When the weather man talks of triple digit temperatures in the San Fernando Valley it tells this Writer it is time to seek the ocean. And what better place to enjoy mellow seaside temperatures than scenic Highway One that hugs the ocean north through the Central Coast. On this trip it took us to Lompoc and the opportunity to explore the Lompoc Valley Wine Trail and the City's Wine Ghetto.
Lompoc is gateway to the Santa Rita Hills wine appellation which in a short period of time has achieved a great reputation for the quality of its Burgandian style wines--Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Wine Ghetto in Lompoc is the wine tasters dream come true for here are clustered the tasting rooms of twenty eight local wineries. Located in the industrial part of town, grouped in work stations designed for small businesses the tasting rooms are generally small, intimate and designed to show off some of California's best wines.
But Lompoc and its surrounding Valley have much more to offer the visitor as well. Just before you reach Lompoc on Highway One a county road takes you to Jalama Beach Park. This fourteen mile drive winds through cattle country, scenic hills, valleys and meadows and then to the Coast with its view of the ocean and a huge sweep of coast line north to Government Point. Jalama Beach Park offers camping, picnics, surfing, fishing and a store featuring great hamburgers.
On a first time visit to Lompoc we suggest you start with a call to the Lompoc Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center located in the old downtown district at 111 South I Street. Here you will find maps of the Wine Ghetto, the Lompoc Wine Trail and material on other nearby points of interest.
Our lodging was at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Lompoc and we enjoyed our stay there. The concept of two rooms makes for a feeling of space and since we generally spend part of our time in writing the comfortable office style table in the living room, with computer connections, was much appreciated. After a full day of activity the complimentary Happy Hour in the early evening is a welcome opportunity to relax and enjoy some liquid libation.
Our lifetime habit of abandoning our bed at first light fits well with the Embassy policy of providing a complete breakfast of cooked to order omelets or other breakfast fare like French toast, our favorite.
Embassy Suites, located at 1117 North Hill Street in the center of Lompoc, proved to be the perfect headquarters for our sight-seeing excursions in the Valley.
One morning we went to the nearby La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. Here we met Park Ranger Ann Boggess who would be our guide for a tour of the Mission. First she allowed us time to look and study the excellent exhibits in the Visitor Center which tell the story of the Mission's founding in 1788. Other exhibits show the life of the native Chumash people before the coming of Europeans and how Mission life dramatically destroyed their earlier existence. Another explains the role of the Civilian Construction Corp., who they were and the role they played in restoring the mission.
La Purisima Park has 1800 acres and includes twenty five miles of trails for hiking, biking and equestrian. Besides the regular Ranger staff there are 125 volunteers that help with the special events that take place as well as care for the live farm animals still at the Mission.
Ann Boggess was wonderful as our guide. She has been a Ranger for sixteen years and her knowledge of every part of the La Purisima story was most rewarding for us. The original Mission was destroyed in an earthquake and the mission rebuilt in 1812 but by the 20th century was falling apart in decay. Then in the 1930s the C.C.C., Civilian Construction Corp. decided to reconstruct it with a crew of some 200 young men. It took the CCC eight years to complete the reconstruction. So today visitors can see the church as it once was as well as the living quarters of the priests and trades people who were so necessary for life at the Mission.
La Purisima State Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 2295 Purisima Road on the outskirts of Lompoc. Telephone 888 877-5379. The Park has an extensive program of special event and activities and guided tours are conducted daily at 1 p.m. Mor information can be obtained on the web at www.lapurisimamission.org.
Driving through the original downtown area of Lompoc you will view large murals painted on the walls of many of its buildings. And here is a story to be told about "The Murals of Lompoc, California". In all there are thirty five such murals and each has a visual story to tell about life and times in Lompoc, both past and present. < P>We viewed these murals with Vicki Anderson who has been with the Lompoc Mural Society since its inception in 1988. A map of where each mural is located and its history is available at the Lompoc Chamber of Commerce. This building too has a mural painted on its side and it describes how the mining of the mineral Diaomaceous has been a part of Lompoc's history for over one hundred years.
As we moved through "Art Alley" there were murals depicting Lompoc's once flourishing flower seed industry, a Veteran's tribute, and about Temperance, recalling the role it played in the original establishment of Lompoc as a Temperance Colony. The murals are all in a six block area of the City's original downtown with many of the buildings dating back to the beginning of the 1900s.
Vicki Anderson had much to tell us about these murals and who the artists were and how they were selected to paint them. Some were completed in a single day by a group of artists. Also how the idea of the murals came about by one man who learned of a similar endeavor in a small town on Vancouver Island in Canada.
The mural map and much more information about Lompoc is available at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, 111 South I Street. Telephone 805 736-4567 or 800 240-0999, web www.lompoc.com. Office open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Our visit to the Wine Ghetto and other wine explorations rate a separate story in Vittles. This is also true of our culinary experiences in Lompoc and discovery of an exciting new restaurant in the City.
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