West Coast Road Trip: Irvine to Nevada City

After a brief respite in Irvine, Mags and I set out for the final portion of our travels: a West Coast road trip. On the map below, you can see our approximate route, with our stops in alphabetical order.

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Before we set out, we recuperated for a few days in Irvine, including a visit to the Getty Museum in LA with Renee and going out for Korean food and K Pop music videos with Alex.


labyrinth garden at the Getty Museum


View from the Getty with Renee. LA at it’s finest. Visibility was excellent this sunny day, we could even see Long Beach and the Catalina Islands.


artwork in the Getty

Splitting our driving into about five-hour segments per day, our goal was to make our way up to Portland, Oregon, making stops in other towns along the way that appealed to us as potential places to settle down.

Our first stop was to visit Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, California, near San Luis Obispo. Tierra Nueva really reaffirmed our desire to live in cohousing when we saw the young children running around freely in this car-free neighborhood. The parking is on the outside only, leaving the areas around the houses and gardens to be more relaxed. We joined for a community meal, which is usually a feature you will find in cohousing. We have found that most cohousing communities are very welcoming and love to have visitors tour their community and join for a common meal, even with just a day’s notice.

We stayed with Mags’s friend Laura from PT school, and her husband Paul and son Eric. They enjoy living in Arroyo Grande, near San Luis Obisbo, because it is easy to get around and is close to the ocean. They were gracious hosts!


breakfast with Laura, Paul, and Eric at Station Grill, adjacent to the Grover Beach train station

After our wedding almost three years ago, we took a mini honeymoon, a three-day stay in lovely Carmel. We decided to spend a night there again and relive some of our fond memories of that beautiful resort town. It also happened to be a good stopping point to break up our driving.

The highlight of our time in Carmel in 2010 and the highlight again this time was our meal at Dametra Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant with excellent food, song and dance, and the friendliest service you will ever experience. Everyone is treated like family at this spectacular restaurant.

Their trademark romantic song to perform is Bésame Mucho, which means “kiss me a lot.” You can hear it below.


This singer came out from the kitchen to share his lovely voice, accompanied by one of the owners on a guitar-like, round-body instrument.


This talented baritone singer also serenaded us on our honeymoon 3 years ago.

And if that weren’t enough, there were more songs and dancing throughout the evening.  They brought out belly dance skirts and encouraged all to join in the dance party.


From Carmel, we bypassed the San Francisco Bay area, and all we love there, heading to Davis. We have heard a lot about this college town with an agricultural heritage and the community activism of locals. We joined for dinner at N Street Cohousing, a shining example of retrofit cohousing, organically grown within a suburban development by neighbors tearing down fences.  On the other end of the intentional community spectrum, we strolled the spectacularly verdant grounds of Village Homes, a planned subdivision. Here, 225 passive homes, including a student co-op, 20 apartments, community center, and small business district thrive on 70 acres of land designed with conservation of energy and natural resources in mind.  Most of the landscaping consists of edible or native plants to care for people as well as encourage wildlife.




Squirrel with acorn

We were awed at vineyards, farm plots, and many trees spilling over with ripe fruit and nuts. This would be a perfect place for Stu to work in community farming. We loved this community with street names inspired from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but no homes were on the market. If we moved here, we could live on Oakenshield or Evenstar Way. While in Davis, we also met up with William for Thai dinner.


Stu squashed at Village Homes Community in Davis.

Next, we drove to Nevada City, the oldest still-functioning gold rush town, nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Nevada City actually wasn’t on our radar at all until cousin Kristy suggested it to us a few weeks ago, thinking it sounded like it had everything we were looking for.


Stu with old hydraulic water pump for mining gold

When we started researching the town, we discovered Nevada City Cohousing, which was spearheaded by cohousing pioneers Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who live nearby.

Nevada City Cohousing is optimally placed, being just a half mile from downtown while also having six acres of forested land shared by the 34 townhome households. It is a newer development, built in 2007, with all the energy efficiency that comes with that. There is shared solar, a pool, hot tub, and a great common house with large kitchen and dining area for shared meals, and shared guest rooms. We were impressed with Nevada City Cohousing and we’re grateful to Nancy Newman for being our host, and to the rest of the community for being so welcoming.

See more pictures from this portion of our trip here. In our next post, we continue our road trip up to Portland, and then back down to San Francisco.

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