Monday, November 19, 2007

My other Airstream is a Dune Buggy

We tried to do as Rich and Eleanor did-- camp on the beach at Pismo State Beach, one of the rare places in America where you can pull your rig right onto the oceanfront. We were not successful. We should have heeded the wary looks from the park attendant when we paid our ten dollars admittance and insisted we could manage just fine. After all, Rich and Eleanor pulled their Airstream right up on the sand and they made it look fun.

We, however, met with some challenges I don't think they encountered. First of all, we arrived on a Saturday. Once we hit the sand we immediately saw what was hidden from view at the entrance: hundreds, maybe thousands of helmeted people on ATV's. The place was like a raceway with no boundaries: Road toys zipping to and fro between 4WD vehicles and RV's; little nylon tents dotting the sand behind the "roadway" and the dunes; people strolling on the surf's edge. Everywhere a dangerous collision lurked. We had no opportunity to make a U-turn out of there. Our best move was to keep our speed up and keep moving before we got stuck in the sand. We were told the campground was two miles down the beach, but would we make it?

No. A mile down we hit a patch of deep dry sand and came to a halt. Robert and I looked at each other and grimaced. Now what? The wind was beating sand against the windows. The last thing I wanted to do was to get outside, but I did in a vain attempt to access our situation. Within moments we had help--a man began instructing Robert to deflate the air in all the tires. I let them have at it and jumped back into the car to get out of the blowing sand. Amazingly, the trick worked. We popped right out. Robert's new friend encouraged us to stay. He said, "You're fine now, just pull in down there between that group of RV's" Robert hesitated to say no after all the man's help, but I was poking him to get a move on. I wanted no part of this mayhem.

We graciously thanked him, waited for the brief moment when we could clear a U-turn and gunned it out of there. Once we hit pavement we nervously searched out a place to get air for the tires. And once we were put back together we pulled our sand-beaten selves to the county park into a pull-through with hook-ups and called it a day. We laughed about what silly rookies we were and for the next few hours I would occasionally bite down on a grain on sand.

Sometime in the night our Airstream began to shake and rumble. A passing train roared down tracks unnoticed by us when we chose our spot. It was one of many. But I felt as long as it didn't jump its tracks and tumble down on us we were certainly safer than down on that beach where some combustion driven toy, big or little, might easily run us down.


SLORider said...

Kelli, I'm sad you didn't enjoy our wonderful State Park at Oceano Dunes. It's the most popular park in SLO County, enjoyed by 3x more visitors than the world-renowned Hearst Castle. Maybe not your cup of tea, but I strongly object to your colorful prose.

The millions of visitors a year are largely off-highway recreationalists. I personally jaunt down occasionally to enjoy my dirt bike. Certainly there are always some clueless jerks in a crowd of thousands, but the chance of a collision is very slim. The speed limit on the beach itself is only 15 mph. No one is looking to run you down.

But if it seemed crowded--it is. Only a few years ago, we lost 91% of the riding area due to assaults by environmental activists. Now, everyone is crammed together vying for a little weekend fun. No, this is not the serene Yosemite camping ground--try a quieter time like mid-week. But blue-collar hard workers from the valley and elsewhere come here to unwind and get some action. Is there a problem with that?

I'm a firefighter. Many firemen and cops do this sort of thing on their days off. So do others that do physical sweat-work like construction. It seems that many resent us for that, why?

Yeah, pulling a trailer in the sand takes some skill and moxy. Did you notice that a complete stranger IMMEDIATELY came to your rescue when you got stuck? That's the kind of good folk you'll meet at Oceano. Please don't bash us.

Your perception of safety is wrong. Maybe you'd rather not participate in the fun and excitement there, but there are good folk spending time with their families and kids--keeping their kids off drugs and video games and getting physical exercise.

In addition, many many elderly and handicapped take advantage of vehicle access at Oceano to visit the tide. Those folk can't exactly trudge 100 yards through deep sand at any other beach in California. I know one gentleman that bought a jeep just so him and his wife could visit the tide everyday:

Watch this video: Eddie & Geraldine Lopes (WMV)

I hope your trip gave you an experience to laugh about, but please remember others LIVE for the recreation there. Please don't contribute to taking it away from us.

Kevin P. Rice
San Luis Obispo CA

kelli said...


I understand you are offended by my comments about our experience at Oceano Dunes. I really feel I was making more fun of our reaction to the experience than of the people who come to the park for recreation. We were unprepared and over our heads. We had no business on that beach on that particular day.

I did not see any bad elements there, just a mass of people and vehicles we weren't expecting to encounter. The gentleman who came to our aid when we got stuck was probably representative of the typical visitor to the park. Heck, he was probably a fireman, too.

You bring up good points about the family aspect of the sports that take place there. My own sons would probably love to run trucks and atv's over the sand dunes, but I would worry about their safety in the environment I saw that day--not from crazy people, but from TOO MANY people.

It's not a comment on class either. I enjoy a common rodeo as much as a posh ski resort. What made this experience unpleasant was our inexperience. We'd never pulled a trailer on sand before and the congestion around us made it more difficult. There were speeding trucks and atv'rs with limited visibility behind dark helmets darting in and around us. Too much confusion and congestion.

The fact that you've lost 91% of your riding area must contribute greatly to the congestion of the area. Also, like I said, it was a very busy Saturday. Believe me, I am not one to advocate taking away those fun liberties you enjoy at Oceano State Park anymore than I would tell hunters they shouldn't hunt or bicyclists they should stay off the roads. Everyone works hard enough in America to deserve whatever honest fun they can get.

I do apologize to you anyway because I'm sure you are a good guy who's just a little sensitive to the criticism your sport and your beach must get handed. AND, I can't have a fireman hating me.

best wishes,

SLORider said...

Thanks, Kelli! Yes, I'm a bit short-tempered lately... recently, we've been attacked on YouTube and now community access TV by a local lady with a video camera who is posting outright lies---showing people draining their fresh water tanks and claiming it's black water!


Well, you know us firemen can't hate... but I have been a bit sensitive lately and need a bit of rescuing myself. Have any single friends?? Maybe some time on my dirt-bike tomorrow at Oceano will help!

Just last weekend I was the one helping someone get "unstuck" from the sand... maybe it was you??? Anyway, sorry it was a hair-raising experience for you! Come back on a quiet weekday.


kelli said...

Dear Kevin,

I really get that you're upset about the attacks on Oceano State Park. We all have our special places we want to fight for. I hope my readers see our experience there as unique to us and not a criticism of the recreational activities that go on there. People who follow my blog know about the bonehead things we do and know I have fun making fun of us (and others, too.)

Good luck spreading the positive message and more luck fighting the forces that are shrinking your happy playground.