Give thanks for Pacifica's cool, coastal summer climate, because it is hot and dry just about everywhere else in California, as Karen Rosenstein (see her snapshot above), yours truly, and several dozen other railfans discovered this weekend on an unusual Amtrak Coast Starlight train detour via Niles Canyon, Altamont Pass, San Joaquin Valley, Tehachapi, Mojave, Palmdale, and Soledad Canyon (nonstop from Oakland to Los Angeles). If you ever get a chance to take this trip, or just ride any regular route, train travel is the only way to go (in our humble opinion).
Ride Amtrak’s San Joaquin train to Merced and catch a cushy YARTS bus (three-point seat belts!) to Yosemite National Park. Check out this mysterious boulder (above) on the Valley Trail, near the John Muir millrace site. I call it Bear Head Rock. Can you see why?
We live in an area rich with resources of the non-mineral variety (though you might find pirate or smuggler booty stashed in a cave or buried in the sand somewhere along this scenic coast of ours). The San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a series of handsome brochures on places to see and things to do here: Film Locations; Beaches and Parks (but three jeers for omitting Linda Mar and Sharp Park beaches in the text and the maps!); Sports and Recreation; Public Transit Guide; Graves, Ghosts and Ghouls. Do yourself a favor and get the whole set. Call 650-348-7600.
Another great halfway stop between S.F. and L.A. is Tachi Palace, an Indian casino resort in Lemoore, about 20 miles off I-5 but worth the detour. It’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cotton fields. Just look for the big wolf logo on the sign. The spiffy new hotel rooms have all the usual amenities (high-speed Internet, flat-screen TV, king-size beds) for as little as $69 tax-free on weeknights, plus an enormous outdoor swimming pool and, of course, a gambling casino. There are plenty of dining options. For me, the best deal is the snack bar’s healthy chicken breast panini, small chef’s salad, and bottled water for $9.
Whether or not you like to eat meat, Harris Ranch is a great halfway stop along the I-5 drive between the Bay Area and Southern California. Both carnivores and vegetarians will find plenty to like on the menu, including Harris Ranch-sourced meat, poultry, produce, and dairy products. Check out the menus and recipes:
After a hearty meal in the restaurant, diners enjoy browsing the old-time country store, with Harris Ranch fruits, nuts, baked goods, specialty and novelty items of all kinds, and of course—fresh cuts of Harris Ranch beef. If you want to really take it all in, stay overnight at the adjoining Harris Ranch Inn. In the morning, I recommend the huevos rancheros. Or my name ain't Juan Mayburrito.