California, May 12-21, 2012

Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Filed under: Out Of Town

Saturday, May 12, 2012: San Francisco

The great thing about traveling with an infant is that you see the country during daylight:

JetBlue 645, May 12, 2012

The not so great thing is that you are often limited to getting take-out for dinner, although burritos from La Espiga De Oro in San Francisco’s Mission District were nothing to whimper about:

La Espiga De Oro, 2916 24th Street, Mission District, San Francisco, California

Then at least one of us went for a drink at Bloodhound, which was next to our hotel.

Sunday, May 13, 2012: San Francisco

Early coffee at Sightglass before Mother’s Day dim sum at Yank Sing, where we did not have a reservation and where we were lucky to get in (benefits of getting up early):

Dim Sum, Yank Sing, Rincon Center, 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

The parking lot at Rincon Center is ridiculously tight and I’m not totally sure why, though this time I thought to take a picture of it:

Parking Garage, Rincon Center, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

Parking Garage, Rincon Center, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

We walked along the waterfront because some moms like the Ferry Building and some uncles like the Blue Bottle coffee there:

The Embarcadero, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

Until now we haven’t paid much attention to playgrounds, but Dolores Park‘s new playground is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen, and a four-month-old strapped to your chest gives you the cover you need to explore it:

Playground, Dolores Park, Mission District, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

Dinner was take-out bread bowl from Boudin, which was purchased while the baby slept in the back seat and I took a long (turns out unnecessarily long) detour down Columbus Avenue:

Columbus Avenue Near Pacific Avenue, North Beach, San Francisco, California

Gas in San Francisco cost $4.59 a gallon that day:

Castro Street and Market Street, The Castro, San Francisco, California, May 13, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012: San Francisco to Pacific Grove

We started down US 101 toward San Jose before deciding to detour to see what Palo Alto, Stanford and Mountain View looked like. Palo Alto is where Jeremy Lin grew up:

Palo Alto High School, Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, California, May 14, 2012

Stanford looks like a resort:

Stanford University, Stanford, California, May 14, 2012

And Mountain View was a hoot:

Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, California, May 14, 2012

Google Self-Driving Car, Stierlin Court, Mountain View, California, May 14, 2012

But really, the whole point of driving this way was to see the “beautiful . . . but bizarre!” Winchester Mystery House (the YouTube video at the link is intended to capture that phrase, which you hear over and over when you visit the house; it became a trip meme):

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California

After cutting over the Santa Cruz Mountains, we started our epic trip down Highway 1 from Santa Cruz. The first leg — Santa Cruz to Monterey is not the most picturesque part of the road:

Highway 1/Cabrillo Highway Near Morrissey Boulevard, Santa Cruz, California, May 14, 2012

Moss Landing Power Plant, Highway 1/Cabrillo Highway at Dolan Road, Moss Landing, California, May 14, 2012

But we did get to see artichokes growing in the fields along the side of the highway:

Highway 1/Cabrillo Highway Between Castroville and Marina, California, May 14, 2012

We had dinner on the municipal wharf in Monterey early enough to catch a beautiful sunset from the Rocky Shores addition of Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove (baby’s first Pacific Coast sunset!):

Rocky Shores Addition, Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Tuesday, May 15, 2012: Pacific Grove to Paso Robles
After waking up on the not-as-early side, we left the hotel and started driving down the coast, beginning with Ocean View Boulevard and Sunset Drive in Pacific Grove, then connecting to the 17-Mile Drive through the Del Monte Forest and Pebble Beach:

Lone Cypress, 17-Mile Drive, Monterey County, California

(An aside: Even though they tell you how long it is, it’s not a great idea to drive 17 miles on an empty stomach.) (Another aside: I assumed there was some connection with Del Monte and the food people, and there sort of is, but it’s not as interesting as I thought it would be, meaning no aristocratic family farmed the land there and built a forest or whatnot.)

