Paso Robles, SLO to Big Sur…

Saturday morning, we left early to drive over to Paso Robles and see what Johnnie in Cedar Key found so compelling about it. I read a brochure about the town which reminded me of what he had said about Paso Robles – it was “an authentic California town.” Well, we were about to see for ourselves.

This beautiful building was just a block from the park where the farmer’s market was held in Paso Robles.

When we drove into town, there was a Saturday Farmer’s Market in the town park! I went to an ATM for cash, parked the car, and we hit the sidewalk. Right off, we came upon fresh, organic strawberries!

They were delicious!

Next, Mt. Olive Farm was offering organic walnuts in many forms: caramel, plain, spicy; apples, apple butter, honey; and on and on… The rest of the market offered everything from organic produce to hot dogs and BBQ, jewelry, handmade doggie clothes, and so much more!

From organic walnuts to locally grown and produced olive oil – this booth had it all.

We came across Central Coast Lavender’s booth selling products made from lavender grown about 10 miles outside Paso Robles.

I only wish I could come back when the lavender is blooming!

Max, sitting pretty at the farmer’s market in Paso Robles, California.

Although Johnnie had predicted that “a guy in a 55 Chevy will catch your eye, and you’ll never leave.” As intriguing as that sounded, it didn’t happen! Paso Robles is a really nice California town – and the central park where the market was held makes it one of the sweetest towns I’ve come across.

So where was the guy in the 55 Chevy?? Well, on the way from SLO, I had passed a really cool, souped up 50s pickup truck painted bright orange. Imagine my surprise, when I saw that same truck in town at a gas station. I tried to get a better glimpse of both the truck and the guy driving it, but only caught a brief look at its license plate as he drove down the street past me: 56 ROD. It was a Chevy. Off by a year, Johnnie! But I’m not staying…

A moment lost? Naw!

When we left Paso Robles, I wanted to take Max to a dog park I had found online, so we headed for the coast on Route 46, which turned out to be a direct, is somewhat twisty and hilly, road through wine country. And although it was just 11 AM, I pulled into Grey Wolf Winery for a tasting – and came out with two bottles of their wine.

When we got to Highway 1 along the coast, I decided to drive north four miles to Cambria to get gas. For the first time in all these weeks, I had not paid attention to the gas gauge and we were close to empty – and gas was $3.79/gallon on Cambra’s Main Street!

Main Street, Cambria, California on a blue sky Saturday afternoon.

Max in front of Mozzie’s Saloon on Cambria’s Main Street.

We had a good little walk around this little town that I remembered from 12 years ago. Not much seemed to have changed in that time, and it was fun to be back in a relatively familiar town. I found these beautiful California poppies blooming on the top of a wall just off Main Street:

We had lunch in the garden patio of Robyn’s, on a side street. My avocado melt and garlic fries, with a glass of Albarino from Spain was excellent. I hadn’t eaten dessert since New Orleans, so I ordered a deliciously decadent chocolate torte, which I couldn’t finish (but did last night after dinner).

There’s my good boy!

On the way out of town, we accidentally “found” the Cambria dog park; Max and I spent a wonderful hour there playing ball, chasing other dogs and being chased (Max, not me), and (me) talking with some of the folks who were there with their dogs.

After the dog park, we headed south on Highway 1 for the “dog beach; although I had no idea where it was, I was certain we’d find it. It as another perfect California day, blue sky and sunshine, and gorgeous scenery.

We passed a sign for HARMONY, Population 19, Elevation 870 – I was tempted to turn up the road, but I figured I’d never even know when I got to “town” if there were only 19 people living there!

These cows grazing on a hillside along Highway 1 reminded me of a painting I love of horses on a hillside by Maine artist, William Irvine.

The road south from Cambria towards Morro Bay…

And then, just north of Morro Bay, I saw what had to be the dog beach. As soon as I found a place to park, I pulled off the road, and snapped the leash on for the walk through the fence to “beach puppy bingo!”

Leaving my sandals at the head of the path, and unleashing Max, we both headed for the beach, which was one of those amazing California beaches. A wide expanse of white sand, waves rolling in “from Japan,” as Rufus used to say, and people and dogs everywhere.

Max immediately began chasing another dog’s tennis bal, and I apologized to his owner for the “theft,” only to have him laugh and say, “Oh they ALL do that!” We ended up walking along the beach as the two dogs chased the ball. His dog was a lab who would go out into the waves to retrieve the ball, and give it up to Max, who would be waiting at the water’s edge. Shades of a Florida beach all over again!

I took the turn onto Morro Bay’s Main Street and was rewarded with a drive through the prefect California beach town.

By the time we got back to our Motel 6 in San Luis Obispo, both of us were worn out: me from the sun (I actually got a sunburn!), and Max from hours of running and playing. Mission accomplished!

I needed to just chill out last night – I realized the other day that I’m writing an average of 1,000 words a day, and I just wanted to kick back and do nothing, so I found a Redbox just a couple of miles away and rented The Social Network. I’m not sure if it’s totally accurate, but it was entertaining.

