We spent the week up in Avila Beach, a small town just north of Pismo Beach. We reserved a studio unit at the San Luis Bay Inn through our timeshare. The resort is beautifully situated, just across the street from the water, overlooking San Luis Bay to the northwest and Avila Beach to the southeast. We had an incredible view from the balcony of our room, and it was awesome drawing the curtains each morning to clear skies and the sight of small boats anchored in the bay.
Behind the resort is a nice looking golf course, the Avila Beach Golf Resort. Ron didn’t get a chance to play during this vacation, but is looking forward to on future trips.
Stephanie wasn’t with us at the beginning of the trip. She elected to go with a small group of 7th graders from her middle school on a 5-day science trip to the Florida everglades. The plan was for Iris to drive down on Wednesday morning, get a few things done at home, pick Stephanie up in the evening when her plane landed, and drive back up.
The primary purpose of selecting Avila Beach for our vacation was to give Morgan a chance to do some research on a California Mission. All fourth graders in California have to do a California Mission Project, and Morgan decided to do hers on Mission La Purisima in Lompoc. We went to Mission La Purisima on our first full day, and then went to the touristy Danish town of Solvang. Because we got there so late (after 5PM on Sunday), most of the shops were closed. We did find a bakery that was open and had ourselves some pastries.
Later that night, on the advice of Paul & Laura, we headed over to a steak house called the Hitching Post in the tiny town of Casmalia. They warned us that Casmalia was on the edge of nowhere, and Iris had some doubts that we would find it (especially since Ron was going by memory of the directions he had looked up from Google Maps), but when we finally arrived, it was well worth it. Morgan and Iris shared a quail & filet mignon combo, while Ron had a 7 oz. sirloin. This is one of those places where everything is included with the entree: salad, veggie plate, shrimp cocktail, coffee/tea, & ice cream. To say that we ate our fill is an understatement.
Monday was spent exploring the town of Avila Beach. We had a humongous lunch at the Customs House and strolled down the promonade, checking out the half-dozen or so tourist shops. We also rented a four-person surrey, a fancy name for a pedal-powered cart. It looked a lot nicer in the parking lot than it did actually riding it. For one thing, there’s only one gear, and the gear is too low for cruising at a decent speed and too high to make it up even the slightest hill. Iris & Ron got a serious workout on the thing; Morgan got a chance to steer, though, so she was happy with the experience.
On Tuesday, we headed over to San Luis Obispo to visit the famous Bubblegum Alley. It was certainly impressive, with as many different colors and shapes as can be imagined. The alley itself stretched for quite a distance, and Morgan added her freshly chewed wad. On the way back, we stopped off at the Madonna Inn, famous for their themed rooms. Someone had told us to take a look at the men’s room, featuring a waterfall urinal. Ron stepped in and took a quick picture (luckily no one was using it at the time).
On Wednesday, Morgan and Ron took a tour of Mission San Luis Obispo while Iris was on her way back home to pick up Stephanie from the airport. They took the docent tour, and their docent was very knowledgeable and personable. However, they felt that Mission SLO didn’t have the same breadth of experience as Mission La Purisima.
On Thursday, we headed up the coast to Hearst Castle. Iris and I had been on the tours a few times before, the most recent was during our honeymoon. This was the first time for the girls, though, and they were surprisingly impressed with the tour. The Visitors Center looked like it had been redone since the last time Iris & I visited; there’s now a National Geographic theater, and included with our tour was admission to see a nice 45 minute IMAX-style movie called “Hearst Castle, Building the Dream.”