Before television, Sunday was the day when mom, dad and the kids would pile into the car and take an afternoon drive just to get out of the house.
Fortunately, we can still enjoy the tradition in the Bay Area, thanks to our beautiful scenery, interesting stops and great driving roads.
On a recent Sunday, while most of the country was digging out from record-breaking snowstorms, members of our Mercedes-Benz club gathered at Ladera Shopping Center in Portola Valley for a sunny drive to the coast.
Turning right on Alpine, we took Arastradero Road over to Page Mill Road, then followed that winding stretch to Skyline Boulevard. With each curve we could look across the crystal-clear Silicon Valley to the mountains, lightly capped with snow.
Crossing Skyline, the road’s name changes to Alpine Road. Alpine descended quickly into redwood forest, with a green canopy high overhead, before bringing us out to Pescadero Road, once again under clear skies, with the road edged by green fields and flowering fruit trees.
We drove past open pastures to the historical town of Pescadero. It’s no coincidence that the Spanish word “pescadero” means “fishmonger” in English – fishermen founded the town in the late 1800s. Visually, it’s changed little since then, with the well-known Duarte’s Tavern at one end, a small Catholic church at the other and Arcangeli Grocery Company in the center, all dating from the early days of the community.
Before exploring Pescadero, we continued up the road and around the corner to Harley Farms. The restored 1910 dairy farm features 200 alpine goats that produce the milk for Harley Farms’ award-winning cheeses. We enjoyed the gardens, learned about the dairy operation, leaned over the fence to watch the goats and sampled and purchased the many cheeses.
Folks who didn’t stay for lunch at Duarte’s Tavern headed north on Stage Road to Highway 84, with the option of following California State Route 1 on the coast to Half Moon Bay or returning via La Honda and Woodside.
We’re fortunate to live in an area where an outing like this can be planned for a Sunday in winter. And how fortunate we are to reside where an almost infinite variety of outings can be planned for a morning, a weekend or a week without going farther south than Highway 17 or farther north than Highway 92, between Interstate 280 and Route 1.
Within this very accessible area, there are myriad roads that offer unspoiled open vistas, redwood forests and the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. We have organizations such as the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District to thank for their tireless efforts to preserve the land and protect it from development.
There are many wonderful diversions along the way – historical towns, world-class wineries, hiking trails, county and state park campgrounds and even a steam railroad. For those of us who welcome the journey as much as the destination, there is a wide diversity of beautiful driving roads.
Take the time this spring, before the hills turn from green to gold, to head up and over the mountains to see what’s on the other side.
Instead of hurrying over to the coast on Highway 92 or Highway 17, try a leisurely drive. To get up to Skyline Boulevard, try La Honda Road, accessed from Woodside Road or Sand Hill/ Portola Road. Or drive directly up Page Mill Road to Skyline. Take Highway 9 out of Saratoga for another scenic alternative.
Skyline Boulevard alone is worth a drive. From one curve to the next, the vistas change from Silicon Valley, with San Francisco visible on a clear day to the Pacific Ocean. There are good reasons around every curve why this is one of the favorite rides for motorcyclists from around the world.
But one does not have to drive or ride to enjoy the road. Stop and take a hike. The trailheads of several open-space preserves are accessible from Skyline, offering great views, fresh air and the opportunity to exercise.
From Skyline Boulevard, there are several options for getting to the coast. Alpine Road – our route on this Sunday – is slow and curvy, with the route dictated by redwood trees, many of them wider than a car. La Honda Road (Highway 84) is more open. Or try King’s Mountain Road, known for tight curves and frequented by cyclists.
A variety of destinations await that offer quaint restaurants, charming country stores or open beaches for picnics. San Gregorio Store on Highway 84 near the coast is worth a visit, especially on Sunday afternoons when there’s live music. Pescadero offers an old-time restaurant and two good stores for picnic supplies. For fancier fare, Half Moon Bay has at least a dozen restaurants, and Montara and other towns to the north do as well. South of the area is the Roaring Camp Railroad, running steam engines on excursion trains that travel through the redwoods or down to the coast, just as they did when railroads were the dependable alternative to cars for a family outing.
No matter your mode of transport, be thankful that in this densely populated area of technological innovation, we are only an hour away from a timeless scenic countryside and attractions that haven’t changed much in 100 years.
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.