I love to meander.
Frequently while aimlessly exploring I’ll stumble upon a town I’ve known in name only. California is a very large state, and I may know ABOUT a region or ABOUT a city or town, but if I’ve read something interesting I want to see for myself. I’m always finding something new to interest me. And such was the case when we happened upon Guadalupe, a small town at the very top of Santa Barbara County just ten miles east of Santa Maria.
We’ve been through Santa Maria dozens of times. For instance, there was the time in 2005 when we were on our way north and I cajoled Jay into getting off the main highway so we could “meander” through Santa Maria and drive by the courthouse to see the circus of reporters hanging about during the Michael Jackson trial–I was just curious.
All these many visits to Santa Maria and I never realized we were just ten miles from a charming agricultural city, “The Gateway to the Dunes,” Guadalupe, California.
This lovely little agricultural town was part of early Spanish mission pasture land, later becoming part of the Rancho Guadalupe land grant. The city today is all of 1.3 square miles surrounded almost completely by agricultural land. The area is also rich in oil.
Amtrak runs right through town and the Guadalupe station is on the Pacific Surfliner route connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
Jay has a 40 year work history as a railroad switchman, beginning with Southern Pacific and following the 1996 merger, Union Pacific. I couldn’t resist stopping to take some photos of freight car graffiti.
In 1895, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the 25-mile section from Guadalupe to San Luis Obispo and since 1911, the Santa Maria Valley railroad has been the region’s main means of shipping both oil and agricultural products through Guadalupe.
I couldn’t help asking a few questions. For instance, who would want to hammer the side of a car? And do you really need soft sole shoes?
This is a very small town. It doesn’t take long to drive right on through the center. And right at the end of Main Street are the incredible Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. I previously shared the story of these gorgeous dunes and how Cecil B. DeMille buried his movie sets in the sand. f you missed that, you can find some photos and story HERE.
But I mentioned in that post that the only way I could really think to show you the magnificence of the dunes would be if I were able to take aerial shots. I have a treat for anyone interested in knowing more.
I suspect there are few Californians who do not know the name “Huell Howser.” Howser’s Public Television show “California’s Gold” was certainly responsible for introducing me to small towns, landmarks, events and little pockets of interest all over the state, with his trademark enthusiasm for the smallest tidbit of unique information. He was parodied and teased for his folksy reporting style, but well-loved. In 2013 he died of metastatic prostate Cancer and thousands of people attended his public memorial held at the Griffith Park Observatory.
Well, guess what I found? Howser left his archives to Chapman College, including video archives the college has made available on-line. And I found a California’s Gold episode that features the Guadalupe-Dunes. I think you’d enjoy the entire episode, but if that isn’t possible, at least take a moment to fast forward into the episode and see the dunes with more detail than I could capture in photos. Some of these dunes are hundreds of feet in height. And you can enjoy it all with Huell right HERE. He really is a treat!
A weekend is just perfect for meandering and meandering is always a good way to breathe lighter–the perfect exhale! Some portion of my weekend will be devoted to doing just that! And I definitely encourage you to do the same. You can tell me about that on Monday!