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Day 1: Phoenix, AZ to Joshua Tree National Park

Made the warm jaunt to Joshua Tree's north side via Parker in an effort to stay off I-10 for as long as possible.  Nice, unpopulated campground this time of year, but the bugs are a royal nuisance.


Day 2: Joshua Tree National Park to Thornhill State Beach, CA

Loaded up in the morning so that we could arrive at Bob's Big Boy in Calimesa by about 11am.  After a delicious brunch, it was time to pound the Los Angeles freeways.  This time, we went over the Santa Monica Mountains to get to the Pacific Coast Highway, taking us up to Thornhill State Beach where we would camp for the night.  While it's right on the beach, it's also right on the highway… bit of a Catch 22.  Since we arrived earlier than we thought we would, despite hitting some traffic, I whipped out my new kite to give it a whirl while ships passed in the distance.

Day 3: Thornhill State Beach to Montaña de Oro State Park, CA

While getting ready to leave Thornhill, a pod of dolphins went swimming by.  Soon, it was time to head north to our next destination, Montaña de Oro, a park nestled quite a ways off the main highway, which meant no traffic noise!  Montaña de Oro is a beautiful place… highly recommend it!

Day 4: Montaña de Oro State Park to Lime Kiln State Park, CA

In the morning, we stopped in at the visitor center & museum(once a homestead) to see artifacts from a long bygone era.  We humans are wimps today compared to our ancestors!


Just north of San Simeon, we stopped to watch elephant seals bask in the sun, swim for food, and fight over females, or perhaps territory, or superiority… or all of the above.

It was an absolutely picture-perfect day, so we did quite a bit of vista viewing en route to Lime Kiln.


Upon arriving at Lime Kiln, we were assigned our beach-section camp site; however, there was a day-use Hispanic family illegally using our provided wood table for their cooked picnic lunch, taking their sweet time vacating the premises. After they finally left, we made our own sandwich lunch and hit the hiking trail, exploring the beautiful canyon, until we reached the waterfall and old lime kilns.




Upon returning from our hike, we ventured out to the beach for a bit of relaxation and people-watching.

Day 5-8: Lime Kiln State Park to Laguna Seca Raceway, CA

Another gorgeous, warm, sunny day along the coast!

Stopped at Safeway in Monterey to restock our provisions for the next few days then headed to the track, where Dave & Vickie were already waiting!  They treated us to home-made burgers for lunch this year, which were dee-lish!

Lots of Volkswagens in attendance this year, along with plenty of awesome old race cars (sorry, only a sampling shown here with a mostly German persuasion).  The Ford Mustang was the marque this year; not a fan, so not many photos of them.

Now, as you notice above, Mom and I were fortunate enough to run into none other than Mr. Car Guy himself, Jay Leno!  You would think that seeing Mr. Leno and all of these fantastic, drool-inducing cars would be enough of a highlight for the weekend, but, in fact, Saturday would be an unforgettable day.  You see, Mom and I had noticed people lining up along the fence at around noon near the track access gate on Friday.  When we finally made our way down there, we inquired with the security officer what the deal was and got the inside scoop.  Thus, come Saturday, armed with umbrellas to shade us from the blistering afternoon sun, we arrived at the fence an hour before lift-off, but not before a handful of others had done the same.  Long story short, Mom and I were the last two in line chosen to do a free ride-along around the track!  She got to go in a racy new Mustang, while I hopped into a Mazda Pace Car for a spirited ride.  Mom got a second lap in because the guy had to do a cool-down lap(!); the Pace Car had to do a cool-down lap as well, but I was forced to bail because right after that lap, the Pace Car had to line up on pit road for the upcoming race.  Regardless, holy cow was that awesome!


Day 8: Laguna Seca Raceway to Kirk Creek Campground, CA

While the final race day of the weekend was underway, I began breaking down camp and packing up… after a nice shower, however!  After the final race, we hit Highway 1 and made it to Kirk Creek at dusk, where we saw a few humpback whales and a village of squirrels.


Day 9: Kirk Creek to San Simeon, CA

After breakfast, we drove through fog down to a sunny San Simeon, where we chose and paid for site #133, a spot closest to the beach and set in the trees.  Since we only have lightweight, expensive camp chairs and an old cot, which were packed away on the Hitch Haul, we opted not to leave anything as an "occupied" marker.  We then drove back up the road a bit to Hearst Castle, a historical marvel I'd never been to, despite growing up in California.  I usually park Old Blue out in the sticks when it comes to parking lots; however, this day I had to make an exception thanks to what was spotted upon arrival…


…Old Blue's twin, a 1990 Orly Blue Westy!

Even long after death, Mr. Hearst is still raking in the fortunes… the cost to tour his castle is astronomical, yet tourists by the bus-loads make the trek up the hill all day, every day. Because of this, we opted to do just one tour (of three) of the "house", then walked the grounds.  Beautiful estate for sure, with fabulous views.

Upon arriving back at the van, there was a note left on the windshield.  The owners of the other Westy saw the campground pass and let us know what site they were staying at. Naturally, we stopped by to say, "Hi!" and to chat for a bit.

When we finally drove back to site 133 to get dinner going, imagine our surprise to find someone else there!  Since San Simeon, like many others, do not employ site tags, and since the jerkoff didn't look at the map back at the kiosk of which sites were already taken, we got screwed.  So, instead of eating among neat coastal pines, we parked in the  barren lawn district, cursing under our breaths.  (Update: I made a "site taken" sign to snap onto my gray water bucket for places like this, so it never happens again; see the Gear page.)

Day 9: San Simeon to Lake Casitas, CA

In the morning, I high-tailed it down to the tide pools in search of a starfish.  Alas, it eluded me, but other unique sea creatures were on display.

For a different route this year, we stayed inland going through Solvang (hadn't been there since I was a kid), stopping in at Lake Cachuma for a look-see (pictured below; almost dried up!), and ultimately camping out at Lake Casitas on Highway 150, which itself is half dry (no pics of this lake).  Lake Casitas has a massive campground, which takes nearly two miles to reach after entering the recreation area.  Naturally, we picked a pretty swell corner spot, drove all the way back out to the entrance to select and pay for it, but that site wasn't in the computer system. Come to find out, it was a camp host site.Despite there being practically no one in this section, we were not allowed to camp in that spot, so we parked in the site next to it.


Day 10: Lake Casitas to Joshua Tree Nat'l Park, CA

After breakfast and showers, we were on the road again, but not before spying two older Buses camped out in another section, off in the distance.  

We took the scenic route via Ojai, which looked like a tinderbox waiting to burn.  Taking the 126, we then went south on the 23 at Fillmore to get to the 118.  When we neared the 405 interchange, the freeway system became a parking lot.  Impeccable timing!    It took nearly 4 hours to drive from Sepulveda to Calimesa, enjoying the view of smog-enveloped mountains.  This is just one reason I'm so glad my van is an automatic; otherwise, I'd be looking at a left knee replacement after this trip!  The one highlight was a young guy practically hanging out of his buddy's passenger window giving us an "awesome van!" gesture until they disappeared into the sea of vehicles ahead.

Thanks to overpopulation of the L.A. megalopolis, our Big Boy lunch turned into a Big Boy dinner, and we made it to Joshua Tree at dark, venturing back to blistering hot Arizona the next day.

Total miles: 1,613

Avg. MPG: 17.28

Adventure 22: Laguna Seca Historic Races; Monterey, CA                                          August 9-20, 2015