Central Cali Touring
Cambria, CA - "Where the Pines Meet the Sea."
California's Pacific Coast is renowned for its rewarding scenery, varied riding conditions and of course the twists and turns.
With majestic ocean views starting as far south as Santa Monica and stretching all the way to the border of Oregon, there are no lack of points in between that make great destinations in and of themselves. One of the less well-known coastal gems of a town is Cambria.
Located on the rugged Central Coast on Hwy 1 in San Luis Obispo County and often referred to as "Slabtown" in the late mid-1800s, Cambria was officially founded in 1869. All manner of industry passed through this sleepy, oceanside village during this time; fishing, mining, dairy and beef ranching, lumbering and farming, to name a few. Today Cambria's primary industry is tourism.
MO started the trip in Ventura when we got on Hwy.33 from the 101 Fwy and headed northeast to the Ojai area. The 33 is a favorite of local motorcyclists and even those not so local, for its well-maintained road surface that will take you from tree-lined canyon carving to panoramic views once you reach its sandstone peaks. Then it brings you gently down on the other side to the valley floor by way of wide, high-speed sweepers at which point it becomes a flat, rather bland run of some 20 miles until it connects to Hwy 166. With elevation changes ranging from several hundred feet to over 4000 feet, this stretch of road will have you in awe as you look back on the snake you just rode.
If this all sounds a bit too rustic and 'lodgey', don't worry, it's all done in good taste.
Picking up Hwy 166 from the 33, we headed east to the little, one stoplight town of Maricopa, where we again pick up the 33, heading north thru a dusty or rather oily town by the name of Taft. The rather flat countryside is littered with hundreds, if not thousands of oil wells. It's a surreal scene to say the least. But it's over before you know it and one of the greatest roads known to many Californian motorcyclists is just over the horizon. Highway 58 seems as if a cycling enthusiast specifically engineered it. With a surface better than most racetracks, this road is like an undulating black ribbon stretching across grassy, rolling hills occupied only by the cattle who reside there. Up and down, left and right, tight and slow, fast and wide this road is something that every motorcyclists within at least a couple hundred miles needs to experience. There's even a section that is the equivalent of a motorcycle roller coaster ride. A series of short, rolling dips will have you coming out of your seat if you carry the right speed. No matter if you ride a Goldwing or a GSXR1000, this road will please anyone who takes the time to seek it out as an alternative to droning down the freeway.
Eventually the roller coaster ride evens out into smooth, gentle turns once the 58 nears the 101. From here we opted to enjoy the relative ease of just cruising down the freeway as we took the 101 North, passing through Paso Robles and eventually came to Hwy 46 and headed west. Where the 58 is a veritable sportbike play ground, the 46 west of the 101 is a cruiser's delight, with its long straights, mild sweepers and gradual climbs and descents. Once you come to the end of the 46 you can go no further as it makes a "T" with the Pacific Coast Highway.
Turn north on the 1, also known as "PCH" and you're only a heartbeat from Cambria.
The village of Cambria is on the east side of Hwy 1 but a vast majority of lodges, motels and inns reside on the ocean side of the road, taking full advantage of the Central Coast views. Our stay for the night would be at San Simeon Pines Seaside Resort located on Moonstone Dr. Moonstone Drive picks up where Cambria ends or begins, depending on your path of travel. Opposite Hwy 1 from the north end of Main St., this little piece of pavement has the Pacific Ocean directly to the west and roughly a dozen motels and inns to the east. San Simeon Pines Resort sits at the northern-most end of Moonstone Dr.
Originally built in the 1950's, this resort maintains much of the look and feel of that time. Surrounded by towering pine trees and just a hop, skip, and a jump from the beach, this resort is probably one of the better bargains in the area, especially during their off season. The off-season starts in early September and extends to the end of June, with the usual holidays blacked out. We were able to procure a cottage for just $99.00 a night. Don't be fooled by the words "off-season." Typically, off-season prices are lower for a reason but in Cambria's case one of the best times to visit is during the late fall months. The weather is at its mildest and room availability is good even at the hot spots, a little-known secret that a local clued us into. The "cottages" are spacious inside with a king size bed and their very own fireplace. But don't expect the full effect of your favorite log cabin memories, as the fireplaces aren't supplied with wood but instead are supplied with compressed wood discs and some odd, flammable goo as a starter.
Not exactly quaint but once the fire is going you tend to forget and appreciate the fact that you didn't have to go out and gather your own wood after a long day of riding.
Speaking of long days, ours was coming to an end so we went back into Cambria proper for dinner. Located at the end of Burton Dr., The Brambles is a favorite of visitors. What was once a home built over 100 years ago is now an eclectic and cozy restaurant. Upon entering the foyer you're struck by what seems like every conceivable inch of wall space being covered by a clock of one type or another. I asked the host what time it was, but he didn't seem to get the joke. You truly feel as if you're dining in someone's home as the large fireplace warms the main dining room and your eyes scan the walls to take in the odd selections of paintings and art.
Dinner prices average around $18.00. The beef stroganoff is made with tender slices of filet and the sauce is rich and creamy. If nothing else, for $21.95 this entrée is filling. The sand dabs were reportedly quite tasty as were the apple wood smoked pork chops. All portions were large and sufficient especially considering the propensity for restaurants in resort towns like this to give the patron less for more. The best way to top off this reasonable meal is with one of their Nutty Milk Chocolate martinis. It's nothing short of a liquid desert and no more expensive at $9.00 than any number of price gouging watering holes found in greater Los Angeles.
