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CAMPFIRE TALES IN CARPINTERIA.

Byline: Jeremy Bagott Daily News Staff Writer

``Good fences make good neighbors,'' observed poet Robert Frost.

``A neat campsite keeps out the vermin,'' said Rudy Martinez, going Frost one better.

Who's Rudy Martinez? He was our confoundingly meticulous neighbor at Carpinteria State Beach campground.

Martinez, a retired engineer armed with plenty of cute quotables about camping life, was eyeing the overall aesthetics of his hyperorganized campsite with the military bearing of a brigade commander.

We, on the other hand, could only watch helplessly from our campsite, which resembled a biohazard waste dump: globs of encrusted condiments stuck to tables; tents pitched at random; toys enough for a small Third World country lying everywhere, along with bikes, helmets and crumpled fruit punch packs.

Topping it off, for reasons we may never fully understand, there were several nearly petrified strips of Fruit-by-the-Yard stuck to an alder bough some 10 feet above our campsite.

Taking a cue from Frost, Martinez would have been well-justified in erecting a high fence. Our campsite was, indeed, ripe for vermin.

After a final once-over of his super squared-away bivouac, Martinez gave the word, and he and his two grown daughters and wife moved out on mountain bikes, leaving their camp with nary a flap of bug netting left unbattened.

The campground at Carpinteria, about halfway between Santa Barbara and Ventura, is not unlike other beach campgrounds along the Central Coast. Set off from the surf by dunes, campers pitch tents or park RVs amid leafy myoporum trees - Why does the state seem to always plant toxic flora at family campgrounds? - white alder, torrey pine and odoriferous eucalyptus.

Walk down Palm Avenue about a block and turn left and you're on Carpinteria Avenue, a main thoroughfare lined by beach-inspired boutiques, hole-in-the-wall eateries and a few nontouristy venues, like a gas station.

At an outdoor table at Chuy's, a storied Carpinteria taco and margarita hangout where Hemingway might have cooled his heels - but didn't - I struck up a conversation with a pair of hulking Australians.

Over bottles of Corona and little lime quarters piling up on tables, I learned that the Aussies are geologists here on a research grant. When I showed some interest, they regaled me with reports on the crumbling San Gabriel range, the antsy San Andreas and a certain undersea fault right near here that might be ready to buckle at any moment, having caused an 8.3 quake and series of devastating tsunamis in 1812.

As an inhabitant of the Southland, I was not happy to hear this. As a homeowner with quake coverage shakier than the Landers fault and a deductible now gaping wider than the Grand Canyon, I was even less happy.

That evening, we did some of the campier camp to-dos: participate in a nightly ranger talk, roast death-dealing s'mores, tell stories around the campfire.

I turned in later, which is when I first heard them: the frogs. Millions of them. They did stop croaking ... about the time the kids nudged me awake - at the first suggestion of dawn.

So much for sleep during the camping experience.

Our last night in Carpinteria, sitting around the campfire long after the youngest of the kids had gone to bed, I launched into the story of Hook Man, the cornball campfire yarn about the couple who find a hook-tipped artificial limb hanging on their car's door latch after hearing a radio report about a one-armed crazy man in the area they just left.

``On a night not unlike tonight and in a place not far from here,'' I began, ``a couple was in their car, listening to music on the radio ...''

``Stop it,'' ordered my wife. ``You're gonna give the kids nightmares.''

``No, we wanna hear Hook Man!'' they yelled.

With compromise in mind, I rattled off a dramatized version of what the Aussies told me about the crumbling San Gabriel Mountains and the big quake of 1812.

The kids, who ended up sleeping blissfully that night, were held spellbound by the tale; I awoke several times during the night plagued by thoughts of my deductible.

Where to pitch tent, find chow

Carpinteria State Beach Campground is at 5361 Sixth St., Carpinteria. Tent camping costs $17 per night, $22 for sites on the beach. Campsites with RV hookups run $23 per night, $28 on the beach. Fees are $1 higher on weekend nights. The beach is a popular camping spot, so reservations are recommended.

Information: (805) 684-2811. Reservation: (800) 444-7275.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Box

Photo: Mustard, rowdy kids, ghost stories and a never- ending frog chorus can all be part of a camping trip at Carpinteria State Beach.

Jeremy Bagott/Daily News

Box: Where to pitch tent, find chow (See Text)
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 5, 1996
Words:786
Previous Article:TRAVEL BEAT : PICTURE PERFECT.
Next Article:KIDS BEAT : WESTERN WONDERS.


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