This is going to be a long one, there's been a lot of travel since Joshua Tree...so bare with me.
Getting snowed on in Joshua Tree was a little surprising. Having reached our most southern point in our trip we were a little concerned with the inclement weather seeing as it was snowing when it should be shining. Hmmm. However, to our delight, when we woke up in Painted Canyon after our time in Joshua Tree National Park, it was a balmy 14*C at 7:30AM. We had decided we'd stick around the area to attend to some things before we pressed on towards the coast. I had noticed a crack in Casper's frame a couple days prior to our arrival in Painted Canyon and wanted to get it fixed, luckily I have a good friend in Palm Desert who just so happeed to have a welder for me to use. Being able to do one's own work on the road is a HUGE money saver. If I had to bring the trailer in to a shop, just for the hour of work, it would have been upwards of a hundred dollars.
After our day in the Palm Springs/ Desert/ Painted Canyon area it was time to set out to complete our last leg to the coast. Initial plans were to completely circumnavigate Las Angeles, but as the saying goes, "plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy." We mainly didn't want to get stuck in LA traffic; however, when I saw that our drive time was only going to total 4 hours through the city I decided to take the route through the city and avoid the extra 3 hours of driving going the long way. I can't say it was a bad decision. Traffic was as traffic typically is, lame. The freeways of LA can be scary, unpredictable and packed at the best of times. To break up the drive we stopped at a taco joint in Redlands for lunch and made a few new friends while eating.
We arrived in Ventura California near sundown and enjoyed an impromptu beach session, well...the Manitoban's did, I just sat in the trailer and edited photos. While I sat in the trailer I was approached by a gentlemen who was quite interested in the truck and trailer set up. He is a toyota enthusiast and is the president of a first responder organization based out of Ventura called CERT (I don't know what it stands for, he gave me a pamphlet, but it's lost in the trailer somewhere). We chatted a while and looked over his immaculate 1985 Toyota 4runner with a stock solid axle. I love meeting people with shared interests, especially when it pertains to Toyota's, trucks, overlanding or generally being a dirtbag.
As night began to fall we moved inland towards the mountains and our camping spot for the night. We spent the next hour looking with no luck. Satellite images can be quite deceptive and California has a lot of locked gates. It was a frustrating time as plan A denied us, then plan B, then plan C...I think it was plan D that led us reluctantly into a day-use area at the end of a closed-off road to bed down in the for the night, hoping the overhanging trees and brush would hide us from park rangers. We woke the next morning, unbothered by park rangers or anyone else. Next stop, Santa Barbara then Pismo Beach.
We woke on the beach with the waves crashing against the sand and the sun warming the walls of the trailer. We spent the rest of the day doing errands and enjoying the heat. The Chris Burkard Studio was visited, giving us the opportunity to meet Chris himself and a handful of other like-minded artists.
The next day, on the suggestion of Chris, we made our way to Los Osos to explore the coast a little. On first approach it was quite apparent the area would not let us down. We enjoyed some beach time before deciding to pay for a campground for the night. I don't like paying for campgrounds, especially when there are so many free places to sleep; however, sometimes he convenience can't be beat. The next morning Alison and I did our respective rides and Cory and Jasmine went off to explore some other area's we had passed. We all came together in the afternoon then packed up and pointed ourselves towards Morro Bay before continuing on to Ragged Point.
I had been hearing some chatter about road conditions on the number 1 (Cabrillo) highway and it was later confirmed that there had been road closures at a number of different points along our North-bound route. With our planned route blocked we decided to proceed up the coast as far as we could and find a camping spot just off the mostly empty section of highway, then head back South to the 46 the next morning and head inland to the 101. As we drove towards Ragged Point we saw a lot of potential spots, all with "no camping" signs, our choices were looking pretty minimal until just as we reach Ragged Point we spotted some other travelers in a parking spot with a fantastic overlook of the Pacific and no "no camping" signs. Huzzah!
It was pretty obvious as we approached our neighboring overlanders the evening we arrived at Ragged Point, that they were serious overlanders. I had spotted the rig in Pismo Beach earlier and immediately recognized it. When we pulled into the small gravel pad I approached one of the owners and asked, out of courtesy, if we could share the parking area for the night. We chatted briefly and when he found out I had been to Alaska he asked if we could look at some maps as he and his wife were headed there later in the summer. The next morning we were invited into their luxurious overland rig and sat down to look at some maps and talk about each others adventures. Hopefully in the future our new friends, Herman and Martina will visit us on the farm as they return from Alaska and head towards South America. After our visit we went South, witnessed the spectacle that is elephant seals crawling up on the beach in droves and 'playing,' spent some time on the beach then went inland to the 101.
One thing that I've learned as I've traveled is to always get local knowledge when going into an area instead of relying only on a map. While we ate lunch at the Hearst Ranch day-use area/peer, I spoke with a young lady from Cambria. She was interested in our rigs, being a truck enthusiast herself, and I was interested in her dog, a pitbull/ heeler cross. I mentioned my desire to go to the Prewitt Ridge Campground on the coast. Although the highway leading there was blocked I had heard of means of accessing the coast from the inland 101. Katelyn, the girl with local knowledge, reassured me that I could make it there from the 101 and gave me some extra info that I wouldn't have found out about had I only be researching the route on the internet. So, with only mild apprehension I decided we'd try for the campground.
Long story short, we passed through a military base, drove one of the windiest roads I've ever driven and arrived far above sea level overlooking the Pacific Ocean only a few hours after our departure from the Hearst Ranch area. There had been times, I'm sure, when Cory and Jasmine were asking themselves where the heck I was taking them, but it turns out it was a fantastic idea to take the detour!
Then, suddenly...it was the last full day of our time with our friends from Manitoba. Alison and Jasmine had some yoga fun in the morning. We drove down the mountain back towards the 101 and on the way had an interesting opportunity to bathe in a freezing cold river. We drove as far as Santa Cruz, spent the day exploring the city then drove up the coast to sleep the last night on the side of highway 1. It was all over rather suddenly, I didn't even think to catch our adventure buddies leaving...*sigh*