Saturday, April 13, 2024
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The Surprisingly Suspenseful Search for Sourdough

by Staff

I want to thank you all for one of the most delicious pastries I’ve had in years. No, you didn’t bake it, but you’re the reason we hopped in our 2023 Mazda CX-50 one weekend in search of the open road and a story to tell. We traversed coastal and mountain roads on our way from Los Angeles to Solvang, California, the strange and delightful Danish town in Central California. This was a race against time, with a potentially delicious reward at the halfway point—we really didn’t know if we’d arrive at the bakery before it closed.

We didn’t intend to drive by two lakes or stop for dinner where we did, but sometimes that’s what happens on a carefree road trip. Here’s how our day went and how the CX-50 performed as a road trip SUV.

Mile 0: What is it with me and tire issues before road trips? The week before our CX-50 road trip, the Mazda’s tire pressure monitoring system alerted us to the fact that the driver’s side rear tire was losing air.

While the American Tire Depot crew removed the nail and fixed the tire it also paid compliments to our SUV’s Zircon Sand Metallic paint. I’m not a beige-car type of buyer, but Mazda’s $395 beige is an intense, purposeful shade that fits the CX-50 and the brand.

Mile 0: My other half once again hits his leg on the passenger side air vent as he gets in. Huh, I guess it does jut out more on the passenger side than it does for the driver. So we’re ready to go, right? Nope! First we forget one thing, and then it’s back inside for another before we start our race against time. We used Google Maps in Apple CarPlay, which said that if all goes well, we’ll make it to the bakery’s parking lot 17 minutes before it closes for the day.

Mile 11: We see a pink Corvette on the other side of the freeway. Is it the Hollywood personality Angelyne? Should that be on a road trip bingo card?

Mile 33: Traffic slows suddenly at the bottom of a hill as we reach Camarillo. I apply the brakes and my tall stainless steel bottle of water does what it often does in this car—it turns on the driver’s side heated seat to level three. Half a mile later, I wonder why I’m so hot. I’ve got to start bringing shorter bottles in this SUV.

Mile 62: Beautiful. We drive along the 101 and enjoy the dramatic, jagged edges of the mountains near a town called Sea Cliff. The vantage point is fine from the CX-50 but I can’t help but think it would be that much easier to see from a Subaru Forester. Of course, the Mazda is more stylish than that boxy SUV.

Mile 74: A stunning wind-blown cypress sits by itself in the middle of the north and south lanes of the freeway. This lone tree is becoming a mental checkpoint of sorts on our drives up the 101. This survivor is right before you hit Santa Barbara.

Every so often, I check the nav’s ETA, which hasn’t budged. We might actually make it before the bakery closes.

Mile 98: We divert off the 101 and my husband notices it first: Lake Cachuma’s water level is higher than we’ve seen in years. As this is written, California has been hit by week after week of storms, and you can really see the impact out our windows on this two-lane road.

The CX-50 has 227 hp on regular but is good for up to 250 hp if you fill it with the good stuff; we make the most of the turbocharged I-4 powerplant when there are safe and legal places to pass. The 2.5T engine feels swifter than the less powerful and turbo-less S models, but as we’ve mentioned before, we wouldn’t mind if the SUV were a little quicker still. At least the engine sounds great when you make the most of what it’s got.

Mile 114: Everyone’s a critic. I park on the street by Good Seed Coffee Boutique and my other half notes that the pristine Lexus LS behind us parked closer to the curb. OK, maybe so, but I do appreciate that our 2023 Mazda CX-50 tilts the mirror down in reverse to aid with parking. Not all non-luxury brands offer that feature, so thanks Mazda.

Still Mile 114: Just to heighten the suspense, the customer in front of us is having credit card issues. We wait. Time passes. And finally, it’s our turn. The place is out of snickerdoodle cookies, but we still score a full loaf of red and white sourdough (tasty and slightly sweet), a pair of almond scones with pecans, an espresso, and a cinnamon roll with organic cream cheese and vanilla bean frosting.

Besides of course finding joy in the journey, the biggest highlight is the monkey bar. The so-named oat bar is made with peanut butter, dates, chocolate chips, banana, and walnuts, among other ingredients. I might just need a CX-90’s worth of this one on a future visit.

Mile 114.5: We circle the building to access a bathroom. In that parking lot, we see an older Honda Fit with a Toyota “TRD 4×4” decal. Nice.

Mile 115: After seeing two horses pull a passenger wagon through the touristy center of Solvang, we use voice command within Apple CarPlay to locate restaurants in Carpinteria, a coastal city located right before traffic data supports what we saw on our way north earlier that day: three lanes of the 101 combine to one and tie up traffic for miles. I’m using all my willpower not to finish one of the scones and the monkey bar before dinner.

Mile 137: On our way back past Lake Cachuma, we see a beautiful black Lincoln MKZ with its Vista Roof open. Perhaps an extreme example, but that sedan’s two-foot opening makes me think about the tiny opening on the CX-50’s dual-panel panoramic moonroof. The feature is included on most 2023 CX-50s starting with the 2.5 S Preferred Plus trim; think of it more as a way to add light to the cabin, and it’s still a positive.

Mile 158: We’re done with dinner, but the freeway construction traffic persists. The nav says we should head for the hills on two-lane roads that eventually head to Ojai. The winding-road diversion will save us 30 minutes, it promises. You don’t have to ask us twice…

Mile 162: I push the easy-to-find drive mode tab to sport and we enjoy a few lovely miles to ourselves before we enter another winding two-laner with unusually heavy traffic. No matter, there’s still enough daylight to appreciate the surrounding hills, some avocado farms, and eventually, Lake Casitas.

Mile 206: Pro tip: Do all your outlet shopping right before they close for the best parking. In the CX-50, I can indulge in my perfectionist tendencies now that I’m not in a hurry. I press the button that calls up the 360-degree camera system to make sure I’m evenly within the parking space’s lines. The monitor is only offered on the 2023 CX-50 2.5T Premium Plus-the most loaded model-which is why I appreciate that the button to use it is above your left knee. No prominent, blank button on the center stack of controls shames those who drive CX-50s without the option. If the feature were offered on more trims, however, we’d want the button located in a different spot.

Mile 248: We make it back, exhausted but stuffed with extra calories and enriched by the scenery. The CX-50 2.5T is just well-rounded enough to please buyers who understand its unique package. The Mazda drives well, looks good, and has a practical interior with helpful carve-outs in the cargo area to prevent smaller items from spilling on curvy roads. If you can overlook its harsh ride quality, heavy steering, and just-OK driving range, the CX-50 could be a good fit even when you’re not traveling a couple hundred miles for a bakery.

For More On Our Long-Term 2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo:

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