It’s not a road trip without and adventure, so here’s the story about my adventure at Oceano!
After The Wheeland Brother’s experience at Camp Hideaway, I really wanted to camp again on the actual beach this time (not a parking lot up on a bluff). I’ve also been working on a side project, developing a mobile app for surfing, and while researching other apps I came across this app called Camp & Tent. Using this app, I discovered this amazing place right on the beach where you can not only camp on the actual beach, but bring your car, and also go ATVing on the amazing widespread sand dunes along the beach.
I wanted to bring a few friends with me, but I also wanted to bring my surfboard to surf, which pretty much takes up 2 passengers in my car and I knew it would take more energy than I was willing to expel trying to reach out to various people to see if they were free on the day I booked the space on a busy Labor Day weekend. Therefore I decided to do this road trip solo and use it as a scoping out mission. Sometimes you need to experience a place once in order to really know the ins and outs so you can have an even better time the next time you go.
I’m definitely glad I did this, as I had quite the adventure!!
I left for the Oceano SVRA campgrounds on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and it is technically about a 5 and a half hour drive up tbere. I got there in about 7 or so hours – I sped through LA surprisingly, but got quite a bit of traffic in Oxnard/Ventura and Santa Barbara. I had thought I reserved an ATV online for a 4pm start date and had called the company, Arnie’s Rentals, to tell them I was running late. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to have my booking reservation online so I wouldn’t have to forfeit the rental fee as there was no way I was going to make it in time. This is me trying to squeeze everything in too soon! I ended up doing my ATV rental the next day which I’ll go into later.
Lesson 1 learned, allow for at least 7-8 hours from San Diego to Oceano if you are booking something at a certain time!
When I got to the Oceano SVRA campgrounds it was about to sunset. The tide was at its high point as it was super scary driving on the beach there over the tide coming in. I thought my car was going to get sucked in the ocean, but fortunately it didn’t. I had read articles about coming here and the park recommends that your vehicle be 4-wheel drive. I didn’t really pay too much attention to that because I wasn’t planning on driving on any of the soft sand, just staying on the hard packed sand car path and then turning at the first available parking spot closest to the beach around an area that had a decent looking toilet facility place. As soon as I found a decent looking restroom facility (other than a porta pot) I managed to find a spot and parked there. As soon as I got there I just wanted to go running up the dunes, as I absolutely love sand dunes, I love sand actually! If you are a surfer, you need to become one with sand, ha, a familiar theme with Wheeland Brother’s Sand in My Sheets song. When I got to the top of the sand dune, I was the only person out there not on an ATV, but I didn’t care. The view from up there was amazing, as the sun was about to set. I felt like I was kind of in the Sahara Desert if I wasn’t looking at the ocean, but then you turn around and the ocean is right there waving back at you! I wanted to go back to my car, grab my beach chair and beverage and head back up to the top to enjoy the sunset, but was running a bit late. Therefore, when I got back down to my car, I just decided to stay there and watch the sunset on the beach as I entertained myself looking at all the vehicles driving by on the beach, as this is unfamiliar to me. It was pretty cool, as every vehicle was waving some sort of flag that showed off what they were proud of and where they were from!!
Lesson 2 learned: Bring a flag to Oceano SVRG campgrounds next time!!
There were so many trucks and 4×4’s that you did kind of get a feeling that you were at a country music festival. The fact that you can also drink on the beach here gave the place a wild and free feeling such as if you were in Mexico as well. That’s why I call this place a little bit of Sahara Desert, A Country Music Festival, and Mexico all rolled into one. As the sun was setting I was listening to Iration’s new Hotting Up album as I had lost my iPod and my phone didn’t have any internet, and Iration’s songs were the only ones on my phone. I didn’t mind though, they are one of the few bands I can just listen to over and over and not get tired of, although I would have blared some country/Miranda Lambert if I had all my music there.
