Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Road Trippin’-Another Donkey Hottie Tour! 
with Steve McCarthy

Ah, Fall. For most of you out there, the last chance for a nice road trip. Most people’s schedules, being what they are, also means a lot of time commitments for so many other things. Especially if you have kids. School’s started and that tends to overwhelm all other considerations. Along with this is the desperate need to escape! Here’s a nice little one day jaunt along familiar roads that should ease the wanderlust in all of us.
Several years ago, I organized a drive I called the Donkey Hottie for a day’s jaunt. This one is a variation on that. There’s some long straight stuff, but then the area around Mojave has little else. One of the highlights, especially if you leave REALLY early is sunrise in Red Rock Canyon. It’s worth the inconvenience! It’ll take you close to two hours to get there, so get your timing right. Bring along a camera, some coffee or hot chocolate and some muffins and enjoy a spectacular light show!
From there, it’s up and over the Walker Grade to Lake Isabella, then down the twisty Caliente-Bodfish Road. This is a great road for those who like the really tight and twisties! From there, you’ll take the back way to the Tehachapi Loop. Hang out there as see the trains chase themselves. It’s pretty spectacular. Lunch can be in Tehachapi. There’s lots of good places in town. Pick one, any one!
Out of town on the road to Rosamond and through the windmills that gave the drive it’s name (a student wrote on a test once, about Cervantes’ hero, Donkey Hottie and his adventures fighting windmills.-FACEPALM!), back down the 14 and back over Angeles Crest to home.
The crisp morning fall air is great, but be wary of the dreaded Santa Ana winds. They can make the desert miserable! Above all, have fun and stay safe!

306 mi, 6 hours 30 mins
United Artists La Canada 8 Movie Theater
1919 Verdugo Blvd
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

1. Head east on Verdugo Blvd toward La Tour Way 0.7 mi
2. Turn right onto Foothill Blvd 0.3 mi
3. Turn left onto Angeles Crest Hwy 4.5 mi
4. Turn right onto CA-2 E 5.0 mi
5. Turn left onto Angeles Forest Hwy 24.6 mi
6. Slight right onto Sierra Hwy 0.3 mi
7. Turn left to merge onto CA-14 N toward Palmdale 39.6 mi
8. Turn right onto CA-14 N/Midland Trail 25.5 mi
100 mi – about 1 hour 51 mins
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Hwy 14
Cantil, CA

9. Head northwest on CA-14 N 16.1 mi
10. Turn left onto CA-178 W 30.3 mi
46.4 mi – about 46 mins
Weldon, CA

11. Head west on CA-178 W 14.3 mi
12. Take the exit toward Bodfish Havilah 0.3 mi
13. Continue onto Elizabeth Norris Rd 0.6 mi
14. Turn right onto Lake Isabella Blvd 1.5 mi
15. Continue onto Caliente Bodfish Rd 30.2 mi
16. Turn right 249 ft
17. Continue straight 20 ft
46.9 mi – about 1 hour 24 mins
Caliente, CA

18. Head south toward J St 272 ft
19. Turn right onto Caliente Bodfish Rd 0.2 mi
20. Continue onto Bealville Rd 2.0 mi
21. Turn left onto CA-58 E 4.8 mi
22. Take the exit toward Keene 0.2 mi
23. Turn left toward Woodford-Tehachapi Rd 430 ft
24. Turn right onto Woodford-Tehachapi Rd 8.8 mi
25. Turn left onto Westwood Blvd 1.4 mi
26. Turn left onto Red Apple Ave 0.8 mi
27. Continue onto W Tehachapi Blvd 1.1 mi

