For 16 months, Carolyn and I didn’t travel farther from our house than 25 miles, and then only for vaccinations. Last weekend, we drove to Los Angeles to see our son Yosi. The trip reinforced the marvels of California—and seeing them at ground level.
We overnighted in Pismo Beach, halfway to L.A. Highway 101 doesn’t offer the awesome beauty of Highway 1, which winds along the Pacific through Big Sur, but it beats the speedier but plain I-5 cutting through the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. More on I-5 coming.
South of Salinas, famed for its lettuce fields, we stopped for lunch in Gonzales, a small, trim, attractive town. We’d done that before at a restaurant occupying an old bank building. It’s now Luigi’s. We ate inside where customers were well-spaced, the staff masked. We enjoyed our salad with grilled chicken.
As always, we loved Pismo Beach—walking along the Pacific, strolling the pier, a sunset dinner on the deck of the SeaVenture Beach Hotel—wonderful salmon and a great chardonnay.
Waze routed us to State 154 to avoid traffic. The two-laner, which we’d never driven, wound through green hills and past Lake Cachuma before hitting 101 again at Santa Barbara. The northern route east took us through Simi Valley to South Pasadena.
We stayed at the Arroyo Vista Inn, minutes from Yosi’s house in Highland Park. A large home built on a hill in 1910, it was converted to a bed & breakfast in 2006. The Arroyo Vista is as charming as it proved convenient. Our room looked north to the San Gabriel Mountains.
Spending time with Yosi, who we hadn’t seen in person since well before the pandemic, and meeting his housemates highlighted our trip. We enjoyed exploring his neighborhood northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The area hosts much of the working-class sector of L.A.’s LGBTQ community. An art garden served as an oasis.
California’s diversity was well represented at Saturday’s Farmers market in Pasadena. People of all ethnic backgrounds matched the wide variety of vegetables, fruit, bread and meat the area produces. Back in Highland Park, dinner at Hippo offered great pasta and delicious, light cheesecake.
We occupied hours on Sunday revisiting the nearby Huntington Gardens, Museum and Library. Originally a ranch purchased in 1903 by railroad baron Henry E. Huntington, it features 130 acres of themed botanical gardens. The cactus in the desert section were in bloom! The art galleries are running the show “Made in L.A. 2020,” mixing traditional art with cutting edge.
Takeout dinner from a nearby Taiwanese restaurant, Joy, closed out a fabulous weekend.
Returning home on Monday, we drove up I-5. It’s not my favorite interstate yet it provides a deep appreciation of the heft of California’s agricultural industry. Hundreds of miles of highway reveal huge fields of produce that feed much of America and the world. At a rest stop, I took a moment to look around and appreciate the endless beauty, treasure and promise of California, which takes so many forms.
It certainly would be easy to write about the challenges facing the Golden State. They are many. But this road trip gave us the opportunity to keep the scales and our emotions balanced.
Quoting my mother Blanche: “You have to take the good with the bad.”
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