As it was getting dark, I threw my tent up in front of my car and went to the bathroom so I hopefully wouldn’t have to get up at midnight to go to the lovely restroom facilities there. That’s my only complaint about the place – the nicer looking non-porta pot bathroom was basically just a hole in the ground. It’s really not a problem if you’re a dude, but let’s just say either way, my mind controlled my body and I watched everything I ate as I made sure I didn’t need to do certain things there.
Lesson 3 learned: Have a camper RV rental delivery company come the next time (like Luv 2 Camp) and drop off an RV with a bathroom. It’s still fun to camp outside at night, but having your own private facilities could make it an amazing weekend there, as without it I could only do a one night stay at a time!!
The next morning I woke up and was excited to do some ATVing and really explore those sand dunes and maybe do a little surf sesh. I took it easy getting ready as my reservations weren’t until 11am and was just going to drive my car over to the Arnie’s Rental’s ATV rental place on the beach somewhat nearby the camping area, more of a 10 minute walk. However, then I discovered a major problem. When I thought I had been parking on packed sand, it apparently loosened up overnight as the tide lowered and the sand dried up and my car was indeed stuck. To make matters worse, my front bumper had been coming loose and I just hadn’t gotten around to the cheap fix this auto shop body guy said he could do to my car. Due to this, when I had been trying in vain to back up my car, it made the situation worse. When I went to look at the front of my car to see how bad it was stuck, it looked like the front bumper could fall off at any minute. I quickly tried to move away the sand under the tires with my hands and then these friendly people by me offered to loan me their shovel. I even shoveled for quite a bit and had them try pushing it as I reversed but nothing happened. Mind you I had read stories about people getting their car stuck here and the expensive towing so needless to say, this did not start my day very well. However I had to get to the ATV rental place, so I just gave up for the time being, walked to the rental place and would deal with the situation later.
Lesson 4 learned: Really, you should NOT drive and park anywhere on the beach if your car is not a 4-wheel drive unless you are prepared to pay a good chunk to get your car out.
When I got to Arnie’s ATV rental, I explained my situation as I thought they might be able to give me help about who to contact to get my car unstuck and if they knew of a local body shop nearby that could fix my bumper. Then I realized I had left my credit card back in my car at the camp site and didn’t have the sneakers/full shoes required to operate their ATV’s foot shifter. They were so nice and helpful though, a really great company indeed that I highly recommend you rent an ATV from. The one guy their drove me back to my car so I could get my credit card and the one woman went back to their shop off of the beach to get me some loaner shoes and socks. I really do appreciate when companies go the extra mile for their customers, little things like that go a long way!!
Lesson 5 learned: Even if you have the same shoe philosophy as the Wheeland Brothers and live in your flip flops all year long like you can here in SoCal, DO bring some full shoes if you want to ATV!!!
So the ATVing was a complete blast. I was being super cautious at first as I did not want to get my ATV stuck in the sand, but as soon as I got used to the main area I was driving around in, I started going super fast and made it up one of the big sand dunes that I had trouble going up at first. Then it was so exciting and a definite woo hooo moment when I went racing down that same huge sand dune!!! I did a two hour rental and that’s probably about all I could handle as your hands do get a bit tired pushing on that gas!!!! I will definitely be back again, and bring more people to have fun chasing each other around those hills of sand!
After ATVing it was back to reality, Arnie’s was again super helpful though and got me in touch with Kautz Towing which was able to come in and get my car unstuck. They told me if I said Arnie’s referred them, that the tow company might be able to set me up with a good deal. I called the tow company and was initially a bit traumatized as this good deal was turning out to be not only $300 to get my car unstuck, but another $300 to tow it to the auto shop. I understand a company’s gotta run a business, but wow, that was a bit hard to swallow. Thankfully though I was able to call my insurance company and they made it sound like the towing would be covered under my insurance plan since it was related to an accident of sorts, an accident with the sand that almost took my front bumper off!! They told me to have the tow company send them a bill to this fax number with my claim number on it. The tow company then told me that they didn’t need that info and they would connect with the insurance company the next day.
The tow company was also super helpful as well and hooked me up with a great deal on a room at the Sea Crest Inn, as I would have to spend another night in town while I had to wait until the next day for the auto body place to repair my car so it was safe to drive back to San Diego.
