Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
In the spring of 1993, after my girlfriend Julie and I had been together for four months, we decided to take a 3-day weekday trip from San Diego up to San Luis Obispo, a small college town located on the California coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. We brought our bikes with us, and decided to leave the car parked at the hotel for the duration and do all of our traveling and sightseeing on our purple and maroon Cannondales.
We arrived in San Luis Obispo around noon and checked in at our hotel, the Lamplighter Inn on Monterey Street, which was just a short ride from the small downtown area where we’d be spending most of our time. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, so after unloading the car and getting settled, we quickly donned our biking gear and headed back down Monterey, where our first stop was Hudson’s Bar & Grill, a few doors down from the towering facade of the Fremont Theater, where we’d be seeing a movie the following night. We were late for lunch and a bit hungry, so we shared a plate of nachos, then I wolfed down a cheeseburger and an order of french fries while Julie played it healthy with a Chinese chicken salad…and, as always, a few of my fries.
From there we biked over to the Cal Poly SLO campus, where we cruised along the uncrowded bike paths and explored the college area, making stops at the student union and the El Corral bookstore. We still had plenty of daylight left, so we made our way through town to Highway 1, which had a wide shoulder we could safely bike along, and headed north towards Morro Bay, a scenic ride through sprawling countryside and green rolling hills that bordered us on either side of the empty highway. Looking back, it was by far the most enjoyable and relaxing bike ride I’d ever been on.
It was a long thirteen-mile ride to Morro Bay, however, so at the halfway point Julie and I turned around and made our way back towards SLO. We soon spotted what looked like another college campus off the highway, and decided to investigate; it was Cuesta College, a junior college that luckily had an open cafe, even for us non-students. We parked the bikes and took a rest break inside, relaxing with sodas and a local newspaper for a while before continuing our journey. It was evening by the time we made it back to the hotel, and we could think of no better way to end a grueling day of biking than with a few hours in the Lamplighter jacuzzi.
The next day, Tuesday, we woke up early and walked a short distance up the street to the Apple Farm Restaurant for breakfast, then retrieved our bikes at the hotel and spent another pleasant day riding around San Luis Obispo. In the late afternoon, after visiting a cool used record store called Boo Boo Records (where I bought a cool long-sleeve Boo Boo t-shirt), we headed over to Higuera Street, adjacent to Monterey, and found another inviting dining establishment called F. McLintocks, a ‘saloon and dining house’ where we had a nice dinner as the sun set over SLO. But our day was far from over; it was now time for a movie at the Fremont.
The Fremont was an awesome old-time theater, opened in 1942, with a colorful marquee and a towering half-moon ‘Fremont’ sign above, which looked good in the daytime but was quite spectacular at night, with both marquee and tower glowing bright with neon. There were also three smaller screens right next door, but of course Julie and I preferred to see something in the big auditorium, and playing this night was Indecent Proposal, a drama starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore, and Woody Harrelson. We still had our bikes with us, but we’d scouted the place beforehand, and had found a street sign right in front of the box office kiosk, which we triple-locked our two bikes to. We bought our tickets and went inside, first to the snack bar for popcorn, then to our seats.
The auditorium was done up as well, with painted murals on the walls and curving light fixtures on the ceilings. Just an excellent place to see a movie, and though Indecent Proposal wasn’t the greatest of films (it won three Razzie awards the following year), we still had fun with it in a guilty pleasure kind of way. After the movie ended, and we exited the lobby to retrieve our bikes, we realized that, with the two-hour running time of the movie, it was now 9:30…just a half-hour until the hotel office closed, which meant a half-hour left to pick up a VCR to use for the night. We’d brought a video of the classic noir mystery Laura to watch during our trip, and tonight was the night. Our hotel was about a half-mile up Monterey Street; could we pedal there in time to secure a VCR, and would there even be any available?
This trip to SLO with Julie remains one of my fondest memories of our time together, and this panicked bike ride to our hotel late that night was probably my favorite experience from the trip. It was such a surreal situation, scrambling to our bikes and getting them unlocked and untangled, then taking off straight up Monterey Street, dead-center in the middle of the road, with nary a car, pedestrian, or other bike rider to be seen anywhere, as if the entire town had suddenly closed for the night. And that’s the image that sticks in my mind the most: leaving the theater and biking like crazy up that empty road, Julie and I both laughing as we pedaled as fast as our legs would allow through the quiet nighttime neighborhood, trying to beat the clock to secure a videocassette player, just so we could watch yet another movie before the day was done.
Somehow, someway, we made it to the Lamplighter office with minutes to spare, and thankfully, there was still a VCR available for us to borrow. We took it back to the room along with our bikes, got everything put away and hooked up, and nestled in for another ninety minutes of movie fun to round out our long, festive day, our last in San Luis Obispo. The next morning we slept in, of course, then packed up the car and drove back down the 101 to Santa Barbara, where we stopped for lunch at the State & A and did a bit of shopping downtown before continuing on to Rancho Bernardo, and home.
It’s been twenty-five years since Julie and I went on that trip, but the moments are still as fresh as they were then…some very happy memories indeed. Hudson’s, my favorite restaurant in town, is sadly long gone; a barbecue place sits on that corner now, and I wonder if they still serve cold glasses of Pepsi as delicious as the ones I used to get there decades ago. For whatever reason, it seems the Fremont is now strictly a concert venue, and it apparently no longer screens movies, and I’m not sure why that is. But the Lamplighter is still open for business, as are F. McLintocks and Boo Boo Records, so hopefully a few of the other sites Julie and I visited are still there as well. I haven’t been to SLO in quite a long time, but it might be nice to go back someday, if only to see a movie and take another late-night bike ride along a peaceful and deserted Monterey Street.