The next day was filled with two of the more popular tourist attractions in the area; watching elephant seals bask in the sun on the beach and touring the famed Hearst Castle. Just a short drive up the coast from Cambria you'll come to a stretch of road that is no different than any other along this relatively deserted portion of highway, save for the dozens and dozens of cars parked in a tiny lot overlooking the ocean. Upon further inspection, you'll discover that Mr. and Mrs. Tourist have stopped for a reason. Hundreds of elephant seals blanket the shimmering beach to laze around in the mid-day sun or take a quick dip in the surf, all for your enjoyment.
If your senses are keen, you may even catch two male seals slamming their huge bodies together, in what is the most upright position they can muster as they assert their dominion over the dozens of females on the beach. You've seen this scene play out on any number of cable TV nature shows but you don't have an appreciation for how large and agile these sea mammals are until you're up close. It's an incredible experience not to be missed.
The other different but equally amazing sight to see is Hearst Castle located in San Simeon, just miles from Cambria. Built by publishing giant William Randolph Heart beginning in 1922, it took almost 28 years to build and has over 160 rooms. Hearst was an art lover from early childhood and he carried that love throughout his life. The castle is full of precious art and artifacts from around the world. Used not only as display pieces but also as practical implements of everyday life, the main building is a storehouse for incredible testaments to virtually every creative period in the history of man.
The oldest is an Egyptian stone carving situated on the main terrace and is allegedly as old as Moses. The main building, aptly dubbed as "Casa Grande" by Hearst, is so big that at least three separate tours are required to see all of it; five tours in all will give you the big picture. Hearst Castle was given to the State of California in December of 1957 and is now a state run park. Tours range in price from $20-30.00 per person depending on the time of year and reservations are highly recommended. Although it's now the property of the State Parks of California, the Hearst Corporation still maintains an interest. And even though William Randolph Hearst died some 54 years ago his empire remains to this day and encompasses a vast number of businesses and endeavors.
After completing our tour of Hearst Castle we ambled back down Hwy 1 and headed back to Main Street in Cambria to find Santa Rosa Creek Rd at the southern most end of town. Though it's riddled with twists and turns, don't expect to be setting your best times aboard your highly tuned sportbike. At times, this old road is as narrow as a goat path. Once it leaves town, it gently winds through some residential farmland with cattle-lined fences. Eventually, it carries you down into a small valley, along side a winding creek. Ultimately the road gets narrower, rougher, and steeper as it coaxes you out from the lowlands and doubles back on itself to bring you to its highpoint where you can stop for a moment and look out across the valley from which you ascended to see the ocean glimmering and the grandeur of the mountains. Nary a straight stint is found on this road of antiquity until you're less than a mile from Hwy 46 where it crosses and continues south to eventually meet Hwy 1 again. Santa Rosa Creek Road is not to be forsaken anytime you find yourself in the area. As our daylight was all but gone at this point, we opted to get back on the 46 and head east to the 101 South where we begrudgingly worked our way back to reality.
Alas, our time in this quiet little village was far too short. With towering pines ominously surrounding it to the east and the Pacific Ocean hugging it tightly on the west, Cambria is a place that any traveler, motorcyclist or not, must turn off from their journey along the Central Coast of California and stop if even for only an hour or two. There are pleasant shops, intimate restaurants, quaint cafes and fresh, crisp ocean air to rejuvenate you before you return to your traveling ways.
|Fonzie's GeoCaching Sidebar|
| So, yeah, "Fonzie" does the weirdest things when left alone. Due to the amount of time spent searching for the proverbial "needle in a haystack", this is a game I usually just play by myself while traveling, as not everyone else has the patience. I'm talking about a hide-n-seek game currently called geocaching. According to geocaching.com, "Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards." At minimum, the finder can register the find in his/her online account at Geocaching.com to count finds and share the experience in the cache's online log. |
The word Geocaching broken out is GEO for geography, and CACHING for the process of hiding a cache. A cache in hiking/camping terminology is a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.
A cache can come in many forms but the first item should always be the logbook. In its simplest form a cache can be just a logbook and nothing else. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. The logbook can contain much valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information. A logbook might contain information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache.
Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket will contain the logbook and any number of more or less valuable items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the founder or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy. Remember, if you take something, its only fair for you to leave something in return. Items in a bucket cache could be: Maps, books, software, hardware, CD's, videos, pictures, money, jewelry, tickets, antiques, tools, games, etc. It is recommended that items in a bucket cache be individually packaged in a clear zipped plastic bag to protect them.
Basically when I visit a new city or town or want to stretch my legs on a long drive, I plan ahead and have a few lat/longs scratched down on a piece of paper from which to start. After stuffing them into my handheld GPS, I juggle the distance between myself and the cache with attempting to park as close as possible - often easier with a motorcycle of course. Add a little bit of patient searching for the "needle" and I may or may not be able to put another notch in my virtual belt. Adding to my count of caches, geocoins, benchmarks and george dollars... if you don't understand everything don't worry, you'll learn in time.
If you go, here are the routes taken: 33, 166, 33, 58, 101, 46, 1, Santa Rosa Creek Road, blah, blah, blah... Basically part of this ride, then back down the 101 to LA to home.