Big Sur is not a town; it may be a state of mind; but it’s definitely a 100 mile stretch of California coastline from Cambria in the south to Carmel in the north. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from Cambria to Carmel was built over 16 years (1921-1937) at cost of nine million dollars. Of course, those were depression dollars that put many men to work.
After four days in the coastal mountains and on ocean bluffs for hiking, we decide to chill this Sunday in mid-January. A minor crisis arises as we pack up to leave Pismo Beach – I can’t charge my iPhone; stick with me – it’s the camera for my blog. You might think WTF (Why the [long] face?). I text and play Words with Friends and Lexulous (Scrabble games) to connect with mi amigos. But it’s the camera that I need. Fortunately we discover that there is a Verizon store in San Luis Obispo open this Sunday.
Before we head north to the gateway of Big Sur in Cambria, our plan is to find a little morning meditative peace at the Unity of San Luis Obispo service. With a small congregation of 25 or so, similar to our Unity of the Seacoast in Dover, NH, the service brings some calm to our world where we can be a little too focused on being productive and efficient.
Arriving at the Verizon store in, as the locals say, San Luis or SLO (pronounced es-el-oh), I explain my iPhone situation to the young woman who greets us. Immediately she says, I know just what to do. Minutes later she returns with my charger working and my undying gratitude. Pocket lint builds up. I just used a heavy duty hand fan to clean it out. There is peace in my valley again.
Thirty-five miles north on the PCH we arrive at the Cambria Palms Motel. Given high fives by former visitors on TripAdvisor.com, we find it the best deal in town, too. It’s AFC championship Sunday as our New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Another plus of California is that sporting events start three hours earlier than they do in the East.
Greeted by a delightful, eager to please couple, we see that they have free bikes, wine glasses for our use, and a gas fire pit out back for guests. Arriving early afternoon, Hannah and I have time to take the one speed cruisers to Moonstone Beach Drive before the game.
As the gateway to Big Sur’s amazing California State Parks – Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Pfeiffer Big Sur, and Andrew Molera – Cambria has the feel of Sedona, Arizona and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Trendy, boutique-y in a small town way.
With the Cambria Palms not providing a morning breakfast as our Quality and Comfort Inns do, we figure we’ll breakfast in town at some funky diner. There are no funky diners to be had. Classy bistros and cafes where $8.50 gets you what’s known as a “simple fare breakfast” with one egg, toast, and home fries. No thank you.
There is relaxing vibe as we pedal our cruisers four miles down the main drag. Crossing the Pacific Coast Highway, we head down Moonstone Beach Drive with no crush of traffic; the beaches and coast trails are active on this holiday Sunday of Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend but certainly not summer-time-on-the-Jersey-shore busy.
At Moonstone Beach, we ask the first person we meet to take our picture. Nicest guy. What a surprise. He’s Canadian. Let the stereotyping begin. We tell him you match all the stereotypes of Canadians – friendly, accommodating, pleasant. He’s from Alberta and says if that’s what you think of Canadians, I’ll take it. We’d like to take him home with us.
One speed bikes are ideal for the level ride along Moonstone Beach. As we bike up the hill to the upscale neighborhood of Windsor Boulevard, we see evidence how the local residents deal with the ban on watering their grass or plants – harvesting rainwater.
At the end of Windsor Boulevard, we bike a wide, hard-gravel trail at a city park along the ocean while walkers follow the bluff path by the sea. Heading back to the Cambria Palms, Hannah stops to shop while I check out the beat down that our Patriots are administering to our son Will’s Colts; it’s on to the Super Bowl.
As we leave town the following morning to hike on the Big Sur coast, Hannah spots four players lawn bowling right along Main Street. In teams of two, they are playing what seems to be a variation of bocce. We stop, get out, and chat them up. They invite us to play and offer us coffee from the court-side pot. Though Maine is home, I could get used to the small town California feel of Cambria, especially in January.