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California Road Trip April 2023

Los Angeles Santa Barbara Road to Yosemite Yosemite Paso Robles Frisco

Thursday, April 6: Los Angeles
We arrived in LA in the evening, picked up our silver Toyota Camry and joined the throngs of other silver Toyota Camrys in LA traffic. We made it to our Airbnb and after some effort and a few obscenities, we finally got in. The next day Kathy had us scheduled for a bike tour of Los Angeles. Thank God the bikes were ebikes. We climbed a lot of hills.
The tour started in Beverly Hills and on into Belair. We stopped at Greystone Mansion, built for Edward Dohene, who came to LA looking for gold but found black gold instead. He was the first oil baron in California. Five months after the family moved, his son Ned was found dead with his friend, in an alleged murder-suicide. This dope had hand-delivered a 100K bribe to Albert Fall, the Secretary of Interior, to allow drilling in the Teapot Dome, the scandal bringing down the Harding Administration, and almost landing old Edward in jail. Eventually the house was sold and ultimately ended up being owned by the city of Los Angeles.

at Greystone Mansion

Kathy posing at Greystobe Mansion

Kathy at Greystone

Couldn't resist giving Dirty Girl a plug. Big project in Westwood, if I recall correctly.

Dirty Girl

We left Beverly Hills and rode through Westwood and into Brentwood, former home of a certain Buffalo Bills running back. On the approach to Santa Monica, Kathy wanted to do a cute photo of us with outstretched arms, appearing to touch the trees on either side. Mike was a little less enthusiastic, especially as he saw the line of cars waiting for us to finish this. He looks like a jack-in-the-box that just popped out. The beach can be seen in the distance. Very nice real estate.


We arrived in Santa Monica after some easy pedaling and looked mahvelous.

Santa Monica

We biked along Santa Monica Beach, eventually arriving at Venice Beach, where we had lunch. Definitely more honky-tonk. We bought some cool potted plants from a girl who had a t-shirt that said "Make Venice shitty again", I guess a desperate call to slow down the inevitable gentrification that is coming.
We headed inland to see the Venice Canals, the brainchild of some goofy developer decades ago.

Venice Canals

Continuing on our bike trip, we arrived at Marina Del Rey, the site of our Airbnb. These seals are a fixture here, and they get these docks free of charge.

After cycling 37 miles, Kathy wanted to see the Hollywood stars. Mike found a true star to pose with.

Woody Woodpecker

We had a romantic dinner at Geoffrey's Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Didn't see any celebrities, however.

Geoffrey's Malibu Restaurant

The two lovebirds at Geoffrey's.

Geoffrey's Malibu Restaurant

We left LA and made the relatively short drive to beautiful Santa Barbara to visit Larry and Debbie Rehr, who recently moved there from Weston. We miss them in Weston, but it was a joy to visit them in Santa Barbara - they are terrific hosts. This was a nice walk they took us on, along the coast, and through the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Smiths and Rehrs

It was a cloudy, kinda misty day, but still absolutely beautiful.

Smiths and Rehrs

A gigantic firepit, decorated by the local street artists.

Smiths and Rehrs

If you want gelato, this is the place, according to our son, Benjamin. It was a great recommendation.

Smiths and Rehrs

The legendary "Lil Toot", who even has a children's book written all about his adventures.

Smiths and Rehrs

We bid farewell to the Rehrs and hit the road, bound for Yosemite. Our first stop was the strange little town of Solvang, which has a heavy Danish heritage, believe it or not.

Solvang Sign

Weirdly enough, the 19th of 21 Spanish missions built in California was built in Solvang. It is called Santa Ines. Here is Kathy strolling through one of its gardens.


Not sure how the Danes got here, but they built a lot of Danish pastry shops.

Solvang Pastry Shop

Mike enjoying a giant pastry from one of the pastry shops.

Solvang Pastry Shop

On the road to Yosemite. We stopped at Grover's Beach for a bite to eat. Interesting that they still allow cars to drive on the beach.

Grover's Beach Dunes

There were very cool dunes facing the beach, covered with beautiful spring flowers. No dune buggies allowed, however.

Grover's Beach Dunes

Hitting the open road. The unnaturally green landscape is extremely unusual and was a result of the biblical rains California got in the Spring.

Unnaturally Green

Here's Mike enjoying the view.

On the way to Yosemite

We arrived in Yosemite and checked into Tenaya Lodge which is a lovely facility that was just outside the park. There was several feet of snow on the ground, but we came prepared, for a change. There were redwoods everywhere.


We took a guided tour of the park. El Capitan is hard to miss; it was the subject of the documentary "Free Solo." Add that to my bucket list. The rivers were running pretty hard and the waterfalls were spectacular.

