California has had more songs written about it than any other place on the planet, from the Eagles- Hotel California, The Doors- LA Women, Led Zeppelins- Going to California and more recently Kings of Leon- California Waiting and Katy Perry’s- California Gurls, not to be confused with the classic Beach Boys song California Girls. Songs aside, lets talk breath-taking views, pristine sandy beaches, some of the countries best National Parks including Yosemite, Death Valley, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the East; California has it all.
We began our journey from Newport Beach just 10 miles from John Wayne, Orange county airport approximately half way between L.A and San Diego on the ocean border of California. It doesn’t really matter where you start just as long as you start, but if you ever travel the West coast of America you must hit Pacific Coast Highway- Route 1 that hugs the California coastline like some lovesick teenager and at times you would swear you are actually in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a continuous landscape of some of the most stunning beaches you will see anywhere in the world. The Roll Squad has been to Washington, British Columbia, Florida, Costa Rica, Belize, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, just to name a few, and the California beaches would rank right up there among the best.
Our first stop was The Grant Boys, on Newport Blvd for camping supplies and such required for any serious stop-and-go adventure. We put on our Beach Boys play list and headed off into the California sunshine- in the “rig” as Tom likes to call it. Our joke is always how far will we get before we make our first stop and sure enough, it didn’t take very long. We distanced ourselves a mere 120-miles before we were overcome by too much traffic, and whallah, enter the first stop; Burbank , CA just north of Newport Beach. Billed as the “Media Capital of the World” and boasting some outstanding brew style restaurants, we chose Gordon Biersch Restaurant where we enjoyed homemade, German-style beers. Oh excuse me, a beer! We WERE on a road trip for heavens sake! This is definitely not like some of our previously written Rolls about NYC. Having enjoyed the quaint feel of downtown Burbank, we made sure to hit it as our last stop on the return trip. That time we visited BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery and tasted more homemade beer complimented with an Asian fusion dish that is certainly worth going back for.
We have general travel plans when we set out on a road trip Roll, but have found that we stumble onto some fun and exciting places that were not on our initial plans when we travel in the “Hold on Loosely” fashion. Burbank was one of about three such places on this particular trip. Let the locals be your compass…
Arriving at our targeted Santa Barbara was an easy 80-mile trip that left us plenty of time to find a hotel and some good places to eat, drink, and be merry. Santa Barbara is a bustling town plopped right on the doorstep of the beautiful Pacific Ocean. There’s an endless supply of places to go but our favorite was Momma Donna’s restaurant on State St. What a fun filled place, its like a piñata exploded inside this place with an endless supply of friendly regulars that are more than happy to make you feel welcome. No more than owner, Frazee Donna aka “Mamma Donna”. First thing we were offered was birthday cake, now only good things can happen after that. I know our mothers always used to say to us, “don’t eat sweets before dinner or you’ll ruin your dinner”. Well nothing could ruin the month watering delicious signature burger at Momma Donna’s- the bacon, peanut butter and jelly burger, better know as the PB&J Burger. Simple put by Tom- unbelievable. Thanks Momma Donna. Here we stayed at the Mason Beach Inn, one of Santa Barbara’s many Inns. Steps away from the beaches, marina, restaurants and downtown. 45 spacious rooms, wireless Internet, and if the Pacific is too cold for your liking, a heated pool.
Next stop Pismo Beach for their world famous Clam Chowder at Splash Café, good but nowhere beats Boston for Claw Chowder soup- they even say it better.
Another great surprise on our “unplanned” itinerary was Cambria. We had been driving for a few hours and getting a wee bit anxious for a stop when we saw a sign for Cambria. What a great find! A real local feel, and from start to finish, the people of Cambria could not have been more welcoming. We stayed at the Creekside Inn and had a nice meal at Robbins. We were told by the locals to stop at Madeline’s on Main St for dinner and say hi to Cody Pope, the general manager. Unfortunately they were closed for renovations. Cambria is a place we will definitely come back to and stop into Madeline’s again.
One of the reasons we were in this neck-o-the-woods was that we were on our way to Hearst Castle in San Simeon; the 28-year-long project of architect Julia Morgan for newspaper king William Hearst. This is a testament to the over-the-top nature of Hearst, with garish swimming pools, lavish gardens, an enormous kitchen, and 165 rooms. This is definitely worth a trip and tour; there are 4 different tours offered at the castle.
After our 2-hour trip around Hearst Castle we found ourselves in the need for a wee taste of some local “Vino”. Thank God, California has an endless supply of wineries particularly in the Northern Region. We stopped into Niner Winery just a short trip away in Paso Robles and tasted some fantastic wine. This would be our only stop at a winery as this was not the intent of this Roll. Wine tasting requires a dedicated Roll not to mention, driver.
Monterey, nicknamed California’s “first” city, home to Clint Eastwood, Pebble Beach Golf Club, and the great American writer John Steinbeck was our next hit on the list. The city screams of Steinbeck and is themed and advertised throughout; classics such as, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Cannery Row, and Tortilla Flats (one of our favorite bars in the meatpacking district of NYC) reflect living in this region of the world back at the turn of the last century. You can feel it in a walk down Cannery Row where Steinbeck spent much of his time, it doesn’t get much better than that. Plenty of places to stay in Monterey but we would recommend staying just a short walk away from downtown Monterey at Cannery Row, more of a local feel and the accommodation a lot more reasonable. We stayed here for $89 a night. Had a fabulous margarita at the Paradiso on Cannery Row and a meal at the Fish Hopper that sits over the Pacific Ocean.
Next stop, Sacramento, the Capital city of California. The California Gold Rush beginning in 1848 led to major migration of people to the Sacramento area because of its rich supply of gold deposits and because of its location right on the Sacramento river. What we liked about this place was that it has a very cool neighborhood vibe particularly in the Old Sacramento area.
This is where we decide to cut across California and head east toward Nevada City and Yosemite. We stopped in Nevada City, an old American mining town for an afternoon café, but decide to keep going and head to the Yosemite area as we were feeling a need for some camping. Our home for the next two days became Groveland about 20 miles from Yosemite’s doorstep while our home pub became the famous Iron Door Saloon. Notably famous for being the oldest saloon in California where some of its early patrons might still be bellying up. The Yosemite Pines RV and Campgrounds on old HWY 120 turned out to be where we would set up camp and throw our bedrolls. Tomorrow Yosemite- Perfect!
In order to truly fathom the unbelievable beauty of Yosemite you really have to see for yourself so were not going to start to describe it now. Also we have attached a video to better explain it visually. We liked it so much we stayed an extra day at the Yosemite Pines Campground.
Last stop on our Roll and the last of the great-unforeseen surprises along the way, Bakersfield; known for country music, oil, farming, and now more recently ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child. What a pleasant surprise, and a great find. Best place to stay would have to be the Hotel Padre on 18th St. and H St. Across the street stop into the “Alley” and Guthrie’s Alley Cats and Mama Roomba, where the locals go- we really enjoyed these places and as you know we are all about meeting the locals and finding the local culture and characters. You will definitely find them in Bakersfield!
Well there you have it, until next time, Keep Rolling.
Enjoy our video,
Huck and Tom
Yosemite National Park, CA