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Side-roading it in San Luis Obispo.

Side-roading it in San Luis Obispo

Every Thursday, San Luis Obispo throws a party. Higuera Street is blocked off near the mission, and dozens of local farmers truck in crates of apples, zucchini, almonds, and eggs. By 6 P.M., downtown spills over with people buying, selling, eating, browsing, or just swapping gossip.

As the bounty pours into the market, the county of San Luis Obispo pours into the city of San Luis Obispo. Stop to sample a slice of an Arkansas Dark, and you wind up talking rare apples with a See Canyon farmer. Buy a plate of ribs from a curb-side barbecue, and you taste the long tradition of Paso Robles' ranches. Pause to examine a fresh albacore, and your mind's ear hears the clangor of fishing boats on Morro Bay. The year-round street party celebrates the many rural pleasures of the region.

Taking our cue from the weekly market, we invite you to experience another festival: the county itself. With a population of only 180,000, it remains uncitified. Using our map (next pages), you can explore detours along the county's highways and back roads, sampling the season's harvest. If you're visiting the county's most famous tourist attraction, Hearst Castle, detour to a few wineries, or walk along an empty beach on State Highway 1. If you're heading south or north on U.S. Highway 101, stop to shop for antiques in a small town. With fall crisping the air, grape and apple harvests are in full swing, the fishing season is open, and the inland ranchlands have cooled.

Start at the heart

Since the 1772 founding of its mission, the city of San Luis Obispo has been the region's focal point. Cupped in a valley, it has vistas stretching down tree-lined streets toward bright gold hills.

The city can serve as a jumping-off point. Many moderately priced motels cluster along Monterey Street; from U.S. 101, exit southwest on Monterey. Heritage Inn is a bed-and-breakfast, with prices ranging from $55 to $73; write to 978 Olive St., San Luis Obispo 93401, or call (805) 544-7440. And there's the colorful Madonna Inn, where every room has a theme. Rates are $70 to $170 per double; call 543-3000.

Your first detour can be to the California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly, on the city's north border. Campus tours leave the administration building foyer every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10 and 2. Park in the adjacent visitors' lot; obtain a permit inside the foyer to stick on your dashboard.

As you'll see, Cal Poly is no ordinary campus. Here, you're likely to get a whiff of cattle on the fall air: rodeo is an intercollegiate sport. Students learn by doing --at the campus nursery, chicken farm, or printing press. Their jams, milk, and a very popular salsa are sold at the student store; summer hours are 9 A.M. to 10 P.M. Mondays through Saturdays. (Longer fall hours start September 22.)

Short hops to small towns

For stops off 101, your best bets are the small towns, listed south to north.

For Central Coasters, Nipomo means Jocko's, a plain restaurant with brands burned in the paneling and huge steaks on the plates. Meals include beans and biscuits, and homemade salsa to smother everything in. Exit east on W. Tefft Street and go 1 mile to N. Thompson Avenue; Jocko's will be on your left.

Atascadero possesses a strange monument to one man's dreams. In 1913, entrepreneur Edward Gardner Lewis came from the Midwest to create an ideal community. One grand structure was built--the domed administration building that stands in a park like a lost but dignified elephant. It houses the Atascadero Historical Society Museum, open 1 to 4 Mondays through Saturdays.

Atascadero Lake County Park, 1 mile west of 101 on State Highway 41, offers barbecues, picnic tables, a playground.

In tiny but gracious Templeton, you can stay at Country House Inn, a bed-and-breakfast standing tall and proper on its lawn. Doubles range from $60 to $70. Write to Box 179, Templeton 93465, or call (805) 434-1598.

Paso Robles has a historic hotel, the Paso Robles Inn (1103 Spring Street). First built in the 1880s, the original burned in the 1940s, then was rebuilt in Spanish colonial style with a fountain-splashed garden; there's a generous Sunday brunch. Prices are about $50 per double room. Call 238-2660.

In San Miguel, Mission San Miguel Arcangel, founded in 1797, is a worthwhile stop. The present mission was built in 1816 and remains thoroughly authentic-- neither neglected nor overly restored. Exit east on Mission Road and follow signs.

