Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

“Get up, it’s 4AM and I can’t sleep. Let’s go look at wildflowers!” I said.
“grumblegrumbleareyoukiddinggrumblegrumbleI’mtoogoodtoyou,” Marianne answered. 

An hour later and we were off. 

No, we didn’t go to Lake Elsinore or the Anza Borrego like 30 million other people. We went to the Central Coast. Of course. Our favorite part of the state, if not the world. We also took the new Accord. I didn’t want to add to Marianne’s discontent and discomfort. She is not a morning person. 

As usual, we had breakfast in Ventura at the Busy Bee. As usual, great pancakes and bacon! We were on the road early enough to beat most of the Monday morning traffic, and the scenery was spectacular, as usual. It’s amazing what rain will do for California. At least as green as Ireland! AND more flowers! Continents of mustard and poppies with islands of purple lupin amid an ocean of green grasses. 

We pulled into Los Osos to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery to get some food to go, planning on a picnic amidst the flowers and greenery, then off, up the Cuesta Grade, then to San Miguel. I wanted to get to what I knew would be great scenery, so I asked the Rhonda, the little lady who lives in the dashboard, to help me find Parkfield, CA. Yes, the Earthquake Capital of California. She said there was no such place. Wanted me to stay on the freeway. Silly Person. 

I actually DO know how to get there, I was just curious about the mileage. Snicking the Accord into “Sport Mode” (more turbo boost, stiffens the suspension, and lets me use the flappy-paddle shifting) we headed took River Road in San Miguel, left on Indian Valley, then right on Vineyard Canyon. This will take you to the intersection of Vineyard Canyon, Cholame Rd (which goes back to CA 46 and Jack Ranch and the James Dean Memorial), and Parkfield Rd. There is a little bridge across a stream there that also crosses the San Andreas Fault. It’s just outside of Parkfield. GREAT picnic spot! Noting like the quiet of the middle of nowhere for lunch. 

Having finished our salami, brie, and pesto sandwiches, we headed to Parkfield for a pee stop and look round. It is indeed an odd little town. There is a cafe, if dining al fresco isn’t your thing, and a motel. Now THERE’S a place that does NOT need the old “Magic Fingers” vibrating bed! 

From there we headed further up the Parkfield/Coalinga Rd., made infamous on the old No Frills Iron Bottom Motoring Tour. This is indeed on the world’s great roads. I’d LOVE to show it off to Wanker, Pillock, and Prat of Top Gear, oh, wait, Grand Tour fame. It would boggle their narrow English minds. Do be aware that several miles of this spectacular road are dirt. The rains didn’t do it much good, but it’s passable in the Accord. It’s a twenty mile workout for driver and car. From there we turned back west (left) on CA 198 (another absolutely fabulous road from the old Iron Bottom Days) and gas. Together, it’s 86 miles of some of the best driving and scenery you will ever find. 

We gassed up on the 101 and headed for home on the 101. Silly Rhonda The Honda thought we should head over to the Dreaded I-5 (what IS this obsession with that nasty highway?) instead of the lovely 101, and for MILES tried to make us see the error of our ways. Yeah, like THAT would ever happen! 

One last stop for dinner, at a place I’ve driven past for some 60 years and NEVER tried. Just past Carpinteria is Mussel Shoals and the Cliff House Motel and Restaurant. It was built in 1959, the year my family moved us of SoCal. Easter Break meant, for years, camping in Carpinteria, and we’d pass it to and from our week of sandy food. So, FINALLY, we stopped. It was redone in ’07 and now isn’t just another funky beach motel. It’s upscale and the restaurant is no longer a beach diner. It’s a bit pricey but the food is REALLY great. We split a grilled pear/goat cheese baked in fillo dough salad and the cioppino. Add a glass of white zinfandel and it’s perfect. Add in the view of the Channel Islands and what my sister always called “Gilligan’s Island” and it’s beyond perfection. 

Finally, 640 miles later, we got home, well fed and well traveled. So, spend a day or two seeing the flowers no one else looks for.