Three and a Quarter Days, Another Excursion to Central California

First up, Morro Bay

Long weekends are the best.  In our case it gave us enough time to travel up the coast, relax, explore, and get back in time for the Sunday night early news.

We figured that leaving later in the afternoon on a Thursday was a great time to travel up the Central California coast to possibly avoid some traffic.   However, Los Angeles didn’t cooperate, it was slow going even as we passed through Thousand Oaks, descended into Camarillo, and even through Ventura.

Once we passed through Ventura however, the traffic subsided as if to say welcome to Central California!!  You are then greeted to that wonderful California shoreline with the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean beaconing us up the coast.

The gridlock that we experienced earlier was now washing away and was replaced with relaxation even though we still had a few hours more to drive.

Soon the 101 freeway took an eastern turn as we headed inland towards San Luis Obispo.   Once in San Luis Obispo, it was only a short drive to Morro Bay on Highway 1, our home for the weekend.

Looking south from Morro Bay

I love it here but it wasn’t going to be our main attention this weekend.  I had heard of some nearby beaches and coves that were good for sea glass hunting, therefore this was going to be the plan of action.

Over the weekend we would eventually investigate Los Osos , Cambria, Moonstone Beach, and Spooner Cove.  We also walked Cayucos , Avila, Ventura Beaches,  the small town of Harmony, and actually ended up exploring more of Morro Bay.  We saw groups of sea otters, tons of sand dollars, a little bit of sea glass, all in three and quarter days.

Just a few miles out of town is a beach with tons of sand dollars(BTW, we only took the ones that were already dead)

Even though this isn’t the sequence of how our weekend went, let’s talk Morro Bay first.  I always like to drive around to see every inch of a place so our first stop was the Embarcadero.   This is where the heart of the city is with its restaurants, shops, cafes, boat rentals, antiques stores, plus places to sit just to enjoy the bay. We perused a few shops then sat back on a bench to admire this charming harbor town.

A lone boat with the sand spit in the background

This is where the crowds go, yet it never feels crowded.   This place, in my opinion is the perfect vacation as you have many choices on what to do, or if you choose, just simply relax and do nothing.

We decided to drive to the other end of the bay heading south where hidden away from the busier part of town, sits a quaint marina.  A few boats were moored in a channel while next to a parking lot there was a small café that gave patrons a view of the bay either from inside, or its outdoor patio.   It was a peaceful little area and for that reason, I made a mental note to come back again for lunch.

Returning to the car, we headed back the way of the Embarcadero to investigate the huge Morro rock that stands 576 feet high and is a definitive landmark.

This is the first time I actually got out of the car to walk around the rock.   The brisk wind was whipping around like a mini hurricane making the day colder than it actually was.  Note to self, bring sweatshirt with you next time.   However, I didn’t care, as I was in exploration mode and I was going to see the front side of this behemoth for the first time.   Or was it the backside?    Whichever, It was the side facing the ocean not the town.

On the bay side of the rock there is a small beach.  Tiny one foot waves feathered toward the shore so I thought this would be a perfect family beach where you don’t have to worry about breakers wiping out your kids.

The beach was mostly empty save for a few people that were huddled up in warm clothes while the ever present wind made ripples in the sand. I always wonder if they look at me with my shorts, short sleeves, and think, “What is wrong with her?”  Truth be told, I was cold but the beach was beautiful, clean, and well worth a few moments of discomfort.

It was a picturesque sight, so if you every have the chance, head to the parking lot, then go to the left side where there is a paved trail.

Walking back to the car, we saw that a crowd was now gathered by the rocky jetty that surrounds the bay.   All eyes were on a group of sea otters that were bunched up in the water only about thirty feet from where we were.  Roughly twenty of the cute little mammals were all sleeping on their backs with sea weed wrapped around them as if to keep them warm.   A mother otter had a baby on her stomach as she acted like a comfy bed for it to sleep, while another was enjoying a dinner snack of what looked like a red crab of some sort.

We don’t get to see otters in Southern California so it is always nice to get a personal view of these little creatures in their natural habitat.

On the right side of the big rock, board and kite surfers were sharing the ocean on a water surface that was swirling around like a washing machine.  Despite the fact that the wind seemed even stronger on this side, they still managed to find waves to ride which kept us watching for at least an hour.

Just out side of town, the wonderful Central California Coast

Although we had other places in mind to discover,  Morro Bay is a great destination. There are plenty of things to do like whale watching, boat tours, kayak and SUP rentals, great restaurants, quaint cafes, souvenir shops, antiques, fishing, surfing, plus hiking.

It is all there under one of the most picturesque towns you will ever see.

Bring Binoculars or a camera for the sea otters and even though it is warm there, take my word for it, the wind can kick up, so bring a sweatshirt!

Next we are on to Los Osos.


Calafia Beach, San Clemente

Calafia Beach is a part of the San Clemente State Park but is also open to the public year round.