Along the coast: beaches, towns

The summer fog season has passed, and days remain warm along the coast. In the south, State 1 goes through a knot of beach towns--Pismo, Halcyon, Grover City, Oceano--that overflow with vacationers in the summer.

Pismo State Beach allows vehicles. Beware; if you want a quiet walk, keep north of Grand Avenue in Grover City. And don't bother looking for clams; most of those remaining are under legal size.

Avila Beach, at the bay's northwestern end, has the luxurious San Luis Bay Inn; rates are $114 to $134 per double; call 595-2333.

Morro Bay is the heart of the Central Coast's fishing industry. Boats dock right behind Giovanni's Fish Market (1001 Front Street). Out front, a battalion of pelicans awaits one false move. Also along the waterfront are Finicky Fish (1219 Embarcadero) in a boat-shaped building and Pacific Shellfish (1235 Embarcadero), with a dinghy of live crabs at the door. The markets are generally open daily 9 to 6, and will pack fish in ice.

Two sportfishing outfits offer full- and half-day trips year-round, twilight trips until the end of daylight-saving time. Albacore run August to early November. Virg's Fish'n (1215 Embarcadero; 772-2216) runs six boats out of its tackle shop; one window is collaged with snapshots of satisfied fisherfolk. Bob's Sportfishing (845 Embarcadero; 772-3340) runs two boats. Call for prices and schedules.

Sleepy Cayucos, with its long beach, has numerous small motels along its main street, Ocean Avenue. They're not luxurious --but good bargains for families.

Continuing north on State 1, the hills seem to roll straight into the sea. It's a landscape that attracts artists. Tiny Harmony and artsy Cambria are popular with gallery browsers.

Farther afield: ranch country

Working ranches abound in the county, perhaps forming its most characteristic landscape: stretches of grass grazed by dairy cattle, dotted by oaks, and punctuated by barns. But east of U.S. 101 is where ranching thrives. Most recent growth is in horse breeding and sales.

While most ranches are open only to serious horse buyers, you can get in the spirit by heading to farm supply stores, where the tenderfoot can buy a Stetson or red jeans. All are open daily except Sundays. In Paso Robles, Redi's (1340 Spring Street) is a huge warehouse of a store, with long shelves of children's cowboy boots and racks of casual and dress wear. Battered hats worn by local riders hang on the back wall.

In San Luis Obispo, head for Farm Supply (go south 3 miles on State Highway 227 to Tank Farm Road). Amidst the grooming tools and books on hog raising, you'll find an assortment of Western wear. Burris Saddlery (1033 Chorro Street), a small, crowded store redolent of leather, has supplied saddlebags and hats since 1940.

For those who want to ride the range, there's Cholame Creek Ranch Family Camp (Box 8, Cholame 93431; 463-2320). It offers week-long sessions, emphasizing horseback riding, through September.

Paso Robles-area wineries

Tracing its roots to the missions, the county's wine industry includes 28 wineries. Start your tour at Templeton Corner, where you can taste wines from all of the county's wineries--many of which do not have tasting rooms. Pick up picnic supplies at the upscale deli at 590 Main Street in Templeton, open 10 to 5 daily except Monday.

Thirteen Paso Robles wineries are open for tasting, most from 10 to 5 daily; you can pick up a complete list at any one. York Mountain Winery, founded in 1882, is the oldest; 9 miles west of U.S. 101 on State 46, exit north on York Mountain Road.

Several wineries dot State 4l east of Paso Robles. Martin Brothers is gaining a reputation for its Nebbiolo red wine, unique in the state. Eberle Winery prides itself on its Chardonnay; sip at picnic tables or in the airy tasting room. Next door, at Estrella River Winery, you can climb a watchtower to overlook the entire area.

Two gentle roads for apples, scenery

See Canyon is known by many San Luis Obispans, but when you enter it, you feel you've discovered an oak-lined secret garden. A major apple-producing district since the early 1900s, the canyon is home to a half-dozen orchards. Here you can buy apples not found in supermarkets, such as Arkansas Dark and Splendor. On weekends, come early to avoid crowds.

