LA, Bakersfield and Aptos: Part 2 of our 2016 California Travels
We spent a few days just north of LA right off the Grapevine (I-5 in the mountains) where we encountered our worst internet situation to date. 4g was non existent and the the RV park wifi was laughable - even the internet you could purchase as an “upgrade” was pathetically slow. We made the decision not to stay a full week. Paying for a week at a an RV park is cheaper than paying 7 nights of a nightly rate. Typically it is like getting 1 or 2 nights “free” if you stay somewhere for a full week which is what we aim for. But with lack of decent internet and zero desire to explore LA (traffic that haunts our traveling nightmares) we didn’t need to hang around.
While here, we worked at a cafe in nearby Frazier Park - a small town nestled in the mountains. We weren’t far from L.A. but this place was vastly different. The cafe we worked at had coffee, breakfast, lunch and beer for when we decided it was 5 o’clock somewhere. Oh, and wifi of course. The local library was beautiful and also provided wifi and a workspace (I think we could do a blog post about our favorite libraries we have visited while traveling!)
We did spent one day in LA: we watched a KU men’s basketball game at an alumni watch party (they have FIVE in the LA area because there are so many alumni in the area) at a venue that was partially outside. It was great enjoying a February basketball game outside in the LA sunshine! After the game, we went to Malibu State Park. We weren’t quite ready for a 4+ mile hike but did it anyway so Phil could see the place where they filmed the outdoor scenes of M.A.S.H.
Our next stop was disc golf motivated. We hadn’t played in decent rounds in a couple months. We ended up landing in Bakersfield, California where, admittedly, the disc golf courses were great but where we had our worst RV park experience to date. With no bathroom in our RV, we need access to the bathrooms overnight, too. There was a sign that said that they would not be accessible but the manager said he would get us a key. We never did get a key and it wasn’t the last lie he would tell us.
Bakersfield - because of this RV park and other reasons - was not our favorite stay. The disc golf courses - on the north side of the city - were beautiful and fun and the only highlight of this week. Well, the weather was beautiful, too: we set up our tv outside to watch one of the KU games. Even our worse weeks traveling aren’t so bad! (Though, we’ll probably never go back to Bakersfield!
We left the valley of Bakersfield with thoughts of the ocean! The drive to the coast was beautiful: we passed through the rolling hills of highway 1 to Paso Robles, then Salinas (which is the setting of one my favorite books: East of Eden and hometown of its author John Steinbeck).
At this point in our travels, we were not in the habit of making reservations. It’s hard to choose an RV park based on reviews and photos online. So when we arrived at the RV park I had selected in Aptos, we were not immediately impressed. Some campgrounds and RV parks are all about the scenery and the luxuries provided. Some are about the location. The RV park we chose was a tiny parking lot with a bathroom building and extremely small spaces. We generally have loads of room for our pop up camper and car (compared to giant 30 or 40 foot rigs) but WE would barely fit in the spot we got. We ended up staying but not after a few minutes of second-guessing. It was a good choice as it is still one of our FAVORITE places we’ve stayed. Not so much for the parking lot atmosphere but for the location. We were a 5 minute walk from the ocean, within ear shot of the crashing waves, and could walk to everything we needed: library, coffeeshop, grocery store, AND -bonus- ice cream shop. With one car, we are in good habit of coordinating our days. Sometime we both stay in and work but generally we both go out or one of us leaves while the other stays at the camper. With everything within walking distance, we could easily get up and go when we were ready. In ten minutes, we could be at Aptos Coffee Roasting Company, a great coffee shop where we spent a lot of time. Our walk there involved a walk on a bridge over legendary highway 1. Add in the unseasonably warm and dry February weather (we were about an hour south of San Francisco - it is normally cool and rainy during this time of year) and it was truly a beautiful two weeks on the coast.
While in Aptos, we had our very first wine tasting at Armitage Winery - their tasting room is in town - not at the vineyard - and we had possibly the very best tasting experience you could hope to have. We were the only tasters at the time and our host was lovely. I discovered I *loved* pinot noirs (which is all Armitage makes) and we bought a bottle (when you are going to be spending $20 on just the tasting, you might as well buy the $35 bottle when the cost of the tasting goes towards the cost of a bottle!) Later that week, Phil made an AMAZING pasta shrimp dish which was made even better with the Armitage pinot. During our travels to Aptos, we also realized there was wine EVERYWHERE in this part of California. We had heard of Napa (obviously) and I hoped to spend a week there after Aptos. But we realized Napa would be touristy and more expensive and there was plenty of wine in other parts of the state. So we decided to stay in Aptos for a second week. This gave us more time for a day trip to San Francisco where we met up with a couple Lawrence friends who had moved and lived in San Francisco. We had burritos (California LOVES burritos - they are everywhere), tried a local brewery, and did a lot of walking. Yes, there were hills. Thanks Brian and Barbara for hosting for the day.
We also took a day trip down to Paso Robles, which we had passed through after leaving Bakersfield. There were wineries galore, gorgeous countryside and a brewery. We visited Sculpterra - a vineyard and winery that lives up to its name: the grounds are full of amazing sculptures. It was part winery, part outdoor art museum. We stopped by Firestone Walker, a brewery a friend suggested. We took the tour which we don't do very often anymore because all beer is made the same way! But it was a good tour (included some small tastings) and then we sampled a few more of their beers and found a couple favorites.
Just north of Aptos is Santa Cruz, home of world (?) famous Delaveaga disc golf course. When we realized it was so close (one of the yearly major tournaments happens at this course) we had to go. It is a super fun course but we unfortunately couldn't play 3 of the last few holes as they were fixing some of the erosion happening on the hillside. This included the top of the world hole which is, in itself, epic We'll just have to go back one day!
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