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    Where We Went and What We Did There

    September 20, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    We planned something for every weekday morning we were away. We arrived on a Friday night, and spent our first two days walking aimlessly through Pismo, visiting the pier and sand and little art shops and so on. But the week was supposed to count as school field trips, and we weren’t about to miss an opportunity.

    We started off by taking a short drive to the Bob Jones Bike Trail in Avila Beach. We started inland, and walked slowly. Our goal wasn’t to go quickly, but to see what there was to see. We identified some birds, found a tree filled with Turkey Vultures, and some of us even saw a fox! Beyond the animal life, there were beautiful old trees climbing skyward, and a brook just loud enough to cause A. to continually ask, “What’s that sound?”

    We had planned to picnic at the start of the trail, but as there were no tables {we started at the inland side}, we headed for Avila’s beautiful park by the sea. We ate, became slightly sunburned, and didn’t forget to fly the kite before heading to our home-away-from-home for afternoon naptime.

    We woke up to some pretty heavy cloud cover, so we rearranged the “schedule” and instead of a day building sandcastles on the beach, we made one of our longer drives and went to Morro Bay State Park. Our first stop was the bathroom Museum of Natural History. This museum is a particularly good spot for teaching children about the tides, estuaries, and even the process of erosion {which, incidentally, is considered by the museum as “bad” if caused by humans, but an “opportunity” if caused by nature–apparently they think humans are unnatural}. The Museum has some amazing views of the estuary and the mud flats {when the tide is out}.

    We had lunch quite near the museum, right next to the rookery. We saw the one bird we never expected to see: the wild turkey. Actually, it was a whole bunch of turkeys. While I was feeding Q. her solids, the children played Indian and snuck up on them. It was great! Our field guide says they shouldn’t be in this area (they are on a golf course in the photo), but these birds would beg to differ.

    At the rookery, we were treated to some very dead trees {due to the birds, ahem, guano…} full of double-crested cormorants. No, I don’t have a photo. You will just have to trust me that it was wonderful.

    And then the children ran freely through the woods, and that was the most wonderful of all.

    We headed back to Avila on Wednesday. Avila became our favorite place, even though the publicity map the MPL got us lies. It said there was a lighthouse. A beautiful, fully restored lighthouse. We were determined to see this lighthouse. We drove in the direction of the arrow and hit a dead end. So we asked some very nice sailors. Apparently, the lighthouse is accessible by a hike that begins at the back of the nuclear power plant. Not exactly accessible. But, if we were still going to be there Saturday, we could see it. It is, after all, only a four hour hike.

    Something told us the stroller wasn’t going to make it.

    However, on our drive back to the main part of town, we were able to stop and add three more birds to the birding binder: the brown pelican, the whimbrel, and the white egret. We were thrilled.

    We played at the beautiful park again, and then hiked over to Avila’s estuary where we were able to view a large group of fishing pelicans and another group of herons playing keep-away from some turkey vultures. The kids were thrilled.

    We didn’t leave without touring all the cute little shops. Avila has been totally renovated, and it is beautiful. It is nice to see that it has recovered from the oil spill that almost destroyed it in my childhood.

    Joe Momma’s is a great place for an organic cup of coffee.

    Thursday was finally warm and sunny. We were so excited to hit the beach. We had been putting it off because we wanted a sunny day for the occasion.

    We didn’t realize it was windy.

    This was our biggest failure of a day, though, had the air been still, it would have been perfect.

    We stayed in Pismo, and took all our baggage, and the baby sleeping in her carseat, and determined to build sandcastles in spite of the wind. I am thankful for the huge bug-eyed sunglasses Si bought for me. I began the sandcastle. The water wasn’t too bad–67 degrees according to the local surf shop white board–so E. and I waded in and filled our buckets with water. We built a traditional castle, and we had the sand in our hair and teeth and ears to show for it.

    A. cried about the wind in her daddy’s lap, so I switched with him to give him a break. He and E. dug a giant hole until they hit water, and A. continued to cry.

    After about an hour of this nonsense, we headed to our home-away-from-home for lunch. Then, we were back out, driving to Part Two of our day, the Oceano Sand Dunes. We had wanted to watch the ATV’s, and perhaps even rent one for Si and E. if they weren’t too expensive.

    The wind was worse.

    So we headed home without really leaving the car.

    Friday had two parts. The first was Camp San Luis. Even though it was out of the way, the children were thrilled with the collection of military aircraft.

    After a small snack, we headed to downtown San Luis Obispo, where we were quickly reminded why we like to stick to nature. After being assaulted by skimpy Halloween costumes in one window, and V*ct*r**’s S*cr*t windows at a corner, we decided that SLO wasn’t as family-friendly as we remembered. Before we left, we hit the used bookstore. Since the last time we were there, the,um, questionable sections had been moved to the front. We won’t be returning. At least, not with the children.

    Friday night, Si and I were able to head back to Avila alone. My parents were in Pismo and they kept the children. Avila has a fish and farm market on Friday nights. Everything about Avila is family-friendly, right down to the children’s room in the ice cream shop.

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