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Great 2012 California Christmas Roadtrip

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1: THE MOUNTAIN TEMPLE, WAT ARAT | November 7th | “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.” - Elizabeth Drew | May it always be so.

2: Saturday, December 22. We drove through the rain to get to the Beach Street Inn in Santa Cruz on Friday night. We woke up to rain, fog, cold, and wind. Before we drove our first stretch of CA-1, we pulled into Linda's Seabreeze Cafe for breakfast. It was warm inside, and Jill had an amazing scramble with portobello, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and feta. Zach had pancakes. Then we hit the road...

6: After a couple rainy hours of driving, and a couple muddy stops for photos, we stretched our legs in Big Sur. We walked through the Spirit Garden, careful not to offend any of the inhabitants. The rain on the trees and shrines covered and drowned the noise from Highway 1. Wet now and cold, we went into Big Sur Bakery for coffee.

12: One of the longest, loveliest stretches of Highway 1 is from Big Sur south to San Simeon. There's only the road to follow and the misty balance of cliff and ocean to look at. No one needs to stop or wants to stop and there's really nowhere to stop until you get to San Simeon and the sea lions. Then it's Cambria, Cayucos, and Morro Bay before the highway cuts inland towards San Luis Obispo and a very, very good place to spend the night.

17: Welcome to the Madonna Inn. If Elvis had ever decided to build a resort in the West, equal parts Graceland and Hotel California, it very well might have looked like this. Every room here has a theme. We got Swiss Rock, with stone floor, walls, and bathroom, and enough crushed velvet to keep Liberace content for a hundred years. At twilight we wore pink robes to the outdoor pool, got margaritas and climbed into a hot tub. We recounted the day's drive, talked about the upcoming holiday, and looked out over the sparkling valley and the ribbon of lights on Highway 1. But first, of course, we tried on the room for size.

21: Sunday, December 23. We say goodbye to Swiss Rock, and start driving again under slate grey clouds. This less busy stretch of Highway 1 through farmlands and the old town of Guadalupe, founded by a Mexican land grant in 1840, is straighter and flatter, but no less beautiful. In Santa Barbara, we leave the highway and drive into the Santa Ynez Mountains for lunch at Cold Springs Tavern, an old stage coach stop from Gold Rush days.

25: We followed Highway 1 religiously, even through Oxnard and on potholed bypasses where the 101 was 5 feet away. But then Malibu, Santa Monica, and finally Manhattan Beach and the house that Mike and Laurie had rented on the beach. And, done with driving, Zach and Jill took a long walk on the Strand at sunset.

26: Manhattan Beach Interlude: Christmas with the Slagters

33: Monday December 24. We shopped in the morning, played beach volleyball in the afternoon, and had a big ham dinner. Jill came up with her own rules to Apples to Apples, and a few people went swimming in the ocean at midnight. Tuesday December 25. Mike and Laurie made pancakes and bacon for breakfast, and then we all opened presents. After that much excitement, we enjoyed a lazy day around the house. Wednesday December 26. A family trip to Griffith Park Observatory with amazing views of Los Angeles, and then the abandoned, creepy, old LA Zoo, followed by a delicious Mexican dinner at Pancho's. Thursday December 27. Zach tried to make omelets but ended up with a scramble. We had lunch in Santa Monica with Jill's friend Max, and an amazing dinner at Julia's restaurant, MB Post. Friday December 28. The only truly sunny day, and so the only way to spend it was on the Strand. At night, the men went to a Lakers game while the women did wedding planning. And then we all went to bed, sad that it was out last night together.

35: Saturday December 29. We packed up the cars in the cold and rain and said goodbye to each other and the Strand house. Thoroughly soaked and chilled, it took a languorous breakfast by a big fire at Sloopy's before we could face the open road. And as much fun as Highway 1 was on the way down, Zach just couldn't face Oxnard again. It was going to be the 101 all the way to San Jose. So we spurred the Focus onto Rosecrans, and Jill had her shoes off before we even made it to the highway. Next stop was San Luis Obispo. But first we had to drive close under the clouds for a few hours.

40: We got the Love Birds room on our second stay at the Madonna Inn. And, being old hands at this now, we were in our pink robes and headed to the pool faster than you can say "Two margaritas on the tab for room 148." There's not much else to say, except perhaps to note that the hotel hot tub seems to be the only place where strangers talk to each other anymore. We met an engineer from Santa Cruz, a Swedish-Finnish couple on their way to San Francisco, and some hipsters from LA.

43: Sunday December 30. Sunny today like a blessing from heaven. We got up early and went for a swim. In Paso Robles, we stopped for an early lunch at Thomas Hill Organics, a place where we enjoyed a couple very good meals in 2011. On the cusp of 2013, it hasn't lost a step. After Smoked salmon crepes with a bechamel sauce, mozarella, radichio, and proscioutto, and a salad of roasted beets with harissa, beluga lentils, feta, and orange cayenne vinaigrette, and a glass of local wine, our entrees were lovely, but wholly unnecessary, whatever they were. And that's pretty much it. We stepped out into the sun, filled up the tank, left Paso Robles, and didn't stop till we were home. The end.

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  • By: Zachary L.
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  • Title: Great 2012 California Christmas Roadtrip
  • Zach & Jill's trip to LA for Christmas 2012.
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  • Published: over 5 years ago