Leaving Pismo Beach on Highway 1, the PCH, we could have taken the four lane, fast route to Santa Barbara, US 101, but I declined. I had heard that there was an area called the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Preserve, an 18 mile stretch of pristine dunes south of Pismo Beach. Primarily founded to preserve the diverse ecological system of the dunes (dunes are not common on the Pacific Coast), habitat for 200 species of birds, black bear, sea otters, deer, coyote, and bobcats, I had another interest. I had heard that the entire set used in the 1920s production of "The Ten Commandments" was buried here under the dunes, and that portions of it had been excavated but most remained under the dunes. This piqued my interest.
This is the first movie production of "The Ten Commandments," the silent movie version by Cecil B. DeMille. It was an enormous production. Over 1500 workers built the set on site -- an Egyptian temple, sphinxes, chariots, and more. All the local people of Guadalupe were hired as extras. At a place called The Dunes Center in Guadalupe, there was a short feature with excerpts from the movie. They interviewed several older men who were in the movie as boys. It was an amazing piece of history.
We then drove out to the dunes. I don't why such things hold such interest. Some folks may feel that it's unimportant, that excavating the site is not really worth it, but I think it's a fantastic piece of history. Standing near the site (the actual site if not marked and is on private property), I could imagine what it might have been like then. Apparently DeMille had the site bulldozed over because back then other unscrupulous filmmakers would have stolen the set and made cheap imitations. So, he left it. Little did he know that it might be valuable to other over 75 years later.
Leaving the dunes, we kept to the back roads, going through horse and wine country and into the quaint small town of Los Olivos, where we ate in the Los Olivos Cafe (which was featured in the movie "Sideways," which I did not see). It was apparent that this was a nice Sunday afternoon destination for those looking for an escape from Los Angeles or, even, Santa Barbara. We then passed through Solvang, a somewhat larger town, founded by Danish educators in the 1920s. The whole town looks like a small Danish town, with windmills and all, and apparently two-thirds of the residents are still of Danish descent.
Late in the day, we proceeded on to Santa Barbara, a beautiful place on the ocean with a historic and vibrant downtown. Unfortunately, searching for our hotel, we spent one-half hour on the other side of Santa Barbara. Not all of the city is affluent. But even here it is beautiful -- with flowering trees, flowers, and beautiful parks everywhere. I could live here -- if I could afford it.