Those looking to escape the valley’s built-up areas and main highways for a day may want to do so in a Nissan 370Z Roadster Tour. That’s what we did – and it was wonderful.
We recently took the two-seat convertible over less-traveled roads from Skyline Boulevard south and west to Watsonville and the coast.
Our trip included well-timed stops for lunch, morning and afternoon coffee, and a visit to a sculpture garden. We even wound up with some local wine and small plants in the trunk and locally made sausage and freshly baked artichoke bread in the back seat.
If you’re interested in taking the same tour on a Saturday or Sunday this fall, following is a rundown of where we drove and stopped.
We started our tour with a quick, late breakfast in Saratoga before meeting friends who had eaten breakfast at rustic Alice’s Restaurant at the intersection of Highway 84 (Woodside Road) and Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard). We met in the parking lot at Highway 9 (Big Basin/Congress Springs Road) and Skyline Boulevard and headed south on Skyline, which rapidly changed to Bear Creek Road as it narrowed to only one lane in places where the redwood trees took precedence over the road, before widening to become Summit Road.
Summit took us across Highway 17 as we continued south, arriving within a few miles at Burrell School Winery, one of many small wineries in the area. This is one of those pleasant, small wineries at which the person pouring may be one of the owners. It is an excellent place to pause for a while and stretch out the arms in preparation for more curves to come.
Just after Burrell School, Summit Road becomes Highland Way and gets narrower and curvier, but the scenery makes up for the driving challenges. Just watch that you stay on the correct road (it won’t appear on most GPS systems, it’s that small) and go straight through, as the name changes to Eureka Canyon Road as it crosses Buzzard Lagoon Road.
From there, the road will widen again as you approach civilization – if Corralitos meets that definition.
When you get to the intersection with Hames Road/Browns Valley Road, you’ll see a tiny park on the left with a shelter and some picnic tables, and one of the best-kept secrets of the area, Corralitos Market & Sausage Company on the right. Time for lunch.
A hot sausage sandwich on a freshly baked roll, with chips and a cold drink on the side, is an ideal way to sample their wares. You’ll be ready to go back in to buy some sausages and home-smoked bacon to take home.
From there, follow Corralitos Road toward Watsonville, making the first right on Varni Road. Stay on that road as it changes its name to Pioneer Road and then to Green Valley Road. Turn left on Casserly Road toward the hills, and follow that as it winds this way and that through the fertile agricultural fields before reaching East Lake Avenue/Hecker Pass Road. Just south of this intersection is the entrance to Sierra Azul Sculpture Gardens and Nursery, which offers just what you need for your yard, whether that’s a large sculpture from a local artist or some blooming plants. If you’ve brought a snack, this is a nice place to unwind for a while as you take in the lush surroundings of drought-tolerant and indigenous plants and admire the variety of sculpture styles dotting the gardens.
Once refreshed and ready to face the rigors of Watsonville and Santa Cruz traffic, head south following Highway 152 as it wends through Watsonville, first as East Lake Avenue, then as Main Street until you merge onto Highway 1, the Cabrillo Highway.
Heading north on Highway 1, you’ll make your way through Santa Cruz – watch for highway markers and lane changes as you traverse the town on some of the most complicated interchanges ever designed.
With luck, you’ll pop out on the other side on the coast, with the Pacific on your left to calm you again.
When you reach the intersection of Bonny Doon Road, you have two choices. Turning right, you’ll wind back into the redwoods on Empire Grade and Big Basin Way into Boulder Creek, with the opportunity to visit another winery before picking up Highway 9 into Saratoga or Scotts Valley.
Staying on Highway 1, as we did, the next logical stop is Pescadero at Duarte’s Tavern or the Pescadero Bakery for afternoon coffee, or San Gregorio Store on Highway 84. Both Duarte’s and the Bakery are known for artichokes, in the Duarte soup and the bakery’s partially baked bread that you can finishing baking at home. San Gregorio Store is always good for some live homegrown music to listen to and shelves of things you never knew you needed to browse through.
The total distance traveled during the day is approximately 140 miles, but you’ll feel as if you’ve taken a week’s vacation by the time you’re home.
Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.