Monday, May 2, 2016

Dave's Drives: Central California Coast in McLaren 12C

This year, I decided I wanted to attend the Annual Datsun Roadster Classic in Solvang California.  This annual event brings Datsun Roadster enthusiasts from all over to a small town in California known for its Danish bakeries and its feel of being in Copenhagen (or maybe a Disney-ish version of Copenhagen).

So my wife and I decided to make a road trip out of it, and although I wanted to bring my 1968 Datsun 2000 Roadster, that would limit the number of days we'd be willing to be on the road (6 days with no heat or A/C wasn't going to cut it this time around).  So we decided there would be enough Datsuns on display without ours, and we'd take the 2012 McLaren MP4-12C on a run through wine country and on to the Coastal treasures near Solvang.  Our loose itinerary shaped up like this:

Paso Robles for wine tasting
Pismo Beach for dune buggy adventure
Los Olivos for more wine tasting
Solvang for the Datsun show
Buellton for the Mendelhall auto/petrol station museum as part often Datsun gathering
Santa Barbara for more beach and good food

Even after 53 years of living in and exploring California,  I am always amazed at discovering new things I had missed in this great state. The Central Coast (basically the area between Monterey and Santa Barbara, including the inland valleys nearby) is an area you could spend week or months exploring, and I found myself wanting more and promising myself another trip soon.

So, here is a pictorial review...

Paso Robles wine country. First top: Halter Ranch Winery, which has a spectacular new tasting room, albeit across a bridge and a somewhat muddy driveway!  That's OK, as kids I used to know would say:"dirt don't hurt"

Next Stops were Justin Winery and Tablas Creek.  Wonderful people, fantastic wines of the region! Trying to find shade to park in to keep the wines from cooking in the car was a challenge!

We booked a room for the evening at the CaliPaso Winery Inn, peaceful spot in Paso Robles, a town we could have spent much more time exploring.  The roads are fun to drive: Adelaide Road, Chimney Rock Rd, and Highway 46 all provide twisty fun, rolling hills, wine growing scenery.  Highway 101 through the Paso Robles area is attractive as well, with the greenest part of the year in those rolling hills in March and April:

We did manage to sample the local beer at the Taproom, aka the brewpub at Firestone Walker  Brewing Company in Paso Robles.  Tasty beer:

The next day was a short ride over to Pismo Beach.  We went the direct route, but I suggest Highway 46 to the Coast to take part of Hwy 1 from Cambria through Morro Bay.  Of course, if you come down this way from Monterey and Big Sur, even better!! Along our inland route, we should have spent time in the terrific town of San Luis Obispo, but we were too excited to get to the coast! The weather was perfect and we loved the hotel (Inn at the Cove, Pismo Beach), and the views from our balcony!

We explored the little beachside town of Pismo Beach, which is growing like crazy with a large new hotel, but which still has a terrific surf shop, covered with vintage surfboards and skateboards (many of those skate decks were part of my mis-spent youth!). Make sure you stop into Pancho's Surf Shop if you're ever down here!  Nice people, I just had to buy something!!

We then moved on to our day's destination: Sunbuggie Rentals (again, more nice people!), so we could experience the wide open spaces of Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area. the rookie buggies aren't super fast, but you can upgrade if you want.  Either way, this is a blast and should be on your bucket list.  The sand dunes go on for miles!! 

We ate at the beautiful Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach (try the blackened scallops and the Coconut Mojito!) and enjoyed the sunset, then woke the next morning to a postcard-worthy day for a walk on Shell Beach, the northern part of town:

We made our way to Solvang, CA, with a  stop in Buellton (home of the Famous Andersen's Pea Soup), where the Datsun crowd was starting the festivities at the Mendenhall Museum of Automobilia:

The next day was the Datsun Roadster event, which brought out many great cars from all over the country, some very stock cars and some very modified.  All beautiful!

The town of Solvang is known for it's danish bakeries.  For good reason... lots of butter and sugar!

We spent time in Los Olivos, doing more wine tasting and having excellent food.  Try this town out, charming is the word...

The next day we headed to our final destination, Santa Barbara.  You could spend a week right here enjoying the downtown, the up and coming restaurants in the "Funk Zone", and the many beaches.  We stopped in at the historic Mission Santa Barbara, and the McLaren 12C was right at home on the beach with other fun vehicles.

And then a 4.5 hour drive back home to the SF Bay Area. We started making plans to come back again soon, and I started to clean the bug collection from the front of the Mac. The Central California Coast is a real treasure chest of great things to do and see.  Next time I think I'll definitely take a convertible!!