part 2

A short drive away from the hungry emu was La Purisima Mission, supposedly one of the most well-restored missions in the state, and the one most like its original appearance today. You could walk around the mission grounds, going into many different original buildings, and if you wanted to you could hike in the forest and hills behind the mission--altogether it was a very nicely restored historic site, and we had a good time walking around. Robert was particularly impressed by this very large cactus outside the priests' dormitory.

We drove through Lompoc, the flower seed capital of the world, but didn't stop--we are more herb people than flower people. Our next stop was Pismo Beach, which one of our guidebooks said was named after the Chumash Indian word for "blobs of tar," "known today as Pismo clams." We found this a somewhat baffling sentence--are they really a special kind of black clam? Or are they just rocks or other blobs which are ironically called "clams"? Just to be on the safe side, we dug several holes to look for clams, but didn't see any. A nice old man who was fishing for (and had just caught) surf perch told us the clams had all gone away years ago, but the perch were still there, and still good-sized. We walked a little and tried to fly our kite, but though it was chilly and grey, there wasn't too much wind, and Robert soon got tired running back and forth with it. We ate a leisurely bread bowl of clam chowda and a crab taco at a little clam shack a block away from the beach before heading on again.

We stopped at a Motel 6 on the south side of San Luis Obispo for the night--the directions to the motel were incomprehensible, and we weren't really sure how far we were from our next stop, so we wasted a little bit of time driving back and forth and getting mixed up. When we finally were assured we had a room close to where we wanted to be, we set out to find some evening fun. Though our destination was downtown "Slo," as locals mysteriously called it, we never got there, for just five minutes from our hotel, off Santa Rosa Blvd., we found the Sunset Drive-in, and immediately knew we found our evening activity. We saw the second half of Runaway Bride (awful) and all of The Sixth Sense (good, with a neat twist). We got a huge bag of popcorn with free refills that we sadly did not take advantage of (we ended up taking half the bag back in the car with us the next day, even!) and Robert, expressing our love of drive-ins (this was only my second ever) and our fear that they will all disappear, asked the people at the concession stand about their financial solvency--eventually they answered they were "doing fine."

We woke up early and got very nicely frosted donuts at Campus Donuts on the corner of Foothill Blvd. in Slo; we ate the donuts and a few pieces of fruit we'd brought along with us as we drove to San Simeon, where we had reservations for the Hearst Castle 9:10am "Tour 1" (they offer four different ones, but 1 is recommended if you've never been there before). Built by William Randolph Hearst, and named by him La cuesta encantada, Hearst Castle was very impressive (pictured is Christina at the indoor swimming pool!). You should get there twenty minutes or more before your tour, as you have to check in, pick up your tickets, and then wait for a bus to take your group five miles up the winding hill, past Hearst's cattle and mountain goats, to the houses themselves. The tour would have been a little more interesting if some of the people in our group didn't keep asking the guide things we really didn't care about, like all the details of the Patty Hearst story, but we were glad we went.

At noon our tour was over and we'd seen the exhibit in the main building and walked through the gift shops, so we drove a short distance south now to Morro Bay. We drove out on the sandbar and parked at the foot of the 476-foot volcanic dome which named the town, but again, it was so foggy we couldn't see the top of it, or even much of the mainland shore from where we were. We tried to feed some apathetic west-coast seagulls our leftover popcorn from the night before, but eventually we gave up and went back to the shore to eat fish and chips at another little shack. Next door was a shop with about a hundred different flavors of salt water taffy--I picked out some, and Robert was amazed when our stash totaled all of $0.29 worth! We ate most of the taffy in the car as we drove around Slo a little--we decided it was a nice town, pretty and interesting, but not quite so exciting we needed to spend more time there right now.

What had been on both of our minds since we first stopped at Pismo Beach the day before, and what was our secret plan for this afternoon, was to go back to Pismo Beach--specifically, to the State Vehicular Recreation Area at Oceano Dunes. When we were there yesterday, it had been high tide, which is not the best time for exercising our rights to drive our car out on the sand--but, since low tide today was at 2pm, we were planning on taking Norman on a little "recreation" right now. We happily paid our $4 fee, which seemed very cheap to us for the amount of fun this would be, and drove out onto the sand.

We laughed at California drivers as we compared driving in sand to driving in snow; we took turns making figure eights and circles in the sand, and then drove straight down the five miles of coastline. At the very farther point from the exit, when Robert was driving, we got very slightly stuck in the sand near the water. With a little help from another fisherman and a shovel, though, we were out in five minutes and driving back. Norman was shaken, but he was still a self-confident car, so we let him do some more tricks on the way back to make him happy. It was a thrilling experience--he's now driven on all three of snow, salt (Utah last summer), and sand! The only thing he regrets is that we didn't attach the kite to him and let him fly it, as it was probably his only chance ever to do so.

Our final stop of the trip was another stop in Santa Barbara, where we ate dinner at La Super Rica again, ordering all different things than yesterday (this time, for $10 we dined on marinated pork tacos, chilaquiles--the special of the day and my personal favorite--and a gordita de frijol, which was really quite spicy). Everything was very good, and we dubbed the place a BYOM joint (bring your own mango) since we brought in the mango we'd taken along for a snack on the trip and ate it as a cooling, delicious dessert. After dinner, we walked out onto the wharf and gazed up and down the coast (pictured).

When we left Santa Barbara, it was foggy again and getting dark, so we took 101 (El camino real) down to LA instead of 1, since there didn't seem to be much point in driving down the more scenic road when you couldn't see anything. We ate the last few pieces of taffy in the car and got home around 8:30--a lovely thirty-six hour trip!

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Created: 8/26/99. Last Modified: 8/26/99