Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travel: Pismo Beach, CA

Ocean breezes, clear skies, and a little wind, perfect in every way

Pismo Beach, Calif., is one of our favorite places to visit. Perhaps because we live so far inland we appreciate the ocean sounds and clean sands littered only with what the tides leave behind: sand dollars, broken shells and seaweed. 

We’ve traveled up and down the coast and like all the little towns along the way, but Pismo is special. We’ve been going there off and on since our boys were small, back when there were half as many houses and sixty percent less traffic. Our favorite place to stay is the first place we went to all those years ago, Kon Tiki Inn. You cannot get a bad room in this place. The structure is crescent shaped and every room faces the ocean. It has a lot of amenities, complimentary continental breakfast and a wonderful restaurant, Steamers, right next door. 

Getting to the beach was a snap when we were younger, but now it takes a little longer and a few rest stops along the way, but there is direct access from the Kon Tiki property to the beach down a stairway with, I think 128 steps. Going down is a breeze; going up is a wheeze.

Our favorite activity is walking on the beach and strolling out on the pier. This is not a commercialized pier like Monterey Bay or San Francisco, largely because this isn’t a place where boats dock and commercial fishermen are everywhere selling tickets for fishing excursions.

Pismo is very much a charming Oceanside town. It has shops and wonderful restaurants, and if you want to fish off the pier you can do so for free, no license necessary.

From the pier you get a panoramic view of magnificent and mystifying water. How does that massive cauldron of teeming life stay in place? The curvature of the horizon sometimes makes me dizzy and I look away because I feel like it might cut loose and wash over me if I don’t. The surge of the waves against the support pilings is thrilling, but only because I know the structure has stood the test of time. Below us surfers try to catch a wave. On the days we were there the waves weren’t all that challenging so we got to see some of the surfers actually ride out minor curls that took them onto the beach. It looked like great fun, and a lot of work.

Our time was mostly spent walking along the ocean. Every night we left the sliding glass door open so we could hear the sounds of the ocean and smell that unique tangy aroma found only where briny sea meets land.

Our one outing was to Oceanside for the Great American Melodrama. We never miss it when were there and while I was a little disappointed that it was a vaudeville show (I wanted to see a play), we enjoyed it immensely. If you plan to go with the idea of eating the fare, expect a limited menu of hot dogs, popcorn, beer and soda.

There are a lot of things to do if being busy is what you want. For us rest and relaxation was in order and we treasured every minute of it.

We always make it a point to eat at our favorite restaurants. Giuseppe’s, Chele’s Food and Spirits, Splash CafĂ© and Steamers have great atmosphere, wonderful food and exceptional service. There are many more, but with only five days to work with, we couldn’t get to them all! Besides, I didn’t really want to come back looking like blimp. Of course we found a Starbucks, which we managed to get to every day while we were there. 

We got to Pismo by train, by way of Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, and although there were a few “bumps” along the way, it was a great option for us. The pace was slower than I expected but the attendants and other Amtrak staff members were courteous and helpful. We were assisted in making our connections by cheerful station attendants who made sure we made it from one train to the next. The best part was that Bob didn’t have to drive all that way, I didn’t have to get on an airplane and we really did see the countryside. The food on the train was quite good and the breakfasts substantial.

It will probably be a while before we get out to Pismo again, but I’m already looking forward to it, and we will likely ride the rails to get there.


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