Cool Country on the California Coast From San Diego to Pismo Beach

Ed Boitano | Mar 31, 2014, 2:34 p.m.

They came by the thousands. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last. These were young Americans, many of whom who had never lived more than 40 miles from their place of birth. This all changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the U.S. military bases were located in California and the recruits were shipped to an unfamiliar landscape of wide-open spaces, eternal sunshine, crystal-clear ocean waters and groves of citrus trees where you could pick the oranges right from the branch. When WWII ended, many of those who were fortunate enough to return home remembered this paradise found. Winters didn’t mean having to dig your car out of the snow each morning or wearing your heaviest boots and gloves to the factory, nor did it mean sweltering in the summer Arizona heat. Many of these families packed their bags and headed to this promised land of the West—where the beaches were expansive, and the Pacific horizon seemed to say that anything was possible.

This California no longer exists. The citrus groves have been razed and tract homes have taken their place. Factories and industries have flourished on the once inexpensive and seemingly limitless terrain. Southern California, like Arizona, has now become something else, and, like all things in our land, will continue to grow and evolve.

A scenic eight-hour car or RV drive from Phoenix, with seemingly endless attractions along the way, there is still a piece of paradise that resembles this dream of the post WWII years. Although it, too, has changed, this area still remains the closest to reflecting the classic California of that bygone era. It begins on the Pacific Coast Highway, just north of the city of Santa Barbara. It is known as the Central Coast, and my destination of choice for the week would be Pismo Beach.

Must See Destinations on the Road to Pismo

San Diego

Arriving at the Santa Fe Depot, I discovered that I didn’t need a car or even want one. So I ditched my car and headed to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Bus and Trolley, which allows you to be car-free in the city. The purchase of a three-day Day Tripper pass would transport me to all the attractions

A short trolley ride took me to the new Hotel Indigo, in the heart of the vibrant East Village. Once a derelict warehouse district, the East Village redefined itself with the completion of PETCO Park baseball stadium. Now downtown’s hippest neighborhood, the area features luxury hotels, condominiums, residential/work lofts, restaurants and galleries. Who would have thought that unassuming San Diego would become a national role model for urban renewal? The historic Gaslamp Quarter, which spills into (or is part of) the East Village (everyone seems to have a different opinion), is lined with Victorian-era buildings, housing restaurants, pubs, galleries, theaters and shops. For history buffs, the Victorian-style Horton Grand Hotel was once the seven-year home of Wyatt Earp.

The chic Hotel Indigo is the only LEED-certified green hotel in San Diego. Virtually all the building materials used were recycled products, with a design reflecting Fibonacci numbers and plant spirals, creating a harmonious ambience. Creature comforts included spa-like baths, 37-inch flat panel HDTVs, designer furnishings, plush bedding, sleek hardwood floors and complimentary high-speed Internet access. Sitting at the ninth floor Phi Bar Terrace, I gazed in wonder at PETCO Park’s field, even though there wasn’t even a game in process.

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