Our spring launch this year was always going to be a long slog – we had resolved to go straight out to the Pacific from Florida, where we had spent the holidays with family so close to the Atlantic that we could hear the surf on quiet nights. We had left the Pacific coast early last year around Labor Day to go to Yan’s Roadtrek Get-Together in eastern Oregon, straight to the factory in Kitchener from there, and back out to the mountains of Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona until it was time to head east for Thanksgiving in Florida. So we packed up, said our goodbyes, and drove west for a solid week until we were within spitting distance of the Pacific.
We had a short layover in Wichita Falls, TX waiting for better weather as the last of the spring snow flurries dusted the high plains, overnighted with friends near Albuquerque, and had a marathon drive the next day across Arizona and down into the Colorado River Valley. A coyote crossed the road ahead of us west of Flagstaff. We had to keep driving because up there at 7000 feet it was going down into the 20s – time to keep going until we got back closer to sea level. Our overnight spot at the Home Depot in Barstow CA was still there, so we ate a fast dinner and called it a night – 700 miles in one day is a bit much for one of my advanced years.
The next day it was warm and dry, beautiful western weather we had been missing all winter. Across the Mojave past Edwards AFB, avoiding the urban sprawl of the LA area and headed straight west through Bakersfield, we got to Tehachapi and all the vegetation reappeared – we were down into the San Joaquin Valley, produce and fruit tree central. Up into the coastal mountains, covered with California poppies and other spring flowers, and we stopped at a rest area for the afternoon, killing a few hours so we could sneak into Paso Robles for an overnight stop.
We love this town because of all the vineyards and typical California ambience – you can get killer Mexican food, do your laundry with a bunch of friendly people, and watch kids playing ball games late into the night at the city parks. EVERYTHING is a family affair there – it’s refreshing to see grandparents, parents and kids doing things together. The Walmart there doesn’t own the parking lot, which is technically city property and subject to a no overnight parking rule, but it’s never enforced in my experience as long as you arrive late, leave early, buy some stuff while you’re there, and behave yourself. Also, a fleet of white vans is parked in one corner for some municipal transport project – that night they had one more white van in the line 😉
The ocean is 25 miles west of Paso Robles on state road 46, which weaves through the coastal hills, vineyards, and cattle operations as it approaches the beach. There’s no overnight parking on the ocean this far south – some oceanfront pullouts even have a “no loitering” sign up, and since all I do these days is loiter I figured this wasn’t the place for me to settle down. After chilling on the coastal highway for the afternoon we headed back inland on 46 and availed ourselves of one of the many huge pullouts along the highway for an overnight spot.
It’s just beautiful up there at 1500 feet. You look out over the fog-covered ocean at sunset and cook dinner, soaking up the atmosphere as you look down into the valley with cow pastures and coastal trees – madronas, oaks, stuff like that. Late at night, you can go out and see the stars above and the fog below. The next morning, as the fog dissipated we could see Morro Bay to the south of us as we cooked breakfast, walked Fiona, and planned a day of cruising northward on the Pacific Coast Highway, the mother road for summer slackers. It’s gonna be another good year out here on the road.