Day 3: Morro Bay Rocks!

Tim and I took our time winding down 101 through the central coast, stopping at the waterfront city of Morro Bay. Approaching Morro Bay, I had these exact thoughts in this exact order:
“This is so cute.”
“That rock is huge.”
“What the hell are those?”
Morro Bay is visually defined by its quaint seaside town architecture, a 581-foot high rock sitting offshore, and three obscenely tall, visually jarring smokestacks that tower over the harbor. The latter belong to a natural gas power plant, which I later learned about from an oddly friendly informational sign out front.

Morro Rock itself is one of nine volcanic plugs that formed along this part of the California coast 23 million years ago. An informational sign (oh, there will be a lot of these. I love ’em!) explained that the rock formed from lava that hardened inside of a long extinct volcano, which eventually eroded away to expose the plug. There are signs all over the rock cautioning one against any attempts to climb it. Apparently a friend of mine has a friend who climbed it once and had to be helicopter-lifted off.

Circumventing this natural behemoth against powerful gusts threatening to blow us away, I concluded,
“Yup. That’s a big damn rock.”
Lazily continuing down 101-S we stopped in the town of Summerland to have an early picnic dinner. I had wanted to find a beachside picnic area for a while, and we stopped here out of the rising need for a restroom (and, by the way, you should never go to the gas station just off the Summerland exit, as the last thing you’d want to see when crossing your legs together and holding them tightly out of need-to-pee agony, is a 25-cent lock on the restroom door).
Restroom crisis aside, the little dog-friendly park we found not only had a terrific view of the late afternoon surfers, but also came with a delightful surprise. Watching the surfers do their thing, I noticed some movement and a little flash of something out of the periphery of my left eye. “Is that…is that?…Yes! A dolphin!” Not just one dolphin, but a whole pod of them, leaping their way up the coastline. I was blissfully entranced by a trail of arching bottle noses and dorsal fins until they finally passed out of sight.
Later that evening we made it safely to Los Angeles, happily easing into a night of rooftop hangouts with our good friends Pat and Laura who live in Los Feliz. A sign in their living room playfully mocked us through the night.

Day 2: Paso Robles, Firestone Walker and Drinking the Galaxy

During my last visit to Atascadero, I took a tour of Firestone Walker Brewing Company. While it was fun just seeing the home of my favorite happy hour beer – the Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale –  I was disappointed by the conspicuous absence of any beer actually being brewed or even bottled, leaving much to be desired in the way of captivatingly detailed tour guide spiels. This time the tour was far from lackluster.
The brewery was in full swing, a-hum with boiling, fermenting, pouring, bottling and labeling. We traveled through the exciting life of their beers from raw hops to the delicious libation we all know and love. Firestone Walker uses only three different yeast strains to make a variety of ales, lagers, and barleywines. My beloved DBA is created using a double-barrel fermenting process. This means its fermentation time is split between the oak barrels of Firestone Walker’s union brewing system (one of only two in the world) and the towering stainless steel tanks behind them. The brewery’s packaging process is no joke either; these machines can bottle 300 bottles per minute and fill up to 60 kegs each hour. At the end I had the unique delight of enjoying a crisp pint of unfiltered DBA, which is only available in their tasting room.
Beer continued to be the theme well into the evening as we took in a showing of Star Trek: Into the Darkness at Galaxy Theatres in Atascadero. No, there was no brown-bagging involved. This was no ordinary movie theater. It had a separate 21+ VIP wing, complete with a bar and lounge area. I took the opportunity to try the Firestone Walker 805 here (pints were only $6.00!). Nachos, popcorn and glasses of beer firmly in hand, we settled into remarkably comfortable oversized seats for the much-anticipated J.J. Abrams sequel. I must say, I was quite impressed by the comfort and cleanliness of this theatre. The movie…well, you’ll have to see it for yourself to find out. Live long and prosper, readers. Live long and prosper.

Day 1: Atascadero (and Why Douglas Adams Would Be Proud)

“Your order number will be 42.”
After finishing a marathon cleaning of our house and packing a spectacular load of gear into the car, we made a quick stop on the way out of Davis at the good ol’ In-N-Out. That the cashier bestowed upon us such a significant number surely means exciting times lie on the road ahead. Douglas Adams would be proud of us starry-eyed travelers too – we didn’t forget to bring our towels.
A friend texted me as we left this afternoon. “Nervous?” he asked. I realized that for once I’m not nervous. I have zero anxiety or trepidation about turning in the keys to my house and hitting the open road for the summer without having it all planned out. Me – an often-times Grade A worrier. Instead, as we rolled out of Davis an incredible sense of relief washed over me. There’s no stress, no doubt – nothing but infinite possibility ahead of me now.
Leaving Davis at 5:18pm, we drove through the Bay Area and down 101-S through Steinbeck territory. (The pastoral beauty of the Salinas Valley’s fertile lands surrounded on both sides by majestic mountains cloaked in mist is uncanny. One day I’ll return to hike the Pinnacles.) Arriving in Atascsdero around 9:00pm, we were welcomed by Lindsay, Bob, and three crazy dogs to a relaxing night of homemade pizza and Game of Thrones.

And now it’s time to sleep for about a day and a half.