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El CapitanBeach To Lompoc To Surf To Vandernberg AFB To Guadalope To Pismo Beach To San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, California

March 7, 2021

Today was my longest travel day in a few weeks -- I covered somewhere around 120 miles. Exhausting.

I saw an awful lot in those 120 miles. As you can see from the map above, much of the drive was inland although I was on the PCH the whole time. I almost forgot I was in California as much of the area I drove through was rural. I think many of us think California is one big highway; it is far from that. I saw a rusted barn which could could have been in Virginia and Spanish moss that reminded me of Louisiana.

I made sure to visit Lompoc which is where my friend Mark's parents were married. Most of the photos in the slideshow are from there. It is a tired town with too many closed up businesses -- but some good opportunities for photos! Surf is close to Lompoc and also a great site for photos. Vanderberg AFB was along the way as was the Santa Maria oil refinery. The town of Guadalupe has "Chicago Chop Suey" and a restaurant with Spanish food. I also drove through Pismo Beach which reminded me of Myrtle Beach and Ocean City, Maryland. I was trying to find a polite way of describing the town -- I found this helpful description where a person is helping someone decide whether to visit Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach. Here is her discussion:

Okay, perhaps a description of the towns is in order here to help firm your decision.

Santa Barbara: The touristy parts are clean, attractive & safe. Great shopping, dining, nearby activities. Upper middle to upper class playground.

Pismo Beach: Nice long stretch of sandy beach, but the touristy parts are dirty, run down and filled with lots of cheesy shops and. quite frankly, some less than desirable visitors. The area where Dolphin Bay is located is pretty nice, but there isn't much around there.

The only negative I can think of with a stay in Santa Barbara, is the length of the drive up to Monterey via the coast. It's a 5 1/2 hour drive WITHOUT stops, but since there is so much to see/do en route, will likely take you at least 9-12.

I condensed today's photos into a just-less than-six-minute video. The music is by Sister Hazel and is entitled"All For You." I heard this song while I was chilling out poolside and chills went down my spine. I recognize the song from the 1990s but I didn't recall the lyrics (which I have posted at the bottom of this post). They spoke to me -- actually it was more like yelling. I found an acoustic version of the song and had more chills. That's the one you will hear with the slideshow.


Lompoc (/ˈlɒmpoʊk/, LOM-poke) (Purisimeño: Lompo', "Stagnant Water") is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. The city was incorporated on August 13, 1888. The population was 42,434 at the 2010 census, up from 41,103 at the 2000 census.

Before European settlers arrived, the area around Lompoc was inhabited by the Chumash people. The name of the city is derived from a Purisimeño term, "Lum Poc", which means "stagnant waters" or "lagoon". In 1837, the Mexican government sold the area as the Rancho Lompoc land grant. After the United States gained control of California in the Mexican–American War (1846–48), the valley was acquired by Thomas Dibblee, Albert Dibblee and William Welles Hollister. Hollister sold his share to the Lompoc Valley Land Company, and it was on that portion of the land that the present-day Lompoc was established as a temperance colony.

Lompoc was intended to be named New Vineland, after the temperance colony in New Jersey. It then became a military town with the completion of nearby Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base). The city is known as the flower seed capital of the world.


Prior to the Spanish conquest, the area around Lompoc was inhabited by the Chumash people. Original La Purisima Mission was established in 1787 near what is now the southern edge of the city. Purisimeño, a Chumashan language, was spoken in the region during the mission period. After an earthquake destroyed the mission in 1812, it was relocated to its present location 1 mile northeast of the present city. After independence from the Spanish Empire, the First Mexican Empire was established in 1821. The Mexicans secularized the Spanish missions in 1833, and La Purisima Mission fell into ruins.

In 1893, a diatomaceous earth mine ( , formerly Johns Manville, World Mineral, Celite corporation, now Imerys Inc., opened in the southern hills in Miguelito Canyon. It became (and still is) the largest marine diatomite mine in the world, and at one time was the largest employer in the valley. While owned by Johns Manville, the mine employed upwards of 900 people at its peak, and built housing for its employees onsite and in town, the houses in town are adjacent to JM park, which was donated to the city by the mine. Another diatomaceous earth company, Grefco, operated here from the 1940s till 1998. The remnants of its mine at the northeast end of town were torn down in 2001.

