After getting off our flight at LAX, we quickly cleared immigration (fingerprinting and all), picked up our bags, and then it was through customs and out into the warmth and smog of LA.
We headed straight to the rental car shuttle area. At LAX you have to be picked up by a shuttle bus for the car company you are using and transported to their lot, which can be a decent distance from the airport.
We were using Hertz, and didn’t have to wait too long for the yellow bus to come along (bit like a school bus!).
At the car lot J’s name was listed on a board with the number of the bay our car was in. Turned out we had been upgraded to a seven seater Chevy Suburban. Lots of space for luggage!
We loaded up, sorted out which buttons and levers did what and were off. There are boom gates and guard booths at the exit and you have to show your driver’s license before they let you out.
Our first night’s accommodation was booked in Paso Robles, a town which can be reached in four hours from LA if you take the direct route and don’t stop. We took the scenic route with a few stops, so it took us seven hours.
We wanted to drive up the coast as much as possible so where we could we stayed on Pacific Coast Highway 1.
Our first stop was in Santa Barbara, where we had a walk up and down the main street (very pretty town) and got a coffee and cold drink at Starbucks (say what you want about Starbucks but it is very handy when travelling).
We looked at a few shops and then stumbled across a Coach outlet store. Hello! And not only were there great discounts to be had on pretty bags, there was an extra 30% off everything in store. So how could I say no to 70% off this little beauty???
A bit more wandering around and it was back in the car. But not for long. The next stop was just outside Santa Barbara at an In-N-Out restaurant. J is a big fan of the burgers at this chain and was keen for me to try one. At 12:30 on a Saturday the place was pumping.
Ordering is done at the counter and you are given a number and then you wait for it to be called out to collect your food.
We both had a cheeseburger and fries.
A pretty decent burger, especially for the price and much better than anything from any burger chains in Australia. The fries were a bit undercooked but edible with a heap of salt on them.
Lunch finished it was back in the car and North again. Spending more time on the 101 than the 1.
The next stop was at Pismo Beach, a bustling seaside town. We went for a brief walk around and had a look at the beach.
The Splash cafe apparently does a good chowder, this line was at least twice as long as what I could capture with my camera.
Back in the car for the final stretch to Paso. We got to the Best Western Black Oak just after 4pm. Our first three nights in California was based around me seeing places that J visits regularly for work, and Paso and this motel were first on the list.
The lady on the counter was very friendly and we were quickly checked in.
It was still very hot, and after a long flight, followed by a long drive it was good to jump in the pool for a quick swim.
We got ourselves sorted and headed to the downtown area of Paso. But first we stopped at a Rite Aid for some road trip supplies. I love how cheap things can be in America and water is a good example. A slab of 24 x 500ml bottles of water, inc tax, was under US$5. I also grabbed some snacks. I didn’t have as much time to wander around and check everything out as I would have liked so I didn’t get anything too exciting.
J and I both love Goldfish (J later got me onto the extra cheddar flavoured ones, awesome!), the trail mix was good but the chips ended up in the bin, they were not good.
After our shopping expedition we had drinks and a snack at Villa Creek (pronounced Vee-ya Creek). J eats here on most of his trips to Paso, and he especially likes Taco Tuesday when all tacos are $2 each.
We sat at the bar and I started with a raspberry margarita.
It may not have been Tuesday but we still had to have some tacos (Carnitas Tacos, Papaya Mustard Seed Salsa, Creme Fraiche).
They were excellent!
I then had another great cocktail, though I can’t remember what is was!
Before we slid off our barstools with tiredness and too many cocktails we walked around to Artisan for dinner.