Friday, April 11, 2014

The road Uncorked Wrap Up

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Well, the dust has settled, the brakes have cooled, the radiators have stopped steaming and another successful Drive has ended. And what a drive it was. To close it all out, I thought a few random observations would be in order.
First, the food. Oh. My, God. Did we eat. And eat. And EAT! First stop was in Buellton at (of course) Pea Soup Anderson’s. Never a bad idea. Their soup is hearty, the salads are fresh and are perfect for a mid-day nosh when you know full well that the dinner will be huge.

And huge it was. We ate at the 10th Street Cafe in San Miguel for some of the best Basque food any of us have ever had. This place is fabulous! Dallas, the owner, is a wonderful host, and a Car Guy. He’s owned TRs, Healeys, and other assorted iron mongery and even had the good sense to rag on the few Porsche drivers we allowed to tag along. What we got was some TEN (count ‘em TEN) courses. Everything from salad to a variety of tapas, to stew, to glazed carrots, to Basque Potatoes, to Pallella, and finished off with a caramel glazed bread pudding. We were SO glad that the place was within staggering distance of the motel. It ain’t cheap, but OH BABY!
The next day, we hit a Mexican bakery in Soledad called La Plaza. Excellent shrimp tacos and pan dulce. Nice light fare again, because we were having a BBQ that night at a local winery. If it was possible to top the Basque place, this ran close. Local San Miguel fireman Scott was the grill master, serving up tender tri-tip, beans, salad and garlic bread. Michelle, the owner’s daughter played hostess with the mostest, and in good old Car Night fashion, her dad’s “barn” was open and OH MAN, what a sweet little collection of cars! A Type 35B Bugatti, a Fronty engined Indy Car and the Lancia Jan ran in the Peking to Paris Race in 2007. AMAZING!

The third day was another food fest, Jocko’s for lunch. Only the best steak on the planet! Whooooboy. Not eating for the rest of the week!
As far as the roads, I don’t think it’s possible to find better driving roads than the Central Coast of California in the spring. Tight twisties? Got ‘em. High Speed Sweepers? Got ‘em. Rolling hills covered with green velvety grass and wild flowers and dotted with oak trees? Got ‘em. Long, lonely roads with no traffic? Got ‘em! Add neat cars and a great bunch of people and you can’t go wrong. We even survived the climb to the top of what one guy called “The World’s Longest Driveway” to the top of the mountains behind Santa Barbara. And the view was worth it!

I’d really like a chance to show off these roads to those prats on Top Gear. I’m issuing a challenge. Buy three British sports cars, pre-1970 or so and drive with us. Who needs a Veyron or a 911 GT3 when you can actually have FAR more fun in a TR3? I’d further have them reenact some of the challenges that Brit cars have inflicted on us over the years. Start with a “simple” tyre change, then, re-gap the points, then deal with a balky control box or (gasp) and SU Fuel Pump. Toss in some random Lucas glitches and Hey Presto, a great show.

I had a reader ask about why I don’t do the Go Pro route on these drives. He tried to follow on the ground view of Goggle Maps and got tired of a marathon mouse-click-a-thon. I can’t blame him. However, Go Pros cost a fair amount and I can get stuff like tyres or gas instead. Plus, why collect evidence that can be used against you?

The best part was of course the people. From our friends Graham and Fay from Australia, to the usual suspects, to the first timers, this group of about 25 were great to have along. Part of that is the fact that it was only 25 or so people. One of the problems with the old Iron Bottom was that it got too damn big. The last one had some 120 cars! What happens is that cliques form. You get to talk with fewer people. On the last one, a group of snobs rented a LIMO to go to dinner on their own, not wanting to join the rest of us. Most eateries can handle 20-25 people as a group. Eating together, staying at the same cheap-ass motel, bullshitting the night away, THAT’S what makes this truly enjoyable. So, my advice to any of you who want to organized this kind of motorized folly is to 1) keep the group in the range of 20-30 people. 2) pick great places to eat together, 3)stay at the same cheap motel, 4) let everyone go at what ever pace they want. It’s the camaraderie that matters, everyone’s car is Cool, everyone has fun. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Road Trippin’ 
with Steve McCarthy

Day Three of our Further Adventures Along the Central Coast will involve the usual eclectic nature of California backroads and the best damn steak you’ve ever had! Yes, folks, that means Jocko’s in Nipomo. It’s not really that far away, so you can sleep in, get a small breakfast (save room for STEAK!) and take a leisurely pace. 

