We made our way down the 1. Supposedly one of the prettiest roads in the world, we managed to spend $9 to drive down a road that toured how the Rich People live. Covered in golf-buggy-ridden golf courses, we even discovered a slightly ridiculous tee at Point Joe, where golfers shoot off amidst shit-covered rocks and the odd cormorant. Whatever you do, stay away from Carmel - it's a strange Disney meets the Swiss Alps aberration, positively laden with terrible Art & Craft galleries.
Pressing on, unabashedly confident of finding our perfect campsite with fire ring in quiet surrounds, we soon discovered that EVERYONE ELSE IN AMERICA had the same idea. Ventana? Campground Full. Riverside Cabins? Full. Point Lobos State Park? Full. Julia Whatshernameshe'sprobablyanasshole State Park? Full. Luckily, a ranger named Alex had sheepishly provided us with a brochure on the surrounding nature spots/campgrounds, and cheekily checked that we had a cellphone. About two seconds after we left Alex, both our networks dropped entirely.
The furthest south campsite on our brochure was called Lime Kiln. We foolishly thought to ourselves, oh hahahaha, nobody will know about that one. There's our chance! Slipping through Riverside, I checked the gas gauge. About a quarter full. I'm sure we'll come through a bustling metropolis to refuel before we need to.
We drove and drove, distracted by the big rocks in the ocean and many silly passers-by with their digital cameras, capturing the gorgeousity as only a powershot can. No Lime Kiln, as yet.
We spotted a place called Lucia on the map and thought that if we hadn't passed the campsite by then, perhaps we could get some gas at Lucia. Turning the corner, we saw a stupidly small cafe/restaurant, stuck to the edge of a marvelous view. Town, my ass. They should just call it "Pricey Toilet Stop" on the map.
Not stopping, I scanned quickly for a gas pump. No dice. We had to press on. It was longer back to Riverside than to keep going to "Pacific Valley" to look for petrol. The needle was sidling up against E by now, so we were starting to worry.
As we neared "Pacific Valley" we spotted a derelict encampment up on the hill. Driving by one of those green signs with—in small print— "Pacific Valley" on it, we were struck with dismay. "Pacific Valley" was a twilight zone, with not a tittle or a jot of anything resembling an amenity. There were planks of wood and piles of stones, a few cars, and some scary-looking houses.
Panicking now, we were about to run out of gas. Doing highly technical top-knuckle-of-little-finger-equals-twelve-miles measurements on the map, we calculated that we should probably turn back for "Lucia", to ask them where the nearest gas station was and to call all the campsites in the surrounding area to see if we could fulfill our forgotten need for accommodation.
There was one of those bloody traffic lights that prevents you from going forward into a one lane roadwork zone between the two "towns". It was then that we noticed the fluttering yellow empty light. Michele thought we should stop there, but I figured we should get as close as we could to other people, and/or a telephone.
Two tense minutes later, we pulled into the parking spot at "Lucia".
Thank fuck for that.
The nice lady with the strange name (Jekylla?) donated her spare gas bottle to the cause as she told us our best option was not in fact the AAA, but to ask a good samaritan passer-by for a ride to "Gorda", the next town south on the 1, a mere 12 miles away, where there also happened to be gas for sale, at a measly 4.79 a gallon. She also mentioned that "Pacific Valley" used to be a gas station, until it burned down about 20 years ago.
I had to stop for a cigarette and a drink and a nibble on a slice of apple cake purchased earlier from the lovely Emily's in Santa Cruz. Luckily, Michele has flowing blonde hair and is slim and gorgeous, so I felt our chances were good of getting some help.
A number of people (3?) stopped but told us regretfully that they were only going a few miles down the road (to fucking Lime Kiln). And then, our knight in shining armour almost ran down two cheery Poms who were headed over to help from inside the cafe. His name was William. As Michele clambered into the front seat, he apologised for the inflated pool floatie bed thing in the back seat, telling me to push it aside. It squeaked out the way, and I climbed in.
William told us he was killing time until he had to hop on a bird tomorrow evening, so I quickly offered to buy him dinner if he would kindly take us to petrol at "Gorda" and back. He fell for it, and proceeded to talk at us for the following 2 hours about:
- the State of the Nation (they're all the same - democrat republican - it's all Hillary's fault for not dobbing on Bill as he shagged his way around the White House),
- how he's been attending workshops at Esalen and we really should go for a personal retreat,
- how there really are too many people on the planet,
- that he loves women and isn't it a shame about the clitoredectomies,
- the cows he runs in Florida,
- hard assets,
- how once in Bangkok they thought he wanted to have sex with a child but that children are no-go in his book,
- the reading list his father paid him to write book reports on (Treasure Island, The Fountainhead, The Richest Man in Babylon, etc),
- the dolphin he has at his property in the Bahamas that preferred the autistic twin and bit a man with a shark tattooed on his thigh,
- his relationship to the Jewish people,
- the 3.5 carat diamond his mother gave him before she "left",
- how America is Rome way back when.
I could go on, but I'm getting bored even typing this.
Thankfully, after his $40 steak at "Lucia", William took his leave. Michele and I both agreed that it had been hard not to be physically violent with him, placated of course by the fact that he had done us this much-needed favour.
Full of our $40 steaks as well - we'd all ordered the same thing - we suddenly remembered that we still didn't have a place to sleep. Michele tried her luck with Jekylla, you know, to see if she would reveal her ultimate secret campsite to a couple of city slickers. Not surprisingly, she had nothing. We drove to "Gorda" to refill the tank.
Fuck it! We thought. Let's head for Monterey, we thought. We had planned on going to the stupendous aquarium on Sunday anyway, and there's sure to be a bed at some shonky Marriott. Our finger-measurement skills told us we may as well take the 1 back up to Monterey, rather than speeding an extra 80 miles on the highway. So we did.
Turns out there was no room in any fucking inn in Monterey either!! After being laughed at by nasty Marriott woman with enormous pupils and helping the desk clerk at said "quaint inn" whose sign read vacancy to update the fucking status of his establishment, we drove around the same block 6 times because of our full bladders and all the stupid one way streets in downtown Monterey. Thankfully, Super Hero Michele had the awakeness to drive the whole way back to San Francisco as I slept peacefully.
We got home at about 12.30. Sunday morning.
And the moral of the story, children? Don't even dream of finding a camping spot anywhere in California unless the forecast says sleet.