Sunday, February 23, 2014

Terrific Pacific

Santa Paula, CA – A magnificent peacock with a sweeping tail strutted past our RV site at this beautiful KOA camp-ground as we were getting ready for dinner. Just down the road is a citrus grove where trees laden with golden lemons flourish in mountain air. And in the town of Santa Paula, huge fields of strawberry plants are covered with juicy red berries. The bounty of California is all around us!

Another less appealing thing was all around us today too: smog. It’s invisible when you’re in the midst of it, but as soon as you get up high and look down, you can see the ugly brown shroud curling around the buildings and erasing the mountains on the horizon.  And you can feel it stinging your eyes till they leak, making your nose run and rasping at your throat.

We made our exit from Los Angeles early on this Sunday morning chiefly to avoid the heavy congestion on the freeways.  Our strategy worked, to our relief, and we got to Santa Monica, on the western end of the Interstate 10, without difficulty, turning north onto Highway 1 and following the Pacific Coast Highway.

The blue waves of the Pacific Ocean were on our left, and we caught glimpses of wide beaches and pounding surf from time to time.  Lots of surfers were carrying their boards to the beach, and quite a few of them were already in the water as we drove by.  Our view was obscured by peoples’ homes, packed one next to the other, when we got into the town of Santa Monica.

More seaside vistas awaited once we got out of the urban area, and on our right the mountains rose from the edge of the highway upward with brown craggy cliffs and caution signs warning of falling rocks.  We turned away from the coast toward the town of Oxnard, where a California visitor center was located.  It’s always good to explore new places armed with information, so we plugged the address from the brochure we had picked up into the GPS and before long, we were pulling in to the parking lot.

I had called ahead to be sure they were open on a Sunday morning, and they said they were, so we were puzzled at the empty parking lot and lack of identifying signs.  A security guard told me the office was closed.  Then he remembered that the visitor center had moved recently!  So I called the number again, got the new address, and we found it a few blocks away.

The visit was well worthwhile.  Henry, a volunteer at the center, answered all our questions about the coastal highway and other interesting places to see in the days ahead, and sent us off with a shopping bag full of brochures, magazines and maps.

We were soon heading on to Santa Paula, just a few miles further inland.  On the way we passed vast acres of crops, mostly strawberries but also leafy vegetables and groves of orange and lemon trees.  The road took us into the mountains, and the RV park is nestled in a small valley.  We have one of the deluxe sites, including a six-chair patio set, fire pit and enough room for three of our motorhomes plus the car!  But we are not complaining.  Not only that, but the sting has gone from my eyes!

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