On the road to SLO…


This morning, we headed to Topanga Canyon, which was an amazing drive. We stopped at Mimosa Café, which is owned by my friend Katy’s friend Claire. Unfortunately, Claire wasn’t working this morning so I didn’t get to meet her.

The café is a cool little place with a French flair, where everyone seems to meet. My latté was perfect, and I had a fabulous flaky cheese Danish to go along with it. Max and I sat outside on the shady terrace while I ate, then back into the car for the rest of the drive down to …

Pacific Coast Highway!

We turned onto the PCH, which hugs the coast, and headed north through Malibu. Vanessa (the GPS gal) got really peeved with me after I refused to turn up Malibu Canyon Road, then the next right turn to take us up to 101 North. After my third refusal, she got the message that I intended to take PCH all the way to Oxnard, where we’d pick up the 101 again.

I stopped to get a photo of some of the houses hanging over the Malibu beach.


The drive through Malibu was beautiful – it was great fun to see all the houses right on the edge of the ocean. We went from the small, older houses, to the newer mega-houses – some of which were way over the top in terms of both size and opulence One was so out of place I wish I had taken a photo: picture a 2-1/2 story half-timbered house right out of Merrie Olde England, sitting on the left side of the Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California. Whoa! Who would do something like that?

We stopped at a stretch of beach north of those Malibu houses, parked the car on the side of the road, and went down onto the beach for some ball playing. There was a guy sitting on a rock who said Max was a beautiful dog. (Another fan?)

While I threw the ball and Max returned it, this guy and I had a nice conversation. He’s originally from Guatemala, lived in LA for the past 20 years, and works construction. He asked me about Maine – are there a lot of Hispanics there? Not so many except in Portland. What is the job situation like there? Not so good. Probably better here.

After about a half hour, I said goodbye to my Guatemalan acquaintance, and we started moving north again. Driving PCH was beautiful. We stopped at one other place to get out on a deserted beach – this one with a notice that no lifeguard was on duty –, only to have a lifeguard drive onto the beach in a pickup truck to tell me that Max had to be on a leash. Yeah, right.

This sign was at the other stop where I took photos of the houses in Malibu. Note that there are NO DOGS ALLOWED, in addition to no drinking, camping, fires… and with no lifeguard are you safe to swim??


My feet in the Pacific!


Max on the beach near Malibu. My eyes were closed so I cropped myself out!


The funniest part was that once Max realized I was going to leash him up, he raced up and down the beach and kept out of reach for a while. I’d probably still be cursing at him if he hadn’t dropped the tennis ball for some reason. I was able to get the ball – which is the best way to lure him in right now. He came for the ball, I clipped his leash on and gave him the tennis ball as a reward – and we went back to the car.

On up the PCH – at some point I saw a sign for a Farmer’s Market and turned in to see if they had any fruit. They had Cara Cara oranges, and avocados among other things – and I bought some of those. I ate one of the oranges later in the day as I drove through San Marcos Pass, and it was one of the sweetest oranges I’ve ever had.

Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu. I saw lots of signs offering Buildable Land For Sale – yeah, because the house that used to be on it was lost in the last mudslide!



As we got closer to Oxnard, the terrain turned to farmland – strawberries were being harvested from these huge fields on both sides of the road. Even though I knew they were industrial strength (translation: heavily sprayed non-organic), I was wishing there was a farmstand selling them by the side of the road. There wasn’t.

We were behind this truck loaded with oranges in Solvang.


Back on the 101 – but a totally different 101 than it was back near LA. We were driving through beautiful rolling countryside, and we were down to two lanes in each direction with a nice grassy median between.

When we got to Santa Barbara, Vanessa had another surprise in store for me. She sent us onto San Marcos Pass Road – and one of the prettiest drives I’ve taken in this whole darn trip. We wound up into the hills above Santa Barbara – at one turn I could see the town spread out below us with the Pacific gleaming in the afternoon sun.

The road through San Marcos Pass.



Note the efforts to stabilize the hillside there on the left side f the road.


Rosemary and California poppies were blooming along the roadside, the hills were lush and green, and Max and I were moving through it all. We drove through cattle pasture land, horse country, and on into the rolling hills I remembered from my last trip through the area.

I think Vanessa got the message this morning that I wanted a scenic drive today – and she gave us one on that road through the California hills.

By the time we re-connected with the 101, we had about 40 miles to San Luis Obispo, and those miles were through some pretty fine country too. The last – and only – time I was in SLO (as it’s called here) was 1997, the year of the comet Hale Bopp. I remember standing on the main street of SLO, which was closed off for a farmer’s market, and seeing Hale Bopp in the evening sky above us.

We got to our Motel 6 about 3:30, checked in, unloaded, and went out to sit by the pool. Since it’s fenced, I was able to let Max loose. we spent a little over an hour while I tried to read. Max wanted to play ball, so mostly I was tossing the ball, pulling it out of the pool when he missed it, drying it off, and tossing it again.

And again. And again.

Later, we went over to the Laundromat about a mile down the road, and I had a small pizza while the clothes got washed and dried. (Max already had his dinner back at the motel.)

I’m really looking forward to revisiting SLO tomorrow, and going up to Paso Robles to see what Johnnie in Cedar Key found so intriguing about it.

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About Maureen Farr

I am a graphic and web designer – and the publisher of the print version of Arts Guide, a free guide highlighting the arts, dining, events, and more on the coast of Maine. In addition, I am a visual artist working in mixed media and encaustic, as well as creating found object jewelry. I am currently at work revising a short novel that I wrote as a participant in the 32nd Annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
This entry was posted in California, Coffee, Eating out on a road trip, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On the road to SLO…

  1. Grampa Henny says:

    I’ve been away, Mo, in Medford MA where Hendrik and Laura February 8 produced Lucia Isabel Rotolo Gideonse [formerly known, during the pregnancy, as Xena Warrior Princess 😉 ], but now I’m caught up with you after three busy days and no internet (hardly missed it, except, of course, for your journal entries on which I am fully caught up). The babe was a week or so early so they were really quite unready for it, but I put the three days they were in the birthing unit mastering nursing doing accumulated laundry (nine loads at last count), dishes, kitchen detail, shopping,etc. reflecting on the very substantial capacity differences between me and my father at this time of emergent grandchildren. As Hendrik put it to me when the first signs of impending birth appeared and neither grandmother would be immediately available, “you’re close, you have a car, you can cook, you know how to use all the domestic machines, and you’re great with little kids!” I was off with eight hours notice. [All the preceding is justified here, Mo, by your comment about hating to leaving your granddaughter behind in Portland. But I figured if we all could ride along with you on your trip, you could ride along a little on mine!] Love ya, girl!

  2. Nice! Love the feet in the Pacific shot! What a beautiful drive you are having now–and how cool to see an entire truck laden with oranges–yum! I love Cara Cara oranges–mmm, mmmm! Well, keep up the good work! xoxo Cin

  3. Ellie Adams says:

    California already!! I am loving your journey!! Somehow, must be because of my children (now grown) when Malibu is mentioned Malibu Barbie and Malibu Ken pop into my mind! Pretty pathetic, but they won’t go away! Stay safe!

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