3 Tips For Camping in a Eurovan
This summer has been full of little road trips and adventures as we make up for the lack of them in 2020 and we prepare for our newest arrival coming this fall. If you haven't heard yet, Mark and I are expecting a little girl in November! We are so excited. There will be a post all about the pregnancy soon, but for now, I want to share about our Eurovan camping experience on the California coast this summer.
So for this post, I'm going to share about our trip and then at the end share a few things we learned that will definitely make next time we rent a camper van a little smoother. We started out the trip by figuring out where we wanted to go and how long it would take to get there from the van pick-up location. Easy enough!
We rented our van through Outdoorsy from a company called Vintage Surfari Wagons. They have so many cool options to choose from if you like vintage VW busses like we do! After picking up the van, we grabbed some coffee and then hit the road. We drove north for several hours until we reached the midway point to Big Sur/Bixby Creek Bridge (our ending and then turnaround point). Here's where we made a mistake... we never booked a hookup/camping spot in advance. We thought we could just show up at a campsite and park because we weren't in a huge RV or anything like that. Boy, were we wrong.
After trying several places, panicking a little bit, even checking to see if we could park overnight at Walmart (we couldn't because the lot was a shared lot and the other business called the cops whenever anyone did that) we both just sort of fell into a pit of defeat. What the heck were we going to do??
Now, what we ended up doing I don't recommend. So, please learn from our mistake and reserve your campsite space a few weeks/months ahead of time. We found an Amtrack station and parked there for the night, leaving at the crack of dawn. We slept terribly, argued, and ate cold pizza for dinner. Like I said, learn from our mistakes.
The next day and night were much better! We drove up the CA coast and it was gorgeous. We stopped at some scenic overlooks, took lots of photos, ate at the same restaurant that Jack Kerouac historically ate at, and saw the ocean in all its west coast glory. We were a little disappointed to reach the bridge and see lots of orange cones and construction work happening... that does not make for an ideal photo. But, we made it work.
A little backstory:
One of our favorite bands that we bonded over before we even started dating was Death Cab for Cutie. We would send each other different songs and get excited about new album releases and Mark even used some of their lyrics in his wedding vows to me! Big fans.
One of their songs is called Bixby Canyon Bridge, which I love. It's so poetic and eerily soothing. You can listen to it here. So there was definitely an emotional connection and built up hype around seeing the area that Jack Kerouac (beatnik writer) and Ben Gibbard of DCFC both referenced in such emotional ways.
We get there. There is traffic and road work and it's loud and there are a bunch of tourists. I was a little disappointed, not going to lie. I guess we should've gotten there at the crack of dawn rather than late afternoon. But we tried to make the best of it!
We shared headphones and put the song on and just stood there staring at the bridge and the valley and the ocean. There were a few minutes where the annoyances all melted away and I thought, "Wow, I'm finally here. And I feel nothing." It was beautiful, don't get me wrong. But I didn't feel any type of inspiration or enlightenment or whatever I thought I would feel. Ironic because the song is about how he does the same exact thing. Goes to the bridge and expects all these amazing connections to the past and what Jack Kerouac wrote about but he feels nothing. It's just a bridge that got travelers where they needed to go.
And that's ok. That's life sometimes. We romanticize places and moments, even though they're nothing that special.
When we left the bridge we got lunch at Nepanthe, a place that Jack Kerouac frequented when he was living in the area and writing one of his books. It was pretty good food, a little pricey but the views were incredible out on the deck where we sat. But again, no connection. Just a restaurant filled with people from LA or San Francisco looking for a little getaway on the coast. People with money to spend and fancy clothes and cars to show off. I definitely felt out of place because I got there looking for an artistic and emotional experience and it was just a nice day during our trip.
When we headed back towards our campsite for the evening, we laughed about how excited we got for something so simple. But I'm glad that I got to experience it with Mark. He's the best travel buddy.
For our last night, we thankfully had a campsite reservation. We stayed at Pacific Dunes Ranch. It was clean and family friendly and exactly what we needed after a long day of travel. PLUS there were amazing sand dunes adjacent to it that you could climb up. We watched the sunset from the top and I think that may have been my favorite part.