Entering California from Arizona along the famous Route 66 is a long stretch of nothing. The Mojave desert is dry land with little life around.
The dilapidated buildings of occasional ghost towns conjure up questions and imaginary stories of life in the wild west. Some towns that are still just barely standing take advantage of the well used route and offer hot coffee and classic American meals in throwback diner settings stuck in time. Ludlow, California is one of those towns. What once used to be an important stop in its heyday is now a fascinating and aesthetically intriguing little place with more crumbling structures than ones in use, but it’s also the last stop for gas for a while.
The harsh desert’s end changes gently to soft hills that in the setting sun feel like a wonderland floating in clouds. Wineries start to pop up in shallow valleys and end at the beginning of Los Padres National Forest where wide lanes shrink and become thin and tightly winding through colorful, strong trees. The dizzying climb is steep and quick up a narrow ledge and stops abruptly at the edge of the world showcasing incredible views of the Pacific.
The forest spills out on to the well-known interstate 1. It snakes along hugging the coastline. Each curve presents a better view than the last. It never stops feeling amazing. It never stops being absurdly beautiful.
The path north lands in wine country with never-ending fields of perfectly lined fruit proudly marked by each winery’s brand. Towns that sprinkle Sonoma are as quaint and cute and perfect as expected. High end boutiques alternate with independent galleries and small carefully crafted restaurants where well thought out menus by impressive chefs match the buzz of the regions elevated wines. Sweet smells spill from adorable pastry shops and the cuteness of it all somehow justifies having cookies for dinner.
There’s a reason there’s a thousand love songs about California. It’s a massive, scenically beautiful and diverse state. I’ll be back. I basically live off of wine and they have loads of it, so…