The Brighter Writer


The SLO Down

A few months before I found out I was pregnant with Kalynn, I went through a pretty intense self examination phase. I guess that's pretty normal when you're creeping up slowly on the dirty 30, you start to wonder what you're doing and where you're going and what your purpose is. When I get in those moods my first instinct is to take a road trip. So I packed up my pick-up.

I called work from the road and said I was dying (with Ween blaring, and the window down on the PCH, I highly doubt it sounded like I was in a hospital room) and I took off. I had just gotten this gorgeous little puppy dog, and we needed to spend some quality time together to figure some things out about ourselves.

So away we went. Back up to San Luis Obispo. The place that started it all. It had been 8 years at that point since I had visited my little hostel, walked down Bubble Gum Alley, or drank a beer at Frog & Peach.

It was a four and a half hour drive on a good day with no traffic and no stop lights. This was not a good day. I had to let Guacamole out here and there so she could pee, but she slept most of the drive and I zoned out on the road and The Clash. And when I say she slept, I mean she laid on my bags in the back seat with her ass in the air hot boxing me with her farts.

Refugio State Park #California

Refugio State Park #California

Refugio State Park #California

Pulling off of the 101 onto Marsh was surreal. It seemed smaller somehow. Like going back to your old elementary school and realizing how tiny the desks and water fountains really are. It was the same but it was different. Or maybe I was different. Either way it was still beautiful.

I checked into a motel with free WiFi because the idea of staying at the hostel creeped me out for some reason. I wanted a new experience, not to try and recreate an old one. I wasn't that girl anymore as I found out. Now I was a girl who needed WiFi and a coffee maker.

Anyway, the first day I spent in town. I have a crazy love for the California Missions. I think they're gorgeous. One of the things on my bucket list is to see all 22 of them. I've visited 7 to date, 3 of them were on this trip. I'm not sure what it is about them that demands so much fascination, but my god, I'm pretty enamored. The history of the Mission Trail, the detail in the buildings, the smell of the gardens, the statues, the fountains, the cemeteries, and the elaborate chapels have me hooked. They're just so peaceful to me. And the thing about them is that there is hardly anyone in them. So I pay the $3 or whatever it is to get in, and I spend the whole day just meandering the grounds and checking everything out. San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission sits dead center of the town with SLO creek running directly through it.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, SLO, CA #California

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, SLO, CA #California

(the smell of this lavender tree about knocked me off my feet)

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, SLO, CA #California

After a handful of hours at the Mission, I walked down Bubble Gum Alley. This little patch of down town was started in WWII by a graduating class of SLO High School as kind of a class farewell. I can't believe the city has never shut it down for being an unsanitary eye sore, but it's actually a pretty big tourist attraction now. Yes, every random passerby may mark their spot with Double Bubble on the walls, but there has also been a few gum murals done here that were pretty amazing. I personally can't even draw stick people, so to be able to bust out a fairly realistic bouquet of flowers from a pack of chewed up Trident is pretty impressive to me.

Bubble Gum Alley, San Luis Obispo, CA: #California

The next day, after some dinner, some beer and some sleep, I decided to head up to Hearst Castle. I had never been before even though it was only a quick drive away from where I lived. Talk about my dream estate! This place was incredible! It's the first time I had ever gone on a tour, or a vacation for that matter, totally by myself. I didn't think it would be that different than going with a friend or a family member or whatever, but it completely was. There is something very humbling about being in a 100,000 square foot castle all by yourself just taking it in. There are very few times in my life I've been completely speechless. This was one of those times. My eyes were wider than my face had room for it seemed.

Hearst Castle, CA: #California

William Randolph Hearst's personal library was my favorite room by far. This is a small corner of it. It's my mission to someday have one of these.

Hearst Castle library, CA: #California

After the tour, I drove up to the San Miguel Mission, which was one of the few that was out of working order and extremely run down. I loved it. It was like its own little ghost town except for the workers out in the sun trying to restore its crumbling foundation. Still one of the coolest places ever, even if it did have a few cracks and creeks.

Mission San Miguel Arcángel, San Miguel, CA #California

Mission San Miguel Arcángel, San Miguel, CA #California

I had done pretty much all I had set out to do. I had cleared my mind and I was ready to go home. It was different than any trip I had ever taken before or will probably ever take again. It was unknowingly my last personal big hurrah of exploration. At least for a little while that is.

My trip back down was short and sweet. I stopped in Pismo for some gas and let the puppy run around on the beach. Then I pulled over to do a quick look-see at the Santa Barbara Mission, which is the largest one out of all 22 and stunning.

Avila Beach, CA #California

Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA #California

And now my point: if you've ever considered taking off for some time alone, but for whatever reason you just have never done it, do it. You'll thank yourself later.