Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bears, pea soup and windmills

San Luis Obispo, CA – Today’s journey has brought us further north along the California coast, to about the halfway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The town’s name refers to Saint Louis of Anjou, the bishop of Toulouse, and was founded in the late 1700s by the Spanish. Before their arrival, the native population of Chumash fished here, and hunted bears.

We saw quite a bit of the Pacific Ocean today as we traveled along State Highway 101. Early on, we could see the dim outline of oil rigs on the horizon as well as the ghostly shape of some of the Channel Islands – or maybe it was our imagination, fueled by the tourism literature I read as we drove along.  It was still hazy out there, so we couldn’t be exactly sure.

Lots of seaside homes with terra cotta roofs clustered on the hillsides of Santa Barbara, with tall palm trees swaying in the breeze. A few miles further on, we turned inland toward the towns of Buellton and Solvang. Our Pacific Coast Highway guidebook (kindly loaned to us by our friends Scott and Mary Jane) highlighted two restaurants in Buellton; one is called the Hitching Post, where scenes from the 2004 movie Sideways were filmed, but it was closed. 

The other, Andersen’s Pea Soup Restaurant, was open and had space nearby where we could park the RV and car, so we stopped there.  The soup was great, but the sandwich and salad less inspiring. We enjoyed the Scandinavian look of the place and it had a little gift shop where you could pick up Danish pastries and cheeses.

Denmark was the theme of the day in Solvang, a couple of miles further along.  The town was founded by Danish immigrants, who recreated the look of half-timbered cottages and windmills from their homeland. Driving through the main street was like being transported instantly to Europe.  There was even a reproduction of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue by the side of the road.

Rolling hills and valleys predom-inated for the rest of the trip, and we passed dozens of vineyards where rows of grape-vines striped the contours of the land.  There was evidence of the deep drought that has been plaguing California, too – dry, grey fields and trees that were either limp and wilted or dead.  Water is a precious resource here, and the crops respond visibly to its presence. There were strawberry fields and other vegetables growing in irrigated areas, but right next to them were brown, dry hillsides.

When we stopped to refuel, the woman at the cash was excited because she’d heard that rain was in the forecast for tomorrow.  Even on the TV weather reports, the announcers seem to apologize for sunny weather and express hope for wet weather – quite the reversal to our way of thinking!  It will be interesting to see whether those brown hills green up after a few inches of rain.


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