El Capitan

Standing in front of a full river in the valley.

El Capitan from valley

The snow melt intensified over the week after we left, forcing closure of the park for a while. We timed it just right.

Kathy in front of River

Just another beautiful view in the valley.

On the Bridge

Kathy looking intrepid.

Kathy with Waterfall

Oh those clever Smiths. Here is Kathy catching a waterfall.

Kathy catching waterfall

Here is numb nut Mike drinking a waterfall

Mike drinking waterfall

The next day, we took a hike of the large Sequoia grove near the south entrance to the park. The snow was deep and was treacherous in places. Mike fell on his ass twice. Here we are standing in front of the Iron Throne

Iron Throne

These trees are gigantic. They are not as tall as the redwoods, but are much wider, so their overall volume is greater.

Grizzly Giant

Here's Kathy with her walking stick. She is very proud of this find.

Kathy and Grizzly Giant

This sucker's still alive, despite the genital mutilation.

Drive Thru Sequoia

One last beautiful stand of sequoias.

Kathy in Sequoias

We left the snow in Yosemite and made our way back south a bit to the lovely town of Paso Robles. The natives are very adamant about pronouncing it totally gringo-style - passo robels but I refused. We stayed at the Canyon Villa, which is a beautiful inn owned by Wills and Kath Carter. Wills is a brother of Jeff, who we know from Westport. Wills was the chef at the Playboy Mansion for 30 years, and is fabulous. Unfortunately he signed NDA's (that is truth) which are still in force, so he can't talk about his time at the Mansion, even when we got him drunk.

Canyon Villa

If the Canyon Villa didn't work out, we had this place as a backup.

Rancho Mucho Trebajo

The driveway leading up to the villa. In the background is an example of the Paso Robles wine country.

Canyon Villa Driveway Kathy

Further up the driveway

Canyon Villa Driveway Mike

Wills made breakfast every day. This is an example of a pastry he threw together.


We only visited a few vineyards. One was Denner, on the recommendation of our friend Charlie Tarzian, who knows the winemaker. He is very young, and very talented, and has a couple of his own labels.

Denner Sign

We visited Daou, mainly because it is in such a beautiful location on top of a hill with vistas 360 degrees around. I can't remember if we had any of their wine.

Daou vista

Another view from the Daou winery.

Daou Mike and Kathy

We went to the beach to see the fun-loving, frisky elephant seals and this is what we got. The adult male elephant seals were gone, and the females and young-uns spent their ENTIRE day lying on the beach and sleeping. Their major activity was splashing sand on themselves.

Elephant Seal Beach

As you can see from the sign if you zoom in, we are in the molting season. This must require a lot of energy.

Elephant Seal Beach Sign

Here is a video of an elephant seal party on the beach.

If you want to see what is going on at the Elephant Seal Beach at any time, the state of California has posted 2 seal-cams. They can be accessed by clicking here.The page will open in a new tab.

After our elephant seal visit, we drove to the Hearst Castle. It is interesting what one can do with an unlimited budget.

Hearst Kathy on Steps

This is the famed Neptune pool, frequented by the hollywood stars of the 30's and 40's. You can swim in the pool if you want; there are 4 events per year, 20 guests each. It costs a $500 membership to the Hearst Castle Foundation or some such thing, and $950 for the swim. I imagine there's a long waiting list.

Hearst Kathy in front of pool

This is the Roman pool. Apparently there are over a million individual tiles. You can swim in this one too, but there are fewer events. The cost is the same, I think.

Hearst Indoor pool

One of the walls. Over-the-top ornate.

Hearst Wall

This is the main house, where the Hearst Family would have stayed. There are 3 sumptuous guest houses where the guests stayed.

Hearst Main House

Last but not least in our Paso Robles, central coast non-winery trips was Morro Bay, home to Morro Beach, Morro Rock, and the town of Morro Bay. We took the (actually, pretty dangerous) hike to the rocky beach for a photo op. Here Kathy found some sure footing to pose in front of the base of Morro Rock.

Morro Rock Kathy

Mike in front of the beach. Morro Bay wraps around to the left.

Morro Rock Mike

Morro Bay has a fairly large population of sea otters, which is considered an endangered species. They were hunted to near-extinction in the 1800's during the California Fur Rush.

Back from our tour and all cleaned up for our last night in Canyon Villa. Wills cooks on Sunday nights, so Kathy was ready with her camera to take pictures of food.

Mike and Kathy on Couch

This is the whole group staying at the Villa. Everybody but Kathy and Mike were part of a group that meet annually. We just did our own thing, which was perfect, as far as Mike was concerned.

