Ventura Highway

10 03 2008

Yesterday (Sunday, 9th March) I left the Newport Beach area and headed up the 405 to Highway 101 (a.k.a. Ventura Highway). It took about 90 mins to get to Camarillo where the first Factory Outlet mall outside LA is located. The traffic was light (it was the first day of Daylight Saving Time, and I left just after 8:15am), and the weather was fine and dry and sunny after the early morning fog burned off.

I made the Outlet mall in Camarillo just on opening time at 10:00am. Usual stuff – underwear! Some people think I’m mad, but the most comfortable underwear I have ever bought has been in the US, so whenever I come back I stock up on underwear. I can buy the same brands in Australia, but not the particular ‘model numbers’. So now I’m stocked up for another year or two or three!

I grabbed a grilled chicken burger at Wendy’s on the way out of Camarillo. The chicken was nice but the rest was crap. It was small, had those soft sugary hamburger buns so loved by the Americans, and was filled with soggy lettuce and sweet goopy mayo. I forgot to ask them to hold the mayo… The chips that came with it were dry and tasteless and had probably been sitting under the heated lights for too long. And the ‘medium’ Diet Coke was HUGE!

The rolling countryside was green – it’s still officially winter here (spring starts on March 22 or thereabouts). And the drive was fantastic, as always. Once I’m out of the LA area, driving in California is such a delight. Although the speed limit is officially 65mph for most of the time, the actual speed of the traffic varies between 70 and 80mph. But almost everyone is polite and considerate of other drivers – not like in Western Australia where ‘this is MY territory’ seems to be so important to some.

North of Santa Barbara there are many more acres covered in new vines than we saw when we were here only two years ago. And some of the smallish towns have grown a lot – particularly Atascadero, Templeton, and Paso Robles: the ones we know the best.

I landed in Paso (Robles) at John and Suzie’s right on 2pm. They’ve made great inroads on kitchen since we were last here. It’s nearly finished, bar the plumbing, the countertops, and the cupboard and drawer handles. It’s now huge – at least compared to what it was when they bought the place.

Around 3pm, Mark and Sue from Salinas turned up (I’d met Mark in Monterey a couple of years back, but hadn’t met his lovely wife Sue as she in LA at the Jay Leno show that night). We all went down to the local community hall for the Rotary Club’s annual Crab Fest, where we were joined at the table by Joey (female), Keith, and Jim.

Crabs

Well, I’m not a big crab fan, and let’s just say that my opinion hasn’t changed! The company was good, as was the wine (BYO), but the food was very ordinary for $45 a head. Still, it was for a charitable cause, so I guess that made the price a little more palatable. Jim, Sue, and I went back to John and Suzie’s afterwards. Mark had eaten and run at the Crab Fest as he was flying out to China that night, on business, and had to get to LAX by 9pm.

Lots of laughs, more wine, port, and stickies, and dessert (Boston Cream Pie). Goodbyes were said around 11pm, and I hit the hay.

A 1982 (!) sticky with Boston Cream Pie


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