Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 2: Malibu to Morro Bay

Posted April 29, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
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"The water is wide, I cannot cross o'er,
        And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat that can carry two
        And both shall row, my love and I."
                – a Scottish Folk Song
Airstreaming to Alaska

Chapter 2 in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series.

The challenge is Time and Distance.

morro bay
Morro Bay, California

Perception can be deceiving, a mystery, unsolved. Turning back is natural instinct.

morro bay

But steady focus on the goal closes the distance.

morro bay

By late January we realized how much sense it makes to fly or cruise to Alaska. Someday we may do that.

But, if this overland journey is to be as much about going to Alaska as being in Alaska, then we will approach The Great North with all the tremor of a sixth-grader asking for a dance at the cotillion, employing as many short slow deliberate steps as possible.

morro bay

Traveling the California coastline at about 100 miles per week – the pace of a bicycle tourist – gives us time to think and plan and savor the drive.

100 miles per week is also the distance pioneers averaged on the Oregon Trail. It is still a good pace. A pace that laid the groundwork for one of the world’s greatest and fastest growing economies. Nothing wrong with slow.

With Beauty and the Beast, the pioneering spirit is always with us (including an indoor bathroom, gourmet kitchen and wide screen television).

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Pulling through downtown Morro Bay

The clean Pacific breeze, gorgeous views, beaches and fish dinners make this coastal tour move way too fast – another phenomenon to discuss around the evening fire.

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Our overland trek is on schedule

Everyone is well. The equipment is operating as intended. Outerwear is the current focus as we anticipate cooler temperatures up north. We are grateful for the bounty of outfitter stores along the coast.

There are advantages to driving north in winter. Low traffic, low tourism, no bugs – more elbow room to immerse in the Pacific coast history and geography.

Whenever we enter a sweet town, rather than grab a bite and run without even a tip of the hat …

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we stop, stay a while, pass time with the locals and wait for the passes to thaw. Hmm? Could that be the origin of “pastime?” No, but you heard it here first.

Leaving Malibu

‎⁨Highway 1 – Point Mugu⁩, ⁨California⁩

On a warm, windy Santa Ana morning, we pulled out of Malibu, taking our time on PCH, we eyed opportunities for adventure, views, and foodie delights.

We are always looking for places where we can pasture The Beast and explore with low dependence on fuel.

Morro Bay

By mid-afternoon we pulled off of Highway 1 to Morro Bay State Park nestled between a serene lagoon and a public golf course in SLO, San Luis Obispo County.

The lagoon

Morro Bay is an idyllic, low-key winter destination.

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a true walking neighborhood …

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with countryside …

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and seaside charm …

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It is an estuary brimming with wildlife …

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where birds, otters, sea lions and ancient pygmy oaks take sanctuary …

It’s an easy walk or bike ride to the sunny Embarcadero, with shops and restaurants offering regional specialties …

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Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant – Crab Benedict with Fried Polenta!

with a gentle rhythm and warm, positive vibe …

and, of course, miles and miles of beach.

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Other than a productive day-trip to the city of San Luis Obispo

we pretty much stayed home, grooving on the SLO life.

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The Bayside Cafe – a five minute walk from our campsite – became our office.

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We arrived without provisions and planned to stock up in town. Then, while walking Pico to the marina to check out the kayak launch …

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we stumbled upon the dog-friendly cafe.

After an evening bite and a beer, we experienced an epiphany: “Hey, let’s just eat here every day!” The entire menu is precisely what we like – rustic and comforting – and we ate it all. The price is right and the staff is beyond superb – let’s call them super-heroes, every one. Easiest camping experience ever!


Now, with more time to play, we could visit with Susan, Jim’s kindergarten-to-high school friend who lives nearby.

And, tackling the bay every single day was also a no-brainer:

The Rock

Speaking of brains … this rock! Well, what does it look like to you?

morro bay

Morro Rock, The Gibraltar of The Pacific, one of the Nine Sisters, is visible for miles and holds the regional imagination and history. Morro (“hill” in Spanish) looks like a lot of things. This volcanic plug is a changeling. Depending on the light and atmospheric conditions it can morph into a rising super moon … or a Baked Alaska on a silver platter.

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Sometimes it can look rather small …

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and, sometimes, very large.

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A solid week of face time with The Rock didn’t get old. At sunset a local gentleman with a camera joined me at the museum lookout. I suggested that he must have thousands of rock images in his files. He said, “You never have enough photos of The Rock.”

But The Rock is not alone

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In the 1950’s The Rock was joined by another sexy landmark, three perky smoke stacks, attached to a power plant.

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In 2014 the plant closed, but the 450-foot stacks remain as an impressive monument to industrial chic. If you want to see the iconic stacks, then you should make your Morro Bay plans before they are no longer an eyesore or an intriguing aspect of the skyline.

As local politics go, you’ve got your yes-stack people and your no-stack people, but the Prime Directive holds: we remain impartial. Still, Three Stacks And A Rock is an installation worth the t-shirt. It’s a haiku for the eyes…

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this tiny spot on the planet, where the eco-system and human encroachment appear to have come to terms.

