San Francisco, but when we diverted to a McDonalds for some free internet on the way we discovered that they too had closed their campgrounds for the next two days because of the storm…. With no real alternatives in the vicinity, that put Big Basin on hold for the moment.

We’d already decided to ditch San Francisco from our plans…. some cities are reasonably do-able in an RV, others aren’t. We’d found a few campgrounds in the vicinity before we set off on the trip, but on reading up and looking at the reviews, only one was apparently within sensible travelling distance of the city, it was in an industrial estate near a closed-down stadium, wanted $89 a night, and got terrible reviews online. I know you’ll always find some bad reviews about any establishment, but when all the reviews are bad, multiple people are “giving it one star because I can’t give zero” and some are questioning the honesty/integrity of the folk running it, you do have to think twice…… So San Francisco has been left for another time when we can visit from the comfort of a city-centre hotel.

Anyway, back to the Closed to Camping California Coast….. We managed to find another campground a few miles inland from Sunset Beach at a place called Mount Madonna. This was a County campground rather than a State campground, and the County was clearly taking a more relaxed view of things. We decided we’d better stay two nights (Saturday and Sunday) whilst the State campgrounds were definitely shut. At $30 with electricity (yippee!) it was a fraction of the price of a private campground.

Oh, how it lashed down….. Unlike a British storm, there didn’t seem to be any wind, just lots and lots of water. At one point Mark did look up and comment that he didn’t know that they had a monsoon season in California….. The electricity went off sometime on Sunday night, but by that point it wasn’t unexpected. Our stock of unread Kindle books has declined somewhat……

Monday was a washout from start to finish, quite literally. On leaving Mount Madonna, we did have a wait while a landslip was cleared from our path…

We stopped at a handy Safeway and double checked: there was now no mention of the campgrounds being closed at Big Basin, so off we went. It took us an age to get there, avoiding numerous closed roads as we went (some of them main roads). When we got there we found a note at the self-pay kiosk to say they were closing the campgrounds until Thursday. They could’ve updated the web page….. So we had a very quick look in the immediate vicinity of the visitor centre but then had to leave as we had no-where to stay for the night and the beach campgrounds would without a doubt also still be closed.

The pins in the slice of 1,392 year old tree denote major World events. I had the feeling that one list had been put forward by an eager trainee, only to be told that they needed to replace some with more local happenings. How else to explain “1066 Anasazi build cliff dwellings”?

The rest of the day was tortuous to say the least, with numerous roads closed due to landslips. We couldn’t go North the short distance to get onto the freeway network around San Francisco (which had initially seemed to be the easiest way to leave the area), and each time the satnav found us a new route, we seemed to get along ok for a few miles then reach another “road ahead closed” sign. We couldn’t even return to Mount Madonna for another night as the road up there was also closed!  Eventually we escaped and made out way slightly inland to the San Luis reservoir, where both our map and my California State Parks price list promised a campground. Could we find it? Nope….. Eventually we gave up and parked up for the night in a quiet parking area, hoping that officialdom would leave us in peace, and getting up early the next morning to make a swift getaway.

We’re now starting to head South down California’s Central Valley. According to the internet, the rain we’ve had (and which we’ve been told here is forecast to continue for another few days yet) is a “once in ten years” storm. Now that we’re well away from the coast, hopefully we won’t be affected by any more landslips or flooding….