California: From Monterey to Ojai

California: From Monterey to Ojai
When we go to a special location for a round-trip excursion or for a shamrock, the question always arises about the way we should choose to get there. Most of the time we use interstates or major highways. Oh, God, is this ever boring! But during our last trip to the Monterey Peninsula, a solution occurred to me and that concept created a new department we're calling Roadconnections.

I'm fooling around with Christa in our hotel room in Monterey. "Should we take I-5 for the tenth time or Hwy 1 for the fifth?" I ask. "Or should we add another day and stay in Ojai? This road connection on the map looks pretty interesting," I say, as if I need to convince her.

"Don't talk to me like a politician. You know I'm always ready for an exciting ride someplace new," she replies.

Highway One

The next morning is foggy. Not the right way to experience "someplace new" if you want to see it. But only a few miles later, around the Carmel Highlands, the weather gods relent. The fog rises and patches of blue sky begin to predominate. We know this first part of Hwy 1 very well and with little traffic to trouble us we open the throttles to sweep the wide curves and narrow corners. In Big Sur we stop for a coffee at the Nepenthe Restaurant to optimize our caffeine levels. It's a short stop, of course, because we want to take advantage of the low commute in the early hours. I've never seen this road as empty.

Between Point Lobos and San Simeon we ride over the best parts of Hwy 1: south of Monterey. Finished in 1937, after 18 years of hard labor, mostly from inmates, the road winds along the west side of the Santa Lucia Range. In 1968, the many attractions of Big Sur County were substantially boosted, earning worldwide attention, with the publication of Henry Miller's novel Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.

At W. R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, 65 miles on, we pull over to watch the sea lions. Basking and bellowing, they roll in the sand and end up looking like breaded chunks of Wiener schnitzel.

Not far from here one finds a most interesting West Coast landmark, The Hearst Castle, San Simeon. In 1919, media czar Randolph Hearst decided to build the castle of his dreams and when the last craftsmen left the property 28 years later, an enormous structure stood as the enduring testament to an equally enormous ego (think "Citizen Kane"). Mixing European architectural styles and Hearst's designs, this historical monument now belongs to the State of California. If your plans call for a stay in Paso Robles, do take the two-hour guided tour through the ostentations of a very ambivalent personality.