THE PIT STOPS TO BRAKE FOR

Los Angeles Times - - ROAD TRIPS THINGS TO KNOW - BY CHRISTO­PHER REYNOLDS

Your car trip is go­ing to be just fine, re­ally. But right now, you’re hear­ing that dreaded four-word cho­rus from the back seat. And no, you’re not there yet. But maybe you just need the right pit stop. Here are seven. Three are north, on the way to San Francisco. Two are east, on the way to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Las Ve­gas or Death Val­ley. And two are south, on the way to San Diego. All have been around for decades, but for all their road­side fa­mil­iar­ity, there have been some changes. Here’s an up­date:

In­ter­state 5 to San Francisco

The straight­est route to San Francisco (a 388-mile jour­ney from down­town Los Angeles) will take you right past Har­ris Ranch, where choice steaks await.

The main Har­ris Ranch com­plex seats 455 peo­ple at a time, and ranks among the state’s high­est­gross­ing in­de­pen­dent restau­rant op­er­a­tions. Vis­i­tors can choose among the Steak­house, the Horse­shoe Bar and the Ranch Kitchen, which gets the heav­i­est traf­fic.

And now there’s a new bar­be­cue op­tion. The Har­ris Ranch Ex­press BBQ opened in late April at the Shell sta­tion in the Har­ris com­pound. The new place, open 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. daily, is aimed at trav­el­ers in a hurry.

Noth­ing on the menu costs more than $10.75, which gets you beef brisket and ched­dar cheese on a French bun.

The ranch park­ing lot in­cludes the San Joaquin Val­ley’s only hy­dro­gen cell fuel sta­tion, along with a Tesla Su­per­charger sta­tion.

Info: Har­ris Ranch Inn & Restau­rant, 24505 W. Dor­ris Ave., Coalinga, Calif.; (800) 942-2333, www.har­ris­ranch.com. Ranch Kitchen open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

High­way 101 to San Francisco

The Madonna Inn has been an ec­cen­tric haven for U.S. 101 trav­el­ers for nearly 60 years.

Along with the pow­er­fully pink color scheme, road trip­pers can be­hold the Gold Rush Steak­house and the more ca­sual Cop­per Café, open for break­fast, lunch and din­ner.

Menu main dishes range from a ham sand­wich at $12.25 to a filet mignon at $44.95.

If your legs need stretch­ing, the inn build­ings are sur­rounded by great Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia scenery — mead­ows and hills and a bike trail that con­nects to down­town San Luis Obispo.

Then there’s the ho­tel, a fa­vorite among honey­moon­ers: 109 rooms, no two alike, with pool and spa; horse­back rides; and pink ten­nis courts. Rooms for two from $209.

Info: Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo; (800) 543-9666, www.madon­nainn .com. Cop­per Café open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

The Apple Farm started in 1977 as a restau­rant with an Amer­i­cana theme. Own­er­ship has changed over the years, but that theme en­dures, now strength­ened by a bak­ery, a three-level gift shop and a 105-room ho­tel com­plex.

Din­ner main dishes are about $14-$29; the sig­na­ture dessert is a hot apple dumpling.

Whether or not you do dessert, burn a calo­rie or two by strolling around the six-acre prop­erty. The gar­dens are some­times wedged into tight slots be­tween build­ings and park­ing spa­ces, but they’re full of color and visual puns.

Land­scape man­ager Joseph O’Keefe has used more than 700 pots and bas­kets to max­i­mize im­pact.

Rooms at the inn (which in­cludes a small pool) usu­ally start about $129 (plus a $12 per night fa­cil­ity fee).

Info: Apple Farm Restau­rant & Bak­ery, 2015 Mon­terey St., San Luis Obispo; (800) 255-2040, www .ap­ple­farm.com. Open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

In­ter­state 15 east to Las Ve­gas or Death Val­ley

About 65 miles beyond Barstow, just be­fore you de­cide whether to bend north to­ward Death Val­ley or con­tinue straight to Ve­gas, you’ll reach the dusty hamlet of Baker, home to the Mad Greek Cafe.

Baker’s main drag, Baker Boule­vard, has sev­eral fast-food spots and gas sta­tions, one traf­fic light, the world’s tallest ther­mome­ter (134 feet) and UFO Alien Jerky, a nov­elty shop with a space-alien theme.

