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Published: February 16th 2013
From Morro Bay, we drove to the Monarch Grove near Pismo Beach and saw a lot of butterflies. We also took a cliffside walk at Montana de Oro State Park and wandered around San Luis Obispo on a sunny day. On Tuesday, we drove to Ocean Mesa campground just west of Santa Barbara and spent three lovely days there. We left reluctantly on Friday and drove to Lake Casitas, near Ojai, where we will spend a few nights. We have had gorgeous weather all week - though cool overnight, it has been sunny and warm during the daytimes, even into the 70's.
John had been to the Monarch Grove near Pismo Beach many years ago, and he was disappointed that there were only about 16,000 butterflies there this day. Apparently there have been as many as 250,000 at one time. But since I had never seen clusters of them hanging in eucalyptus trees, I was very impressed. They don't exactly turn the trees orange, but they do make colorful bunches. I remembered to wear my yellow cap which had had lots of butterflies land on it at the Calgary Zoo, but was disappointed this time.
We stopped back at San Luis Obispo and walked all around the town and then stopped at a lively (i.e. attracts the Cal Poly students, apparently) coffee shop. We really like the spirit we feel in this town - funky, energetic, historic with the Mission right in the middle of town, etc.
On Sunday, we drove to Montana de Oro State Park. After a long, lonely drive, we arrived to find dozens of cars parked there so that lots of families could enjoy the warm sunshine and spectacular ocean views. You know that John and I are electronically challenged, and we were very frustrated with the new pedometer we had bought to replace the two we had that would not work for us. The new one kept popping off John's belt and landing on the button to reset it to zero. We are trying to get in the 10,000 steps a day that we should, but we still don't know how close or far we are from our goal. We have since bought a pedometer that says it works in a pocket, but so far we have been wary of even trying it and encountering another disappointment. In the meantime, we just try to walk until our legs get tired.
On Monday, we took a long walk around the town of Morro Bay, stopped of course at a coffee shop, and returned to the campground to gather our chairs, etc., and sit on the dunes across the street. We settled behind some dunes to avoid the afternoon sea breeze, and the sun felt so delicious! A so-so Mexican meal rounded out our day.
On Tuesday, we headed south toward Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara faces southward, on a stretch of coastline that lies east to west. Thus we stayed about 20 miles west of town. When we got hooked up, I turned on the TV to see if there was any news about Christopher Dorner the cop killer, and boy, was there! Jumbled reports of the siege outside the cabin where he was holed up, then photos of the cabin on fire, sad news that one of the officers he had recently shot was dead, etc. etc. We escaped from the TV and went for a long walk. Right next to our campground is the El Capitan Resort where you can stay for a night in a yurt or tent or cabin for $200 to $700. We didn't actually see any of the buildings because we didn't walk back into the El Capitan Canyon, but people we chatted with the next day said it was quite a place, which they saw along with seeing a mountain lion on the hillside. We walked to the beach and back, so we got in a lot of steps that day.
Wednesday was our day to explore Santa Barbara. What a beautiful town! It's architecturally almost completely homogeneous - southwest adobe, Spanish. We checked out the library (John "approves" any town whose library has Valueline so he can pore over recent stock data). It is a great library, but there and throughout town there were dozens of homeless folk. We had a wonderful tour of the County Court House. Our guide told us amusing facts about the weird little anomalies the architect had included so that the building would be interesting, i.e. asymmetrical, doors opening to air or not at all. Only three sides of the courtyard are enclosed, and the fourth side gives a view toward the steep, tall Santa Ynez Mountains which dominate the skyline in the distance. I have been loving looking at these mountains, as long as I don't see roads on them that we might have to drive along...
We walked on State Street, the many-block main shopping area, past elegant stores. Then we headed to the Santa Barbara Mission, which is really lovely. And it was Ash Wednesday, so a good day to visit. The gardens were not full at this time of year, but showed plenty of potential. The Franciscan friars had taught the Chumash Indians many trades at the Mission. The cemetery includes the gravesite of the woman on whom the children's book Island of the Blue Dolphins
is based; that brought back many memories of reading and thinking about a person left alone on an island for 18 years and how she fended for herself.
From the Mission, we took the Scenic Drive, which took us past elegant homes with views of the sparkling ocean (and drilling platforms...) in front and the awesome mountains behind. We drove through Montecito and kept our eyes pealed for Oprah, but did not spot her. Back by the harbor and up through more lovely residential areas. A gorgeous city, indeed.
Thursday was really warm and we planned to go to a beach but ended up sitting by the pool at the campground. Decadent and delightful. We had to go back toward Santa Barbara because our electric frying pan had abruptly died and John was planning fried potatoes for our Valentine dinner. The only "big box" store was a KMart. After buying the pan, we drove a bit around the campus of UCSB (University of California at Santa Barbara). He later researched the school and discovered it is one of the "public ivies," with splendid research facilities.
I was so enjoying the lovely coast that I was reluctant to start eastward, or inland anyway, so we chose to come not very far inland, to Ojai. We are at Lake Casitas which is a large reservoir (although down 30 feet) and a bass fishing mecca. For some reason, we are at an "executive site" which means a concrete platform and sewer, for two nights and might try to extend our stay past this weekend. We still haven't decided what to do about touring LA or not. It was a bit difficult to get a reservation for this weekend because of Presidents' Day and school vacation week; we seldom run into problems like that, so weren't quite proactive enough. Today we will venture into Ojai, which promises to be an interesting place - spiritual retreat, multimillion dollar homes, dozens of artists, etc. etc.
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