A Lonely Night in Paradise

We had gotten word that Humberto, his son Phillip, and Matt and his family—who all had left earlier that morning—had arrived at a locked gate leading to the campsite, so we called the first audible of the trip to find a secondary site. Plan B was a nicely tucked away site: Paradise Campground, just off Highway 154. With a site named such a way, how bad could it possibly be? It was a bit of a drive from our initial point but close enough to arrive before sunset. We made the call, and Humberto and Matt headed to the new site with us not far behind.

We arrived at Paradise Campground with the sun just starting to set, with Humberto and Matt already set up. The night’s terrible site was a well maintained one with flushing toilets and running water and plenty of flat ground for the group’s tents, roof or ground. We were definitely roughing it hardcore in Paradise. After we arrived, we had gotten word that Jon, Brian, and Mitch would be arriving on night two, with Stuart and Cris arriving on the morning of day three. With the details ironed out, Brett, Andy and I unpacked, setup, and settled in with Matt and Humberto for the night around the campfire.

The second day started nicely with a somewhat late wake up and leisure pace. It was a brisk morning with clear and sunny skies. We slowly got up to pace, making breakfast, and catching up with each other. We even saved a gopher from getting eaten by a group of crows. At about 11:00am, we finished packing up and headed for our next stop which would be lunch.

We arrived at a sweet little restaurant tucked away in the hills just a few minutes south from our campground. This cozy little restaurant is called The Cold Springs Tavern. Luckily we had arrived early enough where they were able to accommodate the 11 of us in one of their rooms. The food was great and worth checking out for those interested as they serve some game meats, but I advise heading there early before noon as once we had left the facility, there was a large crowd waiting to be seated. The small area used to a relay station where travelers could rest and/or change their horses. They’ve maintained the old buildings and with the surrounding greenery, made for a beautiful and rustic spot for lunch. We saddled up and were Oscar Mayer after rallying down the street.

We decided to take Highway 154 and cut across to Highway 1 from Highway 246 for a more scenic drive. Unfortunately, once we hit Lake Cachuma, we ran into some construction traffic and were at a stand-still for quite sometime. We continued through to Solvang and enjoyed the touristy drive-thru, but after reviewing the remaining time of travel and the setting sun, we called it short and decided to hop back onto Highway 101 North to fast track it to our night’s campground of Pismo Beach.

We booked it north towards Pismo and after a short supply stop at a shady looking liquor store, which Brett thought was a larger market on Google Maps, we eventually hit the entrance to Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach is an OHV area where you’re allowed to drive right onto the beach to camp and ride your OHV vehicles on the sand dunes just behind the beach. It’s a beautiful spot when it’s not too crowded, unlike the day we arrived. There was a line to enter the park but we eventually paid our dues, aired down, and drove south along the surf looking at all the RV’s and toyhaulers littering the beach.

We circled the wagons at our makeshift site in the dunes, among the buzzing two stroke bikes and side-by-sides, but nestled next to a cordoned off section to minimize the madness. It was a killer sunset with some offshore winds but nothing unbearable.

With the fire going, food cooking, and children playing, we thoroughly enjoyed our environment as we always do. A little after dinner, we some chatter came over the comms from Brian, Jon, and Mitch heading up Highway 101. We attempt to guide them in using a high mounted green-lit whip antenna, but our signal was lost in the sea of campers. Of course, right? They doubled back, we made visual contact, and completed our circle of rigs, then enjoyed the rest of the campfire.

Click here to follow along with Part II as we climb above Pacific Coast Highway, and brave a maze of windy roads and locked gates to follow the Coastal Ridge north.