Plan Your Travel Itinerary to Include the California Central Coast

2018 Central Coast trip
Monica and Marsha

Residents of the Central Valley of California, like our friends Monica and Jack, often travel to the Central Coast to escape the heat in the summer and the fog in the winter. January at the Central Coast is the best-kept secret in the world. It was fresh and breezy the day we arrived but calm and close in the 70s the next day.

Here are some spots you might want to check out.

Secret #1 Pacific Plaza Hotel in Oceano

2018 Central Coast tripThese individually owned properties at Pacific Plaza Hotel each have one bedroom, kitchen, living room, dining nook, and bath.  If you don’t want to cook or drive, you can walk to four restaurants within two blocks of the hotel.

2018 Central Coast trip
Manny had a great time at Pacific Plaza. He watched movies all day.

For January, the manager ran a special in which guests paid the last two digits of their birth year as rent for the night.  This resort offers reasonable rates the rest of the year as well. Bordering on Ocean Lagoon Park, which has a wheelchair-accessible fishing overhang, it is only a short walk from the beach.

Across the street friends with an RV can park at the Oceano Campground in Pismo State Beach. I have stayed there as well and loved the walk to the beach.

Secret #2 Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove

In the thirty years I have visited the Central Coast, I had never seen the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.  When our friend Scott Wright posted this picture of the butterflies, I knew I had to go there.

A friend asked me why her daughter didn’t see any butterflies in the summer when she was there. It’s closed most of the year because the butterflies are either dead or elsewhere, mostly elsewhere. We learned that summer butterflies hatch, mate and die within about six weeks. Winter butterflies have a much more exciting life.

The Monarch Butterfly Grove is located half a mile south of Pismo Beach just off Hwy 1.  If you want to see Monarchs, the season opened October 28, 2017, and closes February 28, 2018. So get there soon.

Barbara, a retired PE teacher, walked around telling people to watch their steps or they would step on mating butterflies. That was her only job. One couple visiting from Oregon asked her a question. Better than a swarm of butterflies landing on your arm that opened a serendipitous opportunity for the six of us to hear one of the best lecturers not on the lecture circuit.

Barbara told us about butterfly sex and other titillating topics for over forty minutes. In this last six-minute video, you will learn about the female butterfly’s health benefits of having sex. Girls listen up.

Secret #3 Drive South on 101

Los Olivos

Los Olivos may be the cutest, cleanest town in California. They usually get lots of traffic from Los Angeles. Unfortunately, because of the heart-breaking fire and mudslides in Montecito this year, their tourism business is suffering.

2018 Central Coast trip
Monica and Jack ready to enjoy a cup of coffee.

We had the fortune to run into the Santa Ynez Chamber of Commerce President. She served as our YELP. There are twenty-three wineries along the promenade, but only two coffee shops. We weren’ ready for wine at 9:00 am.

  • Corner House Coffee shop – The coffee was decent, and the decor was great.2018 Central Coast trip
  • When we arrived at the coffee shop Stafford’s Chocolates next door was closed, but Monica noticed an open door when we finished and charged over. In the process of learning about the adorable shop, we found the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The excellent news is that the chocolates are made in Porterville, which is in Tulare County where we live! I’ll tell you more about this fabulous place, and it’s owner Amy Freedman later. I took a great video and some mouth-watering photos.2018 Central Coast trip
  • Oak Hill Farm Local Olive Oil Tasting. We tried basil and blood orange olive oil. They are great for salads as well as cooking.

Santa Ynez

2018 Central Coast trip

Santa Ynez is cowboyish while Los Olivos is more the Old West revival, according to my real estate husband.  There is so much to see here that we only scratched the surface – food.

  • 2018 Central Coast trip
    Matt Nichols

    Laura, from the Santa Ynez Chamber of Commerce, sent us to the Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn owned by Matt and Jeff Nichols. It was spotless and had the best food ever. I had fried calamari and a chicken sandwich.

