Aug 21, 2011

Road Trip Day 1

I had initially planned to leave San Francisco on 8/16, but I discovered later that Body Language was going to be in town on the 18th. I delayed the start date by a few days, which ended up being perfect, since it gave me a few days to rest for the drive after a hectic weekend.

Viv most generously hosted me, since I already moved out of my apartment. Hence we were well rested as we left on the morning of the 19th. It was a few hours after I had originally planned to leave; I had brought the car in for an oil change the day before, but they ended up replacing the water pump and a valve gasket as well.

We left Burlingame around 10am and took a quick stop for breakfast in Santa Clara, and then drove on to Carmel. It was cloudy all morning, but fortunately skies were clear by the time we got to the beach. We passed through the town pretty quickly, but took some stops to admire the beach and some of the fancy oceanfront properties. We also stopped by the Carmel Mission, which I had never noticed before. It had a satisfying historic feel to the museum in the restored building. Definitely worth visiting on a trip to Carmel.

Next down the route was Big Sur. We only stopped a few times for photos, but the beauty was constant on a wonderful drive. We stopped for a moment also in San Simeon to see the elephant seals. I had read about them ages ago, but it was the first time seeing the blubbery giants. I could see that it wasn't really worth a trip just for the seals though. They mostly just lie there, and scratch themselves lazily occasionally.

We also made a quick stop at the Hearst Castle visitor center. It was almost 4, and the tours were already done for the day. I didn't realize that the visitor center was miles away from the actual buildings and you could only see it from afar, perched at the top of a distant hill. It did give the estate a sense of grandeur, but wasn't really interesting enough to make me want to repeat the drive.

The next stop was supposed to be the Griffith Observatory in LA. It was hard to tell what the quickest route would be. We stopped off at the Main St. Grill in Cambria to grab a quick late lunch. Sinyee had recommended it almost 10 years ago, and the fat dripping BBQ tri-tip sandwich met expectations.

We took the route through Paso Robles, passing the vast field of oil wells at Lost Hills. It was a bit of a detour, and took about an hour and a half to get back to the I5, but the route was mostly straight and clear. We made it to the Observatory around 9, an hour and a half late for sunset, but the place was still open.

You have to drive past the Greek Theater on the way up. Death Cab for Cutie was playing that night, but the concert had already started and there wasn't too much traffic, though the Observatory parking lot was packed.

After checking out the view of LA, we swung by Son of a Gun for dinner. It was featured in Bon Appetit the previous week, but surprisingly there was no line when we arrived; I guess we were late enough. The smoked mahi dip wasn't bad, but far less interesting than the Bon Appetit article might have suggested. It reminded me of a tuna sandwich filling, with the addition of a nice smokiness. The alligator schnitzel, crisp and thin, exceeded expectations. There was no fishy flavour, it could have been mistaken for tender pork. The lobster roll compared favorably to the one I just tried a few days before at the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, though this one was about 1/3 the size, and 1/3 the price. I preferred the "naked", mayo-free version at Old Port, but the SoaG roll was better toasted and buttered.

The lime frozen yogurt though, was fantastic. Hands down best $5 dessert with the sweet meringue and graham crunch on the side. I have to say this was better than the dessert at Benu the night before, and that meal cost 4x as much (though that meal was also great).

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