Thursday, March 19, 2009


It wasn't one of our best travel days. Our goal was Emma Wood State Beach, where we would have a site facing the Pacific Ocean, hear the sounds of the surf, enjoy long walks on the beach over the weekend. All we had to do was negotiate the freeways of the L.A. basin and the beach would be ours.

We hit the road at 10:15. Took The Ten west to The Two-Ten, which was an easy route for 30 miles or so... then things slowed down. The smog - YIKES! The traffic - LOOK OUT! On we went for a couple of hours, closer and closer to our goal, Emma Wood State Beach.

It was the word "Wood" (which we kept mis-pronouncing as "Woods", plural) that put the image in our minds of a beautiful beach-side site with green shrubbery and trees behind us, maybe a few trails we could walk through a wooded area when we weren't beachcombing... We could not have been more wrong.

Arriving as we did after a slog across L.A., on a dreary day when either smog or fog obscured the sun, the narrow sites just below the freeway didn't appeal to us. We've learned, though, that parks that don't appeal at first sometimes look better after we set up, relax, and learn our way around.

We had planned to stay there four days, so we picked a site (one site away from a trailer with kids bikes, toys and Big Wheels strewn into the neighboring site) and maneuvered into it. This was our near view: a huge, dead Elephant Seal with seagulls picking it apart. UGH! It was 63 degrees outside; I can only imagine what this carcass would smell like on a warm, sunny day.

Dreary day, narrow sites, and a rotting carcass out our "picture window"... it was too, too much for us. Time to FORMULATE PLAN B, quick!

While Odel drove north, I got out our various guides and directories, and fired up the computer. In expensive California, parking at Elks lodges is a great option for us. They usually have electric hookups - sometimes full hookups - and are generally more appealing to us than commercial parks and WAY less expensive. Our Plan B was to drive another 60 miles north on Hwy 101, where we ended our day in a wide, spacious site at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge (read our review and see more photos here). No ocean, but we had sunshine and blue sky. No huge dead mammals. Sometimes that's good enough. :)

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