In his book, The Mastery of Love, don Miguel Ruiz says that the perfect relationship is like the one you have with your dog and only half that relationship is perfect, the dog’s half. Another researcher has likened the excitement that your dog feels when you come home at the end of the day to the rush of cocaine, synapses are firing all over the brain as it floods with dopamine. Such is the capacity with which most dogs live, especially ours. This has never been more apparent to us as when we took our two Golden Retrievers on a week’s vacation with us to San Simeon, California.

It’s important to note that we made certain accommodations for two medium size dogs just transitioning out of puppyhood, the most effective of which was pulling out the center seat of the Montero and installing a platform upon which Ginger and Mary Ann could travel the ten hours to the coast.

This made the trip so much more bearable with a surface that retains dog hair and a space where the two could stretch their legs and relax and have access to windows while creating storage space underneath.

The plan for the trip was to camp the first three days somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway and then spend the rest of the trip relaxing at the Cavalier resort in San Simeon. In years past we’ve camped at San Simeon Creek starting in 2004, our first attempt at bringing all our kids together in what would become our marriage. This was their first ocean kayaking trip where we put in at the cove of San Simeon.

Other trips include the shooting of a documentary, a grad present for Katie, and the same for Ashley.

We made good time on a boring road, I-15 from St. George to Barstow, then 58 to Bakersfield, 99 to 46, through Wasco, on to Paso Robles and then the PCH to San Simeon.

Mary Ann has to be in touch with one of us while she rides, leaving Ginger to enjoy to room on the dog deck.

On the California side of the Nevada border is the construction of a solar project reaching the point of going online.

Three towers surrounded by thousands of mirrors over 46,000 acres. The mirrors reflect sunlight into the towers where water is superheated and turned into energy, enough to power 240,000 homes. Our drive-by shooting through the sunroof managed to catch the sun flaring off the north tower. Pretty cool.

It’s been our experience when camping at San Simeon Creek that we have better luck showing up for a campground than we do when reserving one, and that was the case for us Wednesday afternoon. We pulled up to the ranger kiosk and were met by a rookie Elijah Wood-look alike ranger who sold us a spot right by the trail to the beach for three nights. Just what we wanted except when we inspected the site and the access to the beach there was a sign indicating, “No Dogs Allowed.” Really? In this dog-friendly region? That was the whole point of our wanting to camp there and with dogs being forbidden on the beach we decided to check out Kirk Creek, just another 35 miles up the road. In PCH-speak, that’s and hour and a half.

We were at Kirk Creek about year and half ago and loved it there. It’s the only campground on the PCH between Cambria and Monterey that’s on the west side of the road. To our chagrin it was full, overflowing. So we headed back to San Simeon Creek with the intention of camping in their less civilized campground at Washburn.

Three hours and we’re back at the kiosk, this time with a more seasoned ranger than Elijah, who would only sell us a spot for the night; we’d have to come back and book it again in the morning, or we could go online and reserve it for the rest of the weekend. Once we got to our spot we went online and called ReserveAmerica’s toll-free number and were told that all the sites were booked and that we’d have to go through the campground itself. Mindy told them we already had a spot and we wanted to book it for the next two nights and their response was we needed 48 hours before the actual booking. But we were there, right there, flanked by empty campsites, in fact, had a campsite for three nights. Something about looking a gift horse in the mouth here.

Whatever. We set up camp with the hope that we wouldn’t be striking it the next morning.

We got everything set in minutes, and enjoyed the evening with dinner and a pair of dogs who quickly became campground celebrities.

Thursday morning we reserved the site for that night and headed to our sacred ground, the Cove at San Simeon, and introduced our two hardcore waterdogs to the biggest water of their lives. They went bonkers.

We kicked it, relaxing in the sun at a balmy 65 degrees, ate a wonderful picnic lunch, walked the beach all the way to the cove wall.

Dog heaven.

Friday morning at 8:00 we were put on a waiting list to see if we could keep our campsite and found out by 10:30 that we needed to move to a site in the Creek campground, the site we originally had when we first arrived. If you can make any sense of this then perhaps you’d qualify to work as a California State employee. We struck camp in the Washburn campsite and moved to the Creek and to the one next to the beach trail.

Lovely. The image doesn’t show the tent city this area had become. No worries for us, since we’d be spending the rest of the day in Cayucus, hearing from other folks that there’s a dog-friendly beach just south of that little beach town.

No pics, an afternoon offline, relaxing after striking and setting camp back up. We visited Cayucus, hit the beach there and walked the pier.

