Cayucos faces inviting a smile and a hug

August 15, 2019

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted weekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted weekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

I could feel it coming as I allowed Wilbur to wander off-leash on the beach just north of the Shoreline hotel, about thirty yards from the South lot, where two ladies sat on a bench on the north end of the lot drinking from paper coffee cups—Wilbur wanted to meet them. He was looking over there as he poked along in his old man’s gait, rear legs stiff. He almost always takes a winding route up to the little cement path between the lot and the seawall, and continues north along the seawall. But this time he made a beeline toward these two women.

They were obviously mother and daughter, and their faces, formed with smile and laugh lines, held eyes inviting smiles and hugs—just like Wilbur’s eyes. I stood watching him walk up to them and shove his face in the first lady’s lap—obviously the mother—while the daughter scratched his head. I watched them awhile, and they smiled at me and asked the usual questions when I wandered over:

“How old is he?”


“What’s his name?”


“Great name. Do you live here?”

“Yes. For a long time.”

“You’re so lucky. That’s what keeps Wilbur so happy. His back legs are a little stiff. Have you ever thought of putting him on CBD?” asked the mother.

“Thought about it. Right now he’s on pet ibuprofen and cosequin. It’s helped him. He was in so much pain he didn’t want to go anywhere.”

The daughter was scratching him in a place that had Wilbur swooning in ecstasy and vibrating his right leg. “He is a really happy guy,” she said.

The mother said, now massaging his neck, “My daughter’s giving CBD to her 11-year-old bulldog and it’s a miracle. He refused to get up. Now he’s up and ready to go.”

“Well, we’ll see how this goes,” I said. “And then I’ll maybe get some CBD. I’ve gotta keep this old boy going,”

Their faces glowed with maternal fondness as they continued hugging Wilbur. No day in a person’s life suffers when tender hearts meet and mesh, especially over dogs. We talked a while—about how over the past five years the cost of their month-long rental had soared out of control.

They were visiting from Exeter and Blythe, escaping the heat. They had been coming to Cayucos for decades, the mother since she was a child, and said that Cayucos was once a hidden little gem, a personal playground few knew about, but now had been discovered by the hordes and become a hectic destination.

Dell Franklin and Wilbur

Finally, Wilbur moved on after warm goodbyes, and we set off along the seawall on this foggy morning just as hordes of children in their red junior lifeguard shirts stampeded the beach near the pier. Their mothers sending them off; senior life guards corralling them down on the sand. More happy faces. Active and involved and purposeful and full of hope.

Further on, ensconced in a new adopted area just off the pier by some benches wedged against the vet’s hall, happily homeless David (whom I previously wrote about as certain people were trying to run him out of town) sat tinkering with his art objects.

Cayucos has finally accepted him, and he’s a downtown fixture. He has gotten a vendor’s license and can park where he wants, but moves around. He has been finding artifacts at the local thrift shop to work on, and is supporting himself. He’s about to put five pieces of his art in the Cayucos art show coming up, and found a stall in the antique shop on the main drag.

“I stayed two nights at that motel down the street,” he said, as he petted Wilbur. “But I didn’t sleep very well. I sleep great in my rig, but at least I can get a good shower in a motel.”

We moved on, and while I made a pit stop at Cayucos Coffee, Wilbur lapped up some water always set out by the coffee shop employees, and gazed hopefully at a table of four, two couples somewhere in the late thirty range. Four phones lay on the table before them.

One of the ladies spotted Wilbur. She sat nearest him, but Wilbur started toward her husband, an athletic looking man with one of those beards George Clooney used to wear—like not shaving for a few days and then trimming it to appear swarthy. He ignored Wilbur. The other man sat against the building, his facial expression as uninviting a presence as I’d seen in some time, a person who radiated ill-will and left me feeling somehow disturbed and almost angry. Wilbur backed off, skirted the table, and moved on.

No more than five steps later we ran across a young woman who was unpacking an item from the saddlebags at the back of a ten-speed bike. She was perhaps 28, sweet-faced, with strong legs in bicycle shorts, and she immediately knelt and hugged Wilbur’s neck.

She had a chirpy voice and when I asked her how far she’d come she said she was on her way to the Mexican border from San Francisco. She was camping out along the way. She’d been up in Big Sur, and when I asked about the traffic she said it was terrible in the afternoon; but she traveled mornings and it was great.

I told her about my days of riding a 10-speed from Cayucos to Ragged Point and back, starting at 6 in the morning. We both agreed you couldn’t get off your bike when on an uphill slog because you can never get started, and have to walk it.

She literally beamed with the joy of exploring and seeing new things, taking chances and overcoming obstacles totally on her own, every day a new adventure. Such freedom and escape from the humdrum.

We moved on, and a block up the street, on the other side of Ocean, in front of the Honey Girl Cafe, two familiar couples sat at a table beneath an umbrella, their big boxer dogs sprawled beneath them, one blocking the sidewalk. The dogs immediately rose, and the couples, possibly retirees, hailed Wilbur as he began his usual nuzzling.

We exchanged greetings. The men wore their usual Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giant caps, well-broken in. I had a couple biscuits and broke them up for the dogs. The boxers had the same expressions on their faces as Wilbur and the two ladies sitting on the bench at the south lot—ready at the drop of the hat to smile and seek a hug.

We moved on, back into the neighborhood, those hug-inviting faces lingering. Such are weekday morning walks in summer, before the rush of tourists and those poor souls sweltering in the inland valleys. Cayucos at its best.