Thursday, 4 September 2008

SLO-ing down

I’ve spent the past couple of days in a place called San Luis Obispo. It’s a really fantastic city, pretty much equally between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the middle of California. It’s slightly inland and surrounded by all these great hills, but it’s also only a few miles from several great beaches. The bonus is that as it isn’t right on the coast it doesn’t get a lot of fog that hugs the coast of much of Northern California. It’s a huge college town. The university Cal Poly provides pretty much half of the population of the city, which is around 70,000 people or so.

I’ve been staying on the couch of a guy called Scott and for the past few days he’s been showing me around and introducing me to his friends. I have to say, it seems like a pretty idyllic place to go to university.

The first night we went to a few bars downtown, one of which hosted a covers band which was fronted by a larger Latino lady and played songs by the likes of Rage Against the Machine and Motorhead. Newcastle Brown Ale seems to be a cool drink round here, they also have Boddingtons but I wasn’t able to sample that and see if Manchester’s finest is the same as back in the UK. There is also an alleyway completely covered in years or perhaps even decades worth of bubblegum. You can probably guess what it is known as. I was told that things get pretty raucous downtown when term time kicks in, but it’s still a few weeks before term fully starts.

The next day we went down to this great place called Morro Bay, where I tired surfing for the first time. Well it was pretty much bodyboarding for me as I never came anywhere close to standing up on the board, but it was still great fun to be in the ocean. There were some guys out there who were pretty good, including Scott’s friend Rico.

A little later we went further up the coast to a place called Hazard Bay where the waves were a little bigger, but there was also the danger of crashing on the rocks – It was definitely a place for the more advanced surfer. After a little hike, the three of us climbed a sand dune and had a great view of the beach and the ocean. We were also accompanied by Jimmy the dog, who was one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever met. Even dogs are cool in California…

This outdoor stuff is seemingly a daily occurrence for a lot of the students here. If they need something to do, they just jump in a car and go surfing or hiking or go and climb one of the numerous huge hills that surround the city.

Cal Poly has a big and well respected architectural engineering department. A bizarre thing is that it owns quite a big plot of land and this is dedicated to giving students space to build crazy buildings for their final year project. There’s a bizarre cylindrical building, one with a pond on the roof and a giant archway made of hay. It is also home to horses, coyotes and even rattlesnakes! Scott’s friend Lucas lives in one of these crazy buildings and acts as caretaker. There is a great freestanding viewing platform which is amazing for watching stars as there are very few lights anywhere around, so the view of the sky is almost entirely unobscured. It’s a pretty perfect spot at night.

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