We had breakfast in Carmel before setting out on the prettiest drive of the trip, Highway 1 between Carmel and Cambria, through Big Sur. Yes, that sign warns of families wild boars crossing the road:

Wild Boar Crossing Sign, Highway 1 Near Oliver Road, Carmel, California, May 15, 2012

All of the overlooks we stopped at during the drive down that day were stunning, but Hurricane Point might have been the most stunning, windy and foggy and way up on the hill overlooking the ocean:

Hurricane Point, Highway 1 Between Carmel and Big Sur, California, May 15, 2012

A tip: The Henry Miller Memorial Library is closed only one day a week, which is Tuesday, but the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is always open:

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, Highway 1 Near San Simeon, California, May 15, 2012

We were really impressed with the Best Western Plus we stayed at in Paso Robles. That night we had dinner at the A.J. Spurs in Templeton:

A.J. Spurs, 508 North Main Street, Templeton, California

Gas that day cost $4.35 a gallon at the Arco on Ramada Drive in Paso Robles:

Arco, 1900 Ramada Drive, Paso Robles, California

Wednesday, May 16, 2012: Paso Robles

Goober says that the high point of the trip for him was breakfast at Margie’s Diner in Paso Robles:

Margie's Diner, 1135 24th Street, Paso Robles, California

It was a great breakfast (we ate there twice), but I think he thought that it was especially nice because it evoked a sense of promise for the rest of the trip, and probably a little because we were filling up before going out tasting wine around Paso Robles.

Now “Paso Robles” means something along the lines of “oak tree pass” or something like that, so it was cool to see actual oak trees out on Chimney Rock Road on our way to Justin Vineyards (baby’s first wine tasting!):

Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles, California

A word about how people in California pronounce Spanish things: “Paso Robles,” I didn’t learn until much later in the trip, is not pronounced “Pah-so Robe-less,” like you’d expect from three years of high school Spanish, but rather “Pah-so Row-bills,” like you’re specifically trying to mangle the accent. It sort of sounds like how Bugs Bunny mispronounces “Los Angeles” with a hard “G”, until you remember that “Los Angeles” itself is mispronounced, and then all names everywhere in California, and especially Los Angeles, start seeming ridiculous. Los Feliz? No, try “Los Feelies.” “La Cienega” is not “La See-en-ay-ga” but rather “Lahsee-en-uh-gah.” Same with “Sepulveda.” It’s like a city full of folks who talk about how crazy Eye-ran is being while they eat Eye-talian food made by a guy from Vee-It-Naaam (i.e., rhymes with “Sam I Am”).

Anyway, we continued to Adelaida Cellars, then Tablas Creek Vineyard where we debated bringing home a grape cutting, not that the zone is right for one but it was fun to think about:

Tablas Creek Vineyard, 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

We took Vineyard Drive to Turley Wine Cellars just south of Highway 46, then hit Niner and the Dr. Suess-sounding Windward Vineyard before heading back to Paso Row-Bills where we had dinner at Thomas Hill Organics downtown.

Thursday, May 17, 2012: Paso Robles to Buellton

Drove out
to Hearst Castle, the second house we visited built by a nutty rich person:

Casa Grande, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Refectory, Casa Grande, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Roman Pool, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

From Hearst Castle, Highway 1 driving into San Luis Obispo:

Highway 1 Between Cambria and Cayucos, California, May 17, 2012

The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo was recommended to us:

Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, California

The baby needed to stop, so he had another nice meal overlooking the ocean at Spyglass Park in Pismo Beach:

Spyglass Park, Pismo Beach, California

We had dinner at Hitching Post II in Buellton. In addition to being good, it was also featured in Sideways (the experience of which the owner talks about here):

The Hitching Post II, 406 East Highway 246, Buellton, California

We stayed at the Days Inn Windmill, which is also featured in the film, not so much because we’re fans of the film (though we are — and I watched it again after coming back from the trip) but rather because if you spend a night in Buellton, it’s likely going to be at the Days Inn:

Days Inn Windmill, 114 East Highway 246, Buellton, California

Sideways Movie Poster, Reception, Days Inn Windmill, 114 East Highway 246, Buellton, California

