Paying the San Francisco Price
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that the Bay Area is not famous for its reasonable cost of living. Food is expensive, homes are expensive, and yes, you guessed it, RV accommodations are expensive too. This means you can easily find a way to pay someone over $100 per night to allow you the courtesy of sleeping in your very own bedroom whilst parked on their land. Now, I don’t like to pay $100 a night for a HOTEL, and I have a hard time contemplating the lunacy that would permit one to pay that much just to pass the time in one’s own home. No thank you.
We had to do a lot of research to try to find inexpensive places to stay that were still within a practical driving distance from San Francisco. The very cheapest place we found was in San Jose, about an hour outside of the city, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. They provided full hookup sites for $30 a night, which is actually very reasonable. Or, it would have been reasonable if the place wasn’t just a complete crap-hole.
Upon arrival, we parked at the entrance and checked in with the campground host, and Kelly and I openly debated if we should stay only 3 days, or commit to staying a full week. Kelly offhandedly commented that perhaps we should check the spot out first before signing on the dotted line. The campground host chuckled and said there’s not much to see.
He wasn’t kidding. Now, I don’t want to make it sound like this was the 7th circle of hell or something, it wasn’t THAT bad. It was basically just a small cramped parking lot with about 16 RVs all pressed next to each other, surrounded by the decaying remains of a state fairground two months after the fair had chewed it up and spit it out. Giant fields of dirt and mud, scattered portable toilets, random piles of trash. Overhead spotlights and loudspeakers above that remained quiet and dark, looking down onto empty stands. The whole thing gave me the heebie jeebies.
This was our spot – again, its not like we were staying on skid-row or something, it just was not particularly pleasant. I should also mention that the whole area is right off of a noisy main thoroughfare, and finds itself smack in the middle of the flight path to the San Jose airport, so quiet was not one of its redeeming characteristics.
To put it plainly, Kelly and I were feeling kind of bummed about the whole affair. One of our main goals with the RV trip is to find beautiful places in nature, national parks and quiet hidden gems in the mountains, with deer frolicking nearby and bunnies nibbling at our toes, etc. This was like, the polar opposite of that. And OF COURSE, not every day is rainbows and butterflies and that’s FINE, but after 3 days there, we found it to be actually quite depressing.
So I made the executive decision to find us Somewhere Better. And sure enough (for twice the price) I was able to find us another option. Pillar Point RV Park in Half Moon Bay, California, about 45 minutes outside of San Francisco (excluding rush hour, of course).
$60 a night a A LOT to pay for a place to park, but here is where we learned our important lesson: Sometimes you have to bite the bullet for a few days to get to be in the location you so desperately want to be in. And I will say it was totally, 100% worth it.
What does “worth it” mean exactly? It means we had what I declare to be numerous priceless memories made during each of our nights on the coast. Including but not limited to:
1) Waking up every day to walk Max down this beach
2) Walking down to this positively majestic beach to watch the sunset.
And I would like to say I have literally no understanding of how or why not a single other person could be bothered to make their way down to this beach for the sunset. It is maybe the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen, with cliffs surrounding it on all sides. Maybe this is where some serial killer usually hangs out and we were the two doofs who didn’t get the memo. I have no idea.
We ended the night at Sam’s Chowder House, which is right on the beach in Half Moon Bay and was quite good.
3) Walking down to THIS positively majestic beach 2.0 a couple of days later.
On this beach we ran into a handful of other people who had the good sense to spend some time looking at the sunset. Maybe there is hope for the world after all.
We also had a group of pelicans circling over our heads for about half an hour – there must have been a hundred of them all together, policing the coast. It was really neat to see. Pelicans are one of my favorite animals. I just think they’re cool.
Also, I saw a giant rock and was compelled to climb it.
Here is Kelly way down below.
4) Late night crab-spotting mission.
Kelly and I were walking right near the shore by the RV park, next to a large rocky jetty. I noticed that when I would walk ahead a bit by myself, I could hear ever-so-quiet scurrying noises coming from the rocks. The flashlight revealed an absolute INFESTATION of these adorable little crabs. I am not going to tell you how long we spent out there looking at the crabs, suffice to say it was probably more time than your run-of-the-mill sane individual would invest. It was a blast.
5) Exploring Highway 1 and Pescadero.
We drove down the coast and encountered a very thick and mysterious fog. This picture does it zero justice. It was completely enveloping and came out of nowhere. In the midst of the fog we came across Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a beautiful spot up on the cliffs. Not pictured: The intense cold of the mist. Just thinking about it is making me shiver.
But not to worry, we also made it to Duartes Tavern – thanks to Betty Kirksey for the stellar recommendation. They are famous for their artichoke and green chili soups, which as a soup lover I can attest are out of this world. Were able to warm up with some soup and a couple of beers.
It has a dive-bar feel, plus awesome soup…. What more could you want, really?
So clearly, the $60 a night to stay in this gorgeous place was totally and completely worth it. If we had stayed in our sad little county fairground we never would have had these experiences. We can’t afford to stay in fancy places all the time, and don’t intend to make a habit of it. But sometimes when your options are limited, it makes sense to pay a little more for something that is going to bring great pleasure to your life. Lesson learned!
And since Half Moon Bay is only a 45 minute drive from San Fran, we did get to spend some time there and in Silicon Valley as well.
Kelly’s friend Ross was nice enough to invite us to lunch at his workplace, a little company you may have heard of called Facebook(!!) It was (obviously) SUPER COOL to see the Facebook campus and it is very beautiful and welcoming. Plus all the food is free and I can’t even fathom how quickly I would get fat if I worked there. We had Indian food, pizza, and ice cream. Oof. Thanks Ross!
We also had a chance to see my dear friend Jenny and her husband Kirby who introduced us to Burmese food, which is apparently all the rage out this way. It is kind of a mix between Thai and Indian food. We hit Rangoon Ruby in Palo Alto, which was delicious.
And finally, I know I am not allowed to complain about the weather because yes, I have seen pictures of the horror that took place in Michigan last week, but its just a wee bit cold here for my taste. It gets into the low 40’s and even high 30’s here at night (how do we even survive…).
We are now making our way further south – staying in the Monterey Bay area. More on that coming up!