In 1909, the Sibyl Marston—at the time, the largest steam schooner built on the West Coast—sank nearby while carrying 1,100,000 board feet of lumber. Many of the older Lompoc homes were built with lumber from the shipwreck. The wreckage can still be seen south of Surf Beach.

The coastal branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad opened around 1900 and eventually replaced ship transportation. A paved road linked Lompoc to Buellton and the rest of California around 1920. In 1923, the Honda Point disaster, the U.S.'s largest peacetime naval accident, occurred just off the coast; nine U.S. destroyers ran aground, killing 23 people.

During the Great Depression, La Purisima Mission was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). During World War II, the coast west of Lompoc was the site of Camp Cooke, a United States Army training camp where large units could practice maneuvers.

Lompoc grew slowly until 1958, when the United States Air Force announced that the former Camp Cooke would be a test site for the Thor family of intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the first operational base for the SM-65 Atlas, an intercontinental ballistic missile. The city then began to grow rapidly to provide housing for thousands of civilians and contractors employed at what was soon renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was the first missile base of the United States Air Force.

The Space Shuttle program was slated to begin launches in the late 1980s, and the city experienced a boom in restaurant and hotel construction in anticipation of tourists coming to see shuttle launches. However, when the Challenger exploded during take-off from Cape Canaveral in 1986, the West Coast shuttle program was terminated, sending Lompoc into a severe recession.

Lompoc is called "The City of Arts and Flowers" and is also becoming known for its wines. In 2010, Playboy named Jasper's, a local bar, one of the top 10 dive bars in the country.


Vandenberg Air Force Base dominates the economy, directly employing a large percentage of Lompoc's residents and contributing $1.7 billion to the regional economy. It employs 6,889 residents. Other mainstays of the economy include the Federal Correctional Institution, the diatomaceous earth mine (today owned by Imerys), the Lompoc Oil Field and associated oil processing facilities north of town, and agriculture (especially seed flowers and vegetables).

Wine production and wine tourism make up an expanding agricultural sector. Lompoc Valley is the gateway to the Sta. Rita Hills AVA wine appellation, internationally recognized for premium pinot noir and chardonnay. Thirty premium boutique wine labels are produced in Lompoc. Numerous other wineries are located along State Route 246 and on Santa Rosa Road. Tasting rooms are located in various parts of Lompoc.

Since the end of the Cold War, many workers employed in Santa Barbara and Goleta have moved to Lompoc to take advantage of lower housing costs, effectively making Lompoc a bedroom community of Santa Barbara. The character of the town has changed considerably with the growth associated with this demographic shift. In addition, new housing developments are spreading into the adjacent hills on the north side of town.


Upon the legalization of the sale and distribution of cannabis in California, the city had seven recreational marijuana storefronts by February 2020 with nineteen cannabis business licenses having been issued by the city. One of the retail establishment is being licensed for on site consumption claiming to be the first between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A manufacturing facility has been established and a testing lab provides the required analysis for growers. Companies must be licensed by the local agency and the state to grow, test, or sell cannabis and the city may authorize none or only some of these activities. Cannabis dispensaries pay a 6% gross sales tax to the city. Local governments may not prohibit adults, who are in compliance with state laws, from growing, using, or transporting marijuana for personal use.


Surf is a former settlement in an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County, California, located along the Pacific coast within Vandenberg Air Force Base west of the city of Lompoc. Surf Beach provides access to the Pacific Ocean. There is a parking lot and the unstaffed Surf Amtrak Station. California State Route 246 used to run to Surf, but in 1984 the highway was truncated at Lompoc and the road from Lompoc to Surf is designated West Ocean Avenue.

Sections of Surf Beach are closed between March 1 and September 30 every year during the nesting season of the western snowy plover. The closures are in place to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act. If a set number of trespass violations have been reached during any nesting season (currently 50), the beach is closed entirely.