Seated for Dinner

The main course. Absolutely everything is made from scratch. Everybody was required to bring 2 bottles of wine that they had acquired during their winery visits and talk about them. Nobody was too serious, thank goodness. The reps from the winery we chose just happened to be there, so they did all the talking, lol.

Main course

The only sort-of disappointment, according to Mike, was the way-too-healthy dessert.


Alright, on the road again, heading to San Francisco. Much of the coast highway was closed, due to damage from the massive rains and flooding during the spring. We were able to get to Monterey from the inland route, and took the 17-mile drive around the Monterey peninsula, to gawk at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Mike bought a cap at the Pebble Beach clubhouse. One day we'll get back to play the course - it is a public course, believe it or not.

17Mile Kathy

One of many beautiful views from the road.

17Mile Nice View

We arrived in San Francisco at night and checked into our hotel in Union Square. Kathy insisted on walking to Fisherman's Wharf which was a much longer walk than we anticipated. It was too late to try to figure out the trolleys, so we trudged up and down hills until we got there. And the whole place was closed! The only restaurant we found was a pizza joint that had the worst pizza I've had in years. We took an Uber back to our hotel.

Our nephew John Flanagan was kind enough to take a day off from his busy immigration law practice to give us a walking tour of the city. We grabbed a train in the Chinatown Rose Pak Station. There are 2 massive stainless steel screen sculptures by the local artist Yumei You. She specializes in paper-cutting art, and 2 of her pieces were translated into steel somehow. John and Mike are standing in front of "Dance of the New Year."

Dance of the New Year Yumei You

Mike and Kathy in front of church

Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill. Very cool WPA era project with lots of WPA-artist paintings and murals inside. The patroness was a huge supporter of the volunteer Fire Department, and the rumor began that the tower was designed to look like a firehose nozzle. Unfortunately, not true. We took the stairs to the top and got 360-degree panoramic views of the Bay area.

Mike and Kathy in front of Coit Tower

We took the famous Filbert Steps down Telegraph Hill. Extremely cool, funky neighborhood that seemed to be occupied by stupidly rich hippies. John is stopping to smell the roses.

Walking down Steps

Kathy making here way down the steps.

Kathy Walking down Steps

We made our way to the Mission District, where John took us to this absolutely fantastic building. It is the Women's Health Center. It is the first ever women-owned and operated community center. The building was purchased for $535,000 in 1971. The center has spent the last 52 years advocating for social justice and gender equality.

Kathy at Women's Health Center

The mural extends around to the other side of the building.

Different view of Women's Center

We loved the Mission District Street Art. Lots of very high-quality stuff. Every political view presented.

Street Art Tunnel

This would be an example of left-of-center art.

Left Wing Murals

This is more of an example of Mike's worldview.

Fuck It

John was craving pupusas, which are flatbreads from Honduras and El Salvador, so we boarded a Boston Tram Car and headed out. Apparently, SF has been restoring cars from different cities and fitting them for their system. Many, including this one are quite beautiful.

Boston Tram

On the tram heading across town.

Mike and Kathy in Tram

Looks like we found a good spot. Hoy se come pupusas (today we eat pupusas).

Pupusas joint

After our tour, we returned to the hotel for drinks and a nap. Even John thought that was a good idea. We drove over to Berkeley and took a tour of his law school alma mater, then had a nice dinner. Many thanks to John for a great day.

The next day, Kathy and Mike were on their own. Golden Gate Park seemed like a good place. We visited the museum there. They had an Ansel Adams exhibit with a few Ansel Adams photos and a lot of wannabes. Pretty boring. Next we went to the Japanese Gardens which were beautiful.

Mike in Japanese Garden

Kathy posing in front of the pagoda.

Kathy in Japanese Garden

No Japanese Garden is complete without a Koi Pond.

Mike at Koi Pond

Back to the pagoda for a couple's photo.

Mike and Kathy in front of Pagoda

Next, we took the ferry to Alcatraz. Here is Kathy behind bars, being held in captivity by a Master Lock.

Kathy Behind Bars

The prisoners had just about the best view of San Francisco anywhere. It sure looks possible to swim there. But it isn't.

SF view from Alcatraz

We left San Francisco and headed north to Sonoma to visit our dear friend from Connecticut Martin Jones and his wife. We got a nice tour of wine country and stopped at a few wineries to drink a little wine and enjoy the beautiful views.

Smiths and Jones at Winery

Jones at Winery

Martin took us to play at a beautiful links course on the Pacific Ocean. It was windy and cool - perfect conditions for the links. Martin and Mike posing on the teebox.

Martin and Mike on Teebox

Beautiful classic links course. Kathy and Martin in the fairway.

Kathy and Martin on Links

Kathy swinging for the fences. Note the puffer jacket with hood. It got a wee bit cool.

Kathy mid-swing