The Central California Coast

Born and raised on the East Coast, the distant California coast seemed mythical, this mysticism overlapping with various scenes from cinema, like that of a couple cruising down Highway 1, always in a convertible, the gal with her hair tied back in a colorful scarf, the man inevitably looking like Don Draper's cousin. The open road they traverse is straight out of a car commercial and the views seem too spectacular to be true.

Now that I've lived in Oregon for over three years, I view California on a slightly lower pedestal: in fact, there's no pedestal. Growing up in the '80s, the state was presented as a land of opportunity, sun, Hollywood, and a culture very different than the one I was raised in. In 2015, American culture has both expanded and contracted--the lifestyle dreamed about in California, and since presented in Mad Men, isn't so different from a lifestyle somewhere else, including the Pacific Northwest. It's also clear that California is dangerously close to a total agricultural and environmental meltdown, which lessens the state's mythical appeal.

But, reality aside, Highway 1 is pretty magical, with a caveat. It's not just California's Highway 1 that's breathtaking, but much of the Pacific Coast, including Oregon's. Last year we took a day trip to Cape Perpetua, and I think those views prepared us somewhat for the majesty of Big Sur. Big Sur's coastline is rugged, turquoise, and expansive. On the clear days on our trip, with the right angle, we felt that we could see miles down the coastline. Yet, the fog was just as interesting, especially when we hiked above the marine layer line.

Our journey took us from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Paso Robles, with a flight out of Santa Barbara. Besides the insanely cute airbnbs we stayed at, my most lasting memories of the trip, are of the people: our hosts who seemed fiercely dedicated to preserving the unique culture; a restaurant like Big Sur Bakery that refused to compromise flavor, ethics, or quality despite a more remote location and challenging growing conditions; the unabashed friendliness of the wineries in Paso Robles, wineries that quietly know how good their wine is, but--at least for now--don't cultivate the off-putting ostentatiousness you can find in other wine regions.