19.4 mi – about 38 mins
Tehachapi, CA

28. Head east on W Tehachapi Blvd toward S Green St 3.0 mi
29. Turn right onto Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd 14.8 mi
30. Turn left onto Backus Rd 7.3 mi
31. Turn right to merge onto CA-14 S toward Rosamond 31.7 mi
32. Take the exit toward Angeles Forest Hwy 0.4 mi
33. Sharp right onto Sierra Hwy (signs for Angeles Forest Hwy) 0.2 mi
34. Keep left to continue on Co Hwy N3/Angeles Forest Hwy
Continue to follow Angeles Forest Hwy 20.8 mi
35. Continue straight to stay on Angeles Forest Hwy 3.8 mi
36. Turn right onto CA-2 W 5.0 mi
37. Turn left onto CA-2 W/Angeles Crest Hwy
Continue to follow Angeles Crest Hwy 4.4 mi
38. Turn right onto Foothill Blvd 0.3 mi
39. Take the 3rd left onto Verdugo Blvd
Destination will be on the right 0.7 mi
92.5 mi – about 1 hour 51 mins
United Artists La Canada 8 Movie Theater
1919 Verdugo Blvd
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

Monday, September 8, 2014

That Two Day Get Away

Sometimes, you just have to go. Get out of Dodge. Hit the road. Nothin’ fancy, hit some of the usual and let St. Serendipity guide you. That’s what we did. We took the Dart because the Blue Meanie is getting a new gearbox and Marianne has a messed up shoulder. We headed towards what may be our future digs, Atascadero.
This is a neat little town that we are considering retiring to a couple of years, so regular visits are on the agenda, seeing if it’s a place we want to spend the rest of our lives in. Big Decision! We have time, so we’re being careful.
A major selling point to us is it’s affordable, near enough to the coast, affordable, has a nice small town atmosphere, affordable, and is the hub of some of the greatest driving roads on the planet. Bar none! Did I mention, it’s affordable?
We were in no real hurry, left at a decent (as opposed to o’Dark-Thirty) and meandered. We even ate BEFORE we left. On a whim, we headed to Los Olivos, up near Solvang. This has become a center of the local wine and olive oil industry. It’s a bit pricey as it caters to Santa Barbara Yuppies, but don’t let that scare you. If you like wine and/or olive oil, it’s a fun place. We wandered into a great shop, “J. Woest,” that sells a HUGE variety of Lawn Art. No, not plastic pink flamingos and gnomes, SERIOUS lawn art. Wind chimes as tall as I am and resonate with a penetrating deep  BOOONNNGGGG (only $2600!) and need a SERIOUS tree, or one’s own belfry to hand from.

Suckers that we are for funky Lawn Art, we bought a butterfly mobile thing that required that the back seat be pulled open so it would fit into the trunk! We also found a strange winged purple pig for my sister. Yeah, there’s a story there, but not now.
From there, we headed up one of the first Serious Backroads I ever drove. Back in the ‘70s, Bill Morgan and I went exploring. Constant reader may recall the stories. Foxen Canyon was high on the list of Must Drives. It still is, but don’t expect to do much on a weekend. Now, there are a bunch of wineries there and the SBYs in their Pious’ flood the road. To them Sideways is a movie, not a driving style.
We pulled into Zaca Mesa Winery, one of the first in the area and did the tasting, being VERY careful to sip, not gulp. Really good stuff. Four bottles went into a bag and we were off to lunch.
One of our Must Stops is Los Alamos. There is a great antique barn there that was at one time a produce packing shed for the local narrow gauge railroad. Across the street is a new bakery/eatery called Well Bread. OHM’GOD! The demi-baguette sandwiches (French Ham with Emmanthaller cheese or salami, cheese and walnut pesto!) are amazing and I snagged a loaf of Pain au Lardon. No, that’s not Pain in the Lardass, it’s BREAD WITH BACON! Yes, you heard right! Morning toast will never be the same!

