We had a few days between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, where we were scheduled to meet our god daughter, Aly. So we reserved space at this Thousand Trails resort (free to us) just 90 minutes southeast of Santa Cruz. It’s a bit remote, which is both a plus and a minus. Lots of two-lane driving to get there, but the scenery was beautiful, and once we were there, it was so peaceful and quiet.
Clearly this resort was a happening place a decade or more ago. It’s huge – over 600 sites, family pool, adult pool and hot tub, shuffleboard, horse shoes, basketball, tetherball, miniature golf, store, restaurant. But the place has been neglected for some time. Only half of the sites had working electricity, so we drove around for some time looking for an electric post that didn’t have a large red dot painted on it. The water in the family pool had a muddy green tint, and not even the kids in the park were braving it. The horseshoe and shuffleboard courts were fuzzy with weeds. The grounds were dotted with gopher holes large enough to swallow an ankle, and the picnic tables were warped and ridged. Feral cats roamed the property and yowled at night. And the restaurant only served a single-offering menu on the weekend nights.
On the upside, it was a quiet refuge for us. We found a spot on the edge of an area without electricity, so there were lots of empty spaces near us. A pretty view of the golden California hills that Salinas Valley is known for. There was free wifi in the lodge/restaurant. We had the hot tub to ourselves one night (even though the jets were broken). There was so much space to walk around and bike, and one night we spotted a large bobcat bounding across an open space.
Alone at Last
We woke up our first morning here to steady rain on the roof. We had planned to meet our friend, Marie, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She’s a docent there and offered us a free tour. But we hadn’t realized just how far this place was from Monterey: almost a two-hour drive. And the heavy rain was not inspiring us to hit the road. We were torn, but ultimately decided that what we really wanted was a quiet rainy day by ourselves in Bessie.
We had been living in Bessie for exactly one month that day, and we realized that this was the very first day we were on our own. As much as we have loved being with friends and family so far, we had a moment of elation when we looked at ourselves at said, “Oh, my god. We’re alone!” No plans, no schedule, nobody to check in with. Nothing to do but hang out in the RV and listen to the rain.
We relished it. I made banana-pecan pancakes and chicken-mango sausage for breakfast. Then we went back to bed with a stack of books and journals. The whole day rolled by with lazy self-indulgence, and we realized that it was exactly what we needed.
San Juan Bautista
The next day the rain stopped, and we drove an hour north to San Juan Bautista, a small town built around one of the first California missions in the 1700s. We lunched at an outdoor Mexican restaurant that let us have Bailey at our table, and then walked around the grounds of the Mission. We had just missed the busload of school children that had swarmed the ice cream parlor after their tour, and we had the place to ourselves. We stopped in at a sweet little bakery and treated ourselves to some donut holes and bought sourdough bread and cherry turnovers for later.
Pinnacles National Park
The next day we drove 40 minutes south to Pinnacles National Park, where we bought our year’s pass to National Parks. (The one time I wish I was older; I was 18 months shy of getting it the pass for $10 instead of $80, and getting half price camping at national parks.)
Pinnacles is small as national parks go, and we had to wait a while for a parking space to open up. We also had Bailey, and in national parks, dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. So the Pinnacles experience was pretty limited for us, but a ranger directed us to a service road we could walk on, and it was nice to get out and hike a bit. There were lots of wildflowers and views of rounded mountain peaks, and the air was deliciously warm.