The few days we spent at the cabin were restorative. We ate delicious meals home-cooked by Kirk's mom and aunt in the screened in sun porch, made s'mores around a bonfire, took a hike around the property, and had plenty of time to catch up with family. Kirk's brother even proposed to his girlfriend, and we celebrated our niece's first birthday.
We're so grateful for that time there, a place that has been seared in my husband's memory from childhood visits. The cabin lived up to the legend, the stories, and the family culture that I had heard so much about. And we feel we were destined to make that last trip--mine and the girls' first and only time--because all of the cabins burned down in a forest fire several weeks ago. After standing for nearly a century, no trace is left on the land except charred ground and memories.
What else do we retain in the end except memories and photographs? Traveling and experiences create an indelible record that cannot be erased even after the places are gone.
We left on the 4th of July to head to San Luis Obispo to visit family that wasn't able to make it to the cabin for the weekend. Originally we had planned to visit them before we went to the cabin, but then we got sick. Now that our plan had changed, we were simply figuring it out as we went.
As we weaved our way down and out of the mountains while following Kirk's brother, we smelled something funny, like burning rubber or oil. Not something you want to smell as you're towing down switchbacks.
Miraculously, there was a general store in the middle of nowhere that also sold engine oil. Like the gas station in desolate southern Utah, we practically kissed the ground in excitement. It was one more rookie mistake to add to the list; thankfully nothing was damaged.
We traversed central California, passing fields of drought-damaged orchards and barren fields with barely a speck of green anywhere on the horizon. And it was hot; that heat filled the car and made me eager for the coast.
We heard a rattling noise somewhere between the 4Runner and the camper, a noise we had heard off and on throughout the trip. We pulled over and discovered our license plate was hanging on by a metal shrapnel. Somehow all of the travel had caused it to tear, perhaps some sort of wind tunnel between the truck and camper, and it was about to fly away. Kirk ripped it the rest of the way off, and we headed on.
After having dinner with Kirk's brother and fiance, we went our separate ways, in search of a campsite for the night. It dawned on us that it was a holiday weekend, and we didn't have a reservation. I hunted down a few options on my phone, and we crossed our fingers as we headed into Morro Bay.
As luck would have it, the RV park located right across the street from the beach actually had an opening! We did our happy dance, set-up camp, and made a mad dash for the beach at sunset.
The girls were soaked through their clothes, and there was a chill in the air. Kirk made a mad dash back to the Casita for dry clothes, and we regrouped. We walked along the shore, picking up seashells and sand dollars. As we headed back toward the path for the campground, we ran into our site neighbors. We had met them earlier, and they invited us to join their beach party to watch the fireworks over neighboring towns.
We shared stories, talked about living simply and the love of travel, and the kids built sand castles in the deepening dark together. The fireworks erupted all around us, and afterward we made a sandy walk back to the campground together, shining flashlights and herding children.
Despite all of the trials of the day--the number of hours we spent making our way across California, and my fears of having no place to spend the night--we found that sometimes having no plan is the best plan of all.
The next morning we packed up, ditched our trailer at a friend's house, and drove up into the high hills of San Luis Obispo to visit family before leaving California for the trip back home. Subscribe to catch Part Four where I share what happened the last leg of our trip and how we unexpectedly got sidelined in Salt Lake City.