Couchsurf #2 – Morro Bay and SLO (San Luis Obispo)


I’ve never slept covertly, alone, alongside the road.  I learned recently, however, from my friend Andrew’s blog about his experiences doing so that the resulting fogged over windows are a dead give-away for enforcement personnel.  To avoid any potential hassles, I set an alarm for the crack of dawn.  Twenty minutes down the road I was de-fogged and enjoying the sunrise.  I pulled over at a trailhead and hiked to a nearby waterfall to eat breakfast.  It was pretty awesome!

The sublessor I found to take my place in Humboldt is from Morro Bay.  When she and her boyfriend came to visit, they told us lots about the town.  I knew it was small, so I made sure not to miss it.  I turned off at the first Morro Bay road sign.  Turns out it’s not *that* small: I spent 15 minutes figuring out that the desolate look was a result of being on the outskirts of town!  I made my way to the Embarcadero in time for the Yaquina to enter the harbor.  I was excited to see a familiar “face!” (It’s the same Army Corps of Engineers boat that dredges Humboldt Bay.)

I chatted with a man out for his morning stroll and got some advice about seeing the town.  After taking in the Embarcadero and all the educational signage at a waterfront park, I journaled on a second-story boardwalk bench overlooking the bay until the Chamber of Commerce opened. I picked up a map to the “must see” state park the man had talked about and headed back to my car.  I had an fun little educational moment with some old fishermen on the way.  I’m sure they meant well when they announced within my earshot “There goes that pretty lady again!”  I taught them to say “Good morning” instead.

Thanks to my technology void, I swung by the library to check my email in hopes that some of my couchsurfing requests for SLO (San Luis Obispo) had received responses and to get the ball rolling on a few back up plans.  Yes!  Alisha says I can “maybe probably not stay, but call her to meet up and we’ll see.”  Better than no answer!

Off to the must-see state park – Montana de Oro!  I’m so thankful for this advice and glad I took it.  From a distance, the land around Morro Bay looks a lot like the land around Wyoming – sagebrush covered and a bit homogenous.  The geography is somewhat unique – there are seven cores of ancient volcanoes starting at the coast and moving inland which showcase the results of the crust moving over a hot spot over hundreds of thousands of year (like the Hawaiian islands).  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d want to go bum around in the sagebrush, save the view from the top of a volcano core, but the hike was well worth it!  The flowers were blooming, and up close the ecology of the landscape was breathtaking.  I chugged to the top of Valencia Peak, chosen by chance, and later found out I had climbed everyone’s favorite summit.  The view from the top was breathtaking!  Thanks to the low height of the vegetation, the whole trip back down was just as incredible.

Back in Morro Bay, I decided to brave the public showers on the bay after seeing a fellow traveling woman take advantage of them that morning.  I didn’t want to turn up to meet a woman who would only host me if I made a good first impression after sleeping a night in my car and then hiking all day without showering.  Seventy-five cents later I was squeaky clean and having South America deja vu.

I fell in love with San Luis (colloquially known as SLO – yes, pronounced “slow”) immediately.  I was charmed by the unique font on the street signs (a mission holdover?) and the laid-back disposition of the town.  I had always envisioned skyscapers and a bustling metroplois – or at least a wannabe metropolis – when people talked about the city and the university there.  Turns out it’s an incredible, sweet, perfect little place with a great downtown and awesome in-town hikes.

Alisha and I clicked right away (I’m sure the shower sealed the deal! :).  She was sure, if not her couch, she could find me *a* couch to crash on.  Good enough!  If worse came to worst, I could just drive the rest of the way to Santa Barbara and stay with Adrian.  Thankfully, what really happened was an incredible sunset hike up another volcano core on a “locals only” path.  We had the trail and the incredible view of the valley all to ourselves, minus the group of guys we passed on the way down.  After a delightful quinoa and veggie dinner at her house, we headed over to her boyfriend’s where I could “probably crash” that night.  Oh adventure!

Adam (boyfriend) was incredibly sweet, his roommates were equally fantastic, and I found myself enjoying a clean, safe, fun evening of conversation with great people and good wine.  Phew!  I had my pick of four different couches, slept great, and got up early to hike another peak with Adam and his friend.  On the way down, we crossed paths with Alisha just as she had hoped.  She had rounded up extra climbing gear and rushed to the trail she hoped we were on.  What a sweetheart!  We spent the afternoon climbing a top-roped section on Bishop’s Peak.  After lunch with Adam, I headed off to check out Cal-Poly (the college).

Louie – a roommate and childhood friend of Adam’s – had told me about the Cal-Poly beekeeping class.  My visit happened to coincide with harvest day.  When I asked Louie what would happen if I showed up to the class and tried to join in, he gave me directions and best wishes.  The teacher and his assitant were awesome – handed me a veil and gloves, and led the way to the hives.

There were about 15 hives all in a 20′ x 30′ pen in an orange grove.  It was pretty incredible to be completely surrounded by an enormous swarm of buzzing bees and to feel them bumping into and crawling on my clothing as we smoked the hives and removed the full frames.  Some of the honey engorged frames, just the size of half a checker board, weighed over 20 pounds!  I learned that bees don’t like fleece (because their feet get stuck in the fabric) when one of the girls in the class raced away from pen covered in stinging insects!

We took the full frames back to a giant extractor.  First we slid the frames through a slicing press that opened up honeycomb that had been finished and plugged.  Then we slid 14 frames at a time into the spinner and spun out all the honey.  Finally, we ran the honey through a superfine net and bottled it.  And of course we pulled a sample off the tap to have with fresh bread and peanut butter.  It was so good, I wasn’t too sorry when my gluten troubles kicked in later that evening.

I love San Luis Obispo!



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