I love making desirable discoveries by accident.
When my friend, Nancy and I travel together we try to be aware and take advantage of travel opportunities. We welcome them. It is not always easy to catch those moments, I find I need to pay attention, stop when I was planning to drive straight through, talk to people and enjoy that very moment in time.
We are both members of the Nature Conservancy’s Legacy Club. Once a year they offer us an opportunity to learn about one of their projects in California. We hike and listen to the specialists talk about the projects in the area we are visiting. This year was a bit different yet still very interesting.
We explored the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes near Pismo Beach. This is not an active project, instead we were able to witness what a mature project looks like. It is open to the public and has some lovely hiking trails. One crosses Oso Flaco Lake, a fresh water lake just on the other side of the dunes from the ocean. It was a birder’s paradise.
We opted to leave a few days prior to the Conservancy hike and explore some areas that we had never been to before. Jalama Beach, 14 miles west of Lompoc, CA, butting up to Vandenberg Air Force Base was our first destination. It is a classic wild California coast line. If you need a lot of things to keep you busy, well this is not it. At the beach there is the campground, a store and grill and…that is about it. I love walking the beach. It is a great spot for sunset photos and checking out the surfers in the early morning. I loved it there. I am already planning a return trip, for a longer stay.
Bob Thomas was one of the Conservancy tour participants. He is also the owner of the Arroyo Grande Tortoise and Turtle Rescue. He offered a tour of the rescue facility the next day. You bet. Early the next morning we arrived at this beautiful 5 acre ranch that is currently the home to 300 plus turtles and tortoises. It was a great tour and it was led by Bob who has a passion for these creatures. Every day people bring him or send him their reptiles they cannot own anymore for various reasons. After more than an hour and a half our minds had absorbed more info on these creatures than our brains could hold. We saw big tortoises and little turtles and even a galapagos tortoise. It was a fascinating hour and a half. If you are ever in the area look this Turtle and Tortoise Rescue of Arroyo Grande and take a tour. Tours are by appointment only. They also had alpacas, goats, many birds and the friendliest dogs.
In our quest for free camping in the wilderness, yes there is still wilderness in southern California, we discovered Figueroa Mountain Road out of Los Olives. The road was extremely narrow, frequently steep with little shoulder room, and required cautious driving. There were pull outs in case you met a car coming head on. Thank goodness we did not have to back up, we met very few cars. What a grand ride it was. The views were spectacular and the road was “fun”. You definitely would not have wanted to take anything larger than my sweet little RT on this road.
After we crossed the summit of Figueroa Mountain we descended to Sunset Road where we headed north until we found a great National Forest Campground, Davy Brown, in the San Rafael Wilderness. Until late in the evening we were the only ones there. One other group came in and camped at the other end of the campground. Talk about quiet. We camped in the tall oaks and, in spite of the drought, there was a stream flowing next to us. The moon was almost full and it was so delightfully quiet.
The next morning we finished the loop by traveling to Happy Canyon Road. As we maneuvered the twisting road we drove by two large group camps of mostly young men. Shortly after we encountered cars parked along the sides of a steep down grade and more young guys sitting skateboards. As I drove carefully through them we stopped to ask questions about what they were doing there. The Gnarbara, first legally sanctioned down hill skate boarding event on this road, was about to begin. There were participants from all over the world. Most were young, teens and twenties. Many do not do tricks or jumps, they just like to go fast.
After driving the coarse, I parked the Roadtrek at the bottom and we hiked back up to the medical tent to watch some of the event unfold. Yes, you heard me right, the medical tent. It is not unusual to treat skin abrasions and broken bones. They had a walkie talkie connected to 911, in case they needed to make the call. Yow!!!!
There were several categories, professional, amateur, hands up (no hands onto the pavement what so ever) and more. Because of time constraints we could not spend the day. We were able to watch the practice runs and some impromptu races. By the time they reached the finish line (no one could quite decide where that was) they may be reaching speeds of 35 mph.
Here is what I have decided. You need to be young to do this event. They are all a bit crazy. If I knew of things like this in my teens and twenties I so would have been there. Now I think about broken bones and hospital bills. While the participants caught the bus back up the hill, we, unfortunately needed to head south and home to San Diego.
We could have driven by yet instead we stopped and got involved (as observers). We met nice people and watched something that I may never see again. All the young people were great to talk to. They reminded me a lot of surfers in their language and actions. Most of all I had fun. I took pictures and videos and talked to the parents of some of the participants.
Now I am back in San Diego, cleaning my Roadtrek out for the second time in less than a month. I am glad I have my small mobile house to see places in comfort and style. I will continue to drive the small byways of California and find the unusual and serendipitous moments with friends and alone. All these moments make me grow as a person. Many of these events make me laugh out loud. Mostly when I come across the unusual I meet the nicest people that care.
What a joy discovery is. Got any similar moments to share?