Saturday, April 11, 2009

Laying over

We are at the Oceano Elks Lodge (map), just a block from the beach and access to Oceano Dunes.

Watching Gaviota fill so quickly yesterday morning gave us pause, and we reconsidered the notion of trying to find public camping north of here. The Elks Lodge here has over 50 camp sites, with water and 30-amp power, plus a dump station, for $20 per night, and still had a dozen or so spaces last night. By contrast, the county park (which is full) right next door is $30, and Pismo Beach State Park, across the street, is $29 (also full).

Speaking of full, Oceano Dunes, which is an off-highway vehicle recreation area, permits camping right on the beach, for $10 per night. They have a strict limit, though, of 1,000 camping vehicles (yes, you read that right), and they, too, were full last night. How romantic -- camping on the beach, with 999 of your closest friends, and the incessant sound of ATVs roaring by.

This stretch of the California coast, from Oceano Dunes to Pismo Beach immediately to the north, is the only place in all of California where the public is permitted to drive on the beach. The 4x4 crowd makes a habit of tearing across the soft part above the high water mark, but most vehicles can traverse the firm sand nearer the water, if you can just get across the short stretch from the pavement to the water line. We saw a minivan do it last night. Not sure I'd take Odyssey out there -- the permitted camping area is a mile down beach from the paved road.

We're thinking about running down there on the scooters today, even though my scoot is a real pig in the sand, just to see if there are any class-A rigs down there at all. We'd never even consider it on a crowded weekend like this, but maybe someday we'll camp out there on the beach if it is firm enough to support us. We'd have to drop the tires down to 50psi or so, which would mean driving very slowly.

Last night we walked over to the Rock-n-Roll Diner, a funky little place made from two vintage railroad cars. We ate in what looked to have been a seated coach in its day, but the other car was a boat-end observation car, typical of only the crack express trains of the era. The old rail fan in me wants to know what train pulled this car; a brief Internet search came up empty.

We've paid up for two nights here, in the hopes that tomorrow night the crowds will have dispersed from the public campgrounds north of here. With any luck, we'll be at Kirk Creek in the Los Padres National Forest tomorrow night.

Photo by bsterling


  1. RE: "Speaking of Full"

    It's Spring Break. It's always full on holidays. But why would you go to an off-highway vehicle park for romance? Actually, quite a few people have gotten married there. Wouldn't be my choice for a wedding, but camping with friends on the beach and riding around the dunes happens to be the preferred trip for two million visitors a year. Three times more than Hearst Castle. In fact, Oceano Dunes is the #1 most popular state park in Calfornia. Not your thing? Cool.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  2. Hope you take time to stop and see the Monarch Butterflies. They are only 3 or 4 miles north of you on Hwy 1. Follow Hwy 1 north past Grand Ave. In about 1/2 to 1 mile you will see a field on the left and a stand of Eucaluptas trees. You can park on the side of the road. This spot has been written up in several magazines and newspapers.

  3. @SLORider: Just to be clear, Kevin, we have nothing against OHV areas, and we're fine with spending time on the beach with (many) friends. Sand's not our thing, but nothing against anyone for whom it is. Also, we've stayed in OHV parks before.

    What I was really trying to illuminate is that, as you've pointed out, it is spring break, and the park is full to capacity. That's definitely not our thing, as long-time readers know. Even as large as Oceano Dunes is, 1,000 rigs is a LOT of RVs on that beach.

    Louise has been listening to the calls on her scanner (SLO sheriff, county fire, and EMS) since we got here (she is a scanner junkie, big time), and it's been non-stop out there on the beach (including the heart attack that came in via On-Star, which only provided GPS coordinates, and none of the SLO vehicles carries a GPS).

    So, it's not the activity, but those sorts of crowds that led to the comment. I confess that the use of the term "romantic" was misleading; I was trying to inject some humor.

    @Anonymous: We'll bee looking for them.

  4. Wow, you guys sure do get around. Stay safe. We hope to cross paths with you this summer. All the Best, M&C

  5. Sean & Louise, I used to go to Oceano Dunes years ago when it was Pismo Dunes. I took my motorhome with trailer on the beach all the time, BUT back then it was a 34 foot gas rig and a small trailer, trying to go on the beach with your rig is gauranteed to get you stuck and the pull out fee is astronomical, don't try it. By the way, a lot of the time you have to cross a creek on the beach too. Not fun nor good for the rig, LOL.

  6. I have been reading your blogs for a while now. I am amazed at the miles you put on. I have driven through LA once in my 35' bus, and I vowed never to do that again. Don't you find it stressful to be on the road so often?

    By the way, I am converting my bus into an RV too, and got some really good design tips from your videos. I never thought I would be able to travel with my cat until I saw your ingenious catbox compartment above your tirewell. I am definitely implementing that feature :)


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