Friday, 13 April 2007

Week 10 : Los Osos To Cayucos

Following Amy’s recovery from her dental operation, this has perhaps been a slow week in terms of distance covered, but a rich one in terms of sights seen, drinks drunk and sunshine soaked up. If I could pass a piece of advice on to those fine people who built the great British Industrial Convalescent Homes along the bracing and wind-swept shores of the North Sea it would be “you would have been better off trying the Central Coast of California”. Lying on a sand-dune in the afternoon sun gazing out over Estero Bay is worth a couple of bottles of anyone’s pills.

After we had left Los Osos - still trying to get our newly cleaned teeth around the pronunciation of the place – we spent almost a day and a half, slowly working our way through
Morro Bay State Park. For the convenience of the virtual visitor, the Park Brochure can be downloaded in pdf format. The park offers every convenience for the twenty-first century traveller. There are 135 campsites dotted throughout the 2,700 acre park each of which has hot pay showers and “sanitation stations”. Many of the campsites have water and electrical hook-ups and the park has just been provided with AT&T Wi-Fi Service. For those with more traditional tastes, there are snowy plovers, monarch butterflies, and Great Egrets to see. The one downside to this wild-life heaven is the regulations with regard to dogs. Whilst dogs are allowed they must, according to the rules posted at the entrance, “be on a leash of a maximum length of 6 feet”. Amy likes to wonder free and I am damned if I am going to carry a tape measure with me to continuously monitor her expanding leash. I discussed it with Amy before entering the park and she suggested that the very fact that we were engaging in such a conversation was proof that she wasn’t a “normal” dog and therefore the rules probably didn’t apply.

Once again, we were heading for the coast and this was a relatively easy task as all we needed to look for was the massive outline of Morro Rock. Part of
Morro Rock State Preserve (which sounds like something you should spread on your breakfast toast, Morro Rock was formed 23 million years ago from the plug of a long-extinct volcanoes. Over the last few centuries, the rock has been an important navigational aid, not just for explorers of Morro Bat=y State Park, but for ships sailing up the Californian coast. Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named the rock “El Morro” in 1542. In Spanish "Morro" means crown shaped hill. Sometimes called the “Gibraltor of the Pacific,” Morro Rock forms part of a line of volcanic plugs known as the “Nine Sisters”.

The rock itself was mined on and off until 1963 and provided material for local breakwaters and harbour walls. Now it is protected – for those who collect such facts (and I know some strange people – it is California Registered Historical Landmark number 821) and climbing it is strictly prohibited. Of course, such a prohibition does not stop climbers – indeed it tends to encourage them. Most are caught however as the rock is difficult to climb up but almost impossible to climb down. The rescue helicopter ferries dare-devils from the top straight into jail.

Leaving the rock behind we walked up the coast through the northern outskirts of Morro Bay. It was at this point we met up with – virtually speaking – one of the most delightful websites we have found so far : “
Historical Morro Bay for Old-timers”. Put together by a guy called Vic Hansen, the site provides a platform for memories : memories of local people, local customs, local streets, even local shops. There are few finer examples of what a rich resource the web will gift to posterity. Read “The Parking Meter” and you can step back inside the Morro Bay Hardware Store and chat to Lum and Abner. “Chat” not in the sense of some high-tech wizardry, but via the wonders of the imagination stimulated by good, no-nonsense writing. So the next time you get fed up with all the daily annoyances the internet is responsible for – the spam, the porn, the intrusions – just go visit “Historical Morro Bay” or one of the growing number of sites like it and give thanks for the microchip and for cyberspace. Amen.

We called in at Morro Bay Aquarium to “view the local marine life such as fish” (well that’s what the rather Spartan web-guide says). We then kept walking up the Cabrillo Highway towards our final destination of week 10 which was Cayucos – “the last of the Californian Beach Towns. “Located on cool, colorful Estero Bay on the Central California Coast, Cayucos is a complete resort providing relaxation away from the heat and smog of the California valley, inland, and metropolitan areas” (well so says In fact it was a nice place to end our week. It is busy, it is fun, and it is richly served with all manner of digital information. From the look of the map, the next few weeks might be challenging in terms of virtual tourist resources, so it seemed like a good idea to pig-out whilst we had chance. Thus we ate at Ruddell’s Smokehouse and drank at the Riverstar Vineyard Tasting Room and watched the sun go down from the end of Cayucos Pier (just look at those waves). Now that’s what I call virtual living.

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