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Trip Start Dec 29, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Morro Dunes RV Park

Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the road again...

We left this morning around ten thirty and after a slight detour due to a slight navigational error we were on the road. (Totally not the navigator's fault - the entry to the highway we needed was in an inconvenient spot, right under the entrance to the OTHER highway we ended up on and not accessible from the entrance we used.)

It was a fairly short drive from Monterey to Salinas on a good road with not much traffic. In Salinas we hooked up with the 101 and were on there for almost all the rest of the trip.

Salinas was a big sprawling farming community, population about 150,000. It is well-known for its rodeo (not by us) and as the birthplace of John Steinbeck. (who else had to read Red Pony and the Pearl in junior high?) We didn't stop, although the Steinbeck Centre probably would have been interesting to see. This area provided the backdrop to some of his novels - East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath...must dig some of those out when I return, now that I will be able to picture the scenery. Salinas is also known for its labour disputes, due to the huge gap between the migratory, low paid manual labourers who pick the produce and the wealthy owners of the huge farms. The area's main crop is lettuce and you could see acres and acres - no, make that miles and miles of fields with the crops in varying stages of growth. It is a huge valley and the fields went as far as you could see, right up to the surrounding hills.

Being somewhere near Salinas, wouldn't have been complete without Willie Nelson wailing out his version of Bobby McGee so Roy made sure that tape (yes, we actually have a tape deck!) was playing as we went through. Hope you "young" readers get the reference...

Highway 101 was a double lane divided highway all the way so the driving was pretty easy for Roy and not too tense for me:)

The flat-as-a-pancake row-crop fields soon became interspersed with vineyards and eventually all we could see was vineyards for miles around. Then the agricultural areas ended and we went through a huge oil field area with a big refinery and hundreds of oil pumps dotting the hillsides.

We passed through a number of nondescript towns; the only one I recognized was Soledad and I have no idea why. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the side of the highway that had a bunch of posters/signs with info about the area, its history, the missions, the agriculture. (It used to be wheat farming until they discovered row crops had quicker turnover and provided a better return.) The stop was brief and we were soon back on the road. Our next stop was for gas and propane in Atascadero at our turn off to Morro Bay. The road to Morro Bay was a little narrow and windy with a fair bit of traffic and no pullouts but fortunately, it was only a short distance. The RV park was easy to find and we were checked in and settled in no time.

As we were setting up, I kept hearing this sound, like barking dogs. It took me a minute to figure out it was actually barking seals and sea lions. That's how close we are to the sea - could hardly wait to get across the street to see it.

The RV Park is lovely. It's quite large and also fairly full. The sites are big compared to anything we've been in so far. We have a picnic table and a fire pit and an incredible view of Morro Rock. I have to admit when I was researching this area, I did notice that there was a big rock in the bay here but this is NOT what I pictured! This thing is huge. We could see it from miles away.

Morro Rock is the northern most visible member of the Nine Sisters, a string of ancient volcanic cones stretching from here in Morro Bay south to San Louis Obispo.The rock is 576 feet high and sometimes referred to as the Gilbraltar of the Pacific.The rock was quarried for years but in 1968 it was declared a State Historical Landmark. It is now a refuge for endangered Peregrine falcons and climbing on it is illegal.  It was first sighted in 1542 by a Spainish explorer Juan Cabrillo who named it El Morro, which means crown-shaped hill. That's exactly what it is and that is what we look out on from our rear window.

It was only 3:30 by the time we were settled in so we decided a bike ride would be a good way to fill the time. We cycled for an hour or so on a really great bike trail that ran north, parallel to Hwy 1 then through a park and a beautiful wetland and finally on a boardwalk that went out to the beach. On our return trip, we continued on past our park towards town. I'd had enough when we came to the big hill into town...you know me - I like it flat! And speaking of flat, one of my tires needed air so when we got back we pulled it off the bike and decided to make a quick trip into town.

On our trip into town we discovered another bike trail that goes from downtown all the way out to Morro Rock. We drove out there in the car; the place was full of cars and people going or coming back from surfing or stand-up paddle boarding. The road is blocked off at that point to cars but it looks like you can walk or bike out to the outer part of the rock. On the way back we stopped at the Visitor's Info place and discovered there are two golf courses nearby. The visitor info guy tells us Morro Bay Golf Course is the poor man's Pebble...seem to be a few poor man's Pebbles...guess there are more of us poor...Also figured there's enough stuff to do to keep us busy for a week if we like!

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain so I think we are heading up the coast on Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle.
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