I didn’t end up getting to surf at Oceano (as I probably wouldn’t have anyway as the waves were really closed out and paddling out looked like more energy than I had, plus given my car situation), however since I was staying at the Sea Crest Inn which had a path right down to the beach, I got a chance to surf a few waves nearby the Pismo Beach Pier. It wasn’t a very long surf sesh, as I was kind of exhausted from the day’s activities, but I was glad I got a chance to use my surfboard that I brought with me. The hotel was really beautiful too, it had a cozy little outside patio area with landscaping and a pool and then another area by the hot tubs that was perfect for eating the pizza I ordered for dinner while watching the sunset.
The room was amazing too, there’s nothing like having a nice bathroom in a hotel with the super comfy hotel bed mattress, cozy comforter, and fluffy but firm pillows. I had fun watching cable for a chance (as I’ve been a cord cutter for awhile) and definitely got a much needed good night’s sleep! The next morning was a free continental breakfast which I brought back to my room and enjoyed nearby the rooms patio slightly over-looking the ocean.
Lesson 6 learned: Not a lesson learned really, but something that was re-inforced, having connections and making referrals is a great way to show your appreciation to and for another business. I kind of feel like I hope I do that with bands and other businesses I love as well!
The next thing I did was call the estimator guy that the insurance company told me needed to come out to the auto body in order to provide their estimate for my insurance claim purposes. He was the only estimator guy in the whole entire area and apparently already had a full day and told me he may not make it to the auto body shop that day. Now I was getting stressed because as good as the deal was I got and as nice as the hotel was, I didn’t want to spend the money on another night and I would have to miss another day at work (which I had to call off because of this adventure). Then I called the insurance company back to see if they could put a rush on my job and got even more concerned as the next guy told me that the towing would be part of my deductible and not a separate item covered 100% the insurance company. I called the towing company and told them my concerns and was checking to see if they had gotten my car to the auto body shop or not yet. They said they were waiting for me to call them back about the insurance. I guess this was a confusion as I offered them up the claim number to fax the insurance company and then they told me they would just call the insurance company and therefore I had not mentioned it again to my insurance. The amazing thing with life is it is a roller coaster because at that point I was pretty depressed again but things started to then look up! I called the insurance company back again and just told them to call the tow company place to work things out and magically, things worked out and they were able to bill the tow company direct. (currently crossing fingers that this bill doesn’t come back to bite me). Then the auto body shop, Sierra Body Shop, told me they could do a quick fix on my car to get the front bumper attached without needing to put a new one on so that I could have an insurance estimator look at it once I got back to San Diego. That was the best news I heard all day. I knew the auto body shop would get back to me in time.
I was conducting all this business via phone while overlooking the beautiful Oceanside view at the hotel. My mom wanted me to go to the auto body shop to put some pressure on them to get things done fast, but I told her I’d rather try to bug them from this view, and the auto body shop did do a great and timely job for no cost, but I did tip them a good amount for their efforts, a bit above what the one local guy was gonna charge me for fixing it (in probably the same way this auto body shop did).
When I got back to San Diego the local insurance estimator told me the damage to fix my car (via a new bumper which they would recommend vs. fixing the attachments) was under my deductible but also said I should be fine with my car as is, unless there is a torrential rainfall here and the auto body shop place didn’t use water proof glue. So therefore , that’s the end of my adventure, and a pretty good ending at that. An extra night only ended up costing me a one nights good deal at a nice hotel and a tip for quick fixing my bumper, vs. the extra $600 for towing + $700+ for replacing by bumper that it could have been.
Overall lessons learned from my Oceano SVRA Campground roadtrip/adventure:
Bring a big group next time and rent an RV for a few days for a blast of a weekend at a place where you can camp on the beach, with relatively few rules (certainly no stupid rididculous ones).
Maybe even bring a few bands and have an acoustic bonfire jam session all weekend!
Appreciate the locals, even the tow companies, as ya never know who can help ya out with something!
If things look like they are going downhill, keep your chin up, as things will start going back up, just like the sand dunes!