Big Sur and another leveling story

Big Sur is a name that brings all sorts of things to mind, most notably the winding road famous for it’s magnificent views of the Pacific and the wild and scary and nearly vertical drop-offs from that winding narrow road to foamy seas below.

Another word association: Big Sur – Hippies – the 60’s. I had a friend who spent a few months doing the hippie thing in a van on a beach at Big Sur many years ago. I was too involved having children to take time out to be a hippie, but there is a vagabond in me that loved to imagine what it might have been like. In the late 60’s, Mo visited the same beach in Kauai that we hiked to last month, and said it smelled awful from all the waste and dirt of the hippies who were squatting there. No pun intended. So maybe the imaginary vision of hippiedom from afar isn’t quite the same as the reality was. But hippies were the ones who had a part in making Big Sur famous back then, and I remember hearing about it. The remnants are there as well, with young people wearing dreadlocks and tie-dye, still caring about things like sustainable living and healthy eating. Good things to care about. Esalen is there as well, another holdover from a different time, still operating and providing a place for meditation training among other self improvement kinds of things.

What I hadn’t quite understood about Big Sur, however, is how inaccessible it actually is beyond the highway. There are few beaches that you can get to, and the one that is somewhat accessible is often cold and wild and incredibly windy, at least both times that I have been there. The waterfall is wondrous, a thin silvery ribbon dropping over a cliff to the rocky beach below, but again, inaccessible. Signs saying “no beach access” are all around that lovely falls. The trail to Julia Pfeiffer’s old gardens is wonderful, part of the state park system, and leads to great views of the ocean and falls, but not a long trail at all, and it doesn’t use up much of a day. While perusing a local book store, I found a book called, “Day Hikes Around Big Sur“, and it made me wish that I had the time to stay there a bit longer and really explore. So many people talk about the magic of this place, and yet without taking time to immerse there, the magic is impenetrable, lovely, but somehow “out there”.
The views are magnificent, no doubt some of the most incredible vistas in this country. The air was brilliant and fresh and chilly while we were there this weekend, but the skies were clear with no sign of the predicted clouds. Perfect sleeping weather, but not so cold that the furnace had to be on the whole time. We took the chill off with our little electric heater and it was just enough. But our travels were about camping with our friends, appreciating the delights of campfires and games and laughter, and there was plenty of that for all of us.
The Big Sur Campground and RV Park was one of just a few choices in the area that had both RV sites and camping cabins for Maryruth and Gerald. We chose a cabin directly on the Big Sur River for them, and the closest site for our MoHo for us. It was a bit disconcerting when we arrived to see just how close everything was in the park, with very little space for our rig, especially with the slide-out. We had mentioned the slide-out, but the young boys who seemed to be running the show at this park were somewhat oblivious. I made reservations several weeks in advance and it took them three tries to get a confirmation letter to me that had the right campsite numbers and prepaid fees. They have computer access, but didn’t even use email to confirm reservations, and when we got there, they were still having trouble getting the numbers right.
The sites had water and electric, and big trees in between the rigs and the firepits. Mo and I managed to get backed in just close enough that we could open the steps and the side door without hitting the tree and still had enough room on the opposite side for our slide. We were fairly proud of ourselves, until we attempted to level. Nothing. Nada. No lights, no sound, no leveling. Since our last weekend we had so carefully stopped and practiced up and down more than a few times, this was a real disappointment. Neither one of us could figure it out. When Gerald arrived a bit later, he got into the guts of the rig, and actually found some loose connections that were certainly not a good thing, but none of them seemed to have any effect on the levelers. So, just like the old days, we found a couple of pieces of wood and carefully drove up onto them, trying to avoid the tree and the steps and just gave up on the levelers.
Supper was roasted in the new bbq I bought for our travels, just enough room for a nice meal for four, with an automatic lighting switch and a hood with a temperature gauge. I tried planked salmon for the first time and it was wonderful! Baked potatoes with all the trimmings, pineapple cole slaw, and fire pit warmed garlic sourdough bread made it all perfect. We all played cards into the evening, and with the very chilly winds were glad for the protection of the MoHo. The rig was big enough for all of us to sit comfortably with a real table, something we had missed in our 21 foot MoHo.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Mo woke up with an “ah ha”. “I’ll bet it has something to do with the steps!!!” Sure enough, first thing in the morning we pulled in the electric steps (which we had carefully taken off automatic so they wouldn’t keep going in and out when we closed the door) and yes! red light on!! levelers working!!! So, in addition to the brake on, key to accessory, your steps have to be IN for the levelers to go down. Needless to say, we were both quite tickled to figure out this one last little glitch in such a simple way. The rest of the trip everything worked to perfection. Maybe we actually have it all figured out, at least for the time being.

Sunday we woke to clear sunny skies again, and a bit of a chill to the air, but nothing that wasn’t easy to shake off with a light jacket. Mo cooked her classic campfire bacon and hash browns, and we kept it all warm on the little bbq and really loved that old fashioned hot breakfast. Spent the day exploring the roads, beaches, and waterfall, and found a magnificent restaurant for our celebratory dinner.

Nepenthe is just about 10 miles south of the RV park, with a restaurant that overlooks the ocean in both directions, high above the cliffs. The ambiance was wonderful, and even though it was a really nice place, we all felt perfectly comfortable in jeans, and a good thing because it was much too chilly for the light skirt that I brought to wear to dinner. Of course, the Big Sur prices were a bit shocking, but it was the view we were after, so everyone decided it was worth it. The food was excellent, and we had a wonderful celebration, at least it felt like a celebration, even though there wasn’t any particular event to celebrate except the loveliness of the area and the enjoyment of friendships. That’s enough, I guess.

I’m not sure when we will go back to Big Sur. It was expensive in every way. Our camp site was 43 per night, with the 5. charge for the dog, and the tiny canvas cabin for Maryruth and Gerald was 75 per night, even in the off season. It certainly isn’t a place for retired rv’rs to hang out for any length of time. A big surprise was that a very large number of campers were in rented RV’s, lots from El Monte RV, and most of them we talked to were from the Bay Area.

Seems like an expensive way to spend a weekend to me, especially with gasoline getting very close to 4. a gallon here in California. Most everyone was very friendly, and I think that’s an especially good thing considering just how close together everyone was in this tight little park. A very good thing about the park was the lack of night lights. It was dark and starry and wonderful. The bathrooms were heated and nice as well, and I even opted for a shower there instead of waiting for water to heat in our rig.

There are a lot of places in this country to explore, so it might be the last time for Big Sur for us, for awhile at least.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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