From there we shot up the 101 to Atascadero and the Motel 6. Yes, the Motel 6. Still the cheapest place in town, but ya know? They are trying to make them a bit nicer. Gone is the nasty, grey, industrial carpeting that has trapped a millennium of bedbugs, toejam, and other assorted nasties. Now, hardwood laminate flooring and a redone bathroom. SOOOO much nicer.
For dinner, we tried a new place in town. Scotty’s BBQ. It was good. Not terrific, but good. The pork tenderloin was cooked perfectly, moist, not dried out and a good crust on the rub. The sauce needs some punch to it. Still, it’s a good place and beats hell out of McBuggerJack.
The next morn, we headed for breakfast at another favorite, Ragged Point Inn, out on Highway 1. It’s north of San Simeon, so you get a nice healthy dose of The Greatest Road In The World. It’s especially nice early on as the motorhomes and Pious’ and Camrys aren’t about to muck things up. There was just a slight trace of fog and a welcome relief to the inland heat. Breakfast was, as always, terrific. Even got a nice compliment from our waiter. Seems this visit, the Inn was sold out. Some high dollar fundraiser (that our waiter said we probably a money laundering scheme) where the whole place is sold out, but none of the celebrities or other assorted rich folk actually bother to show up! He wondered if we were maybe part of that group, we said, “No, we can’t afford to run with that crowd.” He then got a sly look on his face and said “I thought so, you seem to be NICE people.”

The blueberry waffle and sausage I had was perfect. You know you have good sausage when the casing SNAPS when you cut into it! Marianne had a croissant with Canadian bacon, egg and avocado.
From there, back south on 1 and we stopped at one of the vista points promising a look at the elephant seals that hang out along the coast. What an AMAZING sight! Over 100 of them, sunning and waking and galumphing out to sea.

We ducked through Morro Bay, then down to Shell Beach, near Pismo. Marianne had a local events guide and there was a small art fair in Dinosaur Cavern Park. Nice little show, wide range of skill levels, but one guy stood out. You’ve no doubt seen the stuff that’s made of old silverware? Rings, wind chimes, etc? This guy punches it up. We got a rose made of soup spoons that is a marvel. Exceptionally well done.
We had planned on hitting the art walk in Santa Barbara, but opted instead for Solvang. There, a bittersweet St. Serendipity met us. One of out favorite shops is right across from Birkholm’s Bakery sells stuff from France! Table clothes, napkins, dish ware, all with a Provencal theme. She’s closing! Bitter. EVERYTHING was 70% off! SWEET! We blew the bank. $100 platters for $30, plates, a light sweater, so cool! We wished the owner luck and headed to Birkholm’s. A bucket of cookies later and we headed for home. No, we did not get an 8” tall chocolate cream puff with some 4” of whipped creme layered in. We were good.

One of the nice things about a Garmin Sat-Nav is the traffic warning. The Santa Barbara Crawl, which now often lasts all the way to 1000 Oaks was in full force. From the 154, we headed east on the  192, then up and over Casitas Pass to Ojai, down the 33 to Santa Paula, then west on the 126 to the I-5 near Tragic Mountain. It may have not been faster, but it was prettier and more relaxing!
So, next time you get that itchy right foot and need to hit the road, try this one. You’ll have a great time, guaranteed.

1. Head west on I-210 W
2. Take the CA-118 W
3. Merge onto CA-118 W 27.9 mi
4. Los Angeles Ave exit 0.3 mi
5. Turn right onto CA-118 W/E Los Angeles Ave
Continue to follow CA-118 W/E Los Angeles Ave 14.4 mi
6. Turn right onto CA-118 W 3.6 mi
7. Merge onto CA-126 W via the ramp to Ventura 5.5 mi
8. Merge onto US-101 N 34.4 mi
9. Take the State Street exit toward California 154 0.2 mi
10. Merge onto Calle Real 0.3 mi
11. Turn right onto CA-154 W/San Marcos Pass Rd 23.9 mi
At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on
CA-154 W/San Marcos Pass Rd 5.3 mi
13. Turn left at Figueroa Mountain Rd 26 ft
118 mi – about 2 hours 3 mins
Los Olivos, CA