It is the type of beach that has everything, a snack bar nearby, bathrooms, showers, and parking (although metered.)

On this second weekend in September, the day was bright making the Pacific Ocean sparkle in a bluish green hue.   It was the perfect kind of afternoon where everything looked more colorful.  The water as mentioned ,had the prettiest tint, the coast line was as clear as I have ever seen it, the multicolored umbrellas looked more vibrant, and even the sand had a sparkle.

Everything seemed to sparkle on this perfect day

With the coast in California sometimes socked in with a gray marine layer, this day was like someone turned on a bright light across the Southern California coast.

So with the weather still perfect, we decided to give this place a try.

To get there and after you park your car, you walk by the Calafia Beach Café and head toward the waves.  There is a pathway that allows you to safely pass over the railroad tracks where Amtrak and Metrolink pass by from time to time.

The tracks run right near the beach

I liked Calafia Beach a lot and so did a lot of other people.  Summer was rapidly coming to an end but the days were still warm which brought in the crowds for the weekend.

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The Dana Resort, Mission Bay, San Diego

The Dana Hotel and Marina at Mission Bay

 Some estimate California to being the number one tourism destination in the country and records show that over 250 million tourists visit California each year.San Diego hosted at least 35 million visitors last year on its own.  Count me in as one of the 35 million as we set out to do a true staycation and visit one of the nicest resorts in San Diego.   We didn’t have to travel far as it was only about 35 miles from home.This was to be a relaxing vacation, one where we had nowhere in particular to go and nothing special to do.The idea was to just enjoy the resort, relax by the pool, fish, eat, sleep in, and maybe drink a little.

The Resort
The Dana Hotel in Mission Bay is situated around a small marina that offers its guests rentals of every type of water craft.   Also, you can set up your fishing pole anywhere along the marina or the larger part of the bay just beyond the resort.

The marina

On the Mission Bay side of the hotel there is a walkway that takes you along the water’s edge with sweeping views of the bridges, boats, inlets, and Fiesta Island.  You can sit there for hours watching the boats go by.   It is pure relaxation.

Mission Bay

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Fort Bragg

FB- Beach with Rocks

Fort Bragg: Living Life in the Slow Lane
When you hear about popular vacation destinations in California you usually hear about the well known areas such as San Diego, Catalina, Hollywood, San Francisco, and Palm Springs. You don’t usually hear the name “Fort Bragg” in a conversation of someone planning their next vacation. Yet, Northern Californians have been flocking here for years just to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Recently, more and more international travelers have been visiting this area. They are intrigued by the rocky coast and the breathtaking Redwoods that are inland.

FB- Near Glass Beach 2FB- NEar Glass Beach 4FB-Cost rocks

Mendocino Will Have to Wait
When we decided to do a Northern California staycation, we originally had our sights set on visiting Mendocino. We had seen pictures of Mendocino and the amazing coastline caught our eye. It was nothing short of spectacular from what we could tell from Google photos. So what took us 10-miles north to Fort Bragg instead? It was the hotel. After researching accommodations along the coast, we saw a perfect hotel nestled right on a cliff with a 180 degree view of the ocean, a beach nearby, and an 8-mile trail right out front. So Mendocino was set aside and Fort Bragg it was. We did wander over to Mendocino for the day but that adventure will be told in another staycation story.

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PanIQ Room

Paniq The sign
PanIQ Room

One of the members of our Staycations crew is a Groupon hunter. In her search for new things to do she saw that the Paniq Room was opening on July 27th in San Diego.

The Paniq Room is a live escape game that pits players against clues and puzzles to help them break out of a series of rooms before an hour is up. In San Diego there are three different themed rooms: a graveyard, a Voodoo shop, and the one we played which was a drug cartel room. In our case we had to get out of the room within an hour as the DEA were on their way to bust us.

The Foggy Graveyard

Paniq Graveyard Paniq Graveyard 1

One of the rooms in the VooDoo scenario

Paniq The VooDoo room
Paniq Voodoo room 2

With a big IQ in the name of PanIQ room, I assumed that your logic, puzzle solving, general observance, and math skills might be of service. So five of us that in my humble opinion are pretty smart set out to attempt the drug cartel room. We had a few Masters degrees in our bunch so I felt pretty confident of our chances.

Room One
Ready to tackle the game we were led to the first room with some basic instructions and were then handed a walkie talkie in case we needed help. As the door was slowly shutting, the facilitator’s last words were, “Find the clues to lead you to the next clue.”   Then came a small clinking sound and the door was shut. All master degrees and smarts aside, we looked like five lost and clueless children.

As we looked around the room we noticed we were in a chemical room or, in the case of our scenario, a drug making room. We desperately started looking for clues and soon found some obvious puzzles. We set out to solve the first one which ultimately was the combination to another challenge.   This is a hard story to tell because I don’t want to give anything away for those who want to try it themselves. So everything will be a little vague.

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