Before we retired we looked for opportunities to get away for a long weekend.   The beaches in Southern California make for a perfect getaway.  We were already set up with the truck and camper so why not take advantage of our traveling accommodations and try camping on the beach.

First order of business is to identify the perfect beach for a weekend stay.  California has a lot of State Parks located along the beaches so it wasn’t hard to find several that sounded good.  Let’s face it, when you live in the desert all the beaches sound great.

One of our first experiences was at San Onofre State Park.  In our imagination we expected to find hard packed sand for the rig and glorious long beaches, surfers would be nice, and it goes without saying, Monty was hoping for some bikini clad coeds cavorting in the waves.  Well, expectations and reality were a long way apart.

According to the map we arrived at the correct location but this was a paved parking lot, we’re looking for a state park, you know, sand, surf, trees.  The guy at the kiosk finally convinced us this was the park, we were on a bluff about two hundred feet above the water, and our camp site was number 72.  As I recall the instructions, back in to the site and you can see the beach from the door of the camper, providing your truck is tall enough.  Our site was about two blocks from the stairs down to the beach.  Speaking of stairs, there is no way we were going to carry chairs, umbrellas, cooler, books and towels down that stair case.  Well, down maybe but not up again!

It turns out that the California Parks people used incredible imagination when they decided to use the old freeway as a campground.   They park campers just like a drive-in movie, everyone watching the surf. Better bring your binoculars for this campground. The state park website neglected to mention the location of the new eight lane freeway was about fifty feet to the north of the old four lane freeway, just across the tracks of the new Metro Link high speed commuter train.   At first we thought the ‘background’ noise was the surf but quickly realized we were so far from the surf there was no chance of that.  But the constant drone of traffic became familiar and when the Metro came roaring through we hardly noticed.

Wait, what are those odd looking towers at the end of the park, oh yes, we have seen those things before in nuclear holocaust movies.   Naaaww, yeah, they are nuclear reactor towers.   Oh my gosh, REALLY, they have nuclear reactors right here on the beach!  Yep, they do, this was a startling discovery but we are only here for the weekend, what could go wrong. . . .

We finally got settled and decide a walk on the beach would help us shake off the nuclear reactor thing.  Off we go trekking down the beach.  The sun was shining, the ocean breeze feels a bit chilly but we have sweatshirts on.  We have all day, so we walk a long way down the beach until we see a group of people and a guy carrying a surf board out of the water.  Hummmm he doesn’t seem to be wearing anything.  That seems sort of strange until we look around and discover everyone on this part of the beach has apparently forgotten their swim suits.  There were probably fifty people, young, old, traditional couples and alternative couples all cavorting on the beach in their birthday suits.   We figured we had walked far enough and turned around, heading for the camper. It’s not that we were shocked to see naked people, it’s that we were questioning their good sense, it was much too chilly to be out there naked.

On our next beach adventure we stayed at Carlsbad State Park.  We weren’t going to tempt fate with the nuclear reactors at San Onofro again.  This is another park up on the bluff but at least we were closer to the stairs this time.  This trip we knew more what to expect and the parking situation didn’t surprise us.  What did surprise us was the group that moved in next door.  They arrived in two white vans and there must have been at least fifteen people in one of the vans. It was like watching a clown car, the people just kept piling out. We were astounded when they started unloading, luggage, cook pots, tables, and pup tents.  This was some sort of tour group and they weren’t from around these parts.  Even if the unusual assortment of ‘camp stuff’ didn’t give them away their dress certainly did.  We’d never seen such strange clothes, trust me if the fashion police were anywhere near here these guys were doing hard time.   Plaids, checks, stripes and polka dots of every imaginable color combination. We learned later they were from Czechoslovakia, now it all made sense.

Many of them quickly changed into swim suits, just undressing with the help of a few well placed towels.  Later they lined up for the dinner their guides had prepared and then switched to jammies, apparently there was no need for towels at this point. They crawled into tiny one person pup tents. One of the best parts of camping is sitting around the campfire enjoying hot chocolate and watching the stars. We didn’t dare light a fire for fear a spark might set one of their tents on fire.

In the morning we watched as our neighbors opened their suitcases to retrieve various toiletries.  The packing of these cases would have even impressed my sister, Marilyn, who is the original master at packing.  It might appear we have some voyeur tendencies, but in this case, the group wasn’t five  feet from our  door and unless we closed all the blinds in the camper we couldn’t help but see them. OK, I admit it, it was kind of fun.

We returned to Carlsbad one other time and although there were no visitors from Czechoslovakia occupying the next campsite, there were the biggest raccoons we’d ever seen.  These big guys were the size of medium/large dogs and were rummaging thru the trash and making a general nuisance of themselves.  We enjoyed watching them as long as they didn’t want to share our campsite.

California Coast

This was the trip we decided to take Ali Kitty along with us. We’ve seen other people travel with cats, so why not.  I’ll tell you why not,  most cats do not like to ride in the car and they are not the least bit hesitant to let their people know how mistreated they are.   The plan called for keeping the litter box in the shower stall.  The problem came when we decided we wanted showers and set the litter box up on the potty to get the shower ready.   Ali Kitty decided she really needed to use that litter box and jumped up on the potty, unfortunately she misjudged the sides of the litter box and hit the edge, two day old litter went flying everywhere, all over us, and the bathroom.   To say nothing about the cat being pretty ticked off over the whole thing and yowling like crazy.  We really needed showers at that point.  That was Ali Kitty’s only trip to the beach.  After that we just left her home with food and water and told her we were going to the grocery store, we’d be right back. Hey, she’s a cat, she can’t tell time.

As a side light, the San Onofre generating station was decommissioned in the summer of 2013.  I’m sure the neighbors didn’t mind losing it and I know the beach campers won’t miss it.

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