Central Coast Sampler

I was able to convince Gail to take a day off from work and come with me to the Central Coast. We would spend a night in Paso Robles, take a ride on our tandem, check out some Historical Landmarks, and then head to Buellton, where I would ride the Solvang Double Century and she would relax and enjoy a day exploring the local scene.

We had only been to Paso Robles once before (also associated with one of my double century rides), and I was in no shape to do any exploring after that ride, so I was looking forward to seeing the sights. We hopped on the tandem and took a nice 30 mile ride in the hills to the west of Paso Robles. The hills were almost a surreal shade of green, the roads were empty, and we stopped at a very nice winery for cheese and crackers. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

After returning to the hotel, getting changed, and killing the car battery, we were ready to see some Historical Markers. Since we had already done a ride, we decided to drive to see these places. Since we had killed the battery, we had to leave the car running at each stop to ensure that we wouldn’t need to call the road service fellow again. As a result, we only visited a few spots in San Miguel, Paso Robles, and Atascadero.

San Miguel is about 15 miles north of Paso Robles. The Amtrak rolls through here but the freeway (US 101) skirts town. At one time, it was a stopping point for travelers heading north or south in the Salinas Valley. The Spanish missionaries knew a good thing when they saw it and, as a result, established Mission San Miguel Arcangel in San Miguel. Near the Salinas River, Fray Fermin Francisco de Lasuen (the second president of the California missions), founded San Miguel Arcangel on July 25, 1797. The Franciscans evidently took a run at converting the local Salinan Indians and the mission was home base for those efforts.

Just down the road a bit from the Mission was the Rios-Caledonia Adobe (Historical Marker # 936). Just as the missionaries knew that San Miguel was a logical stopping point, Petronilo Rios built this just great example of California’s Mexican-era architecture, a 2-story adobe that was his house, the center of his sheep and cattle operations, and, ultimately, a hotel and stop for the stagecoach route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Given the proximity of the train tracks (i.e., they are within 50 yards of the adobe), it seems that the train might have stopped there at one time, too.

The adobe was really excellent. The locals had been doing a fair amount of restoration on the building itself. In addition, the grounds had a nice collection of local plants (identified in a handy map).  Since the adobe is set back a good distance from the parking lot, I got to stay with the car while Gail did some exploring. The museum was closed (a not uncommon problem with a number of these landmarks…no budget to keep them open for very many hours per week). After Gail had seen the sights, I got a chance to wander around a bit, too. One can just sense how this place was a refuge for hot and dusty stagecoach passengers on a sweltering day in the Salinas Valley.

We headed south from San Miguel to find the only Historical Landmark in Paso Robles: the Estrella Adobe Church (Historical Landmark #542). We got sidetracked a bit when we came upon the Firestone winery’s tasting room. Given that we had landmarks to see and had some miles to drive to get to Buellton to get me signed in for the ride, we decided to take a pass on a tasting, even though both Gail and I have fond memories of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Firestone that we had in Buellton on our bicycle trip in September 2009.

This Historical Landmark is easy to miss. When coming from Paso Robles, it is on the right. The parking lot was closed, so we parked on the road and slid through the gate. The folks that built this church were Protestants and the structure show it: it is a relatively simple building. No real ornamentation on the outside. Just a place to gather and worship. It had to be a pretty lonely existence as a Protestant in 1878, given the mission up the road. The current members have done a nice job of renovating the building.

I was getting antsy and wanted to get on the road to Buellton. Because of car uncertainties, we decided to hit one more Historical Landmark on the way south and to skip the Landmarks in San Luis Obispo on this trip. We swung off Highway 101 in Atascadero and immediately got lost (see my prior post regarding maps and knowing where to go…I still wasn’t following the rules). It wasn’t just my fault: the directions in the guidebook left something to be desired.

Once we got re-oriented, we found the Administration and Veteran’s Memorial Building (Historical Landmark # 958). This relatively new structure was dedicated in 1914 and completed in 1918. It served as the headquarters for the Atascadero Colony, a model community envisions by Edward G. Lewis, who was some sort of visionary that seemed to have a bad habit of getting indited and declaring bankruptcy. The building was built of reinforced concrete and is quite handsome. Unfortunately, it appears that the reinforced concrete didn’t quite stand up to a strong earthquake on December 22, 2003 which resulted in the building being closed (note the chain link fence). Although you can’t see it in the photo, there is a very pretty village green facing the building, where we saw local youth hanging out, smoking, and playing hackysac.

We headed south from Atascadero, taking a risk on stopping the car’s engine in San Luis Obispo so that we could get some dinner (it did start again) and rolled into Buellton in time to get me signed in, in bed, and ready for the ride the next morning…

For more photos, visit my Picasa site.

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