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  • Ruth Ann Angus

Road Trip Central Coast California

Travel has changed since the onset of Covid 19 and we here on the Central Coast of California feel it especially because this is a tourist area. Road trips are the most common way that people come here, and road trips are one of my favorite methods of travel. If I miss anything due to the pandemic, it is the opportunity to jump in the car, get a good CD playing on the tape deck, roll down the windows and let the breeze run through my hair as I ride on down the road. As cabin fever began to set in, I got to thinking that a good road trip was what I needed, but how to do that when I can’t chance staying at motels or eating in strange restaurants. Every now and then locals decide to do a staycation so how about a stay road trip. Why not? After all there is much to see and do right here at home and the road beckons.

Leaving Morro Bay, I drive the road across the back end of the estuary, where a murmuration of shorebirds flies over the marshy pickleweed, to one of the last real country roads, Turri Road, named after an early settler. As soon as you turn onto this windy two-lane road you are transported away from civilization into vast stretches of rangeland dotted with cattle grazing on the hillsides. It’s only a few miles long and brings the traveler from Morro Bay over to Los Osos Valley Road that eventually leads to the city of San Luis Obispo. Taking it slowly as it twists and turns and climbs and falls, the road is a delight. Views of the back end of Hollister Peak loom into view, one of the Seven Sisters, volcanic plugs that dot the Central Coasts landscape, looms into view. At the end of the road lies another historic ranch where fields of flowers are grown for seed. During spring and fall there is a spectacular display of blooms.

The road to San Luis Obispo contains acres and acres of farmland with a variety of vegetables growing in rich black dirt. A few of the farms have farm stands offering produce in season and eggs from local chickens. I zip along enjoying the views and just before entering the city turn left onto Foothill Blvd. and then left again onto O’Connor Way to travel back to the coast. Enjoying the grassy hillsides with cows grazing I pass the Monastery where Camaldolese Benedictine Monks live and eventually into the back entrance to Camp San Luis Obispo, where the National Guard trains, and Cuesta Community College. Scenic Highway One leads me west again to Morro Bay and as a view of the monolith Morro Rock comes into view. The Rock, as it is affectionately called, stands 576 feet straight out of the water, isolated there eons ago as shifts of land masses drove the Sisters north and west from miles to the south.

I decide to drive through town on Morro Bay Blvd and stop at Shine Café and pick up a vegetarian to go plate to take with me as I continue down to the waterfront. Once there I drive to the end of the Embarcadero, don my mask, and grab my take-out meal to eat at a picnic table in Tidelands Park where I sit and watch kayakers paddling in the inner bay as larger moored boats turn this way and that with the tide. I see a little snowy egret stomping his bright yellow feet in the mud at the edge of the water until he finally catches something. Out farther is a sea otter floating on his back and pounding either a clam or crab on the rock he has perched on his chest. This way he can break open the shellfish and get himself a morsel to eat. Sea Lions are barking and basking on a floating dock in the center of the bay and flocks of shorebirds fly overhead.

Morro Bay boasts one of the highest numbers of migratory birds throughout the year but more abundant in fall and winter. Here too are common loons, great blue herons, white and brown pelicans, eared, horned, and pied billed grebes, osprey, ducks, and a couple of resident peregrine falcons. For bird lovers, this is the place to be.

As I end my day road trip and head home, I am already planning another stay road trip north up the coast on Highway One.

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