After that huge meal, we ambled next door to a dress shop but felt too fat and happy to buy anything.

Santa Barbara

Father Junipero Sera founded the iconic Old Mission of Santa Barbara, the heart of today’s city of Santa Barbara, in 1786.  Do you know how the mission got its name?2018 Central Coast tripMore important to my husband was to visit the Porsche dealer to unearth a good deal on a used Porsche. Thankfully, the Porsche stayed parked in Santa Barbara.2018 Central Coast trip

The last tour of the Mission started at 1:00, and we arrived at 4:30. Except for the gift shop and the entry information, the Mission was closed. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and the golden hour made it the perfect time to capture some photos. You’ve probably seen pictures of this glorious mission, but seeing it in person adds a new dimension. I’ll write more about it in a future post.

Secret #4 The Five Cities Area

Winery Tours are popular just on the outskirts of Pismo Beach to the east. We stopped in to see the Old Edna Townsite. We were thrilled to see our friend Pattea Torrence, who continues to restore the old townsite to its former glory. The day we visited she was busy remodeling this perfect new home for an antique store, or maybe chocolates. mmm2018 Central Coast trip

You can find vacation rentals as well as wine tasting. The wine tasting, owned by a separate company, Sextant Wines, disappointed me but I like sweet wines.

Secret #5 Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden

We were on our way home from our short Central Coast trip, and Jack said, “I want to take you to Sculpterra Winery. We wondered why in the world he would be so insistent that we go there. Jack doesn’t usually drink wine.

But wineries on the Central Coast are more than wineries, each one vying for the most unique, most beautiful spot in paradise. I put one picture on Facebook, and the comments started rolling in. You will soon learn why.

If my pictures don’t do this winery justice, and they don’t, you’ll have to go for yourself. Inside we found more treasures, not the least of which was Darren Brown, the photographer-narrator of this YouTube Video. I’ll write more about this fabulous experience in a later post as well.

Hope you enjoyed this quick drive to the beautiful Central California Coast.  In the next few weeks, I’ll highlight some of the most enjoyable, unique spots in their own posts.

Have you been to the Central California Coast? Tell me about your experiences.

More Exciting Road or Walking Trips



Dennis Scott Carruthers contacted me by email asking to do a guest post on Always Write. I checked out his website, Even though I’m a bit envious, I loved his work. See if you feel the same way.

travel photography


by D. Scott Carruthers


Becoming a travel photographer is one of the most exciting career paths any budding photographer can take. As commercial flights get cheaper and traveling is more emphasized as a hobby rather than a luxury, more photographers find themselves wanting to pursue their passion for images and explore unknown parts of the world.

In this post, we will be discovering the eight benefits of becoming a travel photographer. Read more at

8 Benefits To Becoming A Travel Photographer Even Though You Are an Amateur

by D. Scott Carruthers

Do You Love Taking Pictures?

Becoming a travel photographer is one of the most exciting career paths any budding photographer can take. As commercial flights get cheaper and traveling is more emphasized as a hobby rather than a luxury, more photographers find themselves wanting to pursue their passion for images and explore unknown parts of the world.

In this post, we will be discovering the eight benefits of becoming a travel photographer.

#1 Getting to see new places

Travel photographerIf you are an adventurer by heart, how exciting would it be to walk on paths you’ve never taken and take photos of places you’ve never been before? Most of us work like it’s a routine that we always dread. When you are a travel photographer, there’s never a routine. It’s always an adventure.

#2 Embracing other people’s culture

Travel photographerThe ignorance of someone’s culture is a result of the lack of knowledge about it. When you become a travel photographer, you open your mind to a culture that’s entirely different from yours. You will give yourself the opportunity to change perspectives if you have to, and show appreciation and respect for people on a different part of the globe.

#3 Collaborations with international brands

Travel photographerIf you persevere as a travel photographer, you may have the opportunity to partner with global brands that can sponsor your trip. For example, a resort from an exotic island can contact you to take photos of their place, and sponsor your trip going there. Publishing companies from other countries can also contact you if your pictures of their landmarks and nature stand out from the rest. Another example would to have the chance to promote a product that you use to take your photos, such as a camera or an accessory.

