Recreational opportunities abound
By Candy Goulette
Advance For Nurses, August 16, 2010
Claudia Perez, RN, has called California’s Central Coast region home for more than 25 years. Her family moved to Paso Robles from her native Mexico when the Mee Memorial Medical Center labor and delivery nurse was only 7. She loves the region for what it has to offer.
The Central Coast runs from Monterey Bay to Ventura County and includes miles of beaches, rugged coastal mountains and fertile valley soil perfect for agriculture. Perez loves the “perfect weather”, a sentiment echoed by farmers across the region.
The Central Coast is known for its strawberries, artichokes and salad greens, grown in the rich soils of the Salinas Valley near Monterey. These crops find their ways to nearly every table across the country, along with avocados and citrus from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The foothills of the Central Coast American Viticultural Area, a rich wine region known for a wide variety of wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. More than 100 wineries dot the region, with Paso Robles as the center, and range from large, modern facilities to unique, family-run operations, most located near major highways.
“I love where I live because there’s a little bit of everything close by,” Perez said. “We’re right in the middle of everything. You can drive a short distanced and go to the beach, or go the same distance another way and be in the mountains or a t an inland lake.”
Visitors along the Pacific Coast will find country inns and Oceanside cottages rubbing shoulders with larger destination hotels. Perez said bird- and whale-watching are pleasant pastimes, but visitors also will find world-class surfing, water skiing, golfing, hiking, biking and horseback riding. Festivals and farmer’s markets abound in the small towns dotting the region, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been keeping movie goers delighted for more than 25 years.
Tried & True
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great place to pass the time, rain or shine. Inspiring conservation of oceans, the aquarium welcomes visitors daily, except Christmas. And, as long as you’re in the area, don’t pass up a cruise along 17-Mile Drive, the scenic route through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. Non-residents pay $9 per car to drive the road, but entry is free for bicycles and pedestrians. Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a shopper’s paradise, but don’t forget the plastic - and get there early. Parking in the small city, formerly led by actor/director Clint Eastwood, is not plentiful.
For fans of the movie “Sideways”, a trip to the Santa Ynez Valley is a must. The lush valley in the heart of Santa Barbara Country’s wine country is 35 miles from the beaches of Santa Barbara, 125 miles up the coast from Los Angles and 300 miles south of San Francisco. The region is easily accessible on the U.S. Highway 101 and State Highways 154 and 246. For car-free travel, Amtrak trains feature connecting bus service to Solvang, the Danish-inspired city.
An easy day trip, visitors to Solvang will find traditional bakeries featuring Danish pastries, breads and foods; more than 200 European-style shops, antique stores and museums; and dozens of inns, hotels, resorts, restaurants and tasting rooms. Up the road a bit, the turn-of-the 20th century village of Santa Ynez serves real cowboys at a historic saloon and Old West history at the museum along with inns, restaurants and stores. The town of Los Olivos offers a slice of upscale Americana with art galleries, an art museum, boutiques, more than a dozen wine tasting rooms and a world-class inn.
For those who want fun in the sun, Ventura County bills itself as a relaxation destination. With year-round sunshine, the miles of uncrowded beaches, pristine offshore islands and rugged mountains offer outstanding opportunities for sightseeing, insights into history and culture, entertainment, sports and recreation.
Born from Mission San Buenaventura, the most successful and influential of the California Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra, the city of Ventura is the gateway to the Channel Islands National Park.
Noting it’s a 4-hour drive to Los Angeles or San Francisco, Perez said she enjoys the small-town feel Paso Robles and the other cities of the region have to offer.
“We may not have the big buildings, but we have everything you could ask for right at home,” she said. “And if you want to do major shopping, Santa Barbara or the Bay Area is just a short drive. Here, everyone knows everyone, so it’s like being with family all the time.”
The same hold true for Perez in her work life. It’s a 45-minute commute from Paso Robles to Mee Memorial in King City, but the drive is worth it for Perez. She enjoys the scenery and chance to either ramp up or unwind as she goes. The hospital offers a glimpse into rural life as well.
“There are lots of people who need us there,” Perez said. “Lots of Spanish-speaking people who I can relate to and help. There’s a real need for education for patients and I love the teaching with [labor and delivery] and postpartum. Being Hispanic myself, I can teach them about different health problems that might be difficult, such as diabetes, from a cultural perspective they understand. I do speak the same language and really connect with them.
“I always treat everyone like they were my sister,” she continued. “I feel I’m needed here and make a difference.”