I'm in the same predicament, except for the early retirement thing. I wish I knew that area. I'm in SoCal, so we have lots of options, but lots of traffic too. Good luck with your search. I'll be watching this thread with great interest.
If by "same predicament" you mean that you'd like to take your wife on a simple overnight tour, here's some thoughts. Don't know where in SoCal you are, but there's a series of excellent bike maps available online or from most bike shops. They are called Franko's Maps, and there's a guide for Orange County, LA, San Gabriel, and other parts of CA. http://www.amazon.com/Frankos-Map-Orange-County-Trails/dp/1601901712
They show decent bike routes on streets, but also note the many dedicated bike paths in SoCal. I would pick one for a day trip or even for an overnighter. For example, you could drive to the trailhead for the Santa Ana River Trail at Yorba Park in Anaheim, bike the 25 miles or so with your wife down to the ocean, then head left or right along the coast and stay at a hotel in Newport Beach or Huntington Beach, next day bike back up to your car. Lots of other similar trips using other river trails that would keep you from much car traffic.
Here's a link to further info on the Santa Ana River Trail: http://www.santaanarivertrail.org/trail-user-guide/interactive-map.html