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Family time at Disney Anaheim and the Original Road Trip

Home. Home again, after an 860 mile road trip from Monterey to Disneyland in 100 hours during a California June heat wave. We hit 103 degrees two hours out of Monterey driving through Paso Robles wine country last Tuesday afternoon and 106 near the same area yesterday as heavy smoke from a wildfire about 20 miles east of San Luis Obispo, blackened the sky over Santa Margarita, the source of the Salinas River.

This trip was family time where my computer stayed off and emails ignored. My parents, two sisters, Kelley and I gathered in Anaheim from around the west coast to spend some days together in the Disney Resorts.

Disneyland celebrates its Diamond jubilee in 2015 celebrating 60 years of theme park entertainment in southern California. Locational proximity has meant Disneyland is a part of our family’s lifetime of memories. My mom is a southern California girl and my dad is from San Francisco. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary six months ago. Disneyland was a part of our childhood family experience for my two sisters and me. My wife, also San Francisco born and Monterey Peninsula raised has lifelong memories of Disneyland trips. We are blessed as a family unit to still have the opportunity to experience Disneyland again and we still enjoy the park entertainment after all these years.

Disney 60

I overheard a woman, probably in her 40s, on the Disney shuttle bus from the parking lot the other morning exclaim, “My daughter is 13 years old, but in Disneyland I am younger today than she is.”

Family time together is a precious opportunity to reconnect, create new memories, update life stories and retell old stories from our shared past. We did a lot of travel together as a family over the years.

Oral tradition is a beautiful experience to help get forgotten details correct. Like when my mother told me it was a train trip from Los Angeles to Oklahoma where a man took me through the train car to have me tell people the longest word in the world. I was five years old in 1965 and I had learned to say ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from the Mary Poppins movie and soundtrack record album we had. My older sister and I remember it as one of the first records we had in the house.  Apparently, I was the entertainment for the long train ride across the southwest desert.

My family always felt we could rival National Lampoon’s vacation movies with our travel adventures and mishaps.

Kelley and I spent time in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction on Town Square, near the Disneyland park entrance. There is a ‘History of Disneyland’ exhibit in the rooms. On one of the walls had photos of Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys and Michael Jackson. Most of the Americans displayed were names we recognized, but neither of us recognized the Sherman Brothers. The Sherman Brothers wrote the movie song scores for Mary Poppins, including Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

More on Disneyland to come.

This rest of this piece is an overview of our California road trip.

California Central Coast Tourism Original Road Trip

The California Central Coast Tourism marketing association promotes itself as ‘The Original Road Trip’. That is a bold claim to make. I live in Monterey on the California Central Coast. Only in the past month I learned the word motel was coined in 1925 when Arthur Heineman opened the Milestone Mo-Tel in San Luis Obispo, California. His ‘motor hotel’ or motel was built in San Luis Obispo, a town 135 miles south of Monterey, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in what was typically a two-day road trip in those days. Perhaps California’s Central Coast can credibly claim ‘The Original Road Trip’ moniker.

Our first hotel night was at Radisson Santa Maria, a place at the small regional airport in a California Central Coast city where there are real spacemen and still real cowboys, and of course women too in both professions. Santa Maria, California is known for its tri-tip BBQ in what was traditionally cattle country for the state. Santa Maria reviews.

Each year I see more grazing land turned into vineyards in this area of Santa Barbara County near the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Besides beef and wine, Santa Maria is also a residential community for Vandenberg Air Force Base, America’s west coast missile outpost.

I took a detour from Highway 101, the primary north-south coastal route to drive Highway 1 from Santa Maria to Gaviota, California with a pass-by of the Vandenberg Air Force Base gate entrance.

Vandenberg AFB

Click on the image to see a large screen image. The far right emblem of the four emblems on the wall is Air Force Space Command.

I have previously written there is no coastal access between Gaviota and Santa Maria. That is incorrect. Highway 1 runs through Monterey and along the Big Sur coast, but the coast road does not run along the California central coast for about 80 miles from Morro Bay to Gaviota in the south when highway 101 returns to the coast. Avila Beach and Pismo Beach are the two primary places along this stretch of coastline with coast access. Most of the coast is inaccessible by land due to Vandenberg AFB restricted access. Here is an article I found on the Cojo-Jalama Ranch, a privately owned section of the coast south of Vandenburg AFB that sold for $155 million in 2007.