Surf grew as a railway town to accommodate the personnel needed to maintain the trains and tracks after Southern Pacific Railroad built a station here for its Coast Line in 1900. In 1909, the schooner cargo ship Sibyl Marston sank off the coast south from Surf. The station at Surf became popular with U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base) during World War II. The population of the town peaked at 40, with most residents being employed with the railroad. As trains modernized, Surf experienced depopulation, to the point where Southern Pacific was only operating a telegraph station. The telegraph station closed in 1985, and it was not until 2000 that the current Surf Amtrak Station was completed. The unstaffed Amtrak station is currently the only structure left standing in Surf.

Two fatal shark attacks have occurred near Surf Beach: one on October 22, 2010, and the other on October 23, 2012.Travel + Leisure has listed it as one of the worst beaches for shark attacks.

I took this video of the surf at Surf. In other words, Surf's surf. 😂

Vandenberg Air Force Base

Vandenberg Air Force Base is a United States Space Force Base located 9.2 mi northwest of Lompoc, California. Established in 1941, Vandenberg Air Force Base is a space launch base, launching spacecraft from the Western Range and also performs missile testing. The United States Space Force's 30th Space Wing serves as the host wing for the base. In addition to its military space launch mission, Vandenberg Air Force Base also performs space launches for civil and commercial space entities, such as NASA.

Vandenberg AFB is the only military base in the United States from which unmanned government and commercial satellites are launched into polar orbit. The base encompasses over 98,000 acres (153 square miles), with 35 miles of pristine coastline stretching along the Pacific Ocean. It is truly a military installation in a national park setting.

The mission of the 30th Space Wing is enable space superiority through assured access to space by providing robust, relevant, and efficient spaceport and range capabilities for the Nation. The 30th Space Wing manages Department of Defense space and missile testing, and the placing of satellites into polar orbit from the West Coast, using expendable boosters. The 381 TRG, Air Education and Training Command, provides quality training to produce the finest space and missile operators and maintainers for our AF and our nation's defense.

The site's population consists of 2,600 military personnel , 3,800 family members,1500 DoD civilians/NAF, and 2800 contractors.


Guadalupe is a small city located in Santa Barbara County, California. According to the U.S. Census of 2010, the city has a population of 7,080. Guadalupe is economically and socially tied to the city of Santa Maria, which is about ten miles to the east. It is located on Highway 1 immediately south of the Santa Maria River, and five miles east of the Pacific Ocean.


The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, camped near today's Guadalupe on September 1, 1769. Franciscan missionary and expedition member Juan Crespi noted in his diary that they found "a very large lake". The lake has since mostly filled in, leaving a low-lying plain traversed by the Santa Maria River and several tributaries.

When Mission La Purisima was established in 1787, the area became part of the mission's pasture land. In 1840, following secularization of the mission, the area became part of the Rancho Guadalupe land grant. Rancho Guadalupe was settled by pioneers of many unique backgrounds, such as European, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Mexican. The small town was incorporated as the city of Guadalupe on May 19, 1946. The city name honors Our Lady of Guadalupe, the title given to the Virgin Mary.

Agriculture is by far the leading industry in Guadalupe. Apio Inc. and Obispo Cooling take produce in from the surrounding fields and prepare it for shipping to points across the nation as well as overseas. The majority of the small businesses in town can be found on Guadalupe St. Some of the small town businesses include El Tapatio, and Guadalupe Restaurant serve traditional Mexican food. For a quick bite you can get pizza at Two Guys Pizza, a burger at King Falafel and Charlie's Place, Chinese Food at Panda Sticks, or tacos and burritos Romo's Market. Groceries can be bought at La Chiquita market and Masatani's Market. There is a hardware store called The Guadalupe Hardware Company, Napa Auto Parts, two tire shops, an auto body shop, and three auto mechanic shops in town. There is also a public library on Main Street, with a dentist and a panaderia (Mexican pastries and sweet bread) La Roca. There is a pharmacy and a medical clinic behind the post office. There are two laundromats in town and a recycling center in the Roy's Liquor parking lot. There are two gas stations in the town, the Chevron on Guadalupe st and 11th st and at YK Market on Guadalupe st. There is also a diesel/gas station on Obispo st and 4th st. Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe is a Catholic church in 11th St. and Obispo St., there are three other Christian churches in town as well as a Buddhist temple.

