However, it's quiet when we roll in on a hazy, lazy weekday afternoon. I pull up a barstool next to Mike, a retired government chemist living in them thar hills. Over a peppery Bloody Mary, he schools us on the Coastside's divergent cultures, explaining the differences between the longtime locals, whom he calls "lokes," and the wealthy newcomers to the area, whom he dubs "the transplants."
The general store is most definitely a loke hangout, a staunch holdout against the Ritz-Carlton-ification encroaching from the north. It's the kind of storied, memorable place from which you'll want to send "wish you were here" postcards to all your friends. (Which you can do, by the way: The San Gregorio General Store is also a post office, naturally.)
Finally arriving in Half Moon Bay proper, we stumble — well, I stumble — into the San Benito House, a wood-and-brass-bedecked century-old corner saloon, and order a beer from the gruff-looking barmaid wiping down the long wooden bar. A few minutes later, she blurts out: "African eland. Been here since 1932."
She's caught me eyeing the enormous taxidermied antelope head eyeing me from its wall mount just above her head. It's huge — at least twice the size of the caribou on the opposite wall. "You should see the poor guy at Christmas," she adds. "We put tinsel and garlands on 'im. Flags on the Fourth of July."
Turns out these stuffed beasts used to be mounted on the walls of the Museum of Natural History in Santa Barbara. I'm thinking their view got decidedly more interesting when they made the move north to this swingin' saloon. The stories taxidermied animal heads could tell, if only they could talk ...
In fact, after another couple of beers, I swear they are talking to me. Good thing San Benito House doubles as a B&B — I think it's time for a nap.