But, before I wrap up and reflect on the trip, let me give you the run-down of our last day, Monterey to Pasadena. We had gorgeous driving weather down the 1, but also encountered much more road construction that we expected.
But Hearst Castle blew us away. Oh, the luxury! Oh, the to-hell-with-it spending that went into the place! Oh, how I wish that I was able to be a guest of Hearst's just once! I think I would have chosen the Celestial Suite as my guest room--yes, guests had choice over where they'd like to stay.
We followed the 1 down to Cambria then cut across and up towards Paso Robles on the 46. I didn't take any pictures of this stretch because I was too busy dreaming about living on a ranch there. This was my ideal environment: rugged hills spotted with oak and madrone. I need my sun and could never live in a forest, but I love trees, especially trees with the craggy attitudes of oaks and the lovely auburn movie-starness of madrones. At Paso Robles, we headed south on the 101 to Buellton and Solvang. We found another farmers' market in Solvang (yes, more blackberries!), bought ourselves a cardamom-laced pastry (to have for breakfast the next day) at a local bakery, and headed to The Hitching Post in Buellton for dinner. You may recognize the name of the restaurant--it was made mildly famous by the movie Sideways. It is where Miles and Jack meet Maya. You see Miles sidle up to the bar and order a glass of Highliner Pinot Noir before downing many bottles with Jack over dinner. I didn't know about the restaurant before the movie, but I didn't go there because of it. I recommended it to ECG because I predicted (after reading about it in several guides) that it would sate ECG's passion for good beef and I'd be able to have a glass of something wonderful. Both of those predictions came true. I ordered a half rack of baby backs: smoked, not sauced, they were the perfect sum of pork and fire. ECG ordered a steak that turned out to be much more than 15 ounces of beefy goodness. I drank two glasses of spicy-juicy Syrah, and ECG took advantage of the designated driver program the restaurant has. ECG agreed not to drink, and therefore received a free smoked mushroom appetizer and free non-alcoholic beverage. The mushrooms more than compensated for not drinking, as they were smoked over the oak grill, then tossed in a pan and sauteed with garlic, and finished with the same Syrah that I drank at dinner. They are served with crusty slices of bread to sop up the wine-mushroom-juice. When I asked ECG over the meal what his favorite part of the trip had been, he looked at me seriously and said, "These mushrooms."
The two glasses of wine put me into half-snooze mode for the two or so hours left in the trip.
We finally made it home after 9pm. Two attention-hungry cats greeted us at the door, and the simple joys of being home began again.
This trip proved to be one of the most memorable of my life. I feel like I learned so much more about the state in which I live, about the relationship between me and ECG, and about how to drive in difficult circumstances. I've learned about packing, finding bathrooms, and taking good pictures. These lessons blur in my mind because they are so recently acquired, but I know with a few weeks of reflection, I'll be able to clarify specifics. And when I do, perhaps I'll post them here. But in the meantime, let me show you what a car that has traveled 2641.6 miles at an average of 31.7 mpg looks like.