After a bit of quick calculation we determined that with the cost of fuel, especially in California, a rental car could pay for itself as the Jeep isn’t exactly an economy car. So, after work on Friday, I paid a visit to Gwen at the local Budget office and decided that the trip would provide an excellent opportunity to review the latest offering from Mazda.
On Saturday morning, just as the sun cleared the eastern horizon, we headed west into the desert. With a focus on destination we made good time even though I avoided the interstate highways as much as possible (surprise!), and made it to Carlsbad by early afternoon.
I am confident that an hour or so could be shaved from my time for the trip as a result of new found knowledge. That, however, is dependent on the crush of traffic that turns some highways into vast parking lots in southern California.
As this was a milestone celebration, I splurged and surprised my dearest friend by having reservations at the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort a mere block from the beach on highway 101. If your looking for some place very special, and the budget allows for a bit of self indulgence, this should be your destination.
The staff is professionally polished and personable, there is attention to detail in regard to meeting the needs of guests, the grounds are stunning, and the location is ideal. In addition to being close to the beach there are a wide array of fascinating restaurants within walking distance so once you have set up camp there is no need to battle traffic or search for parking, always a source of frustration in southern California, especially along the coast.
After getting settled into the motel we headed for the beach with our trusty folding chairs. My dearest friend and I are desert people but there is something very therapeutic and relaxing in watching the waves break on a beach as a late afternoon sun baths the clouds in ever changing shades of red, the grey waters with streaks of silver, and the sands with gold.
By the time we returned to the motel, and prepared for dinner, dusk had given way to dark but the pulsing sense of vitality, of life, made manifest in the ebb and flow of the crowds on the sidewalk, the bicyclists racing to and fro, and the traffic set against a backdrop of lively cafes, flowers, and lush landscapes, was most invigorating. So, armed with adequately stimulated appetites we set out to find something unique for dinner.
That something unique was the delightful Armenian Cafe. The music (a hint of which is on the website), the food, dining under the palm trees as an ocean scented breeze danced across the patio, and the company of my dearest friend all combined to ensure this was a most memorable evening.
Even though we knew our adventurous celebration was a short one, we refused to let it dampen the mood on Sunday morning. We took a walk in the morning mist and discovered the Daily News Cafe for a most wonderful patio served breakfast.
Again we scored a winner. The food was superb, the service excellent, the price moderate, and the ambiance was memorable.
After breakfast we set our sights on home and headed out for more exploration on our new favorite highway, California 78. From Carlsbad to Escondido it was pure California freeway – a race track carved from stunning landscapes.
However, from Escondido to Brawley this highway, though heavy with traffic in places, was a true delight. Beautiful rolling hills laced with vineyards, a roadside amply sprinkled with produce stands, valleys where orchards mingled with native grass and scrub oaks, a highway that flowed with the contours of the land, stunning vistas, and then a breathtaking sweep from pine shaded hills to the stark deserts that border the Salton Sea were but the highlights of the drive.
The bonus was the charming little villages where the past and present seemed to flow together seamlessly. As an example, in historic Santa Ysabel the century old mercantile building and the relatively modern supermarket with electric vehicle charging station, as well as the Julian Pie Company store, presented a rich tapestry that incorporated the present, as well as future, without one infringing upon the other.
Then there was historic and colorful Julian. That, however,is a story for another day.