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Weekend Escape: Morro Bay : A family trip to the Central California Coast in a rented motor home goes off without a hitch

June 11, 1995|ROBIN GREENE | Greene is a free-lance writer based in Thousand Oaks. and

MORRO BAY, Calif. — The anticipation and excitement of renting a motor home for the weekend was so intense that, 10 minutes after hitting the Ventura Freeway for Morro Bay, my two children--Justin, 7, and Sara, 4--fell fast asleep. This was my kind of vacation! With my husband hunched over the wheel of our Frontier Flyer and each child curled up on a banquette, I leaned back on the couch behind the passenger seat and savored the mid-May view of the Pacific Ocean in front of me, the water glinting in the late afternoon sun.

After checking with half a dozen or so RV rental companies in Southern California, we had chosen Metro RV in Burbank mainly because it was closest to our home in Thousand Oaks, a move that would save us money on extra-mileage costs.

What I didn't realize was that some companies, such as Metro RV, rent out other people's personal motor homes while others, such as Cruise America or El Monte RV Center, rent vehicles from their own fleet. Renting someone's property gave us an added sense of responsibility that I hadn't anticipated.

But our 22-foot RV was in good shape and all would have gone smoothly except I had forgotten to check with our insurance company to see if they would issue a free binder to cover the rental. A call that morning revealed that our company was one of the few that would not, so we reluctantly agreed to pay $36 for a policy through Metro RV that had a $1,000 deductible instead of the standard $500.

*

After a quick lesson on how to work everything from the gas stove to the latrine, we left our car at Metro RV's parking lot and laughed our way home. Being in a moving RV is a little like being in a small airplane that has hit a huge pocket of turbulence. It's large enough to walk around in, but you've got to get your sea legs.

Once I started to load the RV, I began to appreciate its design. The kitchen had a microwave, gas oven and range, a sink, refrigerator, freezer and enough cabinets and drawers to accommodate everything I needed to cook for two days. The bathroom was cramped but had a shower stall, toilet and sink. There was a dinette and couch, both of which converted into sleeping space, and, above the driver and passenger seats, another cabin converted to a large bed that the children promptly claimed.

By the time we arrived in Morro Bay, three hours to the north, we were starved. It was too late for our planned barbecue at the RV park, so we headed for Dorn's, a family restaurant in the heart of town that was touted in a couple of guidebooks.

We were seated immediately, and the children got their food in record-setting time. Justin and Sara are not normally big eaters but they devoured most of the hamburgers and French fries set before them. Steve and I split an order of fried calamari and had tasty salads. But the main courses--salmon fettuccine and sole Florentine--were disappointing and the total bill came to a pricey $80.

After dinner, we drove the short distance to Morro Dunes RV Park just west of Highway 1, and one of only a few local RV sites (another is Morro Bay State Park) that backs up to the ocean. We had made our reservations a month earlier and sent a check for $24 to save the spot.

We found our little cul-de-sac overlooking the Pacific and noticed that everyone else had backed their RV's into their spots. So Steve gamely turned ours around and, with considerable grunting, managed to ease the motor home into its slot.

We had requested what's called "full hookup," which to RV aficionados means fresh water, sewage disposal pipe, and electric and cable TV outlets. While Steve wrestled with an array of wires and hoses--cradling a flashlight in his arms and praying he didn't mix up the water and sewage hoses--I worked on readying the children for bed. Of course, they were wired, so we pulled out the Monopoly set and played until they finally settled down.

The next morning, we awoke to the plinking of rain on the roof. Steve and I laughed halfheartedly at the prospect of being cooped up with two children in a tiny motor home all weekend, as we searched forlornly through the mist for Morro Rock, the area's signature landmark.

While the rock remained hidden, we were able to take stock of our new neighborhood. There were three other RVs in our cul-de-sac, one or two of which looked better equipped than our real home. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to keep to themselves, and privacy--even when we were parked two feet from another RV--wasn't a problem.

By the time we ate breakfast (hot oatmeal, yogurt, cereal and coffee) and got dressed, the clouds had blown over and the sun came out. When we finally opened the back door, we realized what a perfect spot we were in. Across an access road directly behind us was a sprawling beach of sand dunes and, rising out of the ocean, monolithic Morro Rock, the westernmost in a chain of extinct volcanoes and a refuge for the endangered peregrine falcon.

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