Saturday morning was our last camp breakfast since we’d be moving to the other side of our vacation dichotomy, the Cavalier at San Simeon. The plan was to strike camp, drive into San Luis Obispo to check out a route for a bike race we’re planning on in October, put in more beach time and then check-in to the Cavalier.

We pretty much stuck to that plan except for a bit of a delay caused by a bungee cord. I was lashing stuff in the back of the Montero, packing things away, when the bungee I was trying to attach let go and smacked me in the eye. It’s amazing how much latent energy is stored in a fully stretched bungee cord. My left eye was blinded and I writhing in pain. Mindy got some ice and remained calm while I tried not to freak out. In a few minutes I tried opening the eye just to verify that I could still see. I could, but things weren’t looking all that good, literally. Once I got over the initial shock of the injury, we finished packing, checked out of San Simeon Creek and made our way to SLO. Mindy drove while I debated seeking medical attention.

We stopped for tacos at SLO and I took this selfie to see the damage for myself. Just a flesh wound. So, on we went with our day sans doc, but with much pain. We spent the afternoon at Muir Strand Beach. It was both dog and horse friendly and as one might imagine otherwise, it was clean, if not cleaner than dog-forbidden beaches.

(Since getting home I’ve been examined by an ophthalmologist who discovered that the cornea had been cut and that it had become infected. I’m on a massive dose of antibiotics and subsequent exams show good improvement, though the cornea will heal with scar tissue.)

The time was getting close to check-in at the Cavalier so we made our way back to San Simeon and to the comforts of our room.

I slept for much of the remainder of the day and we ordered in room service for dinner. We’ve been staying at the Cavalier for eight years now and never once knew or even suspected it to be a dog-friendly property. Every room. The entire property and the beach. Besides spacious and luxurious, the rooms are spotless. Their restaurant offers room service with no fees, with fare the same as their menu.

Topping that, all the rooms look out to the ocean with some right on the bluff just above the ocean providing the most natural relaxing white noise ever.

Even the girls appreciated the respite, spent from chasing each other and the waves. As evening fell we took them out to watch the sun set.

Ginger, along with the rest of us, got her lithium fix.

While enjoying the moment we were approached by a young woman, I’m thinking at the time early twenties maybe, and she asked if she could pet the girls having left her two retrievers back in Florida. We visited for a bit and then made our way to one of the fire places. Solomon from the Cavalier builds a fire in these every evening where guests can mingle and chat. You can see one in the background of the photo of Mindy and I above.

We were joined by our dog-petting friend along with her friend. As conversations go and as we ruled out those degrees of separation we learned these two were recent med school graduates, one a pediatrician at a prestigious hospital in the Bay Area and the other an ER doctor outside of Orlando. We were so impressed and had a great visit. They were even kind enough to take a look at my injured eye using an iPhone flashlight app to check pupil response, which it wasn’t.

We spent Sunday on the beach just beyond our room.

 Mindy really was relaxed, the look on her face was from Ginger just shaking off the sea and sand.

The only way this day could have been any better is if our kids were with us.

Another night by the fire, this time with a couple who live in Pleasanton but are sixth generation San Franciscans.

Monday was Cambria day. We started in the East Village where we had a light breakfast at a French bakery and window shopped with the dogs. Ginger and Mary Ann were celebs making friends with everyone along the way. All we heard during the trip was how mellow they are, especially given their age of twelve months. They basked in the attention without getting needy and were always happy to be moving along.

We passed by an art gallery that had a large blue ceramic dog in the doorway. The girls hunched and barked at it, taking them awhile to warm up to the idea that it was an inanimate object.

Monday night’s fire proved to be a bit more of a conflagration than we expected. We had a spot in the middle and were flanked by a couple from the UK on Mindy’s side, and a family from Houston on mine. Conversation was going lovely until politics entered the exchange, particularly an endorsement from our Houston friend of President George W. Bush. Our UK friends were incredulous and spoke of the former president in terms beyond most any Texan’s toleration, and then we were four. We talked well into the night.

Tuesday morning came too soon as we checked out, had breakfast at the Cavalier and turned the Montero back inland.

The girls crashed for most of the ten-hour trip home, worn out like kids after Disneyland.

In the years we’ve been visiting San Simeon and Cambria we’d keep an eye out for indications of WiFi service. This time it was business placards that displayed “Dog-Friendly” that caught our attention. Perhaps the best thing we took away from this vacation was to keep following Ruiz’s advice and Ginger and Mary Ann’s example, that we should all be living like dogs.

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