What you do not want to miss at 5 California destinations

Going to California? Lucky you, because the golden state is over-the-top with contrasting scenery and every kind of attraction. It can be difficult to plan a route in an area where there is so much to experience. If you like to stay away from large cities but enjoy adventures that include a little bit of history, the outdoors, lots of local food, and sometimes wine, we can help you. These five destinations are in the southern portion of the state.

1. San Benito County

Located south and slightly inland from San Francisco, San Benito County has two towns – Hollister and San Juan Bautista. Hollister has all the amenities of a modern city. San Juan Bautista is historic. The Mission San Juan Bautista is the largest church on the California Mission Trail. Both towns are surrounded by country roads and rolling hills. Vineyards and row crops share space with cattle ranches.

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2. Solvang

Located north and west of Santa Barbara, Solvang, California, is more Danish than Denmark. The architecture is strikingly European with cross-beamed timbers and thatched roofing, hanging flowers, courtyards, windmills, and lots of bakeries. The Little Mermaid, a copy of the statue in Copenhagen, greets you on the main street.

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3. Oxnard

Along Highway 101 on the Pacific Ocean, north of Los Angeles, Oxnard, California, is the place to appreciate nature in close proximity to city living. Pristine white sandy beaches run for miles alongside gentle desert-type sand dunes.

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4. Temecula

Set inland, in the Temecula Valley, north of San Diego and south of Long Beach, Temecula offers a Mediterranean climate that is perfect for growing grapes. The many vineyards are small and predominantly family-owned. For that reason, the wine experience is personal, for everyone from winemaker to wine appreciator.

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5. Julian

Away from the coast, high in the Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego and just off the Great Southern Overland Stage Route, Julian is an old gold mining town known for its apple orchards.

Things you do not want to miss:

Basil Balsamic Bagel Burger

(Makes 4 servings)

Place the sundried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside. After 5 minutes, drain the tomatoes and discard the water.
Place the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in a food processor. Process until almost smooth.
Add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the grill to high (550-600°F/290-315°C) for 10 minutes with the lid closed. Using a pair of long-handled tongs, oil the grate by wiping it with a piece of folded paper towel dipped lightly in canola oil.
Grill the beef patties about 5 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature registers 160° F (71°C) on an instant-read thermometer.

While the patties are cooking, cut the bagels in half and brush each cut side with olive oil.
Toast the bagel halves cut side down on the grate until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Place the toasted bagel halves open-faced on serving plates. Spread all 8 bagel halves generously with the sun-dried tomato mixture.

Place 3 basil leaves on the bottom half of each bagel. Place the cooked beef patty on top of the basil. Follow with the tomato and mozzarella.
Leftover sun-dried tomato mixture can be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 1 week.

Other grilling and smoking recipes can be found in our latest cookbook, On The Road With The Cooking Ladies, Let’s Get Grilling, available on or bookstores everywhere!

Migrating South as Winter Yumans

While enjoying an all vegetable travel-friendly recipe

Two years ago, we joined other RVers and migrated to Yuma, Arizona, for the winter months when the average temperature high is 24° Celsius or 75° Fahrenheit.

yuma_quartermaster_depot_wagondsWe settled into the Shangri-La RV Resort, one of over 60 RV resorts in the area. With swimming pool and spa, exercise room, laundry room, shuffleboard, horseshoes, putting greens, pet walk areas, cable TV, wireless internet, and recreation hall for social events, the resort became our community. There were grocery stores, post office, restaurants, and golf courses nearby.

In addition to the warm, dry weather, and the proximity to the margaritas, music, and shopping in Mexico, there was lots to do in downtown Yuma. We stepped into Arizona’s history by discovering the Yuma Quartermaster Depot that supplied forts in five states, by mule train. We walked the walls, felt the isolation, saw the guns and personal items of the men and women who had been incarcerated in the Yuma Territorial Prison, known in its day as the “Country Club on the Colorado.” At City Hall, we stood under an airplane that in 1949 flew 1,124 hours, non-stop, fueled by people traveling in a convertible at 80 miles per hour beneath the plane. At the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel, in the unit designated as the Casa de la Coronado Museum we reminisced over the artifacts of the early days of family motoring and staying overnight in motels across North America.


yuma_date_farmshakesdsYuma’s location provides never-ending opportunity for outdoor activities. There are bike and walking trails along the banks of the Colorado River where Burrowing Owls, hummingbirds and numerous endangered and threatened species are sighted. We finally photographed an elusive Roadrunner after several humorous episodes of trying to follow him through the desert dust. We spent quiet afternoons at the beach along the river. Dams on the area’s water system have created limitless backwater channels and lakes for world-class fishing. For a fee, we drove the swirling Algodones Dunes of the Sonoran Desert in a Hummer, not at the wheel but belted, white-knuckled, into our seats. We joined other RVers in their four-wheelers to explore nearby mountains and after a date farm tour we enjoyed date shakes, the perfect cool down on a hot winter day.

yuma_lutes_casino_bobdsOur restaurant experience in Yuma was eclectic. At La Fonda Restaurant & Corn Tortilla Factory we not only indulged in homemade tortillas and tamales but thick tortilla soup served with tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, and sour cream. A breakfast, at a table nestled in an oasis under trees and vines at The Garden Café, was Sonoran Scramble and Oatmeal Pancakes. Lutes Casino is a fun place with piano playing, clinking glasses, and a room full of memorabilia. Bob, the owner, introduced us to his signature dish, a cheese burger hot dog combination. At the Farmhouse, the kale lemonade was fresh, sweet, yet slightly tart. The Brussels sprouts, tiny lamb chops, and scallops were seared on the grill. The Yuma Landing Restaurant and Lounge sits on the spot where the first airplane, rented from the Wright brothers, landed in Yuma in 1911.


Ninety percent of leafy vegetables produced in the United States in the winter months are grown in Yuma. We learned that the laser leveled fields of the Colorado River valley generate two million pounds of bagged lettuce and salad mix every day. In January, February, and early March, the Yuma Visitors Bureau celebrates the area’s fresh-from-the-fields bounty by providing tours. On the Savor Yuma tour we dined on a progressive dinner, enjoying each course at a different restaurant.


The Field to Feast tour took us directly to the food source, the farmer’s field, where after our group pulled, cut, and dug broccoli, cauliflower, and parsnips, the vegetables were taken away and prepared for our lunch.

In the spring, as Yuma’s comfortable winter temperatures began to rise into the 30s, Celsius, and 80s, Fahrenheit, we and thousands of other Winter Yumans, started our engines and headed north.

This refreshing, all vegetable recipe reminds us of Yuma, Arizona, the ultimate vegetable patch.



(Makes 2 to 4 servings)

Thinly slice the zucchini using a vegetable peeler. Trim the ends then run the peeler down the length of the zucchini until reaching the seeds. Rotate the zucchini and slice the ribbons until only the seeds remain. Discard the seeds.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic has softened but not browned. Remove the garlic slices from the oil.

Add the zucchini ribbons, salt, and pepper to the frying pan. Toss and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until the vegetable ribbons are tender but not soft.