Wild West Car Trip, pt. 3 (SoCal to Morro Bay)

Despite our broken window pit-stop we made good time up to our next campsite in Morro Bay. It was actually chilly when we arrived at Morro Bay State Park. Being cold in the Summer was pretty mind-blowing. We had coats and everything but it was trippy. I think the last time we wore jackets in Texas was early March. Naturally we were cold and crabby and hungry by the time we had the campsite put together and ate in grumpy darkness. Everyone was being short-tempered and I think by the end of dinner I told everyone that I would strangle the next person who spoke. It was like a really mean version of The Quiet Game.  The nice thing about camping in tents is that you can hear all the other parents lose it with their kids too.


Morro Bay is a really great campground. While the sites are quite close together, everyone keeps to themselves (it’s California! If it had been Texas I’m sure we should have been invited next door for s’mores.) There are lots of big trees and the ocean is very close. This is not a beachy part of the Coast. More of a “look at the beautiful scenery” area.


There is an adorable little natural history museum (free for all the kids!), a golf course and a marina right next to the campground. Such a fun place to stay! After our entire trip was over my kids said this was their favorite campground. (Don’t get it confused with the Morro Strand campground which is further up the road and is basically just a paved parking lot.)

We ended up being two spots away from the bathroom which was nice. I think my bladder is smaller than the kids’ so I appreciated it more than they did.  The strange thing about nearly every campground we stayed at was that there is no soap in the bathrooms. Why? It’s so weird. So you have to remember to bring your soap every time you use the bathroom which I never did. Sorry, fellow campers! Also, I don’t know what is up with the other campers but they get toilet paper everywhere! By the end of the evening the floors would all be covered with toilet paper (clean, from the looks of it. It was just all over the place!)

Morro Bay had showers which were decent. You have to pay for them but if all you need is a quick rinse off, then it’s only a couple of dollars.

To me camping is fine because I don’t mind being dirty (even if you shower every day, you’ll get sand and dirt all over things, from your sleeping bag to your socks to your food). I just put my normal sanitation requirements on a shelf for a while and embrace a more . . . natural existence.

Camping also requires primitive sleeping arrangements. You can bring a cot or blow-up air mattress but we didn’t have the space for those sorts of things plus it seemed really high maintenance and Princess-and-the-Pea (although I realize that as people get older they need that sort of thing to sleep at all. But I’m not there yet).  We got some really nice sleeping pads and I bought a special sleeping bag that was ginormous because I like to sleep with my legs bent and I get super claustrophobic in those bags where my legs aren’t able to move around freely. I’m a stomach sleeper which is much more comfy on a sleeping pad than sleeping on your back.

Jasper camping Morro Bay

So, yeah, all the things about camping that people dislike weren’t really much of an issue for me. I do hate that you have to bring all sorts of equipment and food stuff along. I tried to only bring pre-packaged food so I didn’t have to fool with salt/pepper/spices/butter. I know that’s not real camping to some of you but if I have to build a fire to heat my food up, it’s real camping to me! I bought one giant, deep frying pan that I was able to cook most everything in. I got it at Goodwill for $4 so I wouldn’t feel bad about getting it all grody. And then I threw it away at the end of the trip. Worked for me!

One thing I do hate about camping is brushing my teeth in front of strangers. I’ll walk around anyone in my pajamas but brush my teeth? Nothankyou, ma’am. I feel like this is much too intimate to do in front of people I have never met. So I would watch the bathroom until everyone left, then run over and hope nobody would come in while I was brushing. I’m sure this is just weirdness on my part but there it is: my one camping hang-up.

Also, camping is murder on your cell phone battery. I’d charge it while we drove but while we were camping it was a constant drain. You cannot even think of going camping  unless you have an extra battery for your phone (the outdoors not exactly being full of electrical outlets to plug in at night). Naturally I didn’t bring along a spare battery or portable charger so my phone died at least once a day which was horrible. Especially since I was the only one on the trip with a smart phone and our only connection to the real world and all information.

Anyway, back to Morro Bay. We camped, we slept, some of us froze to death because we refused to wear long sleeves to bed (ahem, Ada), we unpacked and packed up all our stuff.  Another shout out to Finn who loaded and unloaded our camping equipment which was in the carrier on top of our car EVERY SINGLE DAY. What a great kid.

We stopped off at the Morro Bay Natural History Museum which was just charming. Not terribly big, it has great, kid-friendly exhibits and is surprisingly educational.

Morro Bay Museum

Morro Bay was packed with fog when we woke up . . .


. . . but by the time we left had burned off and we finally got to see the big rock in the bay.

Arabella Morro Bay

Once we were ready to leave the museum we found that my car battery was dead. Thoroughly and utterly dead. The battery had been giving me a smidge of trouble before our trip and I had to use one of those portable chargers to get it going again. So I brought the portable charger on this trip but the battery was too dead even for that.

And of course my phone battery was dead too. Because that’s just how we roll. But the nice maintenance man showed me an outlet on the side of the museum and I charged my cell phone while we waited an eternity to get the car started.

Fortunately we had some jumper cables and there was a big truck next to us. The family who belonged to the truck was inside the museum but desperate times call for desperate measures and I went in and found the dad of the family and asked him if he wouldn’t mind coming back out to the parking lot to help our poor selves.

He came out and tried to jump start our car. We must have tried for twenty minutes and nothing worked. Meanwhile I had all these visions of having to tow the car which made me almost hyperventilate (“I knew I should have gotten AAA before this trip!”). But I always put on a cheerful face because I don’t want to be the anxious one who stresses out everyone else.

The guy with the truck finally said, “I don’t think your jumper cables are thick enough.” Say what? There are different thicknesses of jumper cables? Apparently there are and this good samaritan had a set in his car. They were about as fat around as my thumb and the second those bad boys were hooked onto the battery, my car roared to life. I almost cried, I was so happy.  Not least of which was because we had tickets that afternoon to Hearst Castle and if you miss your tour, you’re out of luck. And with the tickets costing almost $30 a piece. Well, we didn’t want to waste a ton of money.

(I tried to make it into a lesson for the kids of how Heavenly Father lets bad things happen to all of us because that’s how we grow and gain experience, but often if we pray and have faith he’ll provide a way to help us. I’m pretty sure they were done listening to a single word I said after we left Texas, though.)

So I looked at my newly-charged phone and realized there was an Auto Zone five miles away. We zoomed down there and had a sparkly new battery installed within ten minutes. Again, Auto Zone to the rescue. By this point I started to panic that every day of our trip would bring some fresh new car disaster. But let me jump ahead three weeks and tell you how the story ended: there were no more car issues. We didn’t even get broken in to in San Francisco, which I had kind of been counting on, based on all the dreadful stories we heard. Even when I was driving home from Utah with just the babies and no Finn to bail me out. Nothing else bad happened to our car. It was pretty much a miracle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *