Outdoor Adventures / Road Trips

Scenes From Old Coalinga Road

Old Coalinga Road

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s this: I love to drive. Or rather, my husband loves to drive, and I love to take pictures while leaning out the window.

Road trips have always been a big part of our life — starting with our first date over six years ago, when we decided to do a week-long road trip through the Eastern Sierra together. If you can survive being confined to a car with the same person for a week, wearing the same clothes every day, and traversing over 500 miles through doohickey towns in Central California… well then, it’s totally meant to be.

What we love most about road trips is taking the road less traveled, as cliched as it sounds. But that’s the truth.

We make frequent trips between NorCal and SoCal since Will spent most of his life up north, and rather than shooting straight up I-5 each time, we like to explore all the little nooks in the middle of the state — the nooks that most drivers pass without another thought as they crank on the pedal, anxious to speed past all the stinky cow fields with their windows rolled up.

A few weeks ago, we veered off the 5 in search of one of those little nooks. We passed through Coalinga, an agricultural town on the eastern edge of the California Coast Ranges — “the Sunny Side of the Valley,” as it’s known.

Spring blossom

Cactus blossom

It’s fairly nondescript for a few miles until you reach the outskirts and find yourself in the country. Old Coalinga Road meanders north toward Pinnacles National Park. All along this road are the random scenes I love from old-fashioned Americana: rundown cabins, rustic barns, ranches in the middle of rolling green hills, and cows (not the stinky kind) grazing all over those hills.

Rundown cabins

Rustic barn

Endless field

Rolling hills

Lone tree

Beautiful oak

Happy cows

We were a little late in the season for wildflowers, but we did find a beautiful stretch of road covered with fabulous, feathery, cotton candy-pink shrubs.

The side of the road

Pink wildflowers

Pink shrubs

Pink blossoms

This weekend we’re off another road trip — Tahoe and Reno for a few days of hiking, biking, booze cruisin’ and Reno River Festin’. I wonder what random road we’ll find ourselves on?

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Bill Elms
    March 27, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Yesterday was returning from Santa Barbara to Davis but am always loathe to return the same route (101) so convinced wife and daughter to cross over to 5. We went hwy 41 to 33 to Avenal then to 5. So this sent me looking at google maps today and saw the Old Coalinga Road as a future trip. A google search and I stumbled on your website.
    I’m 69 and have cruised most of CA’s backroads on my old BMW motorcycle, most of it done 35-50 years ago when traffic was somewhat saner and slower. I, too, love to get off the major highways to see what’s remains of old America.
    Anyways, thanks for those pictures and you can be sure I’ll be taking that old road some day. After all the rain you can imagine how beautiful our drive was – fields full of wild mustard, lupine, etc. with a totally green backdrop. It was stunning.
    You’re doing life right, my friend!

  • Luisa Chandler
    May 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Just found your blog while searching the wonderful topic of tomatoes…then spent about an hour wondering around your wonderful blog! You are one inspiring woman! Looking forward to your future posts 🙂

    • Linda Ly
      May 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Thank you kindly!

  • mistiaggie
    May 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I’ve only spent a smidge amount of time in CA, around Sacramento with a jaunt down to Half Moon Bay, but it is definitely a state I’d love to visit again.

    • Linda Ly
      May 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      I’ve lived in CA for 12 years and still find new places to explore all the time. One day soon I hope to visit the north coast (Mendocino and Humboldt Counties).

  • John Foley
    May 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Drove the PCH/US5 circuit in 1996, visiting family and friends.
    Escondido to Orcutt by way of Universal Studios, to San Simeon, to Monterrey, then over to the valley to Sequoia and down 5.
    Getting from 5 back to Orcutt brought us along CA166 and CA33, through some amazing high-valley meadows, ghost towns, riverbeds that made me long for a fly rod and an afternoon to kill… The best part of that drive by far.

    • Linda Ly
      May 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      I’ve been through that area… so lovely!

  • Cary Bradley
    May 8, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Thanks so much for these scenes. I’m a California girl at heart, line and sinker, deep CA roots to 1904, 5th generation californian, who 3 years ago moved to New England. Love so much about the Central Valley and your shots capture it beautifully. REALLY appreciate coming along for the ride!

    • Linda Ly
      May 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      I’ve always thought about moving elsewhere, but my heart is in CA… even if I do end up moving one day. I love this state! Hope I can continue to capture more of these scenes for you.


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