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Morro Bay gives me hope that this living-compatibly-with-nature thing just might be doable.

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One last sunset …

and the next morning we were off for Santa Cruz.


Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series


If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


53 thoughts on “Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 2: Malibu to Morro Bay

    1. We love Los Osos! I paddled all the way past it to the ocean. And the Elfin Forest, and that great brewery! You are fortunate to live in what is by all appearances a ideal small town on the sea. Lovely place. We will be back for sure.We want to see more of the central coast and, of course, stay in Morro Bay again.

      Thanks so much for being with us!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Thank you, Joe. Where are you two passing the time these days? Due to sketchy connectivity and so much to see up here in Washington I haven’t been able to keep up with Facebook. xoxo to you and Ronnie. We miss you!!!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Been in France since mid-March. Will be camping with friends in Annecy end of May. Spending the summer in Northeast in The Little WH. Guess we’ll see you guys in 2023. Enjoy the NW & Alaska. We’ll follow U.

    1. Thank you. Why it takes a lifetime to learn the joys of going slowly and lightly is a great mystery. I guess that’s why they call it Wisdom.

      Safe & Happy Travels, Rob!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Thank you. We just set out this morning for our summer trip this year. We don’t have a plan, just heading up somewhere into the UP of Michigan. My traveling companions sold their house and are now living in their RV. I don’t know when I am coming back to Florida.

  1. We traveled from Leo Carrillo state Park in Malibu to the Morro Bay yesterday and had lunch at the Bayside Cafe today 😁 we’re in the state park site 20 come say hi if you’re still around .

    1. Caroline!

      Next time we’re in Malibu we plan to stay at Leo Carrillo: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=616.

      Wish we could take you up on that invitation but we are on a ferry crossing over into Canada right now. Rain check? 😉 Take a photo of the stacks for me.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Hey Liane!

      We are lucky to be traveling together. There are many advantages to traveling with a partner. But many women of all ages are traveling solo these days. In the last campground I saw more solo women than couples. Many sites and support groups are dedicated to this growing trend.

      https://www.airstream.com/blog/her-way-and-the-highway-traveling-solo/
      https://www.doityourselfrv.com/women-who-rv-solo/
      https://rvlife.com/rving-women/

      Thank you for sharing our dream.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. “Awesome. Have just sold home and taking to the road, as well! See you on the highways and biways!!”

    1. Seriously!!?!! We would LOVE to see you! Tell us when and where. We will be there! Email me the details.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  3. Loved the otter pics
    My vote : Rock yes, stacks no!
    Reminds me of the coastal trip we took on our second anniversary— more than 45 years ago
    SB, Solvang, Morro, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, SF. When we were young and good looking
    Let’s zoom a happy hour next week.
    Until then happy trails
    JP
    P.S. if and when you do cruise Alaska let’s go together. Norwegian lines the best

    1. Happy Hour sounds awesome! We will be at the neighbors 🇨🇦 and we’re not sure about connectivity. Let’s make a date and we’ll do a trial run just to be sure.

      We’re such bad Californians – this was our first time in Morro, Santa Cruz and SF. We still haven’t seen Monterey or Carmel.

      You are both still good looking.

      I will think about that Alaska cruise. I would need to be drugged like a house cat on a flight to Australia (sea sickness & claustrophobia) and that makes me sing Christy Moore songs in an awful Irish dialect and way too loud and also drone on and on about the care and feeding of cymbidium orchids because I miss mine so much.

      Miss you, Jim P.

      xoxo to Sam.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Did you watch the otter movie about halfway down the blog? They seem to enjoy my singing more than people do. I’m thinking about getting some string lights for my kayak and opening an otter night club.

  4. Great to see pics of where I grew up. In fact, my first camping trip as a new Boy Scout was at Los Osos state park. Hopefully you were able to spend some time at Avila beach. On your way north, be sure to stop by Point Arena (where we got married) and there’s a nice campground in Manchester with an easy walk down to the beach. Happy Travels, Jim and Kelley (CDA Idaho)

    1. Hey Jim and Kelley!

      How wonderful to hear from you again!

      We wish we could have made it to Avila Beach and Port Arena. Being there for only a week we were not able to cover the territory. Thank you for these wonderful destinations. We have pinned them for the next time we go to the Central Coast. The area is flush with camping – that came as a surprise. We love it there. Someday we will slow down and have much longer stays and the Central Coast is on our very short list for some long-term seasonal camping. It’s the water 💦

      Are you two on the road right now?

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. From your map animation, it appears you are in our town of Port Angeles. We moved here a year ago from Virginia to be closer to our sons (only to have one stolen back to the east coast by a wonderful woman). I’ve been following your well-narrated adventures since we were new airstream owners several years ago, though we switched to a camper van for our last 3-month adventure. Contact me if you need any suggestions for exploring the area, if you haven’t already moved on. So much is still new to us as well, since we moved here during a pandemic.