After more than 20 years of waiting, construction is officially underway beginning on a development in Guadalupe that will eventually add more than 800 homes to the small town. The project was first announced in 1993 and has been delayed multiple times. The city annexed the 209-acre site in 1995. When completed, it is expected to boost the city's population — now slightly more than 7,000 — to the 10,000 that is considered the threshold for attracting chain stores and restaurants. In addition to homes, the plan includes a new school and commercial development.

The most common employment sector is agriculture. It has the highest percentage of agricultural- and manufacturing workers in Santa Barbara County: 31% are employed in the agriculture sector, while 24% have manufacturing jobs.

Santa Maria Oil Refinery

Note: this is the text of a newspaper article about the facility.

The better living through chemistry era was in full force in 1955 when Union Oil built the Santa Maria refinery on the Nipomo Mesa.

Dial telephones were still a year in the future for San Luis Obispo.

The flash from nighttime atomic weapons detonations in the desert air above Nevada could be seen in San Luis Obispo County.

Highway 101 was under construction in the county.

In 1955 Riley’s department store announced plans for a brand new building at Chorro and Marsh streets. That building is now slated for demolition; San Luis Obispo just approved a proposal for a six-story mixed use building on the site.

Another era ended this week, too, when it was announced the current owner of the refinery on the Nipomo Mesa is planning on shutting down the facility.

Phillips 66 pumped partially refined oil from what is called the Santa Maria refinery to a refinery in the Bay Area, where it was processed into market ready fuels.

That plant in Rodeo is being converted to a biofuel refinery, converting french fry oil into fuel.

According to an article in Bloomberg Green, a “mind boggling” amount of subsidies are available for biofuel producers.

This leaves as surplus the 45,000 barrel-a-day refinery and chemical plant in Santa Maria in 2023.

In the 1950s Union Oil had big problems to solve. The market for gasoline was exploding, freeways were covering the state and the baby boom was underway.

The Korean War earlier in the decade had stressed the supply chain. Unfortunately the crude oil in California did not refine easily into gasoline.

The company had a lot of California oil, fields near Santa Paula, Bakersfield, Santa Maria and Los Angeles area were all part of the Union Oil inventory, and would soon develop leases in the ocean off Santa Barbara.

According to two company biography books, “A Century of Spirit” and “The 76 Bonanza,” one of the secrets to the company’s success in this era was a new refining process that catalyzed chemical byproducts out of the oil.

The Unicracker could deliver 120 barrels of gasoline from 100 barrels of feedstock.

The process was so good, other oil companies licensed it.

The Santa Maria plant cost $5 million to build, part of a larger $40 million expansion program.

A sister chemical plant was built on site that made coke and removed sulfur from the oil.

Coke is a high carbon fuel used in blast furnaces for metallurgical uses such as steel making.

Union Oil had almost completed construction of coking plant on the Nipomo Mesa, according to a story published in the then Telegram-Tribune, March 12, 1955.

The first member of the staff was due to start work within a week and 90 workers would be hired to run the refinery. The plant was designed to produce about 600 tons of coke a day and handle 21,00 barrels of crude oil, piped in from fields in Santa Maria.

Bechtel Corp. was the contractor. Three plants were constructed, a sulfur producing unit, coking plant and utility unit producing water, fuel oil and steam.

The story said some of fuel oil and gasoline would be piped to Avila Beach for shipment by tanker.

“Some 3,200 acres of unproductive sand dunes are being converted into an industrial plant for manufacturing coke, sulphur and high grade feed stock gas oils for use in big Union Oil refineries in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.”

