Drive through Central California, to find that awesome backdrops for cars, and the best roads are all around us...
On my birthday weekend for when I turn 45 this year, 2014, with some real events happening in recent years, the introduction of Scion FR-S which I had a part in the creation process, and all the joys and tearful decade of the past, when some of my dreams came true and other things not so happy.
I just took it upon myself to just take a journey through some of the most beautiful places I can cover in a car, for three days and two nights.
As I got ready to leave for the trip, the weather forecast stated 80% chance of snow in my first destination, the grand vista of Yosemite Valley… With 10 hours left before my departure, and with summer tires still mounted on the FRS, I took a chance, and headed North-East. Checking my iPhone every hour along the way, miraculously, I seemed to find a pocket of 5 hours, where it will not snow…
As I got closer, the clouds dissipated, and on a open highway along the HWY 140 from the 99, I blasted through rain to catch the slip of time where my car just might make it up without having to resort to installing cable chains on my tires.
Boy did the gamble pay off!! The clouds parted, and I got to see the most magical view of Yosemite that I have ever seen. The overcast sky and sun peeking through, the light reflecting off the rocks, and the sky kept changing colors of the park every ten minutes. ON the highest peaks were snow cover, and on the boom, the April green. And rain clouds wafted through everything in between. This was also a trip taken with my recent girlfriend Lisa, and her first time in the mountains of Central California, and with her pending departure back to Japan, it was also a gift to have her along to see this as well. The rain and snow sort of fluttering and cold breeze, the view just kept changing quickly and like a slide show gift of Mother Nature, it was simply better than any movie or postcard really.
The FR-S treaded through heavy thundershowers along the highway on the way into the hills, and treaded light snow. Cusco RS Limited Slip differential combined with FR-S’s traction control, and VSC, Winmax pads, and on fresh set of Nitto Tires the drive through adverse weather was surprisingly confident, despite the car being possibly the least suited for something like this, with light-weight, and driving wheels on fat tires in the rear. I never had to resort to using snow chains over 1” snow covered road that presented itself over the very peak of highway 140 for 7 miles. However, before the snow locked us in the valley, we hurried down to the base of the mountains, toward Fresno, where we stopped for the night, and to plan the second day.
In the morning, we stopped at random places along the path traversing the Central California, all the way to San Luis Obispo. Estrella Warbird Museum was an interesting enough stop, but it was closed on a Monday so we wandered around some more. I washed the car free of the caked mud we picked up in Yosemite for a tour through Paso Robles wineries. I met some of the nicest winery hosts and owners in my second day, and as per the suggestion of Wolff Winery’s 4th generation owner, we took a night’s rest in Apple Farm San Luis Obispo.
Day 3, we ventured into a few more wineries for photos, and to take a peek at some of the grapes around here, which are often coveted for Pinot Nior and Chardonnay. Lots of green grapes still very young since the harvest is in the fall. Not much to pick and eat in the spring, but we got some real education in how they make wines around here…
Heading out to the coast, along the Highway 101 for the final leg home, the coastline was of clear sky, and the beaches along the way were cold but spectacular for shooting more photos with the Scion FR-S.
All in all, it was one of the most scenic drives in 3 days, that I have ever taken in my life. I’ve traveled through snow, muddy pockets of 140 where there were road construction and floods, then fairly spirited dash up the highway in the rain, and following days in the perfectly dry cool sunlight, and followed by the most colorful sunsets dropping over the Pacific Ocean horizon….
It might possibly be, the best birthday gift I have ever experienced.