You’re likely to see the Mad Greek first be­cause it stands on a prime cor­ner at the south­west end of town. Every sur­face that’s not painted blue is painted white. What’s not painted white is cov­ered in mir­rors. What’s not cov­ered in mir­rors or in­scribed with Greek vo­cab­u­lary lessons is adorned with stat­u­ary.

The restau­rant is open around the clock. The gyro sand­wich is the big­gest seller, with prices top­ping out at about $13 for shish ke­bab. Straw­berry shakes and baklava shakes (a re­cent ad­di­tion) are also pop­u­lar.

“I’m there for some­body who doesn’t want Jack in the Box, doesn’t want Del Taco, doesn’t want Carls Jr.,” owner Larry Dabour, who lives in Las Ve­gas, told me in a phone in­ter­view.

Info: Mad Greek Cafe, 72112 Baker Blvd., Baker, Calif.; (760) 733-4354, www.lat.ms/mad­greek. There’s another lo­ca­tion in Primm, Nev.

In­ter­state 10 to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs

Hadley Fruit Or­chards is where you get a date shake and maybe a sand­wich or dried fruit and nuts.

This is a rit­ual stop for my fam­ily on the way home from any desert trip re­quir­ing In­ter­state 10. For many fam­i­lies, this rit­ual dates back 50 years. But it’s dif­fer­ent now.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016 the Hadley’s re­tail op­er­a­tion aban­doned its long­time home in the rus­tic, lowslung mar­ket build­ing on Semi­nole Drive just west of Ruby’s Diner.

Hadley’s has built as its new home a shiny space a block north.

It feels more spa­cious, and the menu is longer, but it’s not as homey as the old Hadley’s. I’m hop­ing the new site will grow on me. Mean­while, the date shakes are as good as ever.

Info: Hadley Fruit Or­chards, 47993 Morongo Trail, Cabazon, Calif.; (951) 849-5255, hadley-fruit

or­chards.com. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on week­days, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on week­ends.

In­ter­state 5 to San Diego

If you’re pass­ing through La Jolla on In­ter­state 5, you have easy ac­cess to chain restau­rants. Noth­ing spe­cial about that.

But you’re also just 1½ miles (use the Ge­ne­see Av­enue exit) from the Cliffhanger Café and Tor­rey Pines Glid­er­port.

This ca­sual eatery sits atop a 350-foot sea­side bluff, and as you eat, you can see hang glid­ers and paraglid­ers tak­ing off and drift­ing above the wa­ters below.

If you’re a fan of stark, mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, keep an eye out for the Salk In­sti­tute on the left as you drive in.

The cafe serves snacks and lunch — sand­wiches, sal­ads and soups — which you can eat at pic­nic ta­bles. Sand­wiches are $9.49; break­fast bur­ri­tos, $7.99.

On week­ends in sum­mer, burg­ers join the menu — and there’s usu­ally a lo­cal band play­ing from 1-4 p.m.

Info: Cliffhanger Café, Tor­rey Pines Glid­er­port, 2800 Tor­rey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla; (858) 452-9858, www.fly­tor­rey.com/the­cafe. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

Pan­nikin, wear­ing a friendly coat of yel­low paint, is a beloved stop in Encini­tas for break­fast, lunch, cof­fee, tea and hang­ing out.

It’s been a tempt­ing stop­ping spot since the 1980s, with um­brel­lashaded out­door ta­bles, works from lo­cal artists on the wall and a bo­hemian surf vibe. (The beach is five blocks west.)

Info: Pan­nikin Cof­fee & Tea, 510 N. Coast High­way 101, off the Leu­ca­dia Boule­vard exit of In­ter­state 5. Encini­tas; (760) 436-5824, pan­nikin

cof­fee­andtea.com. Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

If you have a fa­vorite pit stop, send us a note, sub­ject line Pit Stops, at travel@la­times.com. christo­pher.reynolds @la­times.com

Christo­pher Reynolds Los Angeles Times

THE HEAD-TURN­ING Mad Greek Cafe in Baker, 65 miles out­side Barstow, is open 24 hours.

Madonna Inn

THE EC­CEN­TRIC Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo has themed rooms and the pink-in­fused Gold Rush Steak­house.

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