Travel Tips

Postcard from San Antonio to San Francisco: Shopping & Roadtripping the USA

Locations in this article:  Las Vegas, NV Paris, France Phoenix, AZ San Francisco, CA San Luis Obispo, CA Santa Barbara, CA

Suzy & Sarah’s Southwestern RoadtripDear Peter,
As you know, I often travel with Sarah Lahey, Editorial Director of my “Born to Shop” series.

We aren’t co-joined however, and Sarah is going to be sending you some postcards of her own.

Meanwhile, as promised, here’s an update on our road trip from San Antonio to San Francisco.


Our route is rather straightforward in that we follow I-10 until LA and then head north on I-5. That said, we stopped at a Dairy Queen in Ozona, Texas to talk to you in Paris and then sped on toward El Paso. With a one-hour time change on our side, we kept on going and stopped in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Listen to Suzy call in to Peter’s radio show while the shopping diva is in Ozona, Texas and the Travel Detective is aboard a TGV train in Paris.

We are big fans of the Hilton Hotel chain of Hampton Inns, so we made camp and then went out to explore historic Mesilla, New Mexico. This is sort of the poor man’s Santa Fe with just the beginnings of the makings of a destination.

Suzy K. Gershman is on the roadThere are several razzle-dazzle restaurants here as well as a handful of cutie-pie stores. More importantly, the area has the charm that beckons—I could easily retire there, less than an hour from El Paso and in adobe/Southwestern style complete with ristras of dried chilis. The area has all the appeal you want and none of the tourist crowds. Yet.

As we drove west, we listened to CDs. Books make me sleepy, so we listened to a collection of discs bought on travels around the world. The most successful were in languages we couldn’t understand (I love what’s called Canto-Pop … bubblegum music for Chinese teens, sung in Cantonese), so that melody and beat were important, but the words didn’t matter at all.

We had French, Spanish and North African rock and roll as well as French war songs and also medieval chants. CDs can be an excellent souvenir for world travelers, as they are easy to pack and provide a cultural memory of where you were.

Get more ideas for roadtrips in our Driving Vacations & Car Rental section.


While the topography changed as we drove, it was pretty bleak until we got to the middle of California. What was fascinating was the new-fangled architecture and style currently being put into new highway overpasses. In El Paso, they are Spanish colonial style. In Phoenix, there are inlays of dusty-colored flowers and vines in a curlicue style like what you might find on a pair of cowboy boots.

Not as artistic, but equally fascinating were some of the travel plazas where we stopped. Since this was the Wild Wild West, many of these gas station-mini-mart- rest stop-souvenir shops are themed in the Native American style. Some have teepees, totem poles, cowboys and/or Indians as well as photo ops for passing tourists. Gas began at $2.49 a gallon in San Antonio, went down to $2.29 at its lowest point on the trip and up to $3.29 as soon as we hit California. Now that’s creative.

Join Suzy on more of her adventures in our Shopping section.

As for artistic, well, I have decided that each state should build a large clock on each highway that crosses through a time zone. We spent a lot of time asking if anybody knew what time it was and went rabid with frustration when we found out that Arizona is in Pacific Time during some parts of the year and Mountain Time in other seasons. We need a Ministry of Time Zone Clocks.

Roadtrip painting - VineyardsVINES & WINES

As we headed north on I-5 we soon passed the gorgeous agriculture areas of California where many different harvests were on-going. We decided to cut across from 5 on Route 46 to Highway 101, a more scenic route. Our “bible” (the guide to all Hampton Inns in the U.S.) said there was a hotel at Paso Robles and so we set forth on a one lane voyage westward.

As we approached Paso Robles, we saw the fields of vines, as gorgeous as those in northern California. Who knew?

Paso Robles has 80 vineyards in the immediate area. This part of California is called the Central Coast for wine growers; it is just north of San Luis Obispo and Hearst Castle, even further north from the vineyards of Santa Barbara County where the movie Sideways took place. Most of the vineyards are small, with production in the 2,500-5,000 cases per year range.

Love wine? Don’t miss Wine Boot Camp Chronicles.

One firm, Eos Estates, grows maybe a dozen different varietals and moves 125,000 cases per year. We would have added on a case or two, but there was no room in the car since I had filled it with my dogs and most precious belongings as I relocate to Marin County for a few months and a new book project.

Garlic Products from GilroyFind out why it’s so difficult to ship wines with Wine Shipping 101: Sorry, That’s a Felony.

On the final day, heading north toward home, we stopped in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World and bought assorted garlicky products … am still smacking my lips over the shelled pistachios dusted with garlic salt.

Lip smacking kisses,
Suzy & Sarah

By Suzy Gershman and Sarah Lahey. Join Suzy and Sarah on the road this fall! They’re scouting locations in Vietnam November 5-13, 2009, complete with trademark shop & show lectures, market visits, food tastings, and cooking lessons. For more information, contact Sarah at srlahey @ Visit Suzy on the Web at

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