San Clemente, CA

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For those of us old enough to have been around during the presidency of Richard Nixon, we would recall that when the Nixons were able to take a break from Washington, they would head to San Clemente, CA, to “The Western White House”.  They owned an oceanfront estate there called “La Casa Pacifica”.  We weren’t able to stay at that particular property but we followed the Nixons model and took a short break in San Clemente, located about midway along the Pacific coast between LA and San Diego.

San Clemente, CA

We’ve driven past San Clemente many times, traveling on Interstate 5 to or from San Diego.  This time we wanted to take a couple of days to explore this beautiful town and the surrounding area.  We enjoyed some fresh Pacific seafood and some nice hikes.

One of our special outings was to Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Many people know of the “miracle” of the swallows that return to this town every year on March 19th.  The story behind this is that a pastor of the mission was walking through town when he saw one of the shopkeepers using a broom to swat away the birds that were nesting in the eves of his shop.  He considered the birds to be a nuisance and wanted to get rid of them.  The pastor said, “Come on swallows.  I’ll give you shelter.  Come to the Mission”.  Since then the birds have returned to the Mission every year.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was established on November 1, 1776.  This is one of the 21 missions that would ultimately be established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain and spread Christianity to the native peoples of California.  After 1812, the Mission began to decline.  Subsequently, it was sold at auction and was a private ranch property for 20 years.  Eventually, after California became a state, President Abraham Lincoln returned the property to the Catholic Church.  Today you can see the results from many years of preservation and restoration efforts.

Pismo Beach/Oceano Dunes

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Immediately after returning to Torrance from Lake Tahoe, we spent a long weekend with some family and friends at a campground near Pismo Beach, along the central coast of California.

Oceano Dunes

Valerie’s son Tim has a truck that is specifically equipped for the type of off-road challenges presented by the sand dunes at Oceano Dunes.  So he organized a family and friends camping trip.  Since we don’t own an RV currently, we rented a trailer from a local business that towed it to the camp site and set it up for us.

Tim gave everybody an opportunity to ride in the truck while he drove across the dunes.  The Oceano Dunes is a State Vehicle Recreational Area consisting of 3,500 acres that runs along the coast just south of Pismo Beach.  The sand is shaped by the weather into steep hills, often with very sudden drops.  All manner of vehicles navigate the dunes and camping is allowed along the coast away from the vehicles.  Everybody enjoyed the opportunity to “ride the dunes” in Tim’s truck.

During our 3 days here, we also visited Avila Beach, Harford Pier, Pismo Beach and had some great meals and plenty of good times.

Oakley, CA

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Continuing our mini-vacation to the San Francisco Bay Area, from Oakland we headed east to the town of Oakley, home to Valerie’s long time friends, Roger and Jo Anne.  They have been friends with Valerie and her kids for many years.

Half Moon Bay

On our first day, we took a day trip when Roger drove us all back west to San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge and then south to Half Moon Bay.  This is a small beach community that seems to have mostly avoided allowing itself to be overrun by development.  Just to the south of the town is a four mile stretch of beach that is the Half Moon Bay State Beach with a walking path, nice broad beaches and a campground.  We had lunch at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.  This is a beautiful stretch of California coastline.

The next day, we took a walk around their neighborhood with Roger and saw some of his favorite neighbors, sheep, goats and emu.   Before leaving we enjoyed a beautiful salad that Jo Anne prepared for us.

Next stop:  Placerville, CA