A Semi-Regular Mix of Written and Video Documentation of My Travels

CA Day 4- Burritos, Bathrooms, and Beautiful Drives

Today I bid farewell to the City of Angels and made my way to the City by the Bay. Before I could set sail though, I had to say goodbye to my friend Sam, who had been very kind putting me up for the past two nights and being very game for some weird adventures. I barely scratched the surface with all there is to do in LA (I could have spent more than a full week just here let alone the entire massive state of California), but for all the amazing things there, my fondest memories are just hanging out with friends I haven’t seen since they moved the width of a continent away. I may sound like a big ol’ cheeseball (both metaphorically and in terms of diet and general shape), but it’s the truth.

The other bittersweet thing I had to do before driving a big chunk of the Pacific coast was make sure my car could actually handle it. My muffler was still making horrible noise, but the guys at the Firestone I went to yesterday implied that it should be an easy fix so I just went to the nearest body shop to me. I was hoping to just get it out of the way and hit the road ASAP, but in my haste I sort of overlooked the fact that they had 2 star rating which it turns out was not a coincidence. The people working there were very nice, but they also very clearly saw me as an easy mark (not totally wrong either). I paid $30 just to have them look at my car which took over an hour, and then when they did get back to me they told me that I needed a whole new muffler and that it would take a few weeks and be over $1000. Now I know absolutely nothing about cars (which is surprising since I lived in one for this whole year), but I had a sneaking suspicion that none of that was true so I had really just wasted a bunch of time and now I had to make an 8 hour drive with a noisy muffler.

To prepare for the long drive ahead and to refresh my mental state after such a frustrating morning, I got some fine cold brew coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters which showed up on my list of top coffee spots in the city and was especially welcome in this moment. And with that I was on my way!

The drive from LA to San Francisco is not normally 8 hours long (avg. time is closer to 5 or 6 depending on traffic) but I had a few stops I planned on making and I also intended on taking the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway for as much of the trip as I could. I cheated a little bit here and there with the 101 if only to make up for some of the lost time, but if I could have done the scenic route the whole way I would have. Unfortunately since I was in my car, I couldn’t photograph any of the scenery I drove by which is a damn shame as it makes up the majority of what I saw today and also possibly the most interesting part. California’s got quite the coast line, and I feel like I saw almost every kind of terrain I could imagine on this drive, going from the big city to steep cliffs over sandy beaches into lush green forests and back again. Luckily Google images is full of much artsier photos of the highway than I would have been able to take anyway, so you can at least get an idea of the kind of vistas I was dealing with:

My first stop of the day was to visit Santa Barbara, a lovely college town by the ocean. I was really excited to visit, partly because it was a very convenient stopping point for lunch and I was very hungry and also because it was where my college roommate, Olivia, grew up. I didn’t have much time to spend there unfortunately, but I was glad I got to see it. She had told us all that she had grown up in a beautiful area, but I was still blown away by how nice everything is. There’s palm trees, a waterfront district, Monterrey adobe style houses, and even this incredible painting of Gumby’s Wrath just hanging in a storefront window:

True beauty

True beauty

I wasted no time finding a place to get lunch, and I ended up deciding on Mony's Mexican Food. This cozy little spot isn’t very large, but it must have a big reputation because the line was out the door. Luckily it moved pretty quickly, and the food more than lived up to the hype. I got a big juicy carnitas burrito jam packed with rice, beans, cheese, crema, and guacamole. It was delicious, and the tortilla was somehow soft and fluffy on top and toasty and crispy on the bottom. It was just a perfect burrito.


After the burrito, I got some more coffee because I still had six more hours of drivin’ to do. I went to a place called Handlebar Coffee Roasters which was very hipster-y cyclist themed coffee shop. Fortunately, one good thing about hipsters is they’re very serious about coffee so it was quite good and strong enough to keep me going for the next leg of the journey.

My next stop was a place called the Madonna Inn, a hotel/restaurant in San Luis Obispo that is known for the bright and kooky architecture loosely inspired by a mix of the Swiss Alps, the natural scenery, and 1950s kitsch. It doesn’t really look like anywhere else, with a mixture of gaudy and gorgeous architecture, interior design, and landscaping that makes for an impressively bizarre whole.

