Thursday, July 31, 2008


I don't know when the term "staycation" was coined, but I'm starting to hear it more and more on television. I'm usually the last person in the world to learn a new slang word, but just in case you didn't know it means: a vacation while staying at or close to home. And with the looming final payment of our Italy tour due soon, a quick staycation is about all we could afford.

We took up our friends offer to meet at Pismo Beach this weekend. Pismo is only a 90 minute drive north of us, so it was fairly effortless to make the trip up. We left Saturday morning and arrived at Pismo 3 hours before our friends. That was just enough time for us to rent some ATVs and cruise the beach and sand dunes. According to their tourism literature, Pismo Beach is unique for its firmly packed sand, which is firm enough for vehicles to drive on.

We paid $5 to drive into the park, which has no roads, so immediately we were driving on the sand. Later we realized we could have saved the $5 because the rental facilities were actually just outside the park's entrances. After paying for the ATVs ($110 total for two 250cc ATVs for 2 hours), we were transported back down to the beach, past hundreds of parked RVs, to mile marker 3, where our ATVs were waiting for us. The worker there literally gave us 30 seconds of instruction and we were off....

It took us quite a while to feel comfortable on the ATV. We're fairly cautious people, so even before we saw people rollover their ATVs or blindly fly over a crest at 40mph, we couldn't believe that they'd just let anyone over 16 rent these crazy death machines.

After practicing on small hills and moving on to slightly bigger hills, we eventually got a feel for it. We finally learned that the faster you drive , the less likely you are to get stuck in the sand. Here is one of Brooke's final hills. It's a lot steeper than it looks....
When our friends arrived, we just lounged around the vehicle-free area (north end) of Pismo Beach until it was time for dinner.

On the recommendation of Brooke's labmate, we ate the Cracked Crab. Each couple got the Bucket For Two, which consisted of a choice of three seafood items, all steamed, then dumped directly onto our table. Brooke and I chose the dungeness crab, Alaskan Bairdi crab, and lobster tails. The dungesness was good, the lobster tails were very dry, and the Bairdi was great. Our friends got the Opilio crab which tasted equally as good as the Bairdi. When we go back, Brooke and I will probably just get a pound of the Bairdi or Opilio each.
Despite their name, the crab did not arrive cracked. I had to do all the work for both myself and Brooke (as shown below).

We checked into our hotel room around 9:15pm, 45 minutes before the pool closed. Ignoring what we learned as kids, we raced to our rooms, changed into swimsuits, and jumped into the pool with our full stomachs. The next morning we walked over to see Gum Alley. It's an alley with walls completely covered with chewed pieces of gum. I was so excited to make my own contribution to the wall. But sadly, when arrived, the adjacent store with the gumball machine was closed. :-(

On our drive up Highway 1 to the Hearst Castle, we stopped in the touristy little town of Cambria for lunch at Linn's Easy as Pie Cafe. With a name like "Pie Cafe", I had no choice but to get the chicken pot pie and apple pie. It was the perfect lunch! I'd definitely go back.

The Hearst Castle offers 5 different tours. We took Tour 1. It was fun, but it's only worth one visit. At least it's one less item on our California To-Do List.

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