14. Head north toward CA-154 W 26 ft
15. Turn left onto CA-154 W 0.5 mi
16. Turn right onto Foxen Canyon Rd 3.3 mi
17. Slight left to stay on Foxen Canyon Rd 1.0 mi
18. Turn right to stay on Foxen Canyon Rd
Destination will be on the left 4.6 mi
9.4 mi – about 18 mins

Zaca Mesa Winery
6905 Foxen Canyon Rd
Los Olivos, CA 93441

19. Head west on Foxen Canyon Rd toward Alisos Canyon Rd 1.3 mi
20. Turn left onto Alisos Canyon Rd 6.5 mi
21. Turn right onto US-101 N 1.9 mi
22. Take the exit toward CA-135 0.1 mi
23. Merge onto San Antonio Blvd 0.1 mi
24. Continue onto Foxen Ln 489 ft
25. Turn right onto Bell St 0.4 mi
26. Turn right onto Helena St 240 ft
27. Keep left to continue on Leslie St 154 ft
10.5 mi – about 18 mins
Los Alamos, CA

28. Head west on Leslie St toward Centennial St 400 ft
29. Take the 1st left onto Centennial St 276 ft
30. Take the 1st right onto Bell St 0.4 mi
31. Slight right to stay on Bell St 0.9 mi
32. Take the 1st right onto Cat Canyon Rd 0.1 mi
33. Turn left onto US-101 N 49.5 mi
34. Merge onto US-101 N 14.6 mi
35. Take the Traffic Way exit 0.2 mi
36. Turn right onto Traffic Way 194 ft
37. Take the 1st left onto El Camino Real 92 ft
65.8 mi – about 1 hour 1 min
Atascadero, CA

38. Head northwest on El Camino Real toward Rosario Ave 0.2 mi
39. Turn left to merge onto US-101 N 4.3 mi
40. Take the Vineyard Dr exit 0.2 mi
41. Turn left onto Vineyard Dr 3.2 mi
42. Turn left onto CA-46 W 17.2 mi
43. Turn right onto CA-1 N
Destination will be on the left 26.6 mi
51.7 mi – about 59 mins
Ragged Point Inn & Resort
19019 California 1
Ragged Point, CA 93452

Head south on CA-1 S 56.0 mi
45. Turn right onto Olive St 0.2 mi
46. Merge onto US-101 S 11.2 mi
47. Take the Price St/Shell Beach Rd/CA-1 S exit 0.1 mi
48. Turn right onto CA-1 N/Price St
Continue to follow Price St
Destination will be on the left 0.8 mi
68.3 mi – about 1 hour 14 mins
Dinosaur Caves Park
2701 Price St
Pismo Beach, CA 93449

49. Head southeast on Price St 121 ft
50. Turn left to merge onto US-101 S 51.9 mi
51. Take the CA-246 exit toward Solvang/Lompoc 0.2 mi
52. Turn left onto CA-246 E 3.4 mi
55.5 mi – about 52 mins
Solvang, CA

53. Head east on CA-246 E/Mission Dr toward Old Mill Rd 5.1 mi
54. Continue onto CA-154 E 22.8 mi
55. Take the CA-192 exit toward Foothill Rd/Cathedral Oaks 0.3 mi
56. Turn left onto CA-192 E/Foothill Rd 3.9 mi
Follow the signs that say CA 192!
66. Continue onto Linden Ave
67. Turn left onto El Carro Ln 0.6 mi
68. Turn left onto Casitas Pass Rd 0.2 mi
69. Turn right onto CA-192 E 3.0 mi
70. Turn left onto CA-150 E 15.1 mi
71. Turn left onto N Ventura Ave 1.5 mi
72. Continue onto CA-150 E/W Ojai Ave
Continue to follow CA-150 E 18.3 mi
73. Turn left onto the California 126 E ramp to Fillmore 0.1 mi
74. Merge onto CA-126 E 27.9 mi
75. Take the Interstate 5 S ramp to Los Angeles 0.5 mi
76. Merge onto I-5 S