Kamping in luxury!

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” –Paul Theroux

We’ve been driving down the California Coast the last few days, mostly on highway 1. If you crave danger, formula one type racing, twists and curves and hair pin turns…then this is the road for you! It hugs the coast almost the entire way, climbing mountains only to descend immediately (into more twists and turns), sending even the most calm person into panic at times. While the driving freaked me out a little (ok, a lot!), the views were absolutely spectacular. Even from the road you could spot the harem of seals. Hundreds of them, possibly even thousands. All just hanging out, bobbing in the water. The coastline is actually pretty rocky and mountainous. For some reason I imagined sandy beaches. So naive. But now I know different as I’ve been fortunate enough to see most of the coastline from Oregon to now Southern Cali. California is my ultimate playground- trees, mountains, oceans, lots of VW buses and Whole Foods. Yesterday was my first Whole Foods experience and I’m in love. I am rather fond of health food stores and this one was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Fresh, beautiful, locally sourced organic produce, eggs, milk…it’s like my Mecca! Camping and whole foods with my family, my life is complete!

What we’ve also discovered in California are KOA Kampgrounds. As much as I’ve enjoyed the State Parks, I may not be able to return after this luxury camping retreat!! Seriously, last night we stayed in Petaluma, California at a KOA which had an olympic size heated pool, hot tub, petting zoo, ‘mega playground’, and a bouncing pillow. And randomly there were peacocks just roaming the property. We are now officially KOA members and I will likely post many photos of the awesome amenities going forward! Our first night at a KOA was actually in Eureka when we rented the cabin. Since then we’ve stayed at a KOA in Manchester Beach, last night in Petaluma and tonight in Santa Cruz. They just keep getting better. We’ll be hanging out in the Santa Cruz area until Friday, as our tent is going to be delivered here!!

Yes, the tent saga continues. It actually got delivered to the hotel in Crescent City on Saturday; but of course we had already moved on down the coast. Since it was not delivered promptly, Amazon issued us a full refund and cataloged our package as a “lost item.” Thanks to a kind gentleman in India, while organizing our refund, he tipped us off that if we organized our own shipping from the hotel, the tent could literally be ours. For free! Well except for the shipping. We aren’t counting our chickens before they hatch but it’s looking promising. The tent was picked up by UPS in Crescent City today and should be delivered to us by Thursday for a bargain price of $40.  Whatever will I write about if not the debacle that is this new tent. I’ll just post photos of our fancy (and yet minimalistic) tent. For now we are making do with our 3 man tent. The weather has been phenomenal so we’ve literally just used it for sleeping. It’s still short on space with our sideways sleeping children!

Between the KOA amenities and the amazing local beaches we should have no issues maintaining our minimalism of spending money on activities. I have been recording all of our spending on this journey and will write a complete post on the financials, perhaps once we’re in Vegas. What I am most amazed about, is that we’ve eaten out at a restaurant exactly once on this trip! So our dining costs have been low. We are buying fresh fruits and veg and stocking up on supplies every two or three days and still our grocery expenses are lower than I expected. I am becoming an (efficient) whiz with this camping stove and creating nutritious meals in a matter of minutes. The kids have been great, meaning not fussy; though usually by dinner they are pretty hungry after a full days play in the sun and fresh air.

That’s not to say we are purposefully avoiding spending money on activities. Yesterday we drove on the Avenue of Giants-  a scenic highway in Northern California, running through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Since I am completely fascinated by the shear massiveness of the trees we took the 31 mile drive which parallels highway 101. One thing I thought would be fun for the whole family was the Shine Drive Thru Tree. I spent the $6 to enter the private attraction only to discover the drive thru tree was fit for a Smart Car. I was a sucker to the tourist trap!! I think we could have made it but it definitely would have been tight. Clinton felt it was a lose-lose situation for him. Either he directs me and we get stuck and he gets blamed for poor directing. Or he drives and I direct and we get stuck and he gets blamed for poor driving! I had a good chuckle over that. We did watch a rather large white truck make it, just barely. Although they had a distinct advantage. We were marveling at this girl who was giving the most complete and elaborate hand signals. Turned out it was a truck full of deaf people. They made it through nonetheless with cm’s to spare on either side. I felt I got my money’s worth from that experience alone!

Another paid activity was this Discovery Science centre in Eureka. It was a little rinky-dink private enterprise. Someone’s ambition to create a space for children to learn while they play. We got there 35 minutes before it closed so they gave us a reduced entrance fee (yet again $6). And although it looked a bit hokey as we entered, it turned out to be a really neat little space. The boys had fun. There were lots of buttons for Xavier to push so he was delighted. It’s really neat to observe, and it’s become more obvious on this trip, but Taio’s attention span and interest in learning has exploded. Maybe it’s just a developmental, chronological thing, I don’t have much experience with almost 4 year olds, but he’s so curious and asks so many good quality questions. And he actually listens to the answer because he repeats it back to me later. He likes to play this endless loop of questioning like “what is an ocean” upon which I explain it’s a body of water. “What is water?” Me: “It’s a liquid.” “What’s a liquid?” You get the idea. He stumps me every time by about the 5th or 6th question! Makes for interesting car rides.

Well the camp fire is dying down and I’m starting to get sleepy, so this is a good time to sign off. Thanks for reading.

Stay tuned for new photos of the California Coast.