Central California:  Pinot, Pinnacles, and The Pacific
Enchanting Big Sur, San Luis Obispo and the Earth Day Wine Festival, April 2008
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We continued our hike past many waterfalls like this along one of the forest canyons of south Big Sur, a pristine and less-visited part of Big Sur that is no less enchanting.

You may have seen giant talking tree spirits in "Pocohantas".  But here in south Big Sur, you can speak them in person.

A gorgeous forest canyon in south Big Sur, hiding its beautiful brooks and waterfalls and ferns from casual passersby.

After our lovely hike, we again continued going south on Pacific Coast Highway.

More of the dramatic meeting of land and sea in south Big Sur as we continue driving towards the town of San Luis Obispo.

As we turned inland on Highway 1 (PCH) in San Luis Obispo County, the scenery was no less gorgeous.  The green farmland SLO County was peppered with rocky peaks thrusting upward.

We got into the town of San Luis Obispo, eating at Oasis, a Moroccan / Mediterranean restaurant.  While I've never eaten a tagine that was even as remotely delicious as the ones I ate in Morocco daily, the Oasis' beef and potato tagine was at least tasty...and actually cooked in a traditional clay tagine.

After sleeping ten hours again, we visited the Old Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, yet another mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in the late 1700s.

Laborers were brought from China by Ah Louis to construct the Pacific Coast Railroads and various roads in the late 1800s.  The Ah Louis store was the center of this once-burgeoning Chinatown in SLO.  Today, the Mee Heng Low Chop Suey shop is the last remaining shop from this culture, as the Ah Louis Store Building is now an antique store.

The Ah Louis store sold general merchandise and herbs, and also served as a bank and post office.

After visiting the Mission, we continued up the 101 to the small rural town of Santa Margarita, which was hosting the Earth Day Wine Festival.  The festival is an intimate celebration featuring earth friendly cuisine, sustainable produced wines, live entertainment and educational exhibits highlighting innovative products. The award winning foods and wine featured are grown on local Central Coast farms committed to environmentally friendly practices that protect both our natural resources and communities.

An antique car just outside the Earth Day Wine Festival at the historic Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia in Santa Margarita, CA. Established in 1787, this historic ranch is nestled amid the rolling hills and vineyards of California’s scenic Central Coast.

Although a wine festival, one of the treats is the gourmet food also served there.  Here, a chef prepares delicious paella in an enormous pan.

We drove along Route 58 for a while, admiring the beauty of SLO County outside Santa Margarita.

A lone tree atop a hill in Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia in Santa Margarita, CA.

You know where we decided to stay in San Luis Obispo?  You know the Madonna Inn, with its orgy of wild pink '50s kitsch?  Yeah.  We stayed right next to it at the hotel next door.  I walked over to the Madonna Inn to have a look around at its bar and dining room and carved entry doors.

After another long sleep, we headed south towards home.  But as many road travelers in California know, it's impossible to drive anywhere near Buellton without stopping at that mecca of pea soup and, uh, cold pack cheese food.

And I love Pea Soup Andersen's so much that I will now devote three photos to it. Sure, it's wrong to feature this green palace more than a festival of sustainable gourmet cuisine, but it's time that someone paid tribute to these split pea pioneers.  Maybe the title should read:  Pinot, Pinnacles, Pea Soup, and The Pacific.

Split Pea and Hap-Pea welcome you after every finished bowl of soup.  And if you get the Traveler's Special, you can finish as many bowls as you wish.

Lisa Split-Pea and Ken Hap-Pea split some peas. As Buellton is the gateway to the Santa Ynez Valley, we wished that we could have spent a few days more here as we did several months ago, but there will be other trips.

All text and photos by professional pea soup photographer Ken Lee using a Nikon D50 and18-200mm AF-S DX VR lens.

Central California:  Pinot, Pinnacles, Pea Soup, and The Pacific, April 2008
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