Highway 101 Santa Maria, California Road Sign

 

Interstate Highway 101 from Santa Barbara heading north veers away from the Pacific Ocean, then goes through a mountain at Gaviota Pass. Then climbing steadily to the crest, the ride is elevated for nearly an hour's drive. Passing turn offs for Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Solvang and Buellton, then Los Alamos, the drive takes you past gnarled oaks in fields where cows dine on grass. Those of us who drive in this region only every few months see more grape vines popping up with each trip.

 

As you enter the outskirts of Santa Maria at  Orcutt, perhaps you'll notice a new housing development being constructed. Sunny Hills and other such names offer a bright outlook on growth. You pass by a few road signs and billboards advertising a rodeo grounds, community clubs that meet and the City Limit sign for Santa Maria that states the elevation is 204 and the population has been covered over and replaced.  Santa Maria city limit signs seem to change their population figures faster than jack rabbits run.

 

Refreshing while it lasts are the green field of vegetables or fruits, a few surviving eucalyptus trees along the road and the lovely, gentle, rolling hills that line the city to the east and north. Usually a wheat or burnished gold color, the hills are a special treat after a winter rain when they turn green. If Santa Maria is not your final destination, your next stop will be Nipomo to the north.

 

For those hoping to explore, Santa Maria is located approx. 9 miles from the ocean. Several affordable hotels and many restaurants along highway and downtown streets are great. But be sure to stop on Saturday mornings when the community clubs cook tri-tip on oak pits at local shopping malls. Just follow your nose, and the smoke, or stop and ask, so you can get introduce to another 101 off the highway. Santa Maria style Barbeque.