South of Santa Maria and Vandenberg AFB, driving through the small town of Lompoc on Highway 1 through the hills and valleys dotted with live oaks, I saw the Route 246 sign showing beach 12 miles away. We were on a mission to reach Anaheim before the afternoon highway gridlock and could not take the time to detour to the coast from Lompoc.

The unincorporated area of Surf, California has the Surf Amtrak Station. Surf is known for being the location of two fatal Great White Shark attacks in the past five years. I now have a couple of new destinations on my California Adventure list, along with a trip to Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, on the beach west of Santa Maria.

Highway Oaks

Highway 1 north of Lompoc, California.

Seagulls are Still White in Santa Barbara

Last month on May 19, the Refugio Beach oil spill stained the coast north of Santa Barbara. Once we reached the coast at Gaviota, we pulled over for a view of the Santa Barbara County coastline.

Gaviota Beach

There is a scenic view spot just south of Gaviota Beach. A trail leads to an old highway bridge, now abandoned and we walked on the bridge to see the beach below. The sand did not look oil stained and dozens of seagulls still showed white feathers. No dead animals seen. The only sign here revealing signs of the recent oil spill are the oil containment barriers on the beach below the Amtrak rail line bridge in front of the steelhead trout fish ladder.

Gaviota Old Highway Bridge 

Good thing I stopped at the Vista Point on Highway 1 south of Gaviota Beach since the next 14 miles of coastline were posted as a no stopping zone. We passed dozens of trucks and vehicles along this stretch of coast with oil spill cleanup workers. That was Wednesday last week. El Capitan State Beach reopened Friday. Refugio is expected to reopen in about three weeks. Yesterday there were very few trucks alongside Highway 101 on this stretch.

Refugio Beach

Refugio State Beach is south of the point seen in this photo on a light fog morning north of Santa Barbara last week. Five pelicans soar along the coast and the kelp forest is seen offshore.

We stayed on the coast for our day’s drive going in and out of the coastal fog on a morning in the upper 60s. We hugged the coast and picked up Highway 1 in Oxnard to drive all the way to Santa Monica and stayed cool. Highway 101 through the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County had temperatures in the 100s. Once we headed inland in Los Angeles to Anaheim, the temperature climbed into the 90s for the afternoon drive from LA into Orange County.

Green Grass and High Tides Forever

Driving through Malibu, one would not know there was an extreme California drought. I spotted a gardener at a Malibu estate watering the palm trees with a free flowing hose shooting a stream of water into the air onto tree top palm fronds. Pepperdine University on the coast in Malibu has an immense green lawn beside Highway 1 that would make a west coast golf course envious. In Beverly Hills brilliant green grass dotted the front of nearly every home.

Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills and one of the less green lawns.

We finally reached Anaheim and our hotel for two nights at the Marriott Anaheim. I paid $110 for a hotel stay certificate with two nights and breakfast included in the Super Silent Auction I wrote about last December. The breakfast buffet alone for two mornings at the Marriott Anaheim would have cost $110. We stayed at the Quality Inn Placentia-Anaheim for 8,000 points on our third night at Disneyland before driving home yesterday. The Quality Inn was fine for our need of a bed after staying at Disneyland until midnight Friday. That was a $35 hotel night at the rate I purchased Choice Privileges points in the U.S. Travel Association Daily Getaways in April 2015. Three hotel nights for Disneyland cost about $200 all-in. I will write hotel reviews on those hotel stays in coming days.

Southern California traffic is an endurance test I can only take two or three times a year. Our central coast from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz is a small town paradise we appreciate more and more every time we endure the overpopulated SoCal roads environment.

Back in Monterey with the cool coastal fog beginning to burn away as I sit here beside the fireplace, I think of Pink Floyd, and the song Breathe Reprise from Dark Side of the Moon album, a song we heard again on the radio this road trip, “Home. Home again. I like to be here when I can.”

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