Carpinteria State Beach’s Puzzle Challenge

Mar 16

Carpinteria State Beach’s campground is like a very large puzzle with an amazing view. The campground is located just a few miles from Santa Barbara, California and our spot was just a few steps from a beautiful beach. In order to let as many people as possible enjoy the location, though, the park has set up the campsites to be VERY close to each other.

The camping sites at Carpinteria State Beach are very close to the beach, and even closer to each other.

The camping sites at Carpinteria State Beach are very close to the beach, and even closer to each other.

When we arrived in the early afternoon, one of the spots across from us was open so backing our 30 foot trailer into our narrow spot was tricky, not not crazily so. The sites are narrow enough, though, that there wasn’t room for our truck so I parked it in an overflow parking area a short distance away. That lot was full of other similar trucks so clearly the rest of the campground is pretty tight too.

Then I was off to take a few pictures on the beach. I brought along an abalone shell which I figured would make a nice prop on the beach and I set to playing around with tight focus on the shell with the rest of the beach around me. There is an area of black rocks that look like a lava deposit but is actually Asphaltum created by nearby oil deposits. Sticky bits of tar was ashore and merge into this large rocky blob. At first I thought it was related to the drilling platforms visible near the horizon but it turns out that this stuff has been washing ashore for centuries and the local tribes used to seal their canoes with it. It makes for a pretty cool backdrop.


Carpinteria State Beach also has pretty epic sunsets too. Lots of people gathered on the beach to watch the sun go down and the last few clouds glow bright red. I found a cool bit of driftwood that added a bit to the moment.

Driftwood rests at sunset on Carpinteria State Beach in California.

Driftwood rests at sunset on Carpinteria State Beach in California.

The real adventure, though, was waiting for the next morning when we tried to hook up to leave. The spots around us had filled in so there was barely enough room to even fit my truck between our trailer and the one across the road, let alone to maneuver it so that it lined up correctly. Once back in Sammamish, though, I had moved Leslie’s Subaru Outback station wagon from once side of the garage to the other side, avoiding a pillar in the middle, when someone had placed a dumpster behind her entrance so I knew that with enough back-and-forth, this is possible. As I pulled up with the truck, I had no idea how I was going to get it hooked up and it took a good 15 minutes of futzing and small back-and-forth motions to finally get it close enough to hook up.  I suspect it would have been easier with a traditional hitch but our ProPride hitch requires that we back straight into the receiver. Once we finally got it hooked up, trying to move forward was the next tricky part. The front of my truck was about 2 feet from the front of the trailer across from me so we would need to first back up the trailer to be able to let the truck turn, but there was a big metal fire pit just behind and to the side of the trailer so I needed to first scootch the trailer to the left about 2 feet before we could start the turn that wouldn’t hit the fire pit with the trailer. After a few minutes, and some great guidance from Leslie and the guy who owned the trailer across from us, we were able to get clear and back on the road. I was exhausted and we weren’t even out of the park yet!

This is one of those adventures that you need to deal with with you have a big rig like ours. There have been several places on this trip that made us wish that we had a somewhat smaller setup and this is the biggest one so far.  The next one is getting up Hwy 1 along the coast.  Enough people have told us that it would be very hazardous to drive up the coast between Morro Bay and Big Sur that we’re going to go around on 101 and then back down to Big Sur. We definitely don’t want to miss that park but I also don’t want to get stuck on that road with Ruby and the Tardis. If only there was a way that we could make Tardis a little smaller on the outside…


  1. Chris,
    I just sold my house – paperwork remains to be done, but all parties are in agreement. Which means, I will be picking up my Airstream and starting out on the adventure next month!
    Which leads me to a question:
    Just how long is the Tardis? I have never towed anything larger than my Tear Drop, and I am quite a bit of trepidation about towing my as-yet-unnamed trailer. I figure that I can learn anything that I need to learn, but I do worry…

    Do you have any advice?

  2. Tardis is a 30′ Flying Cloud Bunkhouse. This is a good length for 2 people who are full-timing across the country though we’ve seen couples perfectly happy with 27 feet. It is all about trade-offs. A longer trailer means more space for stuff and for living but it also means it is tricker to back into some tight spots (like Carpinteria). Most National Parks have a limit of 25 feet for a trailer. A bigger trailer also means you need a bigger tow vehicle so that you can safely get over mountain passes.

    For a single person traveling, I would definitely go with something in the 20-25 range though the floor plans vary widely between the different lengths and so much of making a trailer work well for you is having the right floor plan.

    I think this is a good topic for a future post as we are constantly revisiting what the perfect layout for us is.

  3. Rich L /

    “Enough people have told us that it would be very hazardous to drive up the coast between Morro Bay and Big Sur…”

    I think they are just jealous. People told us the same thing. We did it years ago with our 30-foot Airstream and it was one of the most memorable experiences of the Pacific Coast. You can read a little about it in our Tour of America blog from Dec 17, 2005.

    • We’re going to get most of Route 1 in anyway. Today we’re driving up to San Simeon with just the truck. Then later in the week we’ll be driving down from Monterey to Big Sur to camp for a couple of nights.

  4. Mickey Kampsen /

    So glad to hear from both of you and see the beautiful photos of the ocean. The central coast beaches are beautiful. I Think you have the idea of Hwy 1 correct. I have done that drive and I think its tight…if you are not comfortable with it, you will spend most of your energy with your eye only on the road. Its beautiful no doubt and it sounds like you have got a good plan. Safe travels as always!

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