Friday, May 18, 2012: Buellton/Lompoc/Los Olivos/Solvang

After breakfast we drove out to Babcock Winery, Foley Estates and Melville Vineyards & Winery in the Lompoc area. From there we went up to Los Olivos to visit the Qupé, Alta Maria and Dragonette tasting rooms (with lunch at R-Country Market):

Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, California

From there we went back to Buellton to visit Lafond Winery on Santa Rosa Road before walking around Solvang:

Alisal Road, Solvang, California

There are many Pea Soup Andersen’s billboards along US 101 as you approach Buellton:

Pea Soup Andersen's Billboard, US 101 South of San Luis Obispo, California, May 17, 2012

So of course we had to try it:

Split Pea Soup, Pea Soup Andersen's, 376 Avenue of Flags, Buellton, California

Saturday, May 19, 2012: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles

Gas was $4.25 a gallon that day:

Tom's Gas & Market, 230 East Highway 246, Buellton, California, May 19, 2012

We drove down to Santa Barbara and had breakfast at the original Sambo’s Restaurant on the beach there. I assumed all the Sambo’s had closed, and they mostly have, but this is the one remaining restaurant, the one that began the chain. As for the name, it’s supposedly misunderstood (the owners were “Sam” and “Bo”), although it seems odd that they still use imagery that evokes the controversial connotation. But the food is good:

Sambo's Restaurant, 216 West Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara is a beautiful town to drive around, and the mission is beautiful as well:

Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, California

We dipped the baby’s toes into the Pacific Ocean at East Beach, though he did not like it much:

East Beach, Santa Barbara, California

We then got back on US 101 and spent hours stuck on the Ventura Freeway. Just when you start to think California is magical, you get stuck in traffic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012: Los Angeles

The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel in Los Angeles is a nicely updated motel and convenient to the Farmers Market (where they now have really good fancy coffee):

Farmer's Daughter Hotel, 115 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, California

I had never seen the La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park and it was as strange and wonderful and as stinky as I’d hoped it would be. I saw people relaxing there, which seemed relaxing in the way that hanging out behind an asphalt truck might be relaxing:

La Brea Tar Pits, Hancock Park, Los Angeles, California

From there we walked around Santa Monica and passed by the Natural Resources Defense Council building which I discovered later seems to be the real-life spot of one of the semi-autobiographical side plots in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.

Natural Resources Defense Council, 1314 2nd Street, Santa Monica, California, May 20, 2012

I know it’s my own damn fault that I always think of Sheryl Crow when we’re on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Zankou Chicken (another sort of Larry David locale) is really, really good chicken.

I wanted to drive down one of those Beverly Hills streets with all the palm trees. This is Bedford Drive; I don’t know if it’s the one they always show on movies:

Bedford Drive Between Lomitas Avenue and Elevado Avenue, Beverly Hills, California, May 20, 2012

Elsewhere, we walked up and down Rodeo Drive while I worked on my Julia Roberts impression and went up to Greystone Park.

I love the billboards on Sunset Boulevard:

Sunset Boulevard Near Havenhurst Drive, Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012

And this is the Canadian section of Hollywood Boulevard:

Bryan Adams and Rush Stars, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012

After heading back to the hotel, we walked up Fairfax Avenue to Animal where we had foie gras before the ban went into effect in July.

Fairfax Avenue at Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

This was the day of the eclipse, and people gathered across the street to look at the sun:

Fairfax Avenue Between Oakwood Avenue and Rosewood Avenue, Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012, 6:23 p.m.

I don’t know how they were looking at the sun (it was really bright) or how they were taking pictures, but you can see the eclipse refracted somehow in this image:

Fairfax Avenue Between Oakwood Avenue and Rosewood Avenue, Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012, 6:34 p.m.

I’m afraid to go to the eye doctor now. For dessert we got a slice of cheesecake to go from Canter’s.

Monday, May 21, 2012: Los Angeles

We dropped off the car at LAX and flew home. Final tally, 879 miles driven:

Receipt, Enterprise, Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, May 21, 2012