My Car Quest

June 12, 2024

Back at the Mission Ranch…A Travel Story

by Wallace Wyss –

No, not the ranch I work at now (part time, selecting thoroughbreds) but one that’s morphed from a potato farm into into a famous hotel and restaurant. One reason I like to go to Monterey during Car Week is to have dinner at least once at this little restaurant behind the famous Carmel Mission, the restaurant called the Mission Ranch.

Mission Ranch

Now admittedly it doesn’t look like a restaurant from the side street it’s on–more like some old farmer’s houses. But then you look behind it and it’s on a stretch of meadow that goes all the way down toward the water where the Carmel River meets the Pacific Ocean.

The Inn is one story tall with a low fence around the patio and a dimly lit restaurant, with an honest-to-gosh fireplace. Some of the hotel buildings are two stories tall, wood framed. It’s not a pretentious place, dress is casual and there’s no reserve-a-table for me because I’m President of so-and-so Widge Makers.

No –everybody waits in line ’til your name is called. You can get dinner for about $20 but that’s not counting dessert and drinks, but hey you’re in Carmel and it’s a slice of heaven… Oh, I forgot–the place belongs to a certified genuine movie star, one Clint Eastwood.

He might have come across the place when he was in the service at Ft. Ord, once a major basic training camp in California just up the road a piece. It was during the Korean war but he didn’t get sent over there. He worked on the base as a lifeguard. But it wasn’t all roses–one time he hitched a ride on a military aircraft and it crashed into the sea and another crewman was damn glad the hitchhiker they had picked up was a lifeguard when they hit the drink and all had to swim for it, Clint leading.

He no doubt explored this dream peninsula thoroughly in his off-duty time and came across this ranch. The Ranch wasn’t for sale then, might have still been a working ranch (even as it is now–I saw sheep in the meadow…). He didn’t buy it until 1986.

The Ranch –originally 160 acres –was started by Juan Romero, a native American who is believed to have lived in the village next to the Carmel Mission. In 1852 he deeded the property to William Curtis, a Monterey storekeeper, for $300. In the 1850’s, the property became one of the first of the early California dairies. The Martin family owned the ranch for 60 years, at one point farming potatoes for the Sierra gold miners. It had at least 17 owners but it was at a point when the school district that owned it was about to sell it to a condo developer when The Man with No Name stepped in and bought it. He restored the place to much of its original look, rewarded by a lavish story in Architectural Digest for his attention to period decor.

Mission Ranch

How could he afford it? Well, as I say, he might have known about it since he was in the Service and saved his fistull of dollars. Meanwhile his own fortunes steadily improved–from his secondary player role in the TV show Rawhide to movie roles. And while Carmel real estate was rising, his income started to make big jumps after his spaghetti western hits.

The Arteest

My personal story involving the Mission Ranch is not so dramatic but fun to tell. 0ne day during Monterey Car Week, I got over there pretty late, maybe 9 pm. Anyway it was dark. I was assigned a table right next to the outer perimeter fence that surrounds the dining area. As I walked there I had to thread my way through because every table was packed with car enthusiasts. Then one guy noticed my arm full of prints of my car paintings.

Bizzarrini Art by Wyss

Bizzarrini GT 5300 – Art by Wallace Wyss.

“What’cha got there?” he boomed out. Not so seriously, I said “Oh, car art. Want to see it?”

“Hell,yes” he siad. So I handed him the stack–8 to 10 prints–and then pointed toward my table. Gotta go,”I said, fearful I’d lose the table.

I ordered dinner for myself and my wife and then a guy at the next table said “Hey they wanna know how much?”

“$20 each,” I said. About five minutes later $20 bills began to arrive, passed hand to hand from one table to another. Now I know I could have counted the art work I had left to see if I was being short-changed but hey you gotta remember this was all in the territory of the squiny-eyed teeth clenched guy known for packin’ the most powerful handgun in the world–Dirty Harry. So eventually the money stopped coming. I was happy. The car fans were happy.

I never did see Clint that evening. I worried that maybe he’d come over and say something about doing business in his backyard. But he didn’t. I did see him once before, inside, ticklin’ the ivories. Word was he was a piano player in an Oakland bordello when only 16. Nobody gave him any lip because he was already 6 foot plus.

I’ll be going back again in August. Won’t bring my art in, maybe just wear my leather flight jacket with the Bizzarrini on the back – see if anybody notices…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR: On August 19th Wallace Wyss will be selling his art at Concorso Italiano.

 
 
 
 
 
 

“Gran Torino” is the name of a Clint Eastwood movie with a 1972 Gran Torino Sport playing a featured role.

The photo of the movie car below was taken by Mike Gulett, in the dark, at the Clint Eastwood owned Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel, California in 2013.

The Gran Torino at The Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel

The Gran Torino at The Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel – photo by Mike Gulett

Summary
Back at the Mission Ranch...A Travel Story
Article Name
Back at the Mission Ranch...A Travel Story
Description
One reason I like to go to Monterey during Car Week is to have dinner at least once at this little restaurant (the Mission Ranch) behind the famous Carmel Mission.
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Comments

  1. What a fun read, and a terrific piece… the Gran Torino pic at the end was the desert… Thanks for doing this piece… Certainly made my morning.

  2. As my friend Tom points out dinners are a lot more than $20 now but an appetizer can be had for $20.

  3. Rob Krantz says

    Sounds like a neat place. Thanks for the story about it as I never heard of it. Hope to check it out sometime.

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