Sunday, August 31, 2014

When You Hear Hoofbeats Think.......Zebras!

August 29, 2014

Sitting on the patio with a couple cold ones last weekend, Bill says "I think we should drive up to Cayucos next week and take Tessa to the beach." Doesn't have to be more than a suggestion for me to be packed and ready to go!

On Wednesday we realized it would be Labor Day Weekend. Yuk. Neither of us are fans of holiday traffic, and even less enthusiastic about holiday crowds. But we were already in countdown mode, and waiting a WHOLE other week was not possible. The itch must be scratched!

It did mean that reservations were probably necessary though, and even more so with the need for a dog-friendly location. Won't it be wonderful when we have our dog-friendly accommodations with us all the time?!

The places right on the beach were full, as were all the other Tessa-welcoming motels in Cayucos. I found an option in San Simeon which had good ratings, although not a lot of real information. Rather than be without a room, I made the reservation at The Morgan on Hwy 1.  I was able to get a ground floor room with a king bed at a decent rate (especially for a last minute grab on a holiday weekend at the beach).

Bill took Friday off and we got on the road by 7:30 AM. There was some commuter traffic in Santa Barbara (one of those spots where there is commuter traffic at     10 PM on a Saturday night), but the rest of the trip was pleasant and vehicle-light. My music-master husband made a new playlist and it was perfect! Favorites from the 70's that we sang along with the whole drive. I can't remember 90% of what I was taught in college, but a song I haven't heard in 40 years comes on and I know nearly every word.....Maybe instead of lectures, we should learn everything in a song!

The farther north we drove, the more the drought became more noticeable. I don't ever remember the hills being so dry - the typical golden brown has been replaced by fried brown. Lake Cachuma is little more than a large pond - Bill says he has never seen it close to that low. Depressing and a bit scary. I don't know how the wildlife is surviving, and the fire risk is off the chart!

We arrived in Cayucos before noon. Light breeze, bright sun, 65 degrees, plenty of parking places - good start! We chose Cayucos for two reasons: off-leash beaches and no huge crowds. Nearly everyone on the beach had a dog - or three. We had no idea how Tessa would react to the ocean, but were hoping that at the very least she wouldn't be afraid of the crashing surf (I have "other dog" history with that).

As usual, we had nothing to worry about. While she was less than impressed with getting in the water, she was fine following Bill when the tide went out. She made a few runs in the sand, and then spent the rest of the time by our side. 


What is all this weird stuff?

Good dog

More active dogs running by peaked her interest, but she listened when told to stay with us, so we were able to keep her off leash the whole time. When it was time to leave, she knew which stairs to take and led us back to the Jeep. Dogs, like partners, are so much more fun when they're smart!

Figured we could check out the hotel and get a bite to eat in San Simeon. Found the hotel, but no place to eat lunch, so we just turned around and drove the 15 miles back to Cayucos. We knew we wanted fish/clam chowder that we could eat outside with Tessa, and that we could find both in the little town. Duckies had great chowder, good fish and clams, and sidewalk tables where the three of us could watch the small-but-steady stream of people. We walked the small main street, gassed up the Jeep, and headed north again toward San Simeon.

We wanted to check out the RV campgrounds in the area so stopped at San Simeon State Park. 

Replace all green with brown for a current view

They weren't allowing "drive-throughs" on the weekend (which I would really appreciate if I were camping there), but the young ranger provided us a map and a couple brochures, taking the time to point out each of the loops and their details. A small park, I was surprised that the back loop accommodates 40'+ rigs in the majority of spaces. All dry camping. Due to the drought, the showers and flush toilets were closed, and most water spigots turned off. It pays to read all the notices on the websites before heading out to camp in these extreme conditions!

As we neared San Simeon we remembered to pull over to the side of the highway where cars were parked, and a few people were at the top of a small rise taking pictures. There are many herds of cattle and horses along the central coast, not usually unique enough to warrant a photo-op.

Think zebras! Not just a couple of them, but an entire herd with babies! These zebras who graze beside cattle on this land surrounding Hearst Castle are what remains of what was once the Hearst Garden of Comparative Zoology. The herd was too far away to get good photos on my IPhone camera, but it was still fun to see these healthy animals roaming free with their families.

Far away - but still zebras!

After checking in to the hotel we went down to the local beach. Dogs had to be on the leash here, and the entire beach was covered in kelp. I didn't take my camera.

Like Cayucos, there were few others on the beach with us. We found a nice log to sit, and spent an hour or so just enjoying the perfect weather and the sound of the surf.

We also people-watched. A family of four each carried a bucket down to the water line. After much "preparation" they filmed each other doing the "ice-bucket" challenge. Fishermen passed behind us and headed toward the cliffs nearby. Thinking they were going to a little inlet, we were surprised to see them on top of the cliffs! They continued north, and were soon out of sight. We figured they must know the terrain very well as they would most likely be negotiating those cliffs in the dark with a couple buckets of fish! After watching the water crashing violently on the rocks, we watched (concerned, uncomfortable, horrified) a lone surfer attempting to catch a wave directly behind the rocks. Hunger and increasing cold winds overrode our morbid curiosity and we returned to the hotel. I'm sure he was fine :-).

El Chorlito was next to the hotel and had a lovely patio where Tessa was welcome to join us. While the food was just okay, the location and the service were both wonderful. Clouds came in and eliminated our sunset-watching plans so we returned to our room for the night.





  1. Cayucos is such a sweet little town. What a shame that the state park was so terribly affected by the drought that there is virtually no water available. I sure hope this is a wet winter...unfortunately it is going to take several years of wet winters before this is over...unless we are in a hundred year drought as I've heard some folks talk about. Just terrible.

    1. We're sure hoping there might be another El Nino this month, but those predictions are starting to turn around unfortunately :-). After spending Saturday afternoon in Pismo Beach, I liked Cayucos even more!!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful time for all three of you:) Zebras!? How totally strange to see a field of zebra that aren't in the zoo. But really cool:)

    1. There were about four times the number I captured in that photo - mix in some cows - and it was really weird! The babies were very cute :-).

  3. Duchess loves the sand under her feet too.

    1. There was a Dobie at San Simeon that looked like her :-).

  4. How fun to get away for the weekend. It's even better when there isn't a crowd to join you. Our dog isn't a big fan of swimming either but likes to bite at the waves. We have an off-leash beach near San Francisco that we visit with him occasionally.
    I'm hoping for more rain this winter too! The hike we took yesterday in the Sierra Foothills showed us just how dry it is. No water cascading over the falls was just plain sad :-(

    1. I lived up there during the last seven year drought and know what you mean - it just looks and feels so different. I hear Folsom Lake is even worse this time :-(

  5. What a fun weekend! Looks like Tessa is going to just love life on the road. Hurley just LOVES it. It's such a shame what the drought is doing in CA. I sure hope there is a heavy rain/snowfall this winter! What a treat to see the zebras.

    1. I thought about your place in the foothills and wondered how the drought was impacting you :-(. So glad Hurley is loving the road!

  6. Not affecting our ranch (we're on a well) but the areas that are not are only allowed to water 2x a week. The lower foothills are like you said, crispy brown, not gold. We're up in the pines, and surprisingly the mountain lakes are not bad, but the valley lakes are awful. Heard there was another fire nearby, but was put out very quickly.