I’ve talked about Jocko’s before, but it bears repeating. The place has been there since 1898 or so, Jocko sold bootleg booze during Prohibition, and the place looks like a dive bar. Inside, the decor is late 60s at best. Don’t let that fool you! Without a doubt, they make the best steaks ever. All locally raised and dressed, then grilled over an oak fire, they are tasty and tender. The sides (salad, beans and fries or baked spud) are equally good. We took my sister and her husband there a couple of weeks ago and they were stunned at how good and fresh it all was. An added bonus is the price! The four of us ate there (with wine) for $100!!!  Be prepared for a wait. Without reservations, it can take an hour at dinner time. Lunch a bit less so, but don’t be put off! Although they have chicken and ribs that are good, just eat the steak and don’t bother bringing vegetarians! 

This drive also takes us down one of my favorite roads, Bitterwater Road, from the 46 to the 58. This is a GORGEOUS stretch of road, flanked with rolling green hills dotted with wild flowers (in the spring that is!) and lots of oak trees. DO BE CAREFUL! Parts of it are open range, so be prepared to meet something that will wind up on your plate at Jocko’s a bit earlier than you may want to. 
After lunch is 166, then the back way to the I-5 through Frazier park, then home. Highway 166 is often patrolled, so have your radar detector at the ready! 
All in all, this is a pleasant three day drive that has a variety of challenges, terrain, and scenery. I know you’ll like it. 

Western States Inn San Miguel
1099 K St
San Miguel, CA 93451

1. Head north on K St toward 12th St 0.3 mi
2. Take the 3rd right onto 14th St 0.2 mi
3. Continue onto N River Rd 4.7 mi
4. Turn left onto Wellsona Rd 2.3 mi
5. Turn right onto Airport Rd 2.3 mi
6. Turn left onto Dry Creek Rd 2.1 mi
7. Continue straight onto Jardine Rd 0.2 mi
8. Turn left onto CA-46 E 2.3 mi
9. Turn right onto Geneseo Rd 5.3 mi
10. Turn left to stay on Geneseo Rd 2.1 mi
11. Slight left onto Creston Rd 3.0 mi
12. Turn left onto CA-41 N 12.9 mi
13. Turn right onto W Centre St 2.7 mi
14. Turn right onto CA-41 N/CA-46 E 4.2 mi
15. Turn right onto Bitterwater Rd 9.1 mi
16. Turn right onto Annette Rd/Bitterwater Rd
Continue to follow Bitterwater Rd 22.4 mi
17. Turn right onto CA-58 35.6 mi
18. Continue to follow CA-58 W 1.3 mi
19. Turn right onto CA-58 W/Estrada Ave 0.3 mi
20. Turn left onto CA-58 W/El Camino Real/G St
Continue to follow El Camino Real 1.8 mi
21. Take the ramp onto US-101 S 7.5 mi
22. Take the exit toward Monterey St 0.1 mi
23. Turn left onto Buena Vista Ave 0.1 mi
24. Slight left onto Garfield St 85 ft
25. Turn right onto Monterey St 0.6 mi
  1. Turn left onto Johnson Ave 2.1 mi
27. Slight left onto Orcutt Rd 1.0 mi
28. Turn left to stay on Orcutt Rd 8.0 mi
29. Turn right onto Lopez Dr 2.7 mi
30. Continue onto Huasna Rd 1.6 mi
31. Turn left onto E Branch St 0.8 mi
32. Crossover 101 0.2 mi
33. Turn left to merge onto US-101 S 4.9 mi
34. Take the Los Berros Road exit toward Thompson Avenue 0.3 mi
35. Turn left onto Los Berros Rd 276 ft
36. Continue onto N Thompson Ave

Destination will be on the right 3.1 mi
148 mi – about 3 hours 33 mins

125 N Thompson Ave
Nipomo, CA 93444

37. Head southeast on N Thompson Ave toward E Tefft St 4.1 mi
38. Turn left onto CA-166 E 62.0 mi
39. Turn right onto CA-33 S 20.0 mi
40. Turn left onto Lockwood Valley Rd 26.8 mi
41. Turn right onto Frazier Mountain Park Rd 6.9 mi
42. Turn right to merge onto I-5 S toward Los Angeles 44.4 mi
43. Take the exit onto I-210 E toward Pasadena You can find home from here! 

176 mi – about 3 hours 24 mins