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    Eight Days

    September 13, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Eight days is how long we spent visiting the Central California Coast, a place that we dearly love. The last time we were there, Q. was about 8-months old. What an adventure to see her running all over the place while O. took her spot in the stroller!

    For eight days, we spent time together as a family. For eight days, we saw beautiful places. For eight days, we…took field trips! {That is the schoolish way of looking at it.}

    So the question remains: What does a young family of six do on the Central Coast for eight days without spending a million dollars?

    Rule Number One: Use the beach hour your father rented for the month.

    Rule Number Two: Cook your own meals.

    Rule Number Three: Remember that sunsets are free.

    If you don’t have rule number one lined up, the rest isn’t going to fall into place very well. But I’ll tell you what we did anyhow.

    Day One

    We went to the threshing bee at Jack Creek Farms in Templeton, which is inland from our home base in Pismo Beach. The website explains it perfectly:

    Starting with standing wheat we will bind, stack, thresh, sack, clean and grind the grain into flour the same way it was done in the early 1900s.

    There was a display of antique farm equipment. We sampled homemade bread. We watched the wheat processing. We bought a small container of fudge for the children to eat for dessert that evening {which resulted in Q. spinning like a top}. Our resident Farmer Boy was enthralled.

    Day Two

    New day, new farm, this time closer to the sea. We caught a trolley at Port San Luis Harbor in Avila Beach. The harbor pier, incidentally, is a wonderful place to see brown pelicans in all stages of maturation. They are incredibly tame, so children can get a good look. Mind that your seven-year-old doesn’t chase one off right when a large group of tourists is trying to take its photo.

    I’m just saying.


    Anyhow, we took the trolley {for a quarter-per-person donation} and sat comfortably along the route until we reached the Avila Valley Barn, a small nearby farm. We petted all the animals, fed them scrap greens from the farm store, shopped in the market, and were treated to $2 per person ice cream scoops {farm-made ice cream!} by the children’s Great Gran, who was with us, along with my parents, for the first two days. We would have taken a hay ride, but it was very crowded, being Labor Day weekend, and we needed to catch the trolley back to our car.

    Day Three

    This was a lazy day at the beach. Avila Beach is a delight for small children, and so we headed to our favorite spot there, which is the estuary, where the river meets the sea. When the tide is coming in is the perfect time of day; the waves are small in the river area, and little ones can learn the ways of the water without danger. Our four-year-old spent hours running in the water while the others built a sand castle. This is also a great spot for finding egrets.

    Day Four

    We spent almost two hours {slowly} hiking the Bob Jones City to the Sea Bike Trail. I love bike trails because I can use my stroller. We brought our birding field guide and saw one bird we hadn’t seen before, a spotted towhee. When the children became tired, we headed to a nearby park {with an ocean view}, and I gave O. his bottle while they played on the toys.

    Day Five

    This was our Expensive Day. We even ate out at a real restaurant! But first, we spent all morning at the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, which we consider worth every penny we spent. The museum had something for everyone, even Baby O., who played dress-up with his sister and also hung out in a padded ring filled with cushioned Velcro blocks. The first floor of the museum sports a giant bubble machine, and a few other displays that are aimed at older children. The second floor was where we spent most of our time. It is basically a child’s Let’s Pretend dream-come-true! There was a place to play restaurant, with literally everything a child could want for it, right down to the toy hamburger buns. There was a play firetruck, with fireman costumes in various sizes. Also, a farmer’s market, toy police motorcycle, and a place to play veterinarian. The third floor was more for little ones, with lots of puzzles, books, blocks, and a huge train table.

    It was the play room every child dreams of.

    And what I appreciated most was that, unlike so many children’s museums, it was not political. Five stars from all of us!

    Day Six

    We can’t make a trip to the coast without visiting Morro Bay State Park, land of the wild turkeys, great blue herons that are as tall as my seven-year-old {I do not joke}, double-crested cormorants  egrets, and brown pelicans. Our hike was pretty mild, though the children loved spotting seals from the shore. We headed up to an area near the museum of natural history {we didn’t go in because we have been before and nothing had changed and we weren’t all that impressed the first time}. That’s when it happened. It was like magic. We saw a literal feeding frenzy! There must have been large schools of fish in the bay. We have never seen anything like it. The birds were diving all over, and then the seals were thrashing about in the water, and it was so loud that it was astounding!

    That made the whole morning worth it. It felt like we were watching some sort of miracle. The children were under the spell as much as the adults; it was enchanting. We were told by another onlooker that when the children are older we can rent kayaks and be out there in the middle of it when it happens.

    Day Seven

    This day, we went back to Avila Beach, and did our whole routine all over again. It was just as fun the second time, but this time we had grandparents with us, too.

    That evening, we returned for the Friday Night Farmer’s Market. There was live music, and we also walked the pier one last time, and ate cookies. Yum.

    Day Eight

    I needed to pack, but the children accompanied their granmama to an art store {with decent works in it, by the way}, a pet store, and took an overall interesting walk, which was a great way to end the week.

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  • Reply Brandy September 16, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Ellen, A family membership sounds great! When we were buying our day passes, there was a grandma in front of us buying a family pass with her grandchildren; locals have all the fun!

    You reminded me that I really should try our local children’s museum again. I haven’t been since my oldest was tiny. Who knows? Maybe it is great and I don’t even know!

    In other news, I hope you figure out a great mountain vacation for yourself. 😉

  • Reply Ellen September 15, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Brandy, we have an absolutely wonderful children’s museum in our town, and I LOVE it. It sounds a lot like the one you visited. My parents gave Seth a family membership for his birthday, and we go often.

  • Reply Brandy September 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Mystie, I have heard that the Oregon Coast is beautiful, though I haven’t seen it myself (though I’d like to). I don’t know that folks in Southern California or east coast would consider the beaches in San Luis County warm, but they are fine enough in the summer.

    Cindy, I liked the way you put that: spending it on making memories. Thankfully, most memories are quite affordable. 🙂

  • Reply Dominion Family September 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I am happy to hear you had a lovely family time away. I am determined to spend what little money I have on making memories with my younger children.

  • Reply Mystie September 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Sounds lovely! We love beach vacations, too. We like to go to the Oregon Coast, but someday I would like to visit a warm beach… 🙂

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