2003 Tour de California Report: The Ultimate "Roadhouse"
In 2003 I did not have the time for my annual Tour de California, not to
mention the fact that my car’s air conditioner is still not working. However,
last weekend after the fabulous Concorso Italiano my wife and I had a
long-anticipated stay in the Hacienda Guest Lodge. What, you’ve never heard of
it? Don’t worry, neither has anyone else. For people who enjoy driving scenic
and empty roads, this is probably the greatest weekend get-away bargain in all
Location, Location, Location
Hacienda Guest Lodge sits at the eastern terminus of my favorite California
byway, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. This location is so remote that I generally
get up before dawn to make a round-trip drive from home. Being able to stay
overnight and make it a 2-day trip is a huge plus. In the past, when traveling
alone, I have pitched a tent at Ponderosa campground 8 miles in from the coast.
The Hacienda is a big improvement over camping. Our spacious $60 room was behind
both the arched windows at the right of the photo.
The Hacienda is inside Fort Hunter Liggett, which these days means that you
will need to show current license, registration, and proof of insurance at the
gate. They do not have a computer hookup to check it online.
drive north on Del Ventura Road inside the Fort is such a treat that you’d
probably backtrack to run it again even if it weren’t a dead end. Outside the
gate, the main road heading south or north is County Road G14. It’s wide, fast,
empty, and scenic.
The Hacienda’s location is absolutely perfect as a stopover for a 2-day
scenic trip between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. If you’re heading to the
coast, Old Creek Road is your best bet for scenery. If you’re heading north,
take G14 to King City, then Bitterwater Road to Highway 25 to Hollister. To the
south, you should check out the pretty Chimney Rock Road, Adelaida Road, and
Vineyard Road before making your way over to Highway 58 to McKittrick.
If you drive Nacimiento Road to the coast and you get there by 8 AM, you will
have Highway 1 all to yourself. ‘Nuff said.
Architect Julia Morgan, who designed Hearst’s San Simeon castle, created the
Hacienda as a working ranch house, drawing inspiration from the nearby Spanish
mission for its white stucco walls and Spanish-tiled roof. An arched colonnade
spans the residential wing that encloses spartan cowboy’s rooms, suites and
other rooms, and Hearst’s private quarters. Hearst used the Hacienda as a
hunting lodge and party site for guests including such notables as Clark Gable,
Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard, Teddy Roosevelt, and Herbert Hoover. The rooms
contain elaborate wood carvings hand-crafted in Spain in 1922, covering the
arched windows. This is definitely not a Motel 6.
Half a mile north of the lodge is the historic Mission San Antonio.
California’s third mission, it was founded five years before the American
Revolution. Franciscans restored it in the 1940s, using antique construction
tools and reclaimed mud bricks to rebuild the adobe walls. Many other California
missions are now surrounded by cities, but San Antonio is set in a landscape
pretty much the same as when Father Serra arrived. The original wine vat and
cellar survive, grape smells lingering in the cellar, the steps leading up to
the vat grooved from two hundred years’ wear. Allow some time to walk through
and soak up the quiet that envelops this place.
You simply won’t believe the prices here. $50 gets you a very nice room, and
$125 gets you the 3-bedroom, 2-bath suite. You can have a huge steak dinner for
less than $10 (those soldiers are big eaters). And there are no taxes on any of
this because it’s federal property! For reservations, phone (831) 386-2446.
The restaurant does not serve breakfast, and is open 11AM to 8PM. Service may
be slow if the place is full. Your room will likely include a couple of
plastic-wrapped pastries for breakfast, along with a coffee maker, microwave and
The rooms have TV, but no reception. Bring videotapes if you like or borrow
them free at the desk at the Restaurant. The Lodge has a very warm swimming pool
that is frequented by kids, which is perfect if you brought your own. If you are
a hunter, there is a 3-day deer hunting "season" in mid-August. We saw 5 deer
and 20 or so quail just driving around in the morning, so I guess the area is
packed with wildlife.
A recent fire has burned the grass on the north side of Stony Valley (west of
the first hills west of the Nacimiento River crossing). I hope it turns green
again soon, because it was the prettiest valley in the state, in my opinion.
In the winter, rain sometimes closes the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road and/or
Highway 1. Call CalTrans at 800-427-7623 or check their web site for current
And one other thing: let’s keep this place our secret… OK?