#4 Meeting other travel photographers

travel photographerIf your dream is to go to the known wonders of the world first, there is a chance that you will stumble upon another photographer who shares the same passion as you. You will get to learn from their experiences, and they will be glad to share with you tips and tricks on how to capture great photos during your travel. If they are a veteran in the area, they can also show you the best spots to take photos, and even ways to help you get around the area more efficiently and affordably.

#5 Appreciating wildlife

travel photographerBeing a nature travel photographer is a life-changing experience. In this opportunity, you will get to witness landscapes, water forms, animals, plants and other aspects of nature that you may not have the chance to see if you chose a different path. You get to appreciate the diversity of the natural world, of how the seasons change in color, of how the light and dark come into play and respect the cycle that is life.

#6 Flexible lifestyle

travel photographerHow many of us begrudgingly wake up to an alarm, brush our teeth, get our morning coffee and slave our way to a 9-5 job? Many of us do. However, being a travel photographer means you get to escape this rigid routine. You don’t have a Monday to Friday like others do. You get to choose your schedule and work as early or as late as you want, depending on your goals. Many aspire to have that flexible lifestyle that travel workers usually have.

#7 Minimalist way of living

travel photographerA travel photographer is always on-the-go, and must always be looking out for new opportunities to explore the world. When you become one, it means that you must be ready to get rid of all the clutter of material things in your life. Most of these things you won’t be able to bring with you as you tread on this career path. In fact, you will be liberated from the materialism that people have when they don’t travel as much. Your mind will be opened to acquire only things that matter, and that should usually fit your travel bag.

#8 New culinary experiences

travel photographerMany travel photographers are also foodies. That is why one great benefit of treading on this career path is to be able to taste the food and drinks of different countries. Travel photography can expand your culinary tastes to include different ways to prepare meals, snacks, drinks and other delicacies you wouldn’t have tasted otherwise if you took a different route. Experimenting with new foods is an exciting part of traveling that you might not want to miss as a photographer.


If you love photography consider these eight benefits of taking your hobby to the next level.


D Scott Carruthers is a professional photographer based in Anaheim, California. He gained recognition in his early years as a budding photographer as his works were featured in many local publications. He has covered events with public icons and celebrities. For more information, you can visit his website at


Always Write Looks for Talented Writers as Guest Authors

Do you write about blogging, writing, or photography for hobbyists? Always Write may be the place for you.  Leave a message in the comment section. or contact us by email or message.


In order to travel, health is of primary importance. I met David through his book, Didn’t Get Frazzled, see the review on Always Write.

A medical review of the documentary What the Heath

How to Make the Best Use of James Scott Bell’s Writing Blunders Solutions Even If You Can’t Do Them All

27 Fiction Writing Blunders and How Not to Make Them

Every writer wants to avoid writing blunders. James Bell is my go-to guy when I start writing fiction. His activities inspire me. Twenty-Seven Fiction Writing Blunders is one book I keep coming back to, but I’m not going to list all twenty-seven writing blunders for you, so you don’t have to read the book. It may take you months to read this short book, but let me sneak in a few of my favorite ideas from it.

The reason it takes months to read such a short, fast book is that you have to try the ideas as you go. Then you get sidetracked by writing and forget to read the rest of the book. The good news is that it’s ok to get distracted if you’re writing. Here is what I do to keep Bell’s ideas in my face.

Writing Blunders

List Your Favorite Writing Blunders in the Header of Your Project

It’s ok to change the writing blunders list once you feel you’ve developed good habits, but instead, I find I keep adding to it.

Here’s the checklist in the header of my book Girls on Fire that sprang from James Bell’s advice from one book or another. I recommend all of his books.