A thousand words a day – I could have a book in a couple of months with that amount of writing…

Tonight, as I try to recollect what happened just yesterday, I know I’m forgetting things. Like the name of the dog on the beach… the name of the woman at the lavender booth… and who knows what else? Because I can’t remember!

So, what did we do today? We checked out earlier than usual, headed over to return the DVD to Redbox, got a Skinny Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, then headed into SLO to see the Mission. We walked around a bit, and discovered there’s a small creekside walking path. It was Sunday morning, so shops weren’t open and town was pretty sleepy, but we did have a nice stroll.

The Mission at San Luis Obispo dates to 1772!

Max was certain the fish in this fountain was real – and he wanted it!

Check out this funky bike we spotted on the street in SLO this morning!

Soon we were off onto Highway 1 for the dog park at El Chorro Regional Recreation Area. This park was wonderful. Big, fenced, lots of shade, and the entire place covered with wood chips. They provide a basket of tennis balls, ball throwers, plenty of water, a couple of big tubs that can be filled with water for dogs who want to jump in and cool off, and a half-dozen picnic tables under a shelter.

Again, Max immediately went for the ball throwers! Soon, there was a three or four dog pack, including Max, running in big circles chasing balls and returning them for another throw. We stayed a little over an hour – until I recognized that he was reaching his limit – plus we needed to move on anyway.

Back in the car, heading north on Highway 1 – Pacific Coast Highway – for Big Sur. First thing we encountered was the entrance for Hearst Castle, and I thought I’d at least drive up closer for a look. I didn’t expect they’d let Max in, so it was going to be a short diversion.

It was even shorter than I thought. It looked like you park at the visitor center down below and take a tour of the castle – so we weren’t going to get any closer. I headed back for the PCH, and discovered this little herd of horses by the entrance:

Is that a sweet face or what?

I’ve driven Big Sur in both directions four times, but this was the first time I encountered fog.

Big Sur in fog…

There was quite a fog bank hanging off the coast, and occasionally working its way in to cover the headlands, the mountains on the other side, and sometimes the road itself.

The famous Bixby Bridge was built in 1932. It spans a really deep canyon – note the size of the cars on the bridge for scale.

I love driving this part of the coast. The road twists and winds, drops and rises, and basically keeps you on your toes. Today was no exception, especially with the fog. I was a little surprised by how much damage has occurred from mudslides – somehow, I thought there was more land off there to the left! I think some of it has dropped into the ocean…

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow (or turn-by-twist) account of the entire day, but will let the photos do the talking again. Most of these were taken by simply holding the iPhone up and shooting as I drove. I don’t try to see what I’m getting, I just shoot. I shot a lot of pix, and these are some of the best.

It was an awesome day… fog, no fog, sun, no sun, and all the while that dramatic Big Sur landscape. By 2:45 I was getting pretty hungry, so stopped at Nepenthe to see if Max could join me on their café deck overlooking the ocean. “Sorry, we have a policy of no dogs.” Since he’s been such a good sport about being in the car, I wasn’t willing to leave him while I waited 45 minutes for a table, then ate lunch for another 45, so we kept going.

We finally arrived in Pacific Grove – yet another town I remember from another trip many years ago with Rufus and my friend, Diana. We found the 17th Street Grille and they welcomed dogs to their patio! WOO! HOO! I had a great cheeseburger with avocado, fries, and an ice-cold Corona, and Max got to join me on the patio. All in all, I was feeling pretty happy after our Big Sur day.

I don’t know why or where the moniker comes from but signs in town said: Pacific Grove – America’s Butterfly Town. Now, I like that! Who wouldn’t want to live in a town that claimed to be a Butterfly Town?


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 Big Sur, California, California Coast, Coffee, Eating out on a road trip, On the Road, Puppy antics, Random thoughts, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Paso Robles, SLO to Big Sur…

  1. Granpa Henny says:

    Hey, Mo! This latest post brought back a whole bunch of wonderful memories about Big Sur in the sixties, Nepenthe’s, Esalen, watching whales from the baths as they traveled north up the coast along with a young lady bemoaning missing the draft sit in because she’d broken her ankle during the rehearsals, Fritz Perls, Claudio Naranjo, Mike Murphy, a stupendous massage, etc. etc. Made me feel like a kid again. Thanks!

    My son had to go to work this morning for the first time in a week since the birth so holding Lucia for two hours while her mother caught up on some badly needed sleep fell to me. Can you imagine me sitting still for a little over two hours just gazing into her cherubic face, listening to her kitten-like breathing chuckling over a five minute bout of hiccups (Hendrik David claims they’re functional — strengthening the diaphragm muscles!)? Amazing what hidden capacities we old farts have . . .

  2. You should have run in front of that Chevy and at least seen who was driving it and flagged him down! lol! It probably wasn’t a moment missed though, you’re right! I’d be sad if you moved to California though. . . 😦

    Sounds like more good stuff happening! Have fun at Bill’s and say hi to him for me! xoxo and Happy Valentines Day! Cin

    PS–Hendrik–congrats on the new grand daughter!

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