Work brought me to LA and since my sisters were gathering in San Diego next week I decided to take a few vacation days and drive up and down the California coast. I haven’t been to Hearst Castle since I was a kid so that was going to be my first destination. I rented a compact convertible from Sixt because Highway 1! My first task was to return the car I’d had for work, catch a shuttle to the airport, and then catch a shuttle to Sixt. That part went very smoothly, but when I got to Sixt there was a long wait. Then the guy that helped me conned me into a $10 a day toll fee and gave me a free “upgrade”.
The “upgrade” was the worst part. Instead of the cute little VW Beetle I actually booked, I got saddled with a brand new convertible Camaro. It was huge. I offered to wait until they had a compact convertible ready, but he insisted that would take hours. Ironically, I saw several bugs parked next to the big ass Camaro but at that point it didn’t seem worth arguing about. I headed out and immediately got stuck in traffic. It was over 80 and I sat in the topless land yacht and fumed about the 18 miles per gallon the fancy computer showed me.
To cheer myself up, I drove through Jack in the Box and picked up a couple of tacos. Then I took a short cut and ended up on the San Marcos Pass. I‘m not gonna lie, driving through the twisty mountain roads was pretty fun. I made my way to Pismo Beach to check into my hotel. That’s when things really went off the rails.
When I parked in the lot, I put the top up and tried to get out of the car. The door was stuck. I tried pushing as hard as I could. It was caught on something so it would unlatch and move about a half an inch and then give me a message that the keys were inside the car. I was screaming at it “I know they are, so am I! Let me out!” but nothing. I really had to pee and didn’t want to have to call AAA for the Jaws of Life so I wiggled over the center console to the passenger side. That door opened without any problem. I went around and tried to open the other door but still nothing. I thought maybe if I let it rest it would work later so I left to check into the hotel.
After I cleaned up, had an apple and a bottle of water I discovered that Hearst Castle had night tours with a bunch of costumed docents. I bought a ticket for the 7:30 tour thinking I’d have enough time to picnic first and headed back out. That’s when I realized I still couldn’t open the door to the car. I was tugging and tugging on it and still nothing. There was a couple of motorcycles parked next to me and a woman sitting on the back of one of them. I looked over and noticed she was watching me. “It’s a rental,” I said. “I think it’s broken.” She was very sweet and totally commiserated with me while I tugged and tugged helplessly. She told me the guy she was with had a shop that repairs big trucks and maybe he could help. We stood and talked while we waited for him to come out. When he arrived, she told him I needed help. He climbed in on the passenger side, beat on the door a couple of times and then came around to the drivers side and popped the door right open. He said there was a couple of pins holding the panel to the door and one of them was missing so the panel was getting caught and preventing it from opening. I wished them all happy rides and took off for Hearst Castle.
Halfway to San Simeon, I found a beautiful turn off with a stunning view of the coast. I pulled in and took a few pictures. Of course, when I finished the door to the car from hell was stuck again. The top was down so I just climbed in and pounded on the door from the inside for a while. It didn’t work so I gave up and drove to the Castle. I parked away from the gate so people wouldn’t notice that I was climbing in and out without opening the damn door.
I was early for my tour so I bought a sandwich and some chips and went to the patio for a picnic.
The tour began with a five-minute bus ride up the hill. The sun was setting and there was some fog rolling in so the views were very dramatic! When we arrived, our tour guide informed us we were guests of William Randolph Hearst for the evening. We were not allowed to touch anything or stray off the industrial carpet runners, but we shouldn’t be surprised to see other guests in fancy clothes lounging on the chairs or smoking in the house.
We toured the Casa del Mar guesthouse first. The views of the sea were stunning and there were three elderly people in 20s costumes standing around smoking fake cigars. From the guesthouse we made our way to the big house. It was just as incredible as I’d remembered! All of the furnishings and art were original to the house (suck it Biltmore!) and there were more elderly people lounging around on the fancy furniture.
The best part, other than the views, was the top floor. Hearst’s office and private quarters were magnificent!
We watched a short newsreel in the theater and then went out by way of the Roman Pool. The ride down the hill was dark and instead of music from the Roaring 20s we hear Beach Boys. I guess they were trying to ease us back to the twentieth century. It was pitch black in the corner of the parking lot where I’d stashed the rental car from hell but this the door popped right open. Tomorrow may involve a side trip to LA to get a car that has doors that work consistently!