Like so many other people and plants, I was born and raised in California. I have visited and briefly lived in many other cities across the country but I have always kept my home base in the Los Angeles area. The opportunity to visit somewhere new or far from home is what I live for. After each trip though, I always feel a slight depression when I’m headed back home to LA. I find myself sitting in my morning commute looking around at the other drivers wondering why everyone wants to be here. The traffic, the noise, the attitudes…over time I’ve begun to blame these feelings on California as a whole. As if I don’t remember all of the great trips I’ve taken in this vast and topographically diverse state. During summers and winters and sometimes on weekends, I grew up on the roads of California. Reading books, listening to my parents’ music, imagining what existed off the highway beyond what my eyes could see. Certainly the onset of my fondness for exploring the unknown. And years later, I knew I loved my husband when I realized that he too loved a long drive. We don’t have a song but you could say the sound of the desert road whizzing by and the ocean breeze swirling around us has always been our jam. California provokes me to leave and yet inspires me to return. Upon the mountains, through the forests, within the farmland, along the coastline, it’s terrain so dramatic with so much to explore. Just when it seems that people are moving into every nook around me it’s, ironically, California that reminds me that the open space is plentiful and here for me when I need to escape close to home.
Highway 46, between Paso Robles and Cambria. Along this 60 mile drive you’ll pass by many wineries and vineyards. In Templeton, a must-stop is Jack Creek Farms, a fifth generation family farm, where you can buy fruit, vegetables, baked goods and do a honey tasting (highly recommended!). You’ll end up at Highway 1 just south of Hearst Castle.
Highway 1, between Cambria and Big Sur. Probably the most beautiful 90 miles you’ll ever drive. A coastal drive with dramatic changes in landscape from plains-like beaches to clifftop views of the Pacific Ocean. Ragged Point Inn and Restaurant perched atop a cliff in Ragged Point, CA is a great pit stop for food with a view.
Carmel Valley Road (G16), between Carmel-By-The-Sea and Greenfield. Depending where you start this drive it’s about 40 miles, 1 hour. Scenic mountains line the valley, surely an area that inspired John Steinbeck as he grew up and lived in Monterey County. You’re unlikely to pass many cars on this drive which adds to its allure.