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Thursday, January 12, 2012

CLASSIC TRIP - Central Coast (San Luis Obispo), California 2000

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We're working on an updated look at this area, in the meantime, take a look at our previous report...

San Luis Obispo lies just about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many use it to stay overnight along the way however it is also a destination unto itself. San Luis Obispo is located about 12 miles inland from the ocean from Morro Bay. It is the starting poing of the scenic portion of Highway 1 that runs through Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay before ending up in San Francisco.

Our trip begins on a Friday afternoon. It’s 3 to 4 hours driving before we get to our destination, the Sands Motel. For $70 per night, we get an adequate room with 2 queen beds and an extra large bathroom. It has a bathtub with a shower on a hose, no roll-in. Parking was difficult here as the handicapped spot was not large enough for us to deploy our ramp. We had to park away from the room (update - rooms now appear to be in the $100 plus per night range).

Having had dinner on the ride up, we watch a little TV and then hit the sack. In the morning, we have breakfast across the street at the Monterey St. Café. The motel provided a continental breakfast but to be honest, it just did not look appetizing. The restaurant provided a decent meal.

San Luis Obipso is in the middle of the Central Coast wine country so we headed east of town to visit it. We ended up at Edna Valley Vineyards which has just built a big new tasting room. The wines were good but with prices starting at $18 a bottle they’d need to be a bit better. The demonstration grape vines out by the parking lot were a lot of fun. 15 different varieties are planted here and you can wander through and taste the grapes right off the season of course.
Back in San Luis Obispo, we have dinner at F. McClintocks, a western themed steak joint. Dinner was excellent and the restaurant was accessible but small. After eating we take a walk along the creek that runs through downtown. Accessible walks allow wheelers to stroll along here too.

There is also an interesting, if a bit gross, attraction in the downtown area. That is “Bubble Gum Alley”, a narrow walkway where locals and visitors alike deposit their chewed gum upon the walls - sometimes to artistic effect. There is almost a half century work of gum deposited on the walls.
Wheelchair seating at Santa Maria Speedway
That evening, we head south to Santa Maria to take in a night of racing at Santa Maria Speedway. The sprint cars were running that night and the place was packed with race fans. Wheelchair users have reserved spots at the top of the stands overlooking the track by turn one.
Santa Maria Speedway
The racing that night was spectacular with typical sprint car hijinks and a lot of fun.
The next morning we drove over to nearby Avila Beach for breakfast. Avila has an interesting recent history. Years ago an oil tank farm was installed in the hills above town. About a decade ago it was found that those tanks had been leaking for years, fouling the ground under downtown Avila Beach. The company was sued and now must pay to remove all the soil under the downtown area (which was largely demolished), restore the downtown area and the beach, plus pay a huge settlement to the tiny town itself.
A sea lion begging for scraps off the San Luis Pier
Downtown Avila Beach is still under construction. Just up the road (past the equally infamous Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant entrance) is Port San Luis pier. This 100+ year old wharf nestles in a beautiful little cove. We had an excellent breakfast at Fatcats at the foot of the pier and then walked out to the end where sea lions cavorted in the water begging for handouts at the back of the fish market. Diners also know that the Olde Port Inn at the end of the pier offers some of the finest dining on the central coast.

In the afternoon we took in a matinee at the theater in downtown San Luis Obispo (Meet the Parents, funny movie).

Dinner tonight would be at the F. McClintock’s in Pismo Beach just south of San Luis Obispo (yes, the very same Pismo Beach that Bugs Bunny was always in search of). This is a much larger and much more tourist oriented location than the one in San Luis Obispo. It’s also a tad more expensive and not quite as good food wise. This night it seemed to attract every birthday and anniversary celebration on the coast. I don’t think I want to hear the wait staff sing the F. McLintock-generic celebration song again for a long, long time...

This being our last night here, we pick up a couple of bottles of local wine from the on-premises liquor store at the motel and soak in the inn’s hot tub before retiring for the night.

Of course, we couldn’t do it all in a weekend but over the years we’ve found the following area attractions to be well worth your time...

Hearst Castle is an hour’s drive to the north of San Luis Obispo

The Apple Farm Inn at the north end of town has a wonderful restaurant plus a working grist mill powered by the local creek.

The Monarch Butterflies spend their winters in several eucalyptus groves near Pismo Beach.

You can soak in natural hot springs and swim in naturally warm pools at Avila Hot Springs for a reasonable price or nearby Sycamore Hot Springs for a significant amount more. Both are just south of San Luis Obispo at the Port San Luis/Avila Beach exit of the 101 freeway.

Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
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Sunday, January 1, 2012