February 2008

With a three day weekend celebrating our presidents, it was a good opportunity to do some California site seeing.  I rarely do local touring, but this time we spent three nights down in San Luis Obispo (known locally as "San Luis" and abbreviated SLO).   Leaving after work on Friday, the traffic was not too bad.  We stopped for dinner at the Gilroy outlet mall and then had clear sailing down 101.  We arrived at our accomodations at the Peach Tree Inn around 9:30.  The hotel name reminded me of my time in Atlanta where every other street is named peachtree.  The hotel is more than adequate- they have honey nut cheerios for breakfast, a friendly staff, and free wireless. 

Saturday is the first full day of activities.   We head a mile down the street to downtown and explore the Mission.  Many California cities were started as missions.  This one dates from 1772 and was the fifth one in California.  It is adjacent to the creek.  The grounds are scenic and our first attempt into the church is stopped because there is a service going on (we learn later that it was a funeral).  It is an unusual "L" shaped church.  L’ asks one of the people there if the purple decorations are for lent and he replies that it is.   Glad that we expressed interest in the building, he takes us back behind the office and shows us part of the exposed original beams of the building.

When we’re done exploring the Mission, we wander around town and stumble on a small museum inside of an old building.  There’s an exhbiit on the history of the Chinese in town, which dates to the 1800s.  It’s now after noon and we break for lunch.   Most importantly, following lunch I visit one of the many candy shops in town and purchase some much deserved fudge. 

Since L’ is an avid hiker and we’re near the beautiful California coast, we head to the Montaña de Oro State park.  Adjacent to the coast, we hike around.  I slow down the pace by stopping to take a photo every ten seconds.   This also is the second attempt at using L”s GPS to later geotag the photos.  Look for the "See Map" link on the photos from this part of the trip.  After a couple hours in cool, windy weather, we head back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.   We have dinner, wander around town a bit, but it’s cold so we head back to the hotel and crash.

Sunday is our second full day in SLO.  Following breakfast, we head to Morro Bay.  I had seen online that there was a parade of "Tall Ships" on the waterfront.  It turns out to be just a couple, but it was neat to see recently built ships that look like old sailing ships.  Morro Bay is beautiful, but a bit spoiled by the not so scenic power plant in the background.  I did not see Mr. Burns running it. 

After viewing the ships, we head up Hwy 1 and L’ spots a windy road to get us to Paso Robles.  It’s a fun and beautiful drive towards Paso  Robles.  Arriving in downtown Paso Robles, we have lunch and browse just for a little bit.  We then do a wine tasting at the Sylvester winery.  Nothing great, but a couple of the wines were pretty good and we pick up a bottle. The winery has a couple of old railroad cars on site that we explore before hitting the road.  We drive by an old Adobe and L’ wants to stop and check off another California historical landmark.  The adobe is more or less abandoned now, but it has a ~150 year old cemetary adjacent.  After visiting, we head back to SLO for a stop at the Madonna Inn.  This is the super tacky, over the top Inn that is now pretty famous.  We’re not staying there in the caveman room, but I make sure to time our visit so that I can get my money’s worth of the waterfall that serves as the men’s urinal.  The bathroom and decor live up to their reputation.  We then head back to the hotel for a quick stop followed by dinner at Novo downtown (quite good, another good recommendation form Lonely Planet).

Monday morning we check out of the hotel and make our way to Hearst Casle in San Simeon.  Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the worse and it is now overcast and breezy.  San Simeon is on the coast off Hwy  1, but we stop off in Cambria for lunch at Robin’s (another Lonely Planet recommendation).  Lunch hits the spot and we make it to the Hearst Castle visitor center with plenty of time for the afternoon tour we’ve already booked.    The tour starts with a bus ride up the hill for a guided walk around the castle and into some of the rooms of the castle.  While there are multiple tours availalble, we only do the basic one that shows you the highlights.  After the tour and bus ride back to the visitor center, we grab some hot drinks and snacks.  Our tickets include a movie about the castle, but it doesn’t start for a while and you can’t jump in during the middle.  We decide to just hit the road. 

A few miles north of the castle there are a couple vistas to see the elephant seals.  This time of year is breeding and frolicking time.  The seals are very active- much more than when I saw them at Año Nuevo last year.  I’m able to take lots of photos of great seal action.   Since the weather is not the greatest, we then head back up along the coast making minimal stops.  If the weather were good, I could see wanting to stop every ten minutes for a great photo op.  Since I know I’ll be back, we just stay on the road and head back toward home.  We get back in time for dinner, unpacking, and preparing for going back to work after a great three day weekend.

For all the photos, see the following link:


The rain finally stopped after what seemed like forever.  With beautiful weather, it was time to get some hiking in. 

Saturday it was off to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve.   The preserve is off Skyline and it was a twisty road to get there- lots of fun to drive.  Getting there mid-afternoon and with a busy evening planned, we only had a couple hours to explore.  It was nearly deserted and we made a loop, including an intense uphill part.  The lighting was challenging for the photographs.  Lots of shadows and brights in the same picture and moving in and out of the shadows required constant fiddling with the camera.  Here are the photos:


Sunday L’ took me to one of her favorite hikes near Half Moon Bay.  It was windy at times, but the views were spectacular.  We saw a few elephant seals in the  ocean right off the beach.  The tide wasn’t low enough to walk the whole loop along the beach, but it was still quite pretty.  It reminded me of Point Reyes, only without a two hour car ride.  

A new experiment with the Half Moon Bay Hike was to try syncing the photos with the GPS tracking recorded by L”s GPS device.  This was fairly easy after a little web research.  I’m still working on the best way to display the map and photos together.  For now, there is a "See Map" link on each photo page (in the bottom right next to the photograph information) that will pull up a Google terrain map of where the photo was taken.   Here are the photos: