Monday, April 13, 2009

My steering workout for the month

We are at Kirk Creek campground, on the Pacific Ocean in Los Padres National Forest (map).

This is one of our very favorite spots on the entire California coastline, at the western terminus of the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, which starts on the other side of the forest in Fort Hunter-Liggett. We've stayed here many times on our motorcycles, either coming down highway 1 or across the forest, and this is the third time we've been here in Odyssey.

Naturally, the first person we encountered here was the camp host, running out to stop us because "you won't fit." Harumph. We informed him that we'd been here before and that we, not him, would decide whether or not we fit. The Forest Service's own web site even lists the "average" spur here as 44' long.

Of course we had no problem fitting into a space once we found one available -- almost the entire campground is now on the reservation system, and it is no longer possible to just snag a primo waterfront site by driving in without one, such as the space we had three years ago. No matter; the campground is arranged on a hillside, and we have an unobstructed view of the ocean over the tops of the other camp sites and even the restrooms.

The fee is now all the way up to $22 per night here, in part to pay for the services of the private concessionaire that now runs it. We liked the place better back when it was strictly first-come, first-served and the Forest Service ran it themselves. Still, it is very beautiful here, and serene.

We paid for two nights when we arrived, and today I've been getting some more projects done around the house. We also walked down to the "beach" (really a jumble of rocks), and just generally enjoyed hanging out in camp. We had a great drive up from Oceano yesterday, albeit slow once we hit the length-restricted part of the road.

It's easy to see why vehicles longer than 40' are prohibited on this stretch of highway. At just 39.5', we still had to stick across the center line on several of the switchbacks, one of the consequences of doing the route in the northbound direction. Many folks prefer this direction, because the shoulder fronts a rock wall rather than a multiple-hundreds feet drop-off, but the reality is that it is harder to drive. The rock wall means you can never extend past the right edge of the lane, forcing you over the center line in several spots, wherease southbound I know I can swing wide as long as the wheels are left of the fog line. Also, visibility is more restricted on the rock side in right-handers.

We found enough turn-outs to mostly keep to the legal number of cars behind us (California law requires you to turn out when there are five or more vehicles behind you), and the ~25 mph average speed was no problem for us. (Another reason why southbound is an easier drive -- turnouts on that side of the road, many of which are scenic overlooks, outnumber the northbound side by at least ten to one.)

We squeaked out of the 5-Cities Elks Lodge just before the Easter Egg Hunt started; they sprinkled the eggs throughout the campground, and I had visions of having to gingerly slalom Odyssey through gaggles of egg-seeking tots. Apparently, we also just missed reader Lloyd, who was looking for us there right after we left.

Tomorrow we will leave here mid-day and continue north, through Big Sur and into Monterey. There is just one more really tight stretch norh of here. Tomorrow night, we will either be at the Monterey Elks, or Laguna Seca.

Photo by hrtmnstrfr
(no, that's not Sean)


  1. We drove that stretch of coastal #1 dragging the little red trucklet in late Feb of 2005. I don't know whether we were illegal and too stupid to know it or the law has changed or its OK to have a 40' rig dragging something. I remember it as an adventure but one that I definitely would do again. I do remember it being a pain to let traffic get by going north. I've driven that stretch of road numerous times - TT, fifth wheel & bus - and loved it every time. The most fun was the time we rented a convertible and blasted north from L.A. to S.F. - that's the way that road should be driven.

  2. @Jorgito's dad: Bob, you were legal with your 40' rig, even with toad. The restriction is on the rig itself, 40' max. (Many other roads in California have this same restriction; rigs from 40'1" to 45'0" are only allowed on specified highways -- see here: -- and, for California drivers, require a non-commercial "class B" license.) Total combined length limit here is 65', so as long as your truck and tow bar were less than 25', you were fine.

  3. Hi sean, Good to see you on the board last night. Christi and I will be taken the South bound route while on tour this year. Went No. in 1999 & 2000 in a 38' Bounder. A real white nuckler. So. bound in a 40' 102a3 should prove to be one for the books! Lots of pics for the Blog. Stay safe. All the Best, M&C

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  5. Is Kirk Creek by any chance the old Lime Kiln Campground? We used to camp there all the time when it was private, GREAT sites.


  6. @Gaell/Sarah: Welcome. Glad to have you along.

    @Kate: No, Limekiln is a separate facility several miles north of Kirk Creek. Limekiln is a state park, whereas Kirk Creek is US Forest Service.

    Limekiln happened to be closed when we passed it yesterday, and we could see construction crews down there. I'm not sure, but it looked like maybe the little bridge over the creek was out -- there was a lot of water this season, with flooding evident in many places, including Big Sur.

  7. I have been asking about Kirk Creek on one of my Yahoo groups and they sent me your link. I wanted to go there this coming week, my rig is 40' and toad. I would be coming from the South ( in LAS VEGAS this week ) I'm still a little leary of hwy 1. Do you know if they honor the old geezer pass for the 50% price? I need to be in King City on the 30th and was looking for somewhere to BD and kill time that I would enjoy ( cheap or free )Any ideas let me know?

  8. We just left that area (2-3 days ago). We boondocked in the forest up on the side of a mountain. We had a good view of the ocean. Thanks for the write up. I was very curious how the folks driving longer rigs felt. After seeing them on the road, I felt silly for being so nervous about our rig.


  9. @Cookie: 40' plus toad will be a little challenging north of San Simeon. Just take it slow, and turn out when you can. If you can avoid the weekends, you will feel less pressure from other traffic.

    I can't answer about the Golden Age pass at Kirk Creek -- we're not eligible, so we don't check. Most USFS sites accept them, but this one has been contracted to a private concessionaire, "Parks Management Company" (or something similar...), and I don't know if they are obligated to honor it.

    @Jenn (Hitek Homeless): Welcome to the blog... I have been following you guys for quite a while, and I am glad to see you here. I posted a comment over on your blog; if we're really playing leapfrog, we should try to connect someplace. We're familiar with some of those nice sites overlooking the ocean in the Los Padres forest; sometimes I am envious of your rig and the sorts of places it can take you where we could not follow.

  10. That stretch of Hwy 1 is gorgeous! Drove it twice in a Mustang Convertible and it was fun. Some day we'll take our Eagle down that road. Big Sur and Monterey is nice, stayed at Fort Ord courtesy of Uncle Sam, so got to see the area a lot. Have Fun!

  11. Sean,

    I wish we'd known you guys were in the area a bit sooner. It sounds like you followed much of the same northbound route we did. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a hurry-up the last few days and are already in Portland. It's cold here!
    The next week and a half is a lot more driving to make a few appointments, but then we'll probably be bumming around the Washington area for three or four weeks waiting on passports. Procrastination at it's finest!
    If you get that far north, give us a shout. Jenn wants someone to ride mopeds with, but I think it's probably because she doubts my abilities as a mechanic (and rightly so).

    Hitek HomelessFree Campsites

  12. @Johnny: We will be in Washington by mid-May. Heading to the Kitsap peninsula first, then across the sound and down through Kirkland to Sumner, where we will be for 2-3 weeks.

    Drop me a note with your email address -- I couldn't find one on either of your sites. Ours are on the "Who we are" page linked in the sidebar.

    @Paul: Fort Ord is gone now. Some of the land there is now public access, but they did not bother to convert the campground :(


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