SLO LIFE Magazine Dec/Jan 2017

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4 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 Connecting the three parking garages and downtown San Luis Obispo Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve Up to 4 Ride FREE by showing your Parking Garage Ticket Regular fare $ .50 and $ .25 for Senior/Disabled Downtown Holiday Trolley Shuttle Morro Garden Osos HigueraMarsh Monterey Broad RosaSanta Palm Mission College Prep Creamery Ludwick Center Children’s Museum Mission Nipomo Transit Center 842 Palm St. Garage 919 Palm St. Garage Marsh St. Garage Friday � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � Noon-6pm Saturday � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 10am-6pm Sunday � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 11am-6pm
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8 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 SLOLIFE magazine 32 CONTENTS Volume 7 Number 6 Dec/Jan 2017 TAYLOR GILKEY We caught up with this young entrepreneur to get her take on everything from farming to fashion. Publisher’s Message Info On the Cover Inbox 12 14 16 18 Timeline We look back at the most recent newsworthy events from in and around the Central Coast over the past two months. View More like a painting than a photograph, MIMI DITCHIE captured a magical sunset at Piedras Blancas. 24 28
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With over 27 years of medical practice under his belt, DR. VAN SCOY shares how doing good and being kind guide his life.


With a sound inpired by folk, country, and 90’s alternative music, THE CRESTON LINE is slated to release a full-length album in spring of 2017.

On the Rise

San Luis Obispo High School senior JIBREEL CADER melds his love for the outdoors with academic excellence.


Inspired by the natural beauty of the Central Coast, CHUCK and NINA EBNER open the door to their hillside retreat.


Getting a good night’s sleep can often feel like a fleeting attempt. Here we take a look at a few tips, based on the latest research, to maximize shut-eye.

Storytellers’ Corner

In his first installment, New York Times bestselling author FRANZ WISNER reveals the inspiration for his writing.


With ample open space and plenty of spectacular views, JOHN ASHBAUGH ponders the possibility of Diablo Canyon preservation.


After discovering a new path for adventure from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland, KIMBERLY WALKER explores the 120-mile trek known as the Haute Route.


When three generations of family work together through all the ups and downs over 40 years, a successful legacy is built.


Buttery, flaky, and feather-light, the perfect croissants can be found baked right here on the Central Coast. Lucky for us, JAIME LEWIS has sniffed them out.


In partnership with the American Institute of Architects, we present two top-ranking projects along the Central Coast designed by local architects.

Real Estate

We share the year-to-date statistics of home sales for both the city and the county of San Luis Obispo.


After hearing that float tanks bring peace and soothe physical ailments, PADEN HUGHES steps in to give it a try.


There’s nothing quite like a bowl of steamy tomato soup to warm up a cold winter day. CHEF JESSIE RIVAS creates the perfect combination when he pairs his favorite recipe with cheesy toast points.


With this season’s apple harvest in mind, local expert BRANT MYERS reveals his favorite Central Coast hard ciders.


Looking for something to do? We’ve got you covered. Check out the calendar to discover the best events around the Central Coast in December and January.

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party line

I’ve heard it said that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” but I haven’t really understood it until just recently.

The other night, I was sitting on the couch lost in a book when a cell phone across the room pinged, registering that a text message had arrived. I looked up briefly, figured I’d check it later, and returned to my book. Moments later it chimed again, then again, again, and again. Annoyed that I was taken away from the flow of the story, I got up and grabbed the phone when I realized it was my 13-year-old daughter’s. “Geneva!” I called out down the hallway, “Your friends are blowing up your phone and messing up my vibe!” She emerged from her bedroom, giggling at my choice of words, scooped up her phone and with her thumbs dancing across the screen offered, “Sorry, Dad.”

Hi-tech when I was my daughter’s age meant you had a push button phone. But, we were late adopters and were stuck with a rotary dial phone at our house—with a very long 30-foot cord for privacy (basically, you went into the garage and shut the door). We also had a second phone in my parents’ bedroom, but since they shared the same line, this did more harm than good because you never knew when someone was listening in on your conversation. With two little sisters, there was a pretty good chance that one or both of them was wiretapping at any given time. You could usually figure it out when there was a lull in the conversation and could hear someone breathing. Or, if something funny was said you could sometimes catch a muted snort from the eavesdropper in a failed attempt to hold in the laughter. Invariably, in the middle of just about any conversation, I would a have to yell, “Emily, get off the phone!” Or, “I know that’s you, Katie—hang up!”

All of that aside, technology has made it much easier for today’s youth because they don’t have to deal with parents. Back in the day, you actually had to talk to adults to get anything done. I remember having a crush on a girl in the seventh grade, and I would have to listen to the theme song from “Rocky” three times in a row before I had enough courage to call her because her dad always answered the phone—and dads are scary. Also, it made it very difficult to orchestrate clandestine operations with your buddies when one of the parents would answer. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Feller… Where are we going?... Um… Does my mom know about this?... Uh… What time are we going to be home?… Huh… Who’s going to be there?... Gulp…”

Advances in communication, however, were inversely related to my level of maturity. I remember the day my friend’s parents installed two different phones with two different numbers at his house. It was life-changing; not because we could both talk, but because we could both listen. Somehow, since both phones had a 3-way calling feature, also known back then as a “party line,” we figured out that we could each call two different people and somehow connect them, all without anyone knowing. The timing had to be perfect, but it was pure magic when it worked. And, I’ll never forget how hard we would laugh after listening in on two sworn enemies from our high school suddenly calling each other. “Hello?”… “Who’s this?”… “What the…?!”… “What do you want?!”… “No, you called me! What do you want!?” We pored over the phone book, scanning for teachers’ phone numbers; sometimes, when the stars aligned, we’d get them on the phone with a failing student. The best ones happened when we’d call a recently broken up boyfriend and girlfriend, except when they would decide to get back together—then it was just annoying.

The next big advance, answering machines, was a game changer. Those little cassette tapes meant that you could actually leave the house when you were expecting a big phone call. And there is something about phone messages, or voicemail, that can feel almost like a time capsule. I love it when my kids call me; and I often upload and save those messages on my computer. Every once in a while I’ll have a listen and it reminds me that—whether it be a smartphone or a rotary phone—it really doesn’t matter. And, if I ever find myself doubting that, I’ll queue up a message from my 7-year-old son: “Hi, Dad, it’s me, Harrison. I was wondering if we could play catch when you get home? Bye, Dad, I love you.”

I would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to everyone who had a hand in producing this issue of SLO LIFE Magazine and, most of all, to our advertisers and subscribers—we couldn’t do it without you. And, to you and your family, my best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous 2017.

Live the SLO Life!

Tom Franciskovich

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dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 13 (805) 544-9133 Location: 5452 Edna Road, SLO TILE SHOWROOM & SLAB YARD FEATURING 100+ COLORS OF STONE TO CHOOSE FROM

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Tom Franciskovich


Sheryl Disher


John Ashbaugh

Paden Hughes

Dawn Janke



Mimi Ditchie

Lance Kinney

Mary Maclane

Vanessa Plakias

Trevor Povah Jay Winter

Have some comments or feedback about something you’ve read here? Or, do you have something on your mind that you think everyone should know about? Submit your story ideas, events, recipes and announcements by visiting us online at and click “Share Your Story” or email us at Be sure to include your full name and city for verification purposes. Contributions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and space limitations.


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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 4251 S. Higuera Street, Suite 800 San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Jaime Lewis Brant Myers
Jessie Rivas
Kimberly Walker Franz Wisner
Letters chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and space limitations.
111 South St SLO 805 543 9900 Wine Closet Conversion! Treat Yourself for 2017! Conver t your unused storage space into your private wine collection
dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 15 smart, eclectic, art to live on 1599 Monterey Street | 805.544.5900 | (at the corner of Grove Street, across from Pepe Delgados) Open Monday - Saturday 10-6pm We roll up our sleeves for our communities. Meet us: WeAreRabobank Connect with us We understand the value of real relationships. A genuine smile. A firm handshake. A face-to-face conversation. “ ” — Scott Elmerick Mortgage Loan Representative, San Luis Obispo, CA 18 branches in the Central Coast community to serve you.


BEHIND the scenes

I met Taylor at her house, which was decorated so beautifully. It reminded me of something you would see in Taos, New Mexico. Her fiancé, Matt, was there with a friend. And, I was introduced to her two dogs: Juno and Nala.

We hung out [laughter]. We got along great! I just loved looking at her handbags and taking a look at all of the things she said inspire her. Lots of books, magazines, and some really cool, eclectic decorations and furniture.

Right away she reminded me of Sunnie Brook Jones, who is now a famous hair stylist; she was from Pismo and this was back when she was working at Fantastic Sams, she must have been 19. Immediately, when I started talking with Taylor, that’s who she reminded me of, she had a very similar vibe.

I always ask about music during these shoots. Taylor said her favorite song was “Box #10” by Jim Croce. He’s the same guy that sang “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time in a Bottle.” Her fiancé chimed in and mentioned that she also likes JJ Grey & Mofro. I’ve noticed that a lot of twenty-somethings like that band. They’re cool, bluesy, I guess you would say modern blues. I listened to them while I edited her shoot. SLO LIFE

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us with you ! Hey, SLO LIFE readers: Send us your photos the next time you’re relaxing in town or traveling far and away with your copy of the magazine. Email us at
Bob Pittman
Wayne and Linda Lewis My husband and I returned home to Scotland for a visit. Here I am with SLO LIFE Magazine at the highest point on the Bealach na Bà road to Applecross with the Cuillin mountain range with the Isle of Skye in the background. — Lisa Pollock

These caves were originally used for protecting sheep for the winter, but in 1910 a newlywed couple made it into their home. A stunning 2 week Iceland trip took us only 1/3 around the island. We must return!


Betty Johnson LAUGARVATNSHELLAR, ICELAND — Carol and Richard Mortensen We did three countries and 170 kilometers with SLO LIFE on the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). From the Grand Col Ferret viewing Mont Dolent where the boarders of Italy, Switzerland and France meet. — Stephanie and Gary Ruggerone

You showed us...

You showed us...



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CÁDIZ, SPAIN Joel and Kerry Sheets YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK Dean Estin and Virginia Estin Rohde Hans Eggers We were visiting friends and working at summer camps for kids. — Jim and Ruth Overton



This photo was taken right after Christine Bare (on the left) completed the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. Amy Olin (part of her support crew) is on the right. The Mannings on a superb bike tour. Thinking of Wally’s amazing story. — Emily, Cathy, Atalie, and Chris Manning


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BORA BORA RAVELLO, AMALFI COAST, ITALY MUNICH, GERMANY Jeff and Cindy Wolcott Ian and Taylor Starkie Peter and Yvonne Jurgens Amy and Brett Garrett


I just took a trip to Rovinj, Croatia and of course brought my SLO LIFE Magazine along. As I was hiking along the coastal path viewing the many islands off of the coast of Croatia, I took a break to read my SLO LIFE Magazine. It is such a peaceful town on the Adriatic Sea; the perfect place for a good read. Thanks for the wonderful magazine!

