The Beach at Refugio

Generally speaking, when I go to Paso Robles, I usually just get a car and drive straight there. This time I decided to make a real road trip out of it. While I love the trip to Paso, my usual route had become rote.

I’ve wanted to visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for a while and decided to make that my first stop.

I didn’t realize at the time, of course, that I had signed up for a lot more adventure than I had planned for.

The Wineaux Guy™ and I commiserated over the route I should take. Should I take the southern route that would put me smack in the middle of L.A. rush hour or should I head north on the 58 and then meander my way westish on the 14, spending a lot of time in the middle of nowhere? We agreed that the latter would certainly constitute a more adventurous trip, and since it was I who would make the final decision, I felt that would be the best way to go. I mean, after all, what’s a road trip if you can’t be on an actual road? He felt sorry for me but knew that I had to do it.

I took off on Friday morning at about 4:45 AM. It was considerably later than I had planned to leave, but I had spent way too much time cussing at iTunes for not properly syncing to my iPhone, a feat I had done zillions of times before. Apparently they had made some changes during the last update, and I was not alone in my cussing, according to the support forums. However, I managed to sync something, and just needed to leave.

I had rented a Chrysler 200 from Enterprise and was basically satisfied with the car. However, I found out that the very deceptively simple-looking cruise control function was fiddly and gave me fits – and worse – during the trip. When I stopped for gas at Barstow, I opened up the glove box to see if there was a manual in there. Well there was. Unfortunately, it was on a CD, still nicely shrink-wrapped. What use was that?!?

The cruise control was acting exactly like iTunes had acted earlier; something that I was very used to doing was being contrary and difficult.

I fought the law…

In over four decades of driving, I have received exactly three tickets. That is, until Friday. While sailing up Highway 14 through Salinas and fiddling yet again with the cruise control, I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror.  I quickly looked down at my speedometer.



He guided me to a safe spot where I could pull over with no problems. Yes, it was off the freeway. I gave him my paperwork and mumbled through the whole ordeal. Young CHP Officer Tait (was he even OLD enough to be doing this??) was apparently quite entertained about my dilemma. After all, I had been trying to set the cruise control so that I wouldn’t get a ticket! Dammit!!

I hate the Chrysler.


After that little adventure, the trip was mostly uneventful, at least as far as running into the law was concerned. On the other hand, the reasons why I love California was brought back to me as I continued driving. Talk about knocked out gorgeous scenery!

I had set my iPhone on a dash-mounted holder. Every now and then I would snap a photo through the Camera app.  Driving through Northern Los Angeles county and into the Central Coast was a treat to the eyes.  Despite my little run in with California’s finest, I had a smile on my face during most of the rest of the trip. I can’t wait to show off the slideshow!

OF COURSE I had to stop at the beach. The beach at Refugio is a California State beach and is as rugged a shoreline as anything you’d see up in Monterey County. I closed my eyes while standing at the shore and just let the breeze caress me. Okay, so it had to caress me through my jacket because it was cold as hell. Okay. I know hell isn’t cold, but you know what I mean. But my desert-seared lungs loved the cool salty ocean air. I inhaled and inhaled and inhaled.

A couple of old guys (way older than me!) had been surfing and smiled at the fact that this desert rat was glorying in the ocean so much. “The ocean keeps you young,” one of them winked.

Wait. Was I being flirted with and didn’t realize it? Huh.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

The Lompoc Wine Ghetto is located outside of the city of Lompoc. It is not a ghetto, per se, but it is in an industrial park. Actually, it is located in a couple of industrial parks. There are several wineries scattered in different units throughout the parks. And when I say wineries, I mean wineries. There are steel tanks, oak barrels, and even concrete tanks in the units. You can feel the proximity to the ocean which makes temperature control a moot point.

They all have tasting rooms and source their grapes either from their own vineyards located Way. Out. There. or from vineyards located throughout the south Central Coast. By concentrating in a single location, they are assured of more visits.  It’s a good plan, and the “Ghetto” is a wine trail!

Unfortunately, because of time constraints I was able to visit only two wineries (the pourer at Stolpman was out sick), Jalama and Palmina. Ampelos was crowded with people who had driven up in some gorgeous sports cars (BMW, Jags, Caddies, ‘Vettes, etc.) I had the checkin time to my apartment looming and had to reluctantly cut my visit short, looking regretfully and longingly at the other wineries. My budget is doubtless happy that I had to leave; I bought several bottles, including a sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé from Jalama and a Nebbiolo from Palmina.

I will write more about the wineries when I return home. I have lots of notes!


Hanging at AsuncionI finally arrived in Paso Robles about 4:30 Friday afternoon. Yup. Your math is right on. That was a 12-hour trip. Other than the trip that Rod and I took up to San Jose and San Francisco a few years back, this is easily the longest road trip that I had done. At least to date. I’d do it again!

However, I was absolutely exhausted. Twelve hours behind the wheel of a less than cooperative car, ten minutes of trying  and failing to charm my way out of a ticket, an hour so of wine tasting, and then on the road again had taken its toll. I had originally planned to either go out to dinner or join in one the many winery activities, but I was way too tired. I took my friend Mark’s advice and stopped at Asuncion Ridge downtown tasting room where I hung out with Teresa and sold several bottles of wine to innocent tourists. Then I went to Marv’s Pizza joint next door, ordered a mini, and returned to my apartment.  I don’t even *do* pizza!

I’m getting ready to prep my camera gear for the Festival and for a seminar I’m attending.

Stay tuned for more!



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