Tuesday, November 15, 2005
For work I was assigned to visit the California's Central Coast, we have a telecommuter who lives in Santa Maria, a city 300 miles south of San Francisco. I drove South down Hwy 101, a route I haven't driven to Southern California within the last 10 years.
Hwy 5 is the standard route to LA, it's faster but not very scenic, in contrast I found Hwy 101 scenic and offering tempting side trips.
While driving down Hwy 101 you see the mission bells and realize you're on the Mission trail. Hwy 101 follows the old Spanish Royal Road, El Camino Real which connects 21 missions across the State. Since I was not on vacation but actually on a work trip I noted the different Missions while traveling south but I wanted to minimized my stops. Minimizing my stops included driving by Pismo Beach, and ignoring sidetrips to Hearst Castle and Morro Bay.
However, after I found my Hotel in Santa Maria I decided to drive down to Santa Barbara. After leaving Santa Maria, Hwy 1 and 101 merge providing many scenic places to stop and enjoy the ocean views. I did take a pitt stop at two coastal State Beaches north of Santa Barbara, El Refugio and El Capitain. You can stop at California State Parks for 20 minutes without playing the entrance fee. This is great for a bathroom room breaks and for peeking at parks to checkout their facilities. El Refugio is small pleasant park, the campsites weren't very private but access to the beach was just a few yards away.
At El Captain State Beach, I didn't see the campsites but the day use sites were very nice, perfect for a picnic with beautiful coastal views and picnic tables on well kepts lawns. While standing on the shore a pod of dolphins swam by it was wonderful. Hopefully, I'll be able to camp at one of the parks before the summer crowds come.
After enjoying the dolphins and a wooded nature trail, I was ready to finish the drive to Santa Barbara. When I saw the Santa Barbara exits I took Mission and followed signs to the Santa Barbara Mission. There was plenty of parking and no entrance fee, I followed a self-guided tour which took me through the church, cemetery/gardens and facilities.
Missions are historically interesting places, Mission Santa Barbara was originally built in the 1700's, but there is also a sadness. I think of the indigenous people who lives where changed so dramatically with the arrival of the Spanish. 4000 Chumashan Indians are buried at Mission Santa Barbara.
After touring the Mission, I cruised Santa Barbara's main drag State Street, the restaurants had a nice crowd even for a Sunday night. The area has a trendy college community feel with 20 something skaters zipping between cars and cafes decorated with alluring twinkling lights enticing diners. The day was a nice re-introduction to the area my next trip will be leisurely and lengthy.
El Refugio State Beach -Inlet
El Capitain State Beach - chillin Seagull style
El Capitian Coastal Nature Walk
Mission Santa Barbara