— Kelsey Tigh

Please send your photos and comments to Follow SLO LIFE on Facebook: Visit Visit us online at

Letters may be edited for content and clarity. To be considered for publication, your letter should include your name, city, state, phone number or email address (for authentication purposes).

Enjoying the SLO LIFE at sunset on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. We went from generations of Vermont Life to continue generations of SLO LIFE. - Laura Heiden

Around the County OCTOBER




Preliminary findings from the testing conducted by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board failed to find trichloroethylene (TCE), a toxic solvent that had been found in 13 nearby wells, at the SLO County Regional Airport. Fifty residents, who live near Buckley Road adjacent to the airport, had filed claims with the county charging that TCE showed up in their drinking water as a result of the solvents used in aircraft maintenance. The investigation into the source of the chemical remains ongoing.

Amid raucous cheers, the County Planning Commission announced its 3-2 vote in opposition to the Phillips 66 oil-by-train plan. Two weeks later the energy conglomerate filed paperwork to appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors. The final ruling is expected early next year; however, with the addition of the new District 1 Supervisor, John Peschong, who has pledged to recuse himself from the vote since his company, a conservative lobbying firm, received payments from Phillips 66, the outcome will likely be a 2-2 deadlock, effectively upholding the Planning Commission’s denial.


Cal Poly began selling beer for the first time at the Student Union, reversing its status as a “dry campus.” Although the university had served alcohol at the on-campus Sage Restaurant and at the Performing Arts Center, administrators began debating the issue over the summer and many permanent residents have suggested that allowing alcohol on campus would go a long way toward easing town-gown tensions over rowdy partying in nearby residential neighborhoods.


By a 4-1 vote, with John Ashbaugh against, the SLO City Council approved a four-story, 27-apartment development at the intersection of Chorro Street and Foothill Boulevard near Cal Poly’s campus. The project ignited debate locally where critics claimed that while it had been promoted as affordable housing, it was likely to become just another opportunity to house college students off-campus in a city neighborhood. The project, known as 22 Chorro, is being developed by El Segundo-based attorney, Loren Riehl, who is also proposing the development of 34 apartments at nearby 71 Palomar.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would continue to open the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge to visitors over the next 15 years; however, it would be limiting public access to just six months each year. The 2,553-acre area is home to the county’s highest concentration of rare plant and animal species—estimated at 120—and sits south of the nearby Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

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Ground was broken at 40 Prado Road when a handful of locals dug their golden shovels into the site where a $5.4 million, 20,000-square-foot homeless services center and overnight shelter is expected to open sometime next fall. The facility will offer drug, alcohol, and mental health therapy; feature after school programs for children; medical services; a commercial kitchen; laundry room; showers; lockers; pet kennels; a community garden; and computers.


The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to grant a permit to the Japanese company Hitachi Zosen Inova so that it could build a green waste and food processing facility, which will generate electricity from the food scraps gathered in the 51,000 compost pails its garbage company partner, Waste Connections, delivered to county residents earlier this year. The cutting edge plant, which is called a “digester,” is expected to employ 120 people, dramatically reduce the amount of waste going into the Cold Canyon Landfill, and generate renewable energy for approximately 650 local homes.


Election returns showed that John Peschong had bested Paso Robles mayor Steve Martin for the District 1 seat vacated by Frank Mechum on the County Board of Supervisors, while Adam Hill survived a challenge by Dan Carpenter to retain his District 3 seat. The City of San Luis Obispo elected a new mayor, Heidi Harmon, who upset the incumbent, Jan Marx, by 47 votes, and newcomers Andy Pease and Aaron Gomez were elected to city council. Caren Ray returned to Arroyo Grande’s city council, and California Coastal Commissioner Erik Howell, retained his seat on the Pismo Beach City Council. Republican Jordan Cunningham topped his opponent, Dawn Ortiz-Legg, a Democrat, for the 35th District of California’s Assembly, while Democrat Salud Carbajal will head to Washington to represent the 24th Congressional District. Meanwhile, Measure J, which would have raised sales taxes to generate $25 million per year for nine years to fund local transportation projects, narrowly failed passage.


A sharply divided Board of Supervisors passed a series of ordinances designed to give developers incentives to build affordable workforce housing in the county. The two supervisors who voted against the pilot program, Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill, argued that the legislation, which caps prices on the sale of the house initially, does nothing to prevent an investor from buying the home and then “flipping” it and pocketing the difference between the mandated lower value and current market value. Gibson claimed that without deed restrictions, which prohibit that sort of profiteering, the effort does nothing to create truly affordable housing.

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IF YOU’RE SEEKING A CAREER IN REAL ESTATE LEARN MORE AT: WWW.HAVENSLO.COM/CAREERS 805.592.2050 | MAIN: 547 Marsh Street • San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 GALLERY: 1039 Chorro Street • San Luis Obispo, CA 93401


About five miles northwest of San Simeon, Piedras Blancas has stirred the imaginations of locals and visitors alike. Revered by Native Americans for thousands of years for its consistently abundant and diverse sea life harvest, it played a crucial role for our earliest locals. The site received its name, which translates to “white rocks,” from early Spanish explorers, who deemed the miniature peninsula with topography that was easily identified through the spyglass of a passing ship, an ideal navigational landmark. In 1875, the United States, with its bustling maritime commerce, built a lighthouse on the site. Recently, busloads of area politicians and Central Coast residents staged a rally at the site imploring the federal government to add the ecologically and historically significant 19 acres to the California Coastal National Monument.

It was around this time of year, back in 2013, when Mimi Ditchie was standing near the lighthouse, scanning the horizon seaward just after the sun had dipped into the water for the night. To her right and to her left, members of the San Luis Obispo Camera Club were furiously clicking their shutters in an attempt to capture the last bit of oceanscape while the ambient light lingered. As she scanned the scene before her, she thought, “Maybe I ought to look behind me.” Ditchie then wheeled around 180 degrees to find The Fog Building perfectly placed in the foreground against something that appeared to have been painted by a Nineteenth Century Frenchman. The moment was fleeting, but by the time the image passed through the aperture of her Canon 5D Mark III, Ditchie was able to capture this photograph, which she shared of her experience at the site, “Beauty can be found all around.”

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It has been a milestone year for San Luis Obispo resident DR. STEVEN VAN SCOY, as it marks his 20-year anniversary as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Medical Director for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center at the same time the hospital celebrates the 30-year anniversary of the formation of its NICU. We caught up with the sleep-deprived doctor one recent morning, following a longer than expected night shift…

Tell us, Dr. Van Scoy, was medicine something you always wanted to do? Not exactly, no. My first experience as a kid was not a good one. I actually broke my doctor’s glasses when he gave me an immunization. I punched him. He hurt me, and I wanted to hurt him. He didn’t realize when he gave me the shot in my right arm that I was left-handed. He wasn’t ready for the roundhouse. I refused to go see him after that. I didn’t start off with a friendly view of the medical community. It’s ironic now that I wake up, honestly, at least once a week and think to myself, “I just love what I do; I love being a doctor.” And I’ve been doing it since 1989, when I graduated from medical school. The fact that I’m not burned out and still feel lucky to be doing what I’m doing is pretty cool.

Do you have to close yourself off emotionally when you work? No, it’s never been that way for me. And, I’ve got to say that I really struggled with the decision to do neonatology when I started because it’s a whole different world. There were a lot of kids coming out who didn’t do very well. They were very sick during their stay in the hospital; a lot of deaths. I was talking with my wife one day as I was struggling with the decision about whether or not to go into neonatology. I told her, “I just don’t know if I want to make these little kids who go out as damaged kids and have to live this life that’s difficult for everybody.” She said, “Go into it and make fewer of those kids.” I just said, “Wow, okay. I’ll do that.” And, that’s been the way I’ve gone about it.

And, you stay in touch with many of your “neonates”… That’s right. We do a reunion. We have it at Santa Rosa Park, every year in the fall. When I first started we had maybe 20 people come; now we have well over 600. Everybody has a great time. We take over the whole park. It’s just a crazy scene. It’s my favorite day of the year. I just walk around and think to myself, “This is awesome.” It’s so cool to see the kids grow up. We have a great time catching up. And, even for the kids that can’t make it we’ll sometimes get letters saying, “Geez, sorry we can’t make it this year. Our 19-year-old is in Las Vegas

playing a gig.” So, he’s a guitar player for a rock band now? Cool! And there will be kids that have gone off to college on the East Coast somewhere and can’t be there. That, to me is the best, too. It makes all those nights of 2am wake-up calls well worth it.

Let’s talk about your career path. the first doctor in the family. My mom was a teacher. My dad worked for Standard Oil forever, Chevron. I did a program in marine biology and found that I loved scuba diving. I went on and did some shipboard research. I taught at a junior college. Waited tables. Bartended. Worked construction. I was sitting with my mom one night visiting with her at home and she asked me what I was going to do with my life and I said, “I’m not sure.” She said, “Sometimes I feel that you are trying to find your vocation by process of elimination.” I said, “Yeah, but I’ve found important negatives with each one, so I never have to try them again.”

She said, “You like people, right? You like science, right? Have you thought about medicine?” I looked at her and said, “No, but that’s a good one.” That’s all it took, thirty seconds from my mom to put me in medicine. And, later it took thirty seconds from my wife to put in me in neonatology. So, listen to the women in your life! [laughter] That’s the lesson.

What about when you’re not making rounds at the hospital? things I like to do. I ride bikes, play tennis, play guitar, ride motorcycles, I used to race cars. I like backpacking, rock climbing, photography, scuba diving. I have so many interests and cannot imagine ever being bored. I love teaching my son, who is autistic, how to do things. We live on an acre, so there’s a fair amount of work that has to be done. He’s out there helping me all the time. I love working on different skills with him. He’s 19. And hanging out with my wife; and supporting my 17-year-old daughter and telling her how proud I am of her. I think that no matter where you are or what you do, if you leave a trail of good, and of kindness, then you are a success. That’s what it really boils down to for me, and that’s what I try to do.

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dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 31 Who’s There? Call us today for your consultation Helping You Hear the ings You Love 80 5 541-1790


Inspiration struck San Luis Obispo resident TAYLOR GILKEY as she sat at her kitchen table, sketching her vision for the perfect handbag. As she honed the design, she decided to take a leap and turn it into a business she calls Gilkey. By working two jobs and saving every penny along the way, she slowly brought one product at a time to market. In a nod to her San Joaquin Valley upbringing, where her family has farmed cotton for four generations, her brand is rooted in the longtime California agriculture tradition. Here is her story…


Taylor, tell us about where you are from originally. I grew up in Corcoran, which is in the Central Valley. I was actually born in Hanford. No one wants to be born in Corcoran; it’s okay to die there, but when you live in Corcoran, you drive to Hanford to have your baby. My greatgrandfather started Gilkey Farms—technically I’m fourth-generation— and he got involved with some sort of program to buy the land at a discount. I mean, it’s Tulare Lake and it’s not the best farmland; that’s why we can farm cotton. He was an immigrant from Scotland and Canada and he bought a plot of land when he came here; it was some sort of special tax write-off or something. And so, of all the places, he picked Corcoran. We’ve always said, “Why the heck didn’t he pick a place like Napa or something?” [laughter]

How was it growing up? It was a pretty awesome childhood. My family still farms, and farming was up and down, so we didn’t have a ton of money, but we always had a good time.

I was a super active dancer. My mom drove my cousin and I to Hanford five days a week.

I love dancing, but I was also a really good swimmer. As a kid, the neighbor boys and I rode our bikes every day to the YMCA and we would swim for hours. During the summer we would come over to the coast just about every weekend to Pismo. Boogie boarding

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all day long, no wetsuit, sand in every possible crevice. I was always pretty happy-go-lucky. And, I was definitely a tomboy. If a boy was ever missing on the boy’s swim team, I would jump in and swim in his place. You know, we found joy out of playing roller hockey in the street and we would catch snakes and stupid stuff like that. We built forts every single day. After high school it was like, “Oh crap, what am I going to do?” I wanted to leave the valley, so I went to Cuesta and then to Cal Poly where I was a dairy science major.

Sounds like you must have shifted gears at some point. Yeah. It was, I believe it was, a career day on campus or something. And don’t get me wrong, I love to get dirty. I love to put shit kickers on, I mean I was born and raised in the Central Valley, my family farmed. All my best friends had cow dairies. And I thought, “Okay, I can be a vet, which I would love to be a veterinarian—a large animal vet.” But then, you know, you have at least four more years of school. That was daunting and every other job, I mean there’s not a lot of activity unless you own a dairy. There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity and none of it inspired me. Up until that point, I don’t think that I had really ever thought about making money. I’d been working at Coverings downtown and at Firestone. I was really into fashion and design and art, but there was nothing at Cal Poly that really fit. So, I started looking around and found FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising] in Los Angeles.

So, what happened? I had a “come to Jesus” moment. I was sitting in a 7-Eleven parking lot one day and my brother called me and said, “Tay, you just need to be happy. If you want to go to FIDM, tell Dad.” Now, my dad is a pretty conservative dude and something like FIDM was completely out of his realm of thinking, but he has always been so proud of me. So, I called him. I talked to him and he knew my mind was made up; I didn’t want to go back home and work on a dairy. He supported my decision, and it has been such a blessing. It was an awesome experience. I met such incredibly interesting people there. But, I was so nervous and felt really out of place at first. I just think you have to go with your gut. The people and the professors I met there have helped me so much, and continue to help me to this day.

What came next for you? I moved back to SLO and started designing ski apparel for Hot Chillys, which is a technical base layer company. I would source fabric from Vietnam or China or Japan and then build a garment, and it was awesome, but there’s no upward mobility in design, I realized, unless you move to L.A. or New York. So, my friend was working for an aerospace engineering firm in Silicon Valley and they were looking for a position in business management, so I moved there to see what that was all about. It was a start-up. I was working long hours and after a while I said to myself, “What am I doing here?” I decided that I wanted to move back to SLO and would do whatever it took, so I found a job opening in the wine industry. It was for an account manager with a company called Wine Direct. It was great because I wanted more business experience, and it was kind of like a start-up itself, so I was able to wear a lot of different hats and learn so many things. I was happy there, but I was still missing the design aspect of the person that I am. So, I made a bag and got so many compliments on it, so I said, “Shoot, I’m going to start a brand.” And so I did—it’s my last name, Gilkey, and I began by having the bags made here in San Luis Obispo.

Are they still made here? The gentleman I had making the bags did a great job, but just couldn’t keep up with demand. So, I’ve since moved production to downtown L.A. and so many opportunities have come up. They’re just really unique bags that sell themselves. I wanted to make a brand that was timeless and that I could grow, not something super trendy, and kind of capture “farm-to-closet,” if you will. There’s a lot of, you know, food farm-to-table that’s going around right now and, yeah, people sometimes give me grief about using cowhides. But, hopefully, I can actually talk about agriculture and livestock and have people really >>

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understand, because people don’t understand it. They don’t understand that California is a giant agriculture state, and I would love to do my family some justice by talking about that. I think I’m kind of unique in the sense that I’ve worked in the tech world and worked in wine, and now I’m making these bags and presenting them countrywide. I want the brand to be timeless and about family and really have a meaning behind it, versus just making a product and having it be pretty. I really want it to be about family and history and working hard and keeping an important tradition alive.

Okay, did you go out and get a loan? Line up an investor? No, I just decided that I was going to make this bag business work myself. I picked up another job working at Firestone at night. That’s where I worked during college, so I went back just to make extra tip money to go towards the bags. And I did that for a while. I saved up a good chunk of money and started off with just a single basic tote. I worked with a pattern maker that I had worked with at Hot Chillys to make the pattern. I would do

it on my lunch break. I’d zoom over to Edna Valley and meet with the pattern maker; we’d sketch things out. After the tote we made a side satchel and then we made a clutch. And it’s kind of just evolved into many more products. They’re all handmade from Brazilian cowhides, and are very high quality. They’re not cheap, I mean, a basic tote is $375. People love them. They’re beautiful. I’ve been doing all the marketing through Pinterest, Instagram, things like that. It’s been difficult to decide whether or not to sell them in retail locations, but I think that selling direct to the consumer through the website is best because I am getting a full profit. This is something I have been able to learn from my job at Wine Direct because I see all these wineries doing so much better by selling their wines directly to the end user, the customer, rather than going through a retailer. It’s the way of the future, and so much more profitable.

As a 28-year-old Millennial, your approach to business seems a little old school. Maybe so, I mean, you’ve got these kids, and they’re smart, forward thinking, but a lot of them think they can just build an app. >>

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And, there are a lot of investors who will drop some dough on an idea. I don’t want to be that Millennial. I think that you have to put in your time, that’s where you learn. You know, our elders are modest about what they’ve done. They’ve gone through good times and bad. So, I try to set myself apart from that kind of mindset. But, I will say that I actually

I read the article probably three times that night and then sent him an email asking if he would meet me for coffee. I’ve learned so much from him; he’s one of my mentors. I think it is important to reach out because people do want to help. But, you’ve still got to do the hard work, bust your butt, and put in the time.

think that the internet, and particularly social media, is making all of us a little more anxious because we are comparing our lives to others. I just think that we all need to put our time in and learn from people who have already done it. Great example, a few years back, there was actually an article in SLO LIFE about Enrique Sanchez-Rivera, a swimsuit designer. He owns a company called La Isla and had just relocated to San Luis.

Okay, Taylor, what do you do for fun? I’ve turned into such a SLO junkie and try to take advantage of everything there is to do here. I ride my bike everywhere. I go to the swap meet every Sunday at the Sunset Drive-In; it’s amazing. They have everything from tube socks to tamales there, and you have people selling stuff like Sorel boots that are used, but who cares? I bought a lot of my >>

38 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017
I think you have to put in your time, that’s where you learn.
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furniture there. I love quirky, different pieces. I think there’s a lot of inspiration in San Luis, too, and I think that’s when I’m most happy. I can just absorb it all and apply it to my home and to my bags. It’s a lot of inspiration for the brand that I’m building, as funny as that sounds. Yes, this is an expensive place to live and as much as I would love to own a home instead of renting, I do think that you get what you pay for. I mean, literally, behind my house is the Irish Hills. I can run my dogs every day. I can take them to the dog park there. I don’t have to worry about anything. The Central Valley is a hundred and ten degrees, and my dogs would fry. The cost of living is very high, but you’re paying for an awesome lifestyle here. The beach is right around the corner. But, the flip side is that most of the jobs here do not pay well. That’s why I moved into sales. I had to. I would have gotten a little salary raise, you know, every two years or whatever, but being on commission allows me to put more money into my bags.

What does the future hold? It would be my dream to have a ranch in Edna Valley, but how much is that going to cost me? And it’s a bummer that money gets in the way, but, you know, you’ve just got to keep busting your butt and figure out where it’s going to take you. I would love to be out there driving around on a quad with six dogs running behind me. And it would be awesome to have a crop where I could actually feed my family, but also big enough to make a profit. Yeah, there’s a side of me that likes the more quiet, tranquil life that’s about the simple things. My grandma, growing up, she always said, “A simple life is a good life.” And now that I’m older, I have an appreciation for dirt, and being able to grow your own product, and that simple life my grandma always talks about. She’s been a huge role model for me, always reminding me, “You’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness except your own.” I try to take that to heart, and try to be the most successful version of myself every single day, which is a good thing because it pushes me to want to learn and grow. And if you can get to that spot in life, I really do think that’s where magic happens.

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dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 41


With his new band, The Creston Line, singer-songwriter Jon Bartel pays tribute to the oak-filled agricultural preserve lands of Creston, where he grew up “wandering past windmills, walking all day, and finding nothing.”

42 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 | NOW HEAR THIS

Formed in 2014, The Creston Line is relatively new to the local music scene, but its imprint has already extended beyond SLO County. Earlier this year, in fact, Bartel was contacted by the digital music service Spotify about the licensing of the band’s single “Great Depression,”

which will be featured in the second season of its online short series “Trading Playlists.” Bartel says, “While the licensing of songs isn’t foremost among my songwriting goals, it was nice to learn that the ostensible tastemakers think that The Creston Line will appeal to a broader audience.”

And appeal to an audience, they do: The Creston Line released its debut EP, “Great Depression,” through local label Twang N Bang Records in August 2016 to a packed crowd at Dunbar Brewing Public House in Santa Margarita, and the title track went on to place in the Reader’s Choice category of the New Times Music Awards. The song was drawn thematically from the human toll of the Civil War and the economic tragedies of the Dust Bowl years, a connection Bartel conceived over two days as he battled a fever and watched Ken Burns’ documentaries.

Bartel and pedal steel player Brenneth Stevens loosely began the band a few years ago as a duo called The Shots. Stevens, a Stanford University graduate student who is also a member of the Shawn Clark Family Band and a local session player, helped Bartel morph The Shots into The Creston Line’s five-piece ensemble with Bartel on guitar and vocals, Stevens on lead guitar and pedal steel, Adam Nash on lead guitar, Kirk MacLane on bass and vocals, and Taylor Belmore on drums. For all intents and purposes, Bartel says, “I would have had a hard time doing any of this without Bren.”

Stevens is not the only member of The Creston Line who is involved in a variety of local music projects. Bartel has played lead guitar for American Dirt since 2011; Belmore plays viola da gamba for Mothra; and Nash is a touring musician who currently travels up and down the coast playing gigs with several bands, including San Francisco-based Blind Willies. Bartel

says, “I want everyone in this band to be open to other projects,” and the group members’ support for one another is evident on and off the stage. Nash describes his bandmates in The Creston Line as a group of “musicians of the same caliber and genuine goodness where it feels like we’re just hanging out with close friends.”

Bartel, in particular, cannot speak highly enough about this ensemble of talented performers. Of Nash and Stevens, Bartel says, “They are the two bestsuited guitar players for what this band intends to do. They play different styles and they play off each other so well; their sound comes across as passionate chaos.” He says of the drummer, “Belmore plays drums like a songwriter thinks about drums: she’s really open and lays stuff down in a way that feels good. And she has a killer voice, which we at some point intend to employ on the new album.” Finally, in praise of MacLane, Bartel simply states, “Kirk has been doing this for so long—music is just intuitive for him.”

Great Depression was co-produced by Bartel and MacLane and recorded and mixed at Bartel’s home studio, Northwall Studio, where he also recorded much of Shawn Clark’s most recent album as well as some other local music projects. About the studio name, Bartel explains, “We had a canyon due north from our house in Creston—I guess the north has always been my direction of exploration.”

Wherever he and the band travels, The Creston Line continues to hone its sound, which Bartel sees as “a mixture of the Lemonheads, Soul Asylum, Uncle Tupelo, and Whiskeytown,” a blend of the 90’s alternative scene during which he came of age. The band’s material skirts the edges of folk, old country, and Americana, as well.

Next, The Creston Line is preparing for the recording of its full-length album, slated for release in spring of 2017. The LP will feature ten songs that are more mid- to up-tempo than those on the EP and will include some that the band has been performing live for a while now, as well as others that are new to all of them. Bartel, who played classical piano from the ages of six to sixteen, says

he especially wants to spend time with the rhythm tracking on the upcoming album and may add piano to the mix. In sum, he states, “I feel like the album will reflect the best songs I’ve written.”

As The Creston Line moves forward with more live shows and studio rehearsals, Bartel aims to have a well-practiced band that can adapt to any audience, or as MacLane puts it, “bring some moodiness into the music.” “The bottom line is, our music doesn’t have to be pedal to the floor all the time,” Bartel says. “We will play however it feels right— sometimes loud and driving and sometimes quiet and swampy.” He adds, “However we do it, The Creston Line is not going to rush the process.”

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DAWN JANKE, Director, University Writing & Rhetoric Center Cal Poly, keeps her pulse on the Central Coast music scene.


Jibreel Cader

The future is bright for this San Luis Obispo High School senior, who employs his passion for helping others to guide his future.

What sort of extracurricular activities are you involved in? I’m lucky to be a part of San Luis Obispo High School’s Harvard Model Congress this year.

What are your hobbies? I love to do almost anything that gets me outdoors: surfing, mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding.

What recognition have you received? Honor Roll and Academic Excellence every trimester of my high school career.

What is going on with you now? A big part of my family is dedicating ourselves to helping others. Aside from college apps and grinding through senior year, I assist my dad when he teaches Tactical Medicine to Law Enforcement. Our whole family works hard to make each and every training a success.

What is your favorite memory? When I was in fourth grade my family went to India. One night my dad took me and my brother out into the surrounding city of where we were staying. We went out and bought some food supplies and created fifteen care packages, which we gave out to impoverished families living out of tents on the street. It took a little effort on our part but we were able to sustain those families for a month.

What career do you see yourself in someday? I’d like to go into emergency medicine. I see it as a career where I’d have a unique skill that can really be applied to help people.

Who has influenced you the most? My mom, for sure. She is a constant model of forbearance and limitless compassion.

What do you want people to know about you? Nothing in particular. I’m just a Muslim American born here in SLO and I feel blessed to call this my home.

If you won $1 million, what would you do with it? I would invest $400,000. Donate $200,000 to charity. Keep $300,000 aside to pay for my brother and sister’s education. Then just hold onto $100,000 and see what happens next.

What do you dislike the most? Malicious people. I have yet to see a malicious person bring any benefit to humanity.

If you could go back in history and meet anyone, who would it be? Martin Luther King Jr. would be interesting. I feel like he’d be very insightful in how to face grave adversity.

What is something that no one knows about you? I got circled by a Great White one time when I was surfing under Pismo Pier.

What schools are you considering for college? Just UC’s. Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.


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Last year, CHUCK and NINA EBNER finished building the home of their dreams. Nestled on four acres overlooking an Atascadero valley, the couple has set themselves up for the long haul and no detail has been spared.


ROOM WITH A VIEW The sliding door in the living room disappears into the wall maximizing the space and giving the feeling of an indoor-outdoor room with a nearly 180-degree perspective of the surrounding hillside landscape. Steel wire railings are a cost-effective way to add modern styling, while also expanding the view. And a generous overhang provides protection from the elements and refuge from the sun, which makes the deck an extension of comfortable living space.

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huck Ebner first put his boots on the ground of the Central Coast when he was stationed at Camp Roberts and later at Fort Hunter Liggett as he served in the U.S. Army in the mid 80’s. “I loved the area, the landscape, the wine,” he states in a no-nonsense, straightforward manner revealing his military background. The young Ebner, who went to “the other” Cal Poly in Pomona, made his way into a long, twenty-year career as the Community Development Director for the City of Lakewood, a municipality of about 80,000 people in Los Angeles County. Later, he found himself back at Fort Hunter Liggett, this time in the Army Reserves, when he rekindled his love for the Central Coast.

dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 49 >>


Many exposed engineered wood beams add structural strength, while also contributing to the styling of the modern hillside home. Since the supports are manufactured, unusual bends and curves were designed into the beams.

Before long, the couple found themselves huddled with San Luis Obispo-based architect Bill Isaman trying to figure out how to design the home they had envisioned: all one level with a common living area flanked by a master suite and a guest area, complete with an underground garage. As the plan evolved to reflect the realities of the terrain and the construction budget, an elevated structure manifested, which was designed to follow the slope of the hillside as well as blend into the surrounding landscape. By February 2014, the general contractor, also of San Luis Obispo, Stalwork, Inc., broke ground on the four-acre property. Chuck confesses that the project would have gone a lot faster had he “not made so many changes along the way.”

50 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 >>

BACKBONE An oversized center supporting wall running through the middle of the home, known as a “spine wall,” serves as the center of the building making it attractive and intriguing as a design element, while also providing load-bearing strength as a structural component.

In the end, Nina, who relishes the thrill of the chase involved in decorating the home and confesses to spending much of her time at thrift shops, consignment stores, and on Craigslist, counts the view and the quiet as her favorite aspects of the home. “It’s the landscape, and the beauty, and the tranquility of the area that we love the most.” While the home is certainly quiet, it is seldom without company. Although their 24-year-old son rarely is able to break away from his work to come out for a visit, the couple hosts a steady stream of friends and family. And, sometimes when Chuck is enjoying one his favorite glasses of wine out on the deck, he thinks back to his days as a young G.I. when he gazed out at the bucolic Central Coast landscape and wondered if he might be lucky enough to find himself here again one day.

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TREVOR POVAH is an architectural photographer here on the Central Coast.

Our REALTOR Sarah Weber did an amazing job helping us find two exceptional properties and we are now in the process of building our dream home in San Luis Obispo. We are thankful for her hard work, dedication and professionalism. She was so fun to work with and we would recommend her to anyone.

San Luis Obispo Realty is proud of our outstanding, dedicated real estate agents.

dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 53
Billy and Laura Reeves
is committed and proud to help buyers and sellers, of all kinds, make their dreams come true!


In this ongoing feature, SLO LIFE Magazine is proud to partner with the American Institute of Architects California Central Coast to unveil its current project winners and highlight our local design and engineering talent. Each month, the organization reviews submissions and selects the top Central Coast projects. Below are two recent installments in this series.

+December Project Recognition

The Butler Hotel, San Luis Obispo

Architect garcia architecture + design

Interiors garcia architecture + design

Structural Engineer Ashley & Vance Structural Engineers

Mechanical Engineer BMA Mechanical

Electrical GECE Electrical

Contractor Pacific Builders

Photography Studio 101 West, garcia architecture + design

After sitting vacant for years, local architect George Garcia saw the potential that lay hidden within the shell of an abandoned, ivy-covered metal and steel building. Looking for an alternative hotel experience to offer his out-of-town clients and colleagues, he envisioned a one-ofa-kind hospitality experience that lay at the intersection of technology, design, and luxury. By repurposing yet respecting the existing industrial structure, this new hotel offering creates a unique visitor experience unlike any other.

The heavily patinated concrete floors and rusting steel panels of this existing building yield no clues as to what lies inside. As guests enter through the historic 1950’s façade, they immediately find themselves in an eclectic haven infused with industrial yet modern design. Once inside, this boutique hotel’s rough exterior gives way to an unexpected array of sophisticated modern details. A striking monochromatic color scheme contrasts with the faded yet authentic character of this former auto repair garage.

Secret passcodes and live video check-in work in harmony with historically significant artwork and repurposed

elements, a concept the design team coins “Retro-Tech.” The styling continues in each of the meticulously appointed guest rooms, featuring classic mid-century furnishings alongside bespoke wood cabinetry that celebrate modern design. Guests are free to relax in the intimate library lounge, spin some vinyl on the vintage phonograph, or enjoy an afternoon sitting on the sun-drenched outdoor patio.

Each luxurious guest room features lush carpeting, custom lighting fixtures, and individually curated artwork. The elegantly finished bathrooms include floor-toceiling porcelain tile and custom marble and walnut counters, along with modern yet eco-friendly lighting and plumbing fixtures. From the custom hand-crafted casegoods designed and built in-house, to the individually carved “Do-NotDisturb” walnut and maple placards, no detail was overlooked. The design team even hand-picked the linens, duvets, and pillows, as well as all bath amenities, in a deliberate effort to promote a unified design consciousness, while providing a memorable and lasting hospitality experience here in San Luis Obispo.

54 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 | ARCHITECTURE
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About the AIA CCC

The American Institute of Architects has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1957. The local California Central Coast division works in collaboration with SLO Life Magazine to showcase its monthly award winning projects demonstrating notable concepts that have been constructed after being designed by local architects. SLO LIFE

January Project Recognition

In 2009, the Chris Anholm House went through a major renovation to restore the neglected structure and site. The home was reconstructed to the original sense of time and place through extensive research and archived photographs while meeting the owner’s programmatic requirements of today. With exterior porches for every time of day, a central clerestory volume above, and landscaped vistas to distant framed views, the open floor plan and clear circulation define California living.

Because much of the building and infrastructure was beyond repair, builder Ryk Kluver de-constructed the home and salvaged usable siding, windows, and framing lumber for later re-use in the project. Artifacts found that maintain the historical integrity of the house include original siding boards bearing Chris Anholm’s signature, which were verified through building permit records and are on display in the entry foyer.

Passive ventilation at the clerestory, radiant floor heat, extra insulation, and quality wood-frame windows provide efficient thermal comfort, while rainwater catchment and a premier succulent landscape foster sustainable and beautiful outdoor areas. These areas feature entertainment zones with a pizza oven and fireplace, an intimate writer’s studio and creekside deck.

With city council approval of Master List Historic status and a Mills Act conservation contract, the Chris Anholm house is recognized as the finest home in the Anholm Tract, as it was in 1925. Architect Greg Wynn noted, “I like to think that if Mr. Anholm were with us today, he would instantly recognize his family home and appreciate the work done to restore it.”

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Chris Anholm House, San Luis Obispo Architect Greg Wynn, AIA Interiors Vickie Knemeyer, Sea Country Interiors Landscape Gardens by Gabriel Contractor Ryk Kluver Construction


laguna lake

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 62 691,440 673,980 97.47 73

tank farm

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 30 748,326 733,260 97.99 65

cal poly area

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 21 769,333 734,019 95.41 58

country club

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 14 1,126,786 1,074,814 95.39 51

2016 44 702,545 694,981 98.92 46

+/-29.03% 1.61% 3.12% 1.45% -36.99%

2016 32 847,128 821,839 97.01 44

+/6.67% 13.20% 12.08% -0.98% -32.31%

2016 28 768,346 757,727 98.62 25

+/33.33% -0.13% 3.23% 3.21% -56.90%

down town

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 39 693,067 589,067 85.03 46

2016 20 1,298,350 1,244,900 95.88 80

+/42.86% 15.23% 15.82% 0.49% 56.86%

2016 59 688,951 683,149 99.16 30

+/51.28% -0.59% 15.97% 14.13% -34.78%

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2015 40 734,738 723,987 98.54 28

2016 38 818,905 802,039 97.94 45

+/-5.00% 11.46% 10.78% -0.60% 60.71%

2016 52 818,874 801,020 97.82 65 johnson ave *Comparing 1/1/15 - 11/20/15 to 1/1/16 - 11/20/16

2015 53 760,619 738,865 97.14 39

+/-1.89% 7.66% 8.41% 0.68% 66.67%

SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Association of REALTORS®

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foothill blvd
Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market
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60 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 | SLO COUNTY SLO LIFE Arroyo Grande Atascadero Avila Beach Cambria/San
Cayucos Creston Grover
Templeton Countywide BY THE NUMBERS 2015 275
2016 283
17 150 30 7
87 46 331 20
91 108
132 55 52
85 116 103 53 124 92 75 2016 60 59 170 104 116 162 41
61 62 56
57 59 123 95 52 48 108 69 AVERAGE DAYS ON MARKET 2015
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132 44 10 76 164 137 228 50 100 459 40 89 59 328
100 2,823
105 139 137 228 43 93 429 34
51 63 68
661,000 486,958 912,150 582,500 815,000 480,000 461,500 453,500 575,000 539,500 394,950 795,000 415,000 390,000 445,000 450,000 666,000 423,500 582,500 515,000
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Sensory Deprivation Floating

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he word deprivation doesn’t usually come to mind when we think about experiences that will enhance our lives. But what if acquiring a unique experience meant you had to deprive yourself of your senses of sight, sound and touch? If that piques your interest, I highly recommend floating.

Without too much convincing, I talked my husband into joining me to try something new. We pulled up to a beautifully landscaped home and met Barbara Combs, a passionate nutritionist and wellness enthusiast who runs the Living Well Gallery & Spa. Using a float tent, Combs provides sensory deprivation floats out of her home in Atascadero.

Flotation chambers, also known as isolation tanks and sensory deprivation tanks, were first developed by John C. Lilly in 1954. In the 1970’s the practice also became known as REST, or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy. The Zen flotation chamber used by Combs is a rectangular tent about the size of a twin bed. It is pitch black inside and has about 12 inches of water that is heated to 95 degrees and infused with Epsom salt. I have experienced the buoyancy of highly concentrated salt water when I floated in the Dead Sea in Israel, with 33.7% salinity, but to put this experience in perspective, the Living Well Gallery & Spa’s float tent is set at 80% salinity.

“People describe floating as a womb experience. It’s incredibly freeing of your mind to strip away the distractions our senses can provide us. Floating can feel so timeless you almost slip into a trance. I’m passionate about floating because of how many psychological breakthroughs and health benefits this spa treatment can give people. It’s especially effective for people recovering from trauma,” explained Combs.

According to Combs, floating, originally popular in the 70’s, is making a big comeback because it provides: relaxation—it slips you into a meditative state removing the external stimuli that distracts our minds from the purity of our thoughts; absorption of magnesium— most Americans are deficient in the mineral, which is detoxifying, helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady; psychological and emotional breakthroughs—floating leads even the most inspiring executives to make mental and emotional connections to problems they have been too distracted to solve.

So how does it work? Before floating you cover any cuts with Vaseline—open skin doesn’t feel good when it comes in contact with the Epsom salt—put in earplugs, and wear an eye mask. Entering into the chamber, the water temperature is designed to match your body temperature, so it feels neither hot nor cold. Laying back, you instantly feel weightless, hearing only your breathing.

I started off with some breathing exercises I remembered from my yoga days, sinking into relaxation with each exhale. It felt like I was slowly orbiting in circles in complete darkness. I lost a sense of time, sight, and sound. I can only explain it as feeling peacefully detached from reality.

Being seven months pregnant I did not totally lose my sense of touch as my growing baby girl decided it was time to wake up and start moving. So, I placed my hands on my stomach and was able to use the time to connect with my emotions about motherhood and enjoy feeling the baby shift around. The hour flew by. My husband let me know the hour was up, and I took a hot shower to rinse off all the salt. Floating was a surreal experience for me. I felt incredibly light, euphoric and had the kind of “post massage buzz” that has yet to go away.

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Better Sleep

a key to good health

It appears that the author, Shawn Stevenson, is on to something. Check out our seven favorite tips.

Who doesn’t crave to wake up renewed and refreshed? We recently stumbled upon a book titled “Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success.” Inspired to get a good night’s sleep, we adopted some of its recommended practices and the results couldn’t have been better.

No. 1


This may sound counterintuitive, but the facts are hard to deny. Like almost everything else we humans do, hormones are making it happen. And, sleep is no different. Through a finely choreographed series of hormonal release we make our way through the day. One of the key hormones for sleep is serotonin, which our bodies release when exposed to sunlight. And our circadian rhythms suggest that our body’s receptors—our skin and our eyes—are most responsive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays early in the morning, from sunrise to 8:30am or so. Lucky for us living on the Central Coast, sunshine is common at those hours. Try getting a little sun first thing in the morning—yes, without sunglasses and sunscreen—and see for yourself if it makes a difference for your sleep quality.

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No. 3


It turns out that an estimated 80% of Americans are deficient of this mineral, which is sometimes referred to as the “antistress mineral.” A study published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine showed that people deficient in magnesium were twice as likely to die early. And, Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine states, “This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues—but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.” We bought ourselves some of this stuff in a spray form as the book recommended and, while it could have been a placebo effect, each of us reported having excellent, deep sleep that night.


This one, too, was a surprise. It seems that everyone these days is talking about gut health. It all started to make sense when we learned that approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin is located in the gastrointestinal tract. There is far too much to cover here, but if you are serious about optimizing your sleep this is a great place to focus. Entire books are written about gut health, but Stevenson shares some of the major causes that have been clinically proven to damage or disorient gut microbiome: agricultural chemicals, processed foods, repeated antibiotic use, food additives and preservatives, and chlorinated water. Getting your gut right, it appears, may take you a long way toward a better night’s sleep.


No. 2 No. 5

Stevenson describes how in less than one hundred years—a very short time when measured against human evolution—we have disconnected ourselves from the diurnal rhythms of the earth… yes, we know that sounds like “trippy hippy” talk, but it does make sense if you think about it. All through our evolution we went to sleep when it became dark and rose with the sun. Therefore, and research proves this, our most restful sleeping hours are from 10pm to 2am. Instead of allowing our bodies to repair themselves, many Americans are watching Netflix. Our hormones do weird things when we are awake past 10pm, it turns out, as there is a “second wind” phenomenon, which is the release of a series of stress hormones that kick in that provides a boost of energy if we miss this window. This, of course, makes it harder to settle in for a deep sleep allowing our bodies to repair and rejuvenate. Repetitively missing this cycle can spell trouble, as the International Agency for Research on Cancer now classifies overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen.


Make your room as dark as possible, pitch black if you can. And, research shows that an eye mask alone won’t do it because your skin can actually “see.” That’s right, according to a Brown University study, our skin is full of photoreceptors (the same ones that react to sunlight in our first tip) that respond to light. A follow-up study at Cornell University tested these findings by shining a quarter-sized light on the backside of their subjects’ knees. Results showed that this consistently resulted in much lower quality sleep. Consider putting in some room-darkening drapes and ditch the alarm clock (blue and white digital clocks are the worst offenders, red is better), or do as the book recommends: cover it with a sweatshirt or something while you sleep and lift it up to peek at the time only if you have to.

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This one seems obvious, as so many of us here on the Central Coast do not have airconditioned homes and have experienced a night of tossing and turning that accompanies a hot spell. As it turns out, body temperature has a lot to do with sleep. According to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, researchers fitted insomniacs with “cooling caps.” The results were astonishing: when the subjects wore the caps, they fell asleep faster (about 13 minutes compared to 16 minutes for the healthy control group), and remained asleep 89% of the time they were in bed, the same as the non-insomniacs.


Remove all electronic devices from your bedroom, which Stevenson refers to as your “sleep sanctuary.” That means no cell phones, televisions, desktops, laptops, iPads, Kindles, tablets, etc. Research is fast catching up in this area, but all of it—including those studies coming from the mobile companies themselves—is not good. In one trial conducted at the Loughborough University Sleep Research Centre in England, it was found that brain wave patterns were altered so significantly by cell phone usage prior to bedtime that it took one full hour on average to return to normal patterns after the phone was turned off, which significantly disrupted sleep. Same goes for watching TV in bed. Instead, try shutting it off an hour or two before sleep and reading a book (a real, printed one) under a dimmed incandescent light (not LED). And, if you must use electronics, consider wearing some of those funky, space-aged amber hued glasses, which filter out much of the sleep depriving blue light that is emitted from electronic screens.

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In this ongoing feature, New York Times Best Selling author FRANZ WISNER teams up with SLO LIFE Magazine to explore the magic of an age-old tradition: storytelling.

Only in America can a guy can get dumped at the altar and turn it into a career. I am exhibit A, Franz Wisner, professional dumpee/storyteller.

My story began when my fiancée called off our Sea Ranch, California wedding just a few days before our planned vows. With guests (and wine) en-route, I decided to go ahead and join the weekend festivities, attempting to smile during the golf tournament and rehearsal dinner. “Well, you’ve already paid for it,” I told myself. “Might as well try to enjoy it.”

Of the 150 people invited to the wedding, 75 showed up—my side of the aisle. They gave me hugs and made me feel a little better about my situation, at least until I returned to my corporate communications job the next week and learned I had been demoted.

Dumbfounded and depressed, I did something rash. I grabbed my recently divorced brother, Kurt, and took him on my prepaid honeymoon to Costa Rica. Just a quick trip to shake things up a little, I told him. That turned out to be a bit of an understatement.

At the end of two weeks, I convinced Kurt to continue the honeymoon… for two years and 53 countries. We quit our jobs, sold our homes, unplugged our lives, and continued exploring this big ole planet of ours.

We chased wildlife in Botswana and nightlife in Rio de Janeiro, feasted on pho soups at sidewalk cafes in Vietnam and got sick after devouring a Subway sandwich in Peru, slept on couches, negotiated every purchase, dumped the guidebooks, and relied solely on recommendations from locals. Midway through our travels, I realized I had a new best friend, a guy who just happened to be my brother.

I also found love. No, not a future bride. I discovered a passion for writing and storytelling. Up until that point, I’d spent my career writing for others, penning speeches for politicians and CEOs, and crafting press releases that relied heavily on words like “synergy” and “stakeholders.”

Out on the road, with some time on my hands, I began to write for me. My writing took the form of essays at first, quirky stories about intrepid backpackers or awful taxi drivers. For the first time in my life, I wrote from the heart. It felt liberating and exciting, like somebody handing me a giant box of Crayolas after I’d spent my life coloring in gray.

At the end of the honeymoon, I received a couple offers to go back to the corporate world. But my world had changed. The heart is a powerful thing. Once you write from it, all other types of writing ring hollow. I didn’t want to go back to “synergy.”

I decided to write a book titled, you guessed it, “Honeymoon with My Brother.” From day one, the book took on a life of its own. We launched on The Today Show and told our story on Oprah. Book clubs embraced it, sending us photos of wedding cakes with miniature grooms on top and brides fleeing off the side. “Honeymoon with My Brother” made the New York Times Best Sellers list.

My publisher, St. Martin’s Press, wanted a follow-up book. “Oh no,” I said. “I’m not getting dumped again.” They assured me I could write about anything I wished, and I hit the road anew with Kurt to pen a book called “How the World Makes Love,” a lighthearted look at dating and marriage around the globe. At the end of that process, I met a woman in California, fell in love, and proposed. She said, “Yes.” Better, she actually showed up to the wedding, a first for me.

Around this time, I started teaching and helping individuals and companies with their storytelling efforts. I got a huge charge out of seeing their stories come to life. I realized how essential storytelling is to our time here on earth. It’s how we see everything around us. It’s how we relate to others. Data and superlatives go in one ear and out the other. Stories resonate, inspire, and remain inside us.

At the same time, I feel storytelling is neglected in our society. We charge on with our hectic lives and our businesses, too often bogged down by minutia, rarely taking the time to think, “What’s my story?” When we do carve out a little time for some storytelling, we struggle with how to do it.

That’s why I was thrilled when Tom Franciskovich approached me about writing for SLO LIFE. I loved the idea of a regular column devoted to storytelling. Our lives and businesses are stories, essential ones, with new chapters being written every day. Time to give that storytelling a little TLC.

In the coming months I plan to write about the art and craft of storytelling, offer some literary techniques to help with your stories, and explore the stories that move us. I’m calling this column The Storytellers’ Corner (plural possessive) because I see it as an interactive effort. I want to hear your stories and answer your questions about storytelling.

The best stories are ones that use shared experiences and emotions to connect. That’s exactly what I hope to do with this column.

So our story begins.

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FRANZ WISNER is a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of The Bestsellers Group, a storytelling agency.
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Outgoing San Luis Obispo City Councilman JOHN ASHBAUGH shares his innovative idea for the future of Diablo Canyon after its nuclear facility is decommissioned in 2025: turn it into a National Park. Nearly 6,000 newborns have had the head start they needed in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. graduate KATIE graduate SARAH graduate PARKER graduate KAITLIN

Like most Americans, I am utterly enthralled with our National Parks. Much of my childhood was lived in Lassen Volcanic National Park near our home in Redding, and we car-camped in many of the western National Parks. My family has continued that tradition from San Luis Obispo.

This year, the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its Centennial at all of its 412 units, covering 84 million acres of spectacular landscapes, beaches, deserts, forests, and waters. Californians are blessed with nine National Parks, eleven National Monuments, and a variety of National Recreation Areas, Preserves, Trails, and a National Seashore (Point Reyes in Marin County).

For me, the National Parks are a place of respite, inspiration, and connection to the magic of the natural world. They also serve to remind all Americans of our history, and the even longer “pre-history” of the many cultures and communities of Native Americans who once inhabited these lands.

I was reminded of this connection many times over this summer of the NPS Centennial—and it got me to thinking: Why don’t

we have a National Park here in San Luis Obispo County? In my considered opinion, we should—and there’s a great candidate right in our own backyard.

Recent events suggest an opportunity for this community to take the initiative to propose a new National Park here: The Pecho Coast National Seashore.

Last June, PG&E announced that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) would begin the long process of decommissioning in 2025. This facility is the last operating nuclear power plant in California, and with its closure, our region will see a net economic loss of about $1 billion annually.

The County, school districts, and nearby cities are reeling in the face of this announcement. Over the last few months, a coalition of cities have urged PG&E to negotiate strategies to mitigate the economic impacts that we will feel in this region.

Even before the planned closure was announced, I had been urging local leaders to launch “post-Diablo” planning so that we can transition smoothly into a future without Diablo Canyon. For over a half-century, we have benefitted from economic stimulus from the power plant, but that will end soon. For Diablo Canyon to continue as an operating

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nuclear power plant, PG&E would have to invest billions to upgrade the facility. They have other priorities now, and have committed to exceed new state requirements to derive 50% of their electrical power from renewable, sustainable sources by 2030—they are going for 55%.

The closure of Diablo Canyon will require careful deliberation and intelligent leadership for at least the next decade. With such guidance, we can seize a unique opportunity that presents itself due to the fact that this energy company has exercised such careful stewardship over the 12,800 acres of pristine coastal lands surrounding the nuclear power plant.

Why not take advantage of that vast protected area and combine PG&E’s holdings with the 8,000-acre Montaña de Oro State Park nearby, to assemble a continuous coastal area that qualifies as a unit of the National Park Service? Let’s think even bigger by adding the 5,500 acres of the Hibbert Preserve and Wild Cherry Canyon, which is owned by PG&E but subject to a long-term lease controlled by a developer.

Let’s also consider adding the historic 1892 Point San Luis Lighthouse, owned by the Port San Luis Harbor District, at its southern end. Together, about 25,000 acres could easily qualify as a unit of our famed National Park system, right in our backyard.

What is required to create such a magnificent park? The most important ingredient is the land itself—and anyone who has experienced this area knows that it is worthy of National Park status on the basis of its raw beauty alone—not to mention its unique flora and fauna, geology, and history.

Beyond that, we will need strong cooperation with the landowners, both public and private, enthusiastic support within the surrounding communities, and unified local political leadership. Only Congress can declare a National Park. For example, Pinnacles National Park is credited to Monterey Congressman Sam Farr, who retires at the end of this year. A National Monument like the Carrizo Plains requires only an executive order by the President under the Antiquities Act of 1906. President Bill Clinton created the Carrizo Plains National Monument on January 17, 2001, just three days before leaving office. Many National Parks were first designated by the President as National Monuments. In another instance, Theodore Roosevelt declared Pinnacles a National Monument in 1908. In that same year, he also proclaimed the Grand Canyon as a National Monument, but Congress made it a National Park just after Roosevelt’s death in 1919.

Creating a Pecho Coast National Seashore will provoke controversy, >>

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without a doubt since National Park designation requires an Act of Congress, in this case the State Legislature would be asked to transfer the State Park to the NPS. Federal control might be a hard pill to swallow, but federal support would be enormously helpful in securing the funding needed to buy out the interests of PG&E and its partner in Wild Cherry Canyon, HomeFed Corporation of Carlsbad.

A few hundred acres in and around the power plant would need to be carved out of the National Park boundaries for DCNPP decommissioning, and for safe storage of spent fuel—at least until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can find some other place for it to go. In my view, the federal government is already a major stakeholder in our post-Diablo future. A National Park would come with federal dollars to secure the conservation values of this outstanding area, while also securing the radioactive waste.

The communities of Los Osos, Avila Beach, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, and the Five Cities would need to get on board. So, what’s in it for them?

National Parks typically bring in substantial non-local visitors with dollars. A recent study by the NPS showed that Point Reyes National Seashore, for example, yielded these numbers: the park attracted 2.5 million visitors in 2015, who spent over $100 million in Marin County. This spending in turn generated 1,400 jobs that provided $58 million in labor income (earnings) in that year.

Support from many local interest groups would be key to the grassroots campaign to create a National Park. We would need backing from the Land Conservancy, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, California Native Plants Society, Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, Morro Bay Natural History Association, Surfrider Foundation, and the many land preservation organizations now working in this community. Historical and archaeological preservation advocates as well as local Chumash leaders would play an integral role in helping us learn how best to protect historic

and pre-historic sites.

A National Park or Seashore would be perfectly compatible with the proposed Chumash National Marine Sanctuary, stretching from Estero Bay to Point Concepcion. That area, once accepted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would focus on marine resources and sustainable fisheries.

We are very privileged on the Central Coast to have the opportunity to hold out to the nation, and to the world, an outstanding complex of coastal headlands and seascapes that offers so much to so many. It is time to begin a conversation here, in Sacramento, and in Washington about what we can do together to create the Pecho Coast National Seashore— right here in our own backyard.

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JOHN ASHBAUGH founded the Land Conservancy in 1984, and served eight years on the San Luis Obispo City Council. He teaches U.S. History and Global Studies at Hancock College.
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“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. It’s quite wonderful, really.”

— Bill Bryson, author of “A Walk in the Woods”



he Average American Spends Over 10 Hours a Day Staring at Screens” said the CNN headline I read on my iPhone while waiting in line at Scout Coffee. Up to that moment it had not occurred to me to classify the phone, computer, TV, and iPad into one category: “Screen.” I wanted

to burn my precious devices in protest and head for the hills. Instead, I sat down with my cappuccino, opened my laptop, and started Googling “remote adventures; long walks through the wilderness; and hikes through the mountains.” After hours of online research, I settled on hiking the Haute Route, a 120-mile trek between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. National Geographic ranks it as one of the 20 best hikes in the world. The route is safe, entirely non-technical, requires no ropes or crampons, and while challenging because of its daily elevation gains and distances, it is achievable by any hiker in reasonably good shape.

One month later, my fellow screen addict and I were starting our first day of hiking the Haute Route, beginning in Zermatt on our way through the greatest concentration of 4,000-meter peaks in the Alps.

I must first point out, the Alps are not like our California mountains. They come at you from all sides and angles; they loom over you, and make you feel like a small, powerless being. They are diverse, both in weather and landscape. Staring up at them, knowing that we would be delving into them over the next eight days was a humbling and profound experience.

Twenty miles into the first day, I started questioning my belief that weekly hikes up San Luis Mountain were proper training for hiking the Alps with a 35-pound pack strapped to my back. We had passed through spacious woodlands, bustling streams, high pastures, and delved into a stony wilderness, all in just the first day. As we slowly shuffled up the last ascent of the day, I clung desperately to the tiny religious shrines that sporadically lined the single-track path up the mountain, as if they were strategically placed at the top of each very steep pitch.

The sun was setting just as we reached the small village at the top of the trail. We quickly discovered a large pond and grassy knoll to set up camp beside. As achy and tired as we were, we were even more desperate for some Swiss wine to pair with our feast of dehydrated chicken curry, turkey jerky, and chocolate peanut butter Clif bars. We discovered a tiny hamlet, flush with Swiss wine and German beer. Prost! We ate and drank like kings at our camp, retelling stories of our adventurous day, and then retiring early to our tent. Sleep came quickly after ten hours of hiking. Sunrise came even faster.

And so began the morning ritual of hoisting my 35-pound backpack. The pack is always heaviest in the morning, because it’s full of a day’s supply of water. As our journey progressed, we passed many hikers from all over the world, each time making eye contact and greeting us with, “Bonjour, Buenos Días, Guten Tag, Salaam, Ciao, Good Morning.” My mind wandered back to all the people I pass on a daily basis walking down Higuera, staring

down at our iPhones as we walk from place to place. Aside from that, why did all of these hikers have much smaller packs than ours? At first, I thought they were day hiking a different route, as Switzerland boasts over 37,000 miles of official hiking trails throughout the country, many of which are in the Alps. But on the eighth hour into what the Swiss hiking signs indicated to be a sixhour day, I started scheming about how to lighten my pack.

Weight of the pack aside, the Swiss are world famous for being fit and healthy; many of the Swiss hikers we met on the trail were over 70 years old. Hiking is as much their culture as Swiss

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KIMBERLY WALKER is a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur who lives in San Luis Obispo.

chocolates and cheese. Have screens become America’s culture?

The next day included bouldering over our third 9,000foot pass. My knees and spirit were exhausted, and I found myself singing an odd rendition of “Edelweiss” to keep my mind off the terrain in front of me. I misjudged one of the rocks, lost my balance, and was thrown backwards by the weight of my heavy pack. Although it cushioned what could have been a painful fall, my pack became firmly wedged between two small boulders. There I was, stuck in the middle of a massive rock pile, with my legs, arms, and hiking sticks flailing in the air, like a turtle turned on its shell. No matter how much I wriggled and jerked, I could not set myself free. A group of French hikers finally noticed my distress and as they were rushing to assist, I broke free of the rocks and hobbled my way back to my feet. Angry with both my headphone clad hiking partner for not hearing my squeals for help and myself for having a ridiculously heavy pack, we decided to ditch the camping theme of the trip and opt for the comforts of the Cabane. Cabanes are the Swiss word for hostel or dormitory. Most have large sleeping rooms that house 20-30 guests. Each guests is provided with a sleeping pad, small pillow and wool blanket. Guests pay between $60-150 per person per night including dinner and breakfast. Communal bathrooms and showers are standard, as are family-style dinners. Having stayed in plenty of hostels, I found them quite comforting, like going home for Thanksgiving, but my hiking partner, having never slept in a communal room, found the whole experience a bit disturbing, at the very least, undesirable.

Some Cabanes were settled in small towns, others were perched on a hillside, or nestled in a valley at the bottom of a steep descent. Although unique in structure and landscape, each was filled with a similar cast of characters from all over the world: hikers wearing zip-away pants, hikers reading guide books, hikers clinging to their Nalgenes, hikers sharing stories of adventures in different languages. Despite all the different religions, philosophies, and beliefs, gathered around the table each night, we were all united in our common mission to walk the Alps. Our complicated lives had become simple. When the sun rises, we wake up, eat breakfast, and begin to walk. When it sets, we shower (if lucky), eat dinner, and go to sleep. And, in between, is the sole task of putting one foot in front of the other. There are no task lists, or calls to make. No cell service or Wi-Fi. Our only connections are the people around us.

The farther into the Alps we delved, the landscape changed from pastures and boulders to snow and shale. Each day offered a different shade of nature. As if all of its various facets were laid out for us to explore: lakes, rocks, woods, snow, rain, sunshine, wind. The Alps served up a kaleidoscope of natural beauty that leaves its visitors in awe.

By the end of our adventure, I not only had a much lower bar for enjoyment: Nescafé became invigorating, a ham and cheese sandwich was divine, sleeping on a floor pad felt like heaven, and a $10 bottle of red wine was a treat. I also felt inspired to trade two of the ten hours a day I normally spend on my screen, to just being outdoors. San Luis Obispo County, with its vast open spaces, captivating peaks, and miles of hiking trails should easily trump staring at a screen. So let’s put down our devices, and head for our hills. SLO LIFE

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• A key step in preparing for emergencies is knowing the ways in which you may be notified. In San Luis Obispo County, officials will utilize different public alert and notification systems based on the type and severity of the emergency. Some of the options available include the Early Warning System sirens, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and Reverse 911. • Should an emergency occur at Diablo Canyon Power Plant that requires the public to take action, the sirens and EAS would be the primary method of public alert and notification. These systems provide rapid and consistent information throughout the Emergency Planning Zone. • During an emergency, it is important to stay tuned to local radio and TV stations to receive current information and any actions you may need to take.

• For more information on how you can be kept informed of local emergencies, please visit: or call (805)781-5011.

dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 89 Drought-inspired landscapes that entertain. visit -or- call 805.215.0511 An activity of Gardens by Gabriel, Inc. · License No. 887028


The ’69 Chevy, a white Camaro, shook the ground as it inched up to the starting line. Things had fallen into place on this day, and five rounds later, the dragster from San Luis Obispo, of all places, most improbably

remained undefeated. But, the stakes were higher now; this was the final round and a national television audience was tuning in. The winner of this race would be crowned champion of the annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. Whoever made it to the end of the quarter-mile track first was the champ, pure and simple—winner takes all.

A green light flashed and the driver tromped on the gas pedal, launching his car forward. Tires gripped the track as the vehicle stayed true and straight, and after a few moments of ear-splitting fury Kyle Rizzoli had bested 70 of the country’s top Super Stock racers. The crowd erupted at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Rizzoli family jumped up and down, embracing and laughing. Grandma Mary, who following the race back in San Luis Obispo, called to share in the excitement. And, once again, three generations of Rizzolis were together, as one.

After 24 years working as an auto mechanic for another shop in town, Mario Rizzoli was ready to go out on his own. He had been planning and saving for the right opportunity, so when he found a corner lot with a dilapidated old, falling-down house just off Broad Street in an area of town then known as Little Italy, he knew it would be perfect. And, he took comfort in the fact that the new shop would be located just down the street from the garbage company that his father, Augusto, had founded with a partner. That much could be considered a good luck omen, but when he learned that he had actually lived in the house briefly as a baby, he knew he was definitely on the right path. The structure was razed and a shiny, new auto shop rose up in its place, the same shop that has continuously operated, in good times and in bad, for forty years in San Luis Obispo.

When Mario’s son, Jim, was just nineteen years old, he joined his father as he opened the doors to the start-up business, and the father-and-son team began welcoming their

first customers to the town’s newest auto repair shop. The two worked together over the years, cautiously expanding the shop during that time.

Then, Jim and his wife Kay brought their own children into the world, the third generation of Rizzolis, first Kyle and then Karen. Both of them went on to Cal Poly, Kyle graduating in mechanical engineering, and Karen with a degree in business.

“I’ve seen my dad work very, very hard. It’s not the easiest, or most glamorous industry,” Kyle reflects.

“Growing up, I didn’t want to get into the business. I told my parents, ‘I’ll give you five years, and then I’m out,’” he laughs. “That was almost ten years ago; and I wouldn’t change one moment.”

Recently, Karen joined the family business and the brother-sister duo are preparing to fully take the reigns of the operation from their parents. “It feels like something that is bigger than yourself,” Kyle shares.

“We have customers that were my grandpa’s customers. Some of them have been with us for forty years.

They’ve had a relationship with my grandpa, my dad, and now me. That’s pretty powerful, and that’s what has kept me going. It’s very fulfilling to maintain those bonds with people in the community.” Continuing her grandson’s thought, Mary reveals, “I think that it’s wonderful, and I only wish that Mario was here to see it because he would think so also. Never did I dream that this would happen, but it couldn’t be better.”

90 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 | BUSINESS
Three Generations of the Rizzoli Family Celebrate 40 Years in Business
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Ubiquitous, Yet Miraculous


a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie-pastry named for its well-known crescent shape; croissants and other viennoiseries are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough; the dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, in a technique called laminating; the process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry;

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JAIME LEWIS is a world traveler, and food writer, who lives in San Luis Obispo.
dec/jan 2017 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | 93

“I’ve been baking croissants for five years and still, every day, we ask, ‘Did the croissants turn out okay?’ They’re way more of a miracle than people realize.”

I’m sitting at a sidewalk table with Dan Berkeland outside his Back Porch Bakery in Atascadero, talking croissants on a Tuesday morning in the pretty October sunshine. Inside, customers gather at tables beneath the bakery’s Old World exposed brick, wood and brass.

Known for his croissants, Berkeland produces approximately 20,000 per month for local restaurants and cafes, in addition to his own. He recalls what got him into croissants in the first place. “I was a bread guy, but I read that croissants are just laminated bread. So I used my bread recipe and laminated it. It was a game-changer.”

The concept of lamination is key to understanding croissants (and croissant people— more on that in a bit). Essentially, a croissant is multiple alternating layers of thin dough and butter, rolled into a shape and baked. Sound easy? It’s not; making croissants takes three days, two fermentations (risings), and, Berkeland adds, knowledge, craft, muscle, and intellect. “A croissant is far more than the sum of its individual parts,” he says. The origins of the modern croissant are hazy, but many believe it to be the love child of an Austrian crescent-shaped biscuit and France’s leavened puff pastry (pâte feuilletée, literally “leafy dough”). The first documented croissant appears in a French recipe written in 1915, smack dab in the middle of World War I—an interesting fact given the scarcity of baking ingredients at the time. Which leads me to ask Berkeland, “Are croissants the product of necessity, like so many other dishes, traditions, and foodways?” He laughs, and points to my croissant. “There is nothing necessary about that. That’s all about gluttony and luxury.”

Tucking into the Back Porch Bakery croissant before me, I have to agree. The skin, burnished from the caramelization of natural sugars, snaps like a tree branch as I pull apart the croissant’s coiling layers. The flavors are salty and sweet, with just a hint of sourdough-like tang. >>

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Berkeland is warm, exacting, opinionated, and tenacious, a personality blend I also find in Mark Evans, the baker and owner of Breaking Bread Bakery in SLO. Evans and his wife, Glenna, opened their bustling bakery inside the County building on Higuera Street a few years ago and have quickly earned a following for croissants made by in-house croissant baker, Lane Hughes. The keys, according to Evans? A light touch, experience, and really good butter.

“We use eighty-three percent butterfat, unsalted, European-style butter,” he says, explaining that the high fat-to-milk-solids ratio keeps the butter from “shattering,” or “breaking,” when rolled very thin. These details, numbers and ratios are the norm when talking about croissant-baking; every baker I interviewed referred to many pages of notes or complicated matrices that documented their hard-earned pastry wisdom.

Whereas Evans is passionate and methodical, baker Lane Hughes is quiet and more laissez-faire. I watch as he measures and cuts squares of dough for ham and cheese croissants. (Breaking Bread Bakery makes multiple varieties of croissants, including almond, chocolate, jalapeño-cheddar, and a riff on traditional stollen bread with rum-soaked raisins, candied fruit, and almonds.) “You have to take your time and be gentle,” Hughes says, patting a croissant as it proofs. “The layers come out better that way.”

Layers are a big deal to croissant people. As Evans slices into a plain croissant and separates the two halves for a closer look, I’m reminded of buttresses supporting a cathedral wall; the interior’s lacy honeycomb appearance is a product of cold butter melting as layers of yeasted dough rise and bake. When I taste this croissant, I’m struck by its creamy sweetness and the crispy bite of browned skin. >>

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Those who bake real croissants deserve all the pride they have in their work, nobody more so than Marcus Marren, the pastry chef and manager of Pagnol Boulanger in Los Osos-Baywood Park. The newest bakery of the bunch, Pagnol opened in August as a second location for L.A.-based award-winning bread baker Mark Stambler. While Stambler commutes weekly to Baywood from L.A. and is definitely “a bread guy,” Marren resides here full-time and produces all of the bakery’s pastries.

While the croissants at Back Porch Bakery and Breaking Bread Bakery differ in nuanced ways, those from Pagnol differ significantly and on many levels. First, for lack of space, Marren rolls his dough and butter by hand—they’re not fed through a sheeter like at the others—a punishing task only for the most committed baker. Second, Marren’s croissants are composed, in part, of whole grain Sonora white winter wheat from Kandarian Farms in Los Osos, a big deal because whole wheat flour is usually considered too heavy, dense or tough for a croissant’s delicate structure. Lastly, Marren’s croissants are leavened 100% naturally, without any commercial yeast, like a true sourdough. “You know, for being so delicious,” he says, “these croissants really are the healthiest version of themselves.”

Marren’s different methods definitely show up in the final pastry, the most notable being a sourdough tanginess. That acidity plays nicely across the interior’s sweet softness and the exterior’s crisp flakiness. Sharing a Pagnol croissant with my friend Jen on the bakery’s front patio, we feel the fortune of our find—Marren only bakes croissants twice per month and they usually sell out in just two hours—and indulge in uncoiling the buttery, beautiful dough, layer after layer. SLO LIFE

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There is nothing quite as comforting as tomato soup on a cold day and Chef Jessie Rivas creates a rich, creamy bowl bursting with bright flavors. And one dip with his perfectly toasted rustic baguette topped with cheese and you will satisfy even the most discerning palate.

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To create another layer of flavor, add an herb oil drizzle to the bowl just before serving. To make herb oil: mix 1 cup minced basil, 1 cup minced arugula, 1/4 olive oil, salt and pepper.


4 lbs Roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise

¼ cup olive and canola oil blend

2 medium yellow onions roughly chopped

4-6 cloves garlic roughly chopped

4 Tbs butter

½ tsp Allepo chili flakes or a few dashes of Tabasco sauce

1 16 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbs thyme

1 bunch fresh basil

2 bay leaves

1 qt vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup heavy whipping cream Kosher salt and black pepper


Rustic baguette

Grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°. Layer tomatoes on a cookie sheet with the cut side up. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for one hour. This may be done up to 24 hours in advance.

In a non-reactive stockpot, sauté onions and garlic with butter for about ten minutes. Add roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili flakes or Tabasco, bay leaves, basil, thyme, and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. In a blender purée soup in batches. After soup is puréed add cream and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Return to stove and keep warm on low.

Toast Points: Cut baguettes into several pieces on a bias and lay side by side on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper. Lightly toast, just until cheese has melted. Serve while warm.

JESSIE RIVAS is the owner and chef of The Pairing Knife food truck which serves the Central Coast.


Coming fresh off the heels of SLO Beer Week, I desperately needed a break from my daily bread—ales and lagers. Luckily, grapes and grains aren’t the only fermentables on the Central Coast. Let’s talk about another local crop being grown right in our own backyard, or maybe even your front yard—apples.

Some people eat them raw or bake them, but my favorite way to consume apples is to drink them. Hard cider, as opposed to apple cider, the non-fermented, non-filtered juice of pressed apples, has the addition of yeast making it alcoholic and... amazing. Not to be confused with the mass-marketed swill that’s been on our grocery store shelves for decades, this local stuff is true to the educated consumers’ demand for elevated products and thoughtful craftsmanship. Look no further than five cideries right here in our county to see the resurgence this crisp and flavorful beverage has made in recent years.

We’ve had our fair share of tour stops heading toward North County breweries with a refreshing break at Bristols Cider House in Atascadero. Their focus on dry ciders is changing the perception of beer drinkers and wine drinkers alike, turning them into true fans of the craft. It’s not just the drying champagne yeast that makes them stand out, it’s the boundary-breaking techniques being employed. Raise a glass of bright pink Mangelwurtzel to the light and see for yourself. This unique brew has fifty pounds of Bull’s Blood beets added per ton of apples to give it an earthy flavor that compliments the acidity of the apples. Another brew that’s sure to convert even the most diehard beer drinkers into the world of apples, and one we love to highlight, is the dry-hopped Rackham. Utilizing classic citrus-forward flavors of West Coast hops, this cider stands out as the bridge to gap both worlds.

Travel further up Highway 101 and you’ll visit the newest cider house to hit the Central Coast, Tin City Cider Company. You can enjoy their creations around the city of SLO both finding their tap handles around local watering holes and their cans in grocery stores or your favorite sandwich shops. Their Original Cider uses nine apple varieties,

six yeasts, three fermentation vessels, and two hops to make one batch. Not bad for the daily drinker. Want to get funky? Sharing a wall with Barrelhouse Brewing’s sour facility it’s no wonder they borrowed some blonde wheat wort and added Brett and Lacto, barrel-aged, dry-hopped and bottle-conditioned with Brux to make their Sour Blonde cider.

Avila’s See Canyon is renowned as our local apple producing region with its perfect blend of hot sunshine and moist ocean air. When headed south we love to dip into the winding tree-lined roads of Avila and explore two cider makers with tasting rooms in the heart of their orchards. Kelsey See Canyon makes not only beautiful wines and labels, but tasty beverages as well. Grab a bottle of Red Delicious, a blend of rosé wine and cider, and head straight to the Sycamore Mineral Springs with this bottle of “Hot Tub Wine.” Visit the namesake See Canyon Ciders as they poise to reopen their tasting room with ciders made right there on-premise and be the hit of your dinner party with a bottle of Premium Dry, bottle conditioned for two years and cellared for an additional four years. It is a great alternative to champagne.

Go further down the coast and you might bump into the very new Meraki Cider. Run by husband-and-wife team Travis and Quincy Storm, they use apples from their family farm to make the crisp and clean flagship Totem.

Catch them at cider events around the county to sample seasonal variants like their persimmon and coriander versions, or wait until spring for bright additions of lemon, ginger, and tart cherries. Lucky for you they deliver growlers to your door and we will start seeing Totem bottles hitting shelves in Pismo and beyond.

So, whether you’re into the rich complexities of wine or the refreshing drinkability of beer, cider has a place in your fridge. Start to keep an eye out for our neighborhood brands popping up, give them a shot, or better yet visit the source, and take part in the revolution as local artisans fight to take back the great name of hard ciders.


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BRANT MYERS is owner of Hop On Beer Tours, a concierge service for craft beer enthusiasts along the Central Coast. BY BRANT MYERS
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Take in the impressive sight of Hearst Castle decked out for Christmas circa the 1920’s creating an impressive spectacle and a special atmosphere that is sure to make the season bright.

December 1 - 31 //



Out of work, this slacker decides to become a Macy’s elf during the holiday crunch. Witness this battle-weary and bitter elf transform into our hero with uncharacteristic moments of goodwill just before his employment runs out. December 5 - 21 //


It’s Christmas Eve and Clara is about to have the night of her dreams. Marvel at the magic and wonder of this spectacular, professional production brought to you by the Civic Ballet and accompanied by the Opera San Luis Obispo orchestra and the SLO High Choir. December 10 - 11 //


Enjoy the full-length holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” presented by Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo with Principal Ballerina Theresa Slobodnik. December 16 -18 //

104 | SLO LIF e Magaz I ne | d ec/jan 2017 | HAPPENINGS
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Visitors and locals alike can experience the region’s locally-inspired cuisine throughout January as participating restaurants offer various special menus and promotions, most featuring a three-course prix fixe menu. Reservations recommended. Prices and offers vary by restaurant. Dine out during this delicious month celebrating some of the finest cuisine on the Central Coast.

January 2 - 31 //


Kick off the New Year by jumping into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean off Cayucos as part of the 36th Annual Carlin Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip. Most participants wear swimming suits or come in costume, but be warned, wetsuits are frowned upon. The festivities begin at 9:30am, with the Polar Bear Dip at noon.

January 1 //


The race will take place at the gorgeous La Cuesta Ranch, just outside of San Luis Obispo on Loomis Road backing up to Poly Canyon and West Cuesta Ridge. The start/finish area will be staged at the historic ranch barn. This event features dirt trails and ranch roads with fantastic views of the West Cuesta Ridge.

January 7 //


A re-imagining of Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters—love.

January 17 //

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