According to “A Century of Spirit”, the Santa Maria plant made “popcorn sulfur” by forcing water, air and molten sulfur through a special nozzle. The refining waste product was transformed into a salable agricultural product, less flammable and easier to use than other sulfur products.

For over three generations the plant has provided head of household jobs, ones that will be hard to replace when it closes.

However the hydrocarbon economy has had environmental costs. The plant has tangled with the Air Pollution Control District over emissions. The pipelines transporting oil to and from the plant have leaked. When a major supply pipeline ruptured, the refinery tried to establish supply via rail but statewide environmental opposition to that plan means that the refinery gets raw oil via tanker trucks regularly seen on Highways 101 and 166.

The larger cost of fossil fuels has been the carbon load in the atmosphere, 2020 has seen multiple hot weather records fall as well as catastrophic wildfires and resulting poor air quality from smoke.

A local chapter in that larger story will end with the closure of the plant in 2023.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a city in the southern portion of San Luis Obispo County, in the Central Coast area of California, United States. The estimated population was 8,213 in 2018, up from 7,655 in the 2010 census. It is part of the Five Cities Area, a cluster of cities in that area of San Luis Obispo County. The "Five Cities" area historically is made up of Arroyo Grande, Grover City (now Grover Beach), Halcyon, Fair Oaks and Nipomo. Now most people refer to the Five Cities as Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach (actually a part of Pismo Beach), Arroyo Grande and Oceano (which is unincorporated county land serviced by the Oceano Community Services District).


The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, passed through the area, traveling up today's Price Canyon from Pismo Beach, where they camped on September 4, 1769. Franciscan missionary and expedition member Juan Crespi noted in his diary that they found a Chumash village near the creek.

Pismo Beach is located on the Rancho Pismo Mexican land grant made to José Ortega, grandson of José Francisco Ortega, in 1840. In 1846 José Ortega sold Rancho Pismo to Isaac Sparks. John Michael Price bought most of the rancho from Sparks. Price established the town of Pismo Beach in 1891. His homestead is now Price Historical Park. His home is a registered historical landmark.

The name Pismo comes from the Chumash language word for tar, pismuʔ, which was gathered from tar springs in Price Canyon near Pismo Beach. The tar was a valuable product which the Chumash Indians used to caulk their seagoing canoes, called tomol, which traveled along the coast and out to the Channel Islands.

The first wharf at Pismo was built in 1882, followed by a full-length pier built in 1924 that was financed and constructed by William Woodrow Ward, who allowed full use of it by the public. After it suffered considerable storm damage, the pier was renovated again in 1985. Pismo State Beach is named for the city of Pismo Beach.

The neighborhoods of Shell Beach and Sunset Palisades were originally the site of a Chumash village, and significant archeological sites are located in both areas. Shell Beach became agricultural land, mostly pea fields. Developer Floyd Calvert bought and developed the area in 1926. At first it was a local resort area; after World War II it became primarily residential. Sunset Palisades, originally called Oilport, was the site of an oil refinery from 1907 until after World War II. It is now residential.


The Pismo clam was named for the long, wide beach where so many were once found, once in such abundance that they were harvested with plows. Clamming once drew thousands of clammers to Pismo during low tides, and is still legal; however, due to over-harvesting by humans and the protected sea otter (which feasts on clams), few clams are to be found.

Pismo Beach adopted the name "Clam Capital of the World" in the 1950s, though this motto is no longer used. The city still holds the Clam Festival every October, complete with clam chowder competitions and a clam-themed parade.

At the southern end of Price Street upon first entering Pismo Beach, a gigantic concrete clam statue greets visitors. The oldest surf shop on the Central Coast (Pismo Beach Surf Shop) is seen from the Pismo Clam. An eight-inch shell of the Pismo clam (Tivela stultorum) is on display at the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Pismo Beach is memorably mentioned in the Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski.

All For You Lyrics

[Verse 1]

Finally I figured out

But it took a long long time

And now there's a turnabout

Maybe cause I'm trying



[Verse 2]



[Verse 3]

[Verse 4]

Finally I figured out

But it took a long long time

And now there's a turnabout

Maybe cause I'm trying



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