For a 13-mile loop drive through the canyon, exit U.S. 101 west on San Luis Bay Drive and drive 1 1/2 miles; turn right at See Canyon. At 3 miles, look for Daisy Dell Apple Ranch, 70 years old and run by a young Cal Poly graduate, who can describe the merits of rare apples. At 4 1/4 miles, you'll find Ruda's Apples, run by a descendant of the farm's founder.

Beyond the apple farms, the road begins to climb; you'll hit a mile of smooth dirt road, then come to Prefumo Canyon Road. At to top of this, look out over Morro Bay and the chain of volcanic rocks marching inland toward San Luis Obispo. Continue down to Los Osos Valley Road; turn right, returning to 101.

Santa Rosa Creek Road is popular with cyclists and runners: drive slowly on weekends. Five miles in, the McCall Farm's white Victorian sits against the hills. You can pick apples in the orchards and buy pumpkins at the stand; if no one's around, you drop your payment in a bucket. Hours are 9 to 5 daily except Sundays.

Across the road, Linn's Fruit Bin (9 to 6 daily) does a brisk business in pies and jams. Eating warm apple pie at an outdoor table, warmed by a fall afternoon's last rays of sun, seems truly heaven.

Photo: Both street party and shopping spree, San Luis Obispo's weekly farmers' market takes over Higuera Street

Photo: At doorstep of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Mission Plaza is the city's park-like center

Photo: Rocky San Simeon State Beach has a northern California look-- unlike that of the broad, sandy strands only 50 miles south

Photo: Back roads unfold charms of San Luis Obispo County, a 4-hour drive from San Francisco or L.A. This is Santa Rosa Creek Road

Photo: Cow encounters are frequent on Cal Poly campus, where learning takes place in fields as well as classrooms

Photo: Stacks of hats and rows of boots at San Luis's Farm Supply Store furnish ranch hands with appropriate attire

Photo: Casting a line, afternoon fisherman tries his luck from one of two public piers at quiet Avila Beach. At pier's foot, the Seaside Cafe serves soft, juicy tacos made with the catch of the day for lunch and dinner, daily except Tuesdays. The county's coast is full of variety; travel State 1, and you sample Pismo's sunbather-busy sands or San Simeon's chilly shores

Photo: Old storefronts from the late 1800s characterize Branch Street, Arroyo Grande's main drag. Exit east from U.S. 101 to see other historical remnants--a suspension bridge, a gift shop in an old parsonage--or attend the annual harvest festival, September 26 through 28. The town is also home of Burnado'z, a rich ice cream popular throughout the county; the original store is at 100 E. Branch. Along 101, other towns can also be excellent places to stretch your legs

Photo: Champion stallion Czaprak works out at Creston Oaks Arabians, a breeding and sales facility 8 miles east of Paso Robles on Creston Road. Visit between 8 and 5 daily to learn more about Arabians and watch them exercise in corrals or in the area's only horse swimming pool. Driving our map's orange loop, you'll pass many similar ranches, part of a growing industry around the county

Photo: A toast to the harvest comes from winemakers at Edna Valley Vineyard, south of San Luis Obispo, in d region gaining renown for its Chardonnays. You can visit Corbett Canyon Vineyards, 7 miles south of San Luis on State 227, or Chamisal Vineyard, 6 miles south of the city on Orcutt Road. The county's other wine region surrounds Paso Robles; map's purple route includes 13 tasting rooms

Photo: On the McCall Farm, 5 miles east of Cambria, the whole family helps pick pumpkins for their stand

Photo: Blanket-spreaders try wine made with grapes grown behind them. Martin Brothers winery welcomes picnickers

Photo: Hooked just 5 miles away, fresh salmon are morning's bargain at Giovanni's Fish Market in Morro Bay

Photo: Unusual apples, such as crisp, tart Pearmain, are grown in See Canyon's decades-old orchards

Photo: Too many to name: Young's Mesa geranium nursery, in Arroyo Grande, offers 800 varieties

Photo: Vat of olallieberry jam is tested by Cal Poly food science club, trying out some industrial techniques. Jam and other products are sold in campus store
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1986
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