A sign of the times: The old general store at Sisquoc has surely been around a lot longer
Pozo-La Panza OHV Riding Area can be accessed by either Pozo Road off California Highway 58, about 25 miles east of Santa Margarita, or via High Mountain Road north of Lopez Lake, seven miles east of Arroyo Grande. Primitive camping (toilets, picnic table, fire rings) is available at several locations within the riding area. A Forest Service Adventure Pass ($30/year; available at retail stores nationwide) is required for parked vehicles. More info: 805/925-9538.
Rock Front OHV Area can be accessed from Big Rocks Road north of California Highway 166 (the turnoff is unmarked), 27 miles northeast of Santa Maria. Turn left when you see a wrought-iron sign reading "Rock Front Ranch" (it's a gate to a private ranch), then veer to the left along a dirt road. A quarter mile to the east, a right turn onto Sierra Madre Road will take you into the upper reaches of the Santa Lucia range, with some spectacular views the reward; on a really clear day, you can see the outline of the Sierra Nevada, some 200 miles to the east. A USFS Adventure Pass is also required, and camping is permitted at designated sites. More info: 805/925-9538.
Some of the streambeds on High Mountain Road can be rocky in places, so a bit of caution a
Just like your 4x4 needs fuel, so do you. Here are three legendary food joints we never pass up when we're tooling around the central coast:
Pozo Saloon, Pozo: Cruise the parking lot on just about any weekend, and you'll find BMW 7-series, Harley Electra-Glides, and lifted Blazers and Broncos parked outside this legendary watering hole. Originally a Wells Fargo stage stop, the saloon has stood on the same location since 1858 and is celebrated as much for its diverse clientele-bikers, ranchers, wheelers, and winery-hoppers-as for its burger-and-brew pub grub. (Be sure to ask for a "Pozo Martini"-it's a glass of tap beer with two olives dropped in it.) The saloon hosts live music on weekends, and some big names occasionally make impromptu appearances: George Thorogood, the Black Crowes, and Snoop Dogg have all been sighted in recent years.
Mmmmm . . . Santa Maria tri-tip.
Shaw's Steak House, Santa Maria: Foodie carnivores know that the words "Santa Maria" are synonymous with tri-tip barbecue, and if you're in the mood for mass quantities of melt-in-your-mouth rib-eyes, flank steaks, and back ribs for reasonable prices, this red-naugahyde paradise on Santa Maria's main drag has been wood-grilling meats for over 50 years. The portions are huge-the beef ribs in particular look like something you'd see in an episode of The Flintstones-so come famished and leave stuffed, with plenty of leftovers in your go-box.
The Pozo Saloon, at the western terminus of Pozo Road, has been in the same location since
Duckie's, Cayucos: It's a bit out of the way-some 15 miles northwest of Pismo-but this beachfront hole-in-the-wall, adjacent to the pier in the seaside town of Cayucos, serves up clam chowder that locals will swear is the best you'll find anywhere. We'll vouch the same for the fish and chips-big flaky hunks of fresh battered cod served with a generous portion of hand-cut spuds-no frozen stuff here. Besides, if the menu at Duckie's doesn't spin your props, you can rent a rod and a bucket from the bait-and-tackle shop next door, and catch your own lunch off the pier.