  1. Does narrative reflect the character’s inner life – what she thinks, not just what is?
  2. Make sure all characters have an attitude and an agenda. – Having an attitude and agenda is huge! They all have to be a little snarky about their agenda because of tips number three, eight, and ten. You won’t know how to distress your character if he or she doesn’t have an agenda.
  3. Does dialogue forward the character’s agenda?
  4. Dialogue gets bogged down with needless words – so, listen, really
  5. Dialogue should NOT say what both characters already know. This is a relatively easy fix! Or is it?
  6. Check your opening pages for the use of the word had and its derivatives. In first 10 pages – 3 sentences backstory, 2nd 10 pages – 3 paragraphs backstory
  7. Always check your pop culture references to make sure they’re not too dated.
  8. Tension every 100 words (about eight lines) Dialogue works best for creating tension, but Bell insists it can be in the narrative as well.
  9. Is there a story developing? What’s the plot? Structure. Maybe you don’t ramble or change your plot, but I’m struggling with this.
  10. Write to distress your characters. This is extremely hard for me. I want to be kind to the ones I like. You can see this is popular in movies now.
  11. Use Italics sparingly for short internal thoughts. How do you show the character’s inner thoughts? I love Modern Family because they take time to do this regularly with each of the main characters. 
  12. Create a strong bond with the character and an opening disturbance. Imminent danger, Hardship – without whining, Underdog, Likability – has self-deprecating humor and guts, is a dreamer and yet persevering. It is OK to start your character as a wimp, but get them in a fighting spirit. Reject the apparent character as the minors. Instead choose someone who is the opposite sex, skin color, hair color, fingernail color.

Use Bell’s Activities As Journal Writes

Like my blogging, my fiction writing has become an experimental hobby. As I learn, I rewrite. It’s been five years, and I’m still working on this little book. Simple activities may change your life or the life of your characters. These two activities from the book were fun and may have improved my book immensely – or not. At any rate, they were great journal writes.

Pick a Word Randomly Out of the Dictionary

Weave it into a story. This activity was fun. I had to do a little research along with the dictionary. It turns out it fits well. It turned out that I might be able to use this story. Yummy. At any rate, it turned into a chapter.

Word: caber – Scottish pole or beam especially one thrown as a trial of strength a roughly trimmed tree trunk used in the Scottish Highland sport of tossing the caber. This sport involves holding the caber upright and running forward to toss it so that it lands on the opposite end. It so happened that one of my characters is of Scottish descent, so this worked out beautifully. Doing a little more research brought the word to life. Also, it was nice to know that some Scottish guys do wear underwear. I bet this one was glad he did!

writing blunders
Caber toss guy

Choose a News Article

Weave it into the story. Wow, I never expected this to make a difference, but it changed the beginning of the book and gave my character a focus, a chance to shine and a whole bunch of attitude. Practicing the activity in a journal write and not writing the chapter directly into the book freed me. I knew I didn’t have to use this story in my book, but it was interesting to write. Again, I ended up doing a bit more research because I was curious after I read the headlined article.

The story is about an Ohio woman who drew celebrity support for her claims of innocence in the slaying of a teenage girl has been released after 22 years in prison.

WHIO-TV reports Tyra Patterson, now 42, was freed Monday, Christmas Day.

Patterson was convicted in the 1994 murder and robbery of 15-year-old Michelle Lai. She was one of five people charged with killing Lai and robbing her sister and three other girls.

Patterson did not fire the shot that killed Lai, but under Ohio law accomplices can get the same punishment as killers. 

My thought was what if this had happened in my character’s school? As a psychologist, what would she have done?

My husband’s comment, “Wow, that’s a totally different start. I didn’t even recognize it! It’s like a murder mystery now.” The goal of Girls on Fire is the same, but now my character has some real-life clients. Thanks, James!

My Expert Advice: Read all of James Scott Bell’s Books.

You can’t go wrong choosing any of Bell’s books. Every one of James Bell’s books I’ve read is a five-star book in my opinion. Who is your go-to author for writing tips?