There’s a section of highway 1 that I’ve never driven before at the junction with 101 near Lompoc. So this time I take it. The drive thus far has been particularly scenic, but it gets even better. The large hills are glossy green this time of year and the valleys below cradle small farms and cute little farmhouses.
It’s getting late in the day so when I pass a camping sign for a county park that isn’t on my map, I decide to take the risk that it might be full or too expensive and drive the 14 miles through nothing but farmland to check out the campground. Not only is the drive out to the campground even better than the 1, but the view and campground at the end is something so gorgeous and lovely I break out my sketchpad which has sadly never been used on this trip. I love the way the mountains meet the shore and recede into the distance.
I take a long walk on the beach. It’s cloudy and windy - very dynamic. I don’t know if it’s the stormy weather or the lack of other people, but this is the best beachcombing I’ve ever encountered. I even have to break my own beachcombing rule and bring something stinky into my car (a sea urchin with the pins still attached).
In case you are wondering beach is named Jalama Beach and is popular despite or maybe because of its isolation and unadvertised location. During the summer I’m sure it gets difficult to obtain a spot, but it’s not really a sunny sunbathing kind of beach. With it’s velvet sands and foamy crashing waves, this beach begs to be walked and explored. Wandering for hours without seeing another soul.
The next day I’m in Solvang, a small Dutch themed tourist town with more bakeries per capita than anywhere in the world I’m sure. The specialty pastry is called a Kringle, and I didn’t realize until I got there that it’s a pastry shaped like a pretzel and the size of a pizza. Since I can’t possibly tackle that on my own I get a crème filled roll made with the same dough and topped with chocolate. It’s like a cross between a croissant and a doughnut and a pretzel. And it's topped with chocolate. It is as good as it sounds.
From downtown I take a road leading to the hilly winery-filled countryside just to see where it leads. Around one corner is a path to a waterfall. And another mile down the road I pass by a barn selling organic produce. As I pass by I see a sign for pick your own strawberries. I pull over and walk back.
For $2 I pick up a basket and walk out into the strawberry fields. It’s thrilling to spot the ripe ones: so red they flash in your peripheral and defy you to avoid looking at them. There are lots of huge ones, it doesn’t take long to fill the basket. They’ve got a wash basin back at the barn and a picnic table set out in the field. When I bite into the first strawberry it is still sun-warmed. They are the sweetest most fragrant strawberries ever - and that’s saying something for a girl from California who frequents roadside strawberry stands.