As funky as the outside is, where the Madonna really shines is in its ludicrously designed themed rooms. I only went to the bakery and coffee shop (which if you can’t guess is Rose themed) but each of the 109 rooms in the hotel has its own unique theme ranging from Caveman to Jungle to Yacht inspired decorations (for a full list, which is truly wild, you can click here). You might not guess it to look out over the restaurant but the other themes do include colors that aren’t pink. Again, everything is so wildly over the top (there are actual dinosaur fossils casually incorporated into some of the stone walls) that it approaches being tacky but then keeps going so far in that direction that it becomes pretty impressive.


The one must-do at the Madonna that I was told about by both friends and the internet was that I had to go to the downstairs men’s room because it has a waterfall urinal. Like a giant stone constantly flowing waterfall that hotel guests also pee into. Again totally ridiculous, but also sort of spectacular in its own unique way.


My next stop was to visit California Polytechnic, not for any smart reasons, but because I had been told they had very good ice cream. The University has Dairy Sciences program where students actually work in their creamery with milk that they get from cows they raise on nearby farms. Everything is super fresh and organic, and they’re working on the cutting edge to make and use the best technology to ensure the best quality dairy products, the best care for their cows, and the least environmental impact possible. Unfortunately the creamery itself was not currently open to the public, but I was told I could go down to the University market to try some of their products. I ended up not deciding to get ice cream, because they had bottles of homemade Orange Cream Milk which, being a lifelong creamisicle lover I had to try. Intellectually citrus and dairy really probably should be kind of gross, but it was like drinking melted orange sherbert, it was so rich and delicious and logic need not factor into it.

After getting my dairy on, my last stop before just soldiering on to the Bay Area was to get a peek at Hearst Castle, the over 165 roomed and 127 acre estate of newspaper man/megalomaniac/real-life Citizen Kane William Randolph Hearst. The estate is now a state park and National Historic landmark, and apparently their are lingering echoes of its opulence during Hearst’s lifetime beyond just the architecture and landscaping, including zebras descended from the ones he originally had in his personal zoo. It’s incredible to take in, but sort of revolting that he built all of it at the height of the Great Depression. I messed up my GPS coordinates so I didn’t have time to go up to the castle itself, but even from the distance I looked at it from the sheer enormity of it is pretty imposing.


Here’s some more up close photos from online that gives you a less blurry look at what the castle actually looks like, particularly one of its most famous features: the Neptune Pool.

From there it was just a hop, skip, and four hour drive up to Oakland to my friends’ Aaron and Emily’s apartment. I was initially going to try to squeeze in an open mic, but after all the driving I just wanted to see my friends and relax. I knew Aaron and Emily from college band, where Emily got all of us hooked on the fabulous drama of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Thankfully, nothing had changed in the six months since we all graduated and all the band alumni that had ended up in the Bay Area were there watching the latest episode together. So I had great friends, snacks, wine, and drag queens which is really all a person could ask for after a day of car troubles and long drives.

At the end of the episode, I drove with our friend Garrett to his place in San Francisco where he had a lovely couch with my name on it.

Favorite Random Sightings: Pampered hands; All about the bread; Boyz  world wide; Paper bag Princess (not the most glamorous of princesses); Spearmint rhino (because Rhinos should be minty fresh); A road sign alarmingly saying “This is no longer the funk zone”

Regional Observation: This isn’t a great photo, but the green hills all over the coast just don’t even look real. I can’t stress enough how pretty this drive was.


Albums Listened To: Something in My Blindspot by Vic Ruggiero (a personal favorite album of mine); Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett (a terrific debut album); Son of Rogue’s Gallery by Various Artists (a fun collection of pirate songs); Son of Schmillson by Harry Nilsson (maybe the most smart ass album in a long line of smart ass albums, naturally it’s my favorite); Songs of the Blackbird by William Eliot Whitmore (soul-tinged folk); Songs for Clandestine Lovers by Vic Ruggiero

People’s Favorite Jokes:

What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

Songs of the Day:

one of my favorite anti-love songs

she’s got a real knack for turning a phrase or two

I bought this two collection just for this song, and I don’t regret it one bit

Harry was told they had a lot of momentum from his last album and they needed a single that could really capture radio play. He dropped this…

a sweet little ditty

Joseph PalanaComment