    1. Anne! Yes, apparently we are neighbors for only a few more hours. Sorry I missed your message. We had breakfast at the Lake Crescent lodge on the first day of the season and spent the entire day hiking that area in the rain. We are soaked through and packing to leave north tomorrow. We had a fabulous stay – did the bike trail all the way to Sequim, but didn’t make it as far as Port Townsend because of a storm. Due to harsh weather conditions we couldn’t do all we had planned. It sounds like we (and you) experienced an unusual Puget Sound Springtime. The locals tell us it is the coolest Spring since the early 1950’s. I lived on Puget Sound for one year when I was a teen and our family camped this area but I don’t remember the chill ever being quite so extreme. Currently, we are going through propane at an unprecedented rate and … heading north!

      So we missed you on our way up. But we are coming back down. Do you mind if we contact you when we are in this area again in the Fall?

      Thanks so much for following our travels and for reaching out.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    2. April was more like February, and February and March were more like April. Last year April was all blue skies. Ironically I was also in Lake Crescent Lodge on opening day trying to warm up and dry off, but after lunch. From May to mid-September every day is sunny with deep blue skies. Certainly contact me in the fall. The wooden boat festival in Port Townsend is Sept. 9-11. Did you head north via the ferry to Victoria? Would love to learn the secrets to driving to Alaska. Hardly anyone drives because for $150 you can fly round trip with no charge for bringing a cooler full of fish back on dry ice.

    1. It was our first time in Morro Bay but our first stop was Malibu. Next stop, Santa Cruz and SF!!!

      Thanks so much for being with us, Sierra!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Yes, it was. I hope I was able to explain how much I love Morro Bay. Like Okracoke Island, Morro Bay is one of Soul Towns. I still feel the heaviness of separation from both of those places.

      Thanks so much for being with us Brenda!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  6. Made the trip up to Alaska in 1984, lived there for three years, and drove back down in 1987. One of the incredible trips of a lifetime. I’d recommend it to anyone…..

    1. Whoa!!! Now there’s a testimonial to Slow Travel! You’re our hero Chuck. I will read this post again and again for inspiration. Thank you.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. Morro Bay looks amazing! Loved the video and the otters. And 100 miles a week sounds perfect to me. Now the poor people of the Oregon Trail walked their 100 miles in a week. 🙂

    1. Hey Brenda!

      Thank you for watching the video. I missed way more than I was able to capture – that bay is ALIVE!

      Thanks so much for being with us!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  8. Great views as always! What happened to your Dolphins? Haven’t seen them for a while. 😄😄

    1. Hey Liz Xu!

      The dolphins are busy as always getting us here and there and saving us a lot of $$$ on fuel!

      Malibu and Morro Bay are cycling-friendly towns but the bike lanes are barely buffered from highway traffic with no calm zones or flex posts. When we’re riding in separated bike lanes I feel safe taking photos with an iPhone attached to a strap I wear around my neck, but in minimally protected areas. Hey, you gave me an idea 💡Maybe I should strap a go-pro to my helmet!😊

      Always wonderful to hear from you, Liz Xu!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Yes! We love the way we are living – the way we have lived these past six years. I sure hope living in Airstream is always legal. It’s a blessing to be able to live how we want to and to have instant freedom of mobility. Everyday I express my gratitude for this lifestyle.

      So great to have you with us, Anne!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  9. New to the accounts of your adventures it’s been a pleasure to read of your time on the central coast – so close to my home and a place I’ve explored over many years. Several years ago, with two other couples in our restored vintage Airstreams we were camped (at as we refer to it “the eucalyptus grove”) in Morro Bay, when we walked to the Bayside Café for dinner. A common companion on these trips is the wine and it was part of this night for sure. At some point during dinner a staff member was compelled to ask us to please keep it down or perhaps leave. Just maybe we had relaxed to much on this trip – but then can you really have “too much fun”. So anyway, I’m glad that it wasn’t your evening we had disturbed, and we still enjoy the Bayside. I hope someday that we might cross paths in our travels.

    1. Jerry & Jackie,

      Hey, we will meet you and your friends in the Eucalyptus Grove anytime! Sounds like we would all get along fine. At 21 years old, Beauty is almost a vintage Airstream. Right now, she’s a knocked up old gal 😉 (dents on her starboard side, fore and aft) but we hope to get her all smoothed out before the end of the year.

      Thanks so much for joining the crazy-fun journey. It’s a pleasure to have you aboard!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  10. Wonderful travelogue and a feast for the eyes, as usual! We have an eccentric friend who lives in Morro Bay (whom we met in an outlying island of French Polynesia of all places) and who used to be one of its long-standing barbers there. He gave us a handmade wooden sign with the SLO inscription that found a spot in our home on wheels. That skyline, indeed, never gets old!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Liesbet. That’s a great SLO story. People used to say San Diego was a sleepy town but SLO seems to maintain it’s ag region vibe. We love the area. I could live there permanently I think – as long as we’re close to the water and we probably can’t afford that. But it’s absolutely beautiful – the place, the wildlife, the weather, the people. No complaints.

      Great to hear from you!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

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