San Francisco to Santa Barbara
Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
26Trip End Oct 20, 2006
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From San Francisco, we continue south on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. A spin through the university takes us through the huge sprawling campus made up of 8 different schools that are hidden and tucked away in the redwoods.
We eye the seafood joints on the pier and have fun watching the boisterous sea lions that lie along the pilings beneath the boardwalk
Santa Cruz is also a surfing hotspot. A crowd of guys (and one woman) bobs on their surfboards waiting for the next series of big waves along the rocky cliff face north of the pier. For most of an hour, we're captivated as we watch them catch towering waves that curl over and throw foam into the air. Even the locals are psyched about the size of the waves today. It's a spot that requires some skill - the waves here crash into the side of the 50-foot-high cliff we're standing on and one wrong move could send a surfer careening headfirst into solid rock, but none of them seems to mind.
From Santa Cruz, we head south again along yet more beautiful coastline to Monterey, where we spend almost an entire day at the incredible aquarium. Jellyfish squish past one another, sea otters entertain with their over-the-top teddy bear cuteness, eels and colorful fish swim among swaying kelp, swarms of silver fish swim in never-ending circles above our heads, and the Hammerheads, the Galapagos, and the Great White sharks keep us mesmerized
We also fork over the $8.75 to cruise the famous 17-Mile-Drive, a famous stretch of road that spans past lavish homes and exclusive golf courses as it winds its way toward Pebble Beach. Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by expensive cars and well-to-do tourists and the whole place feels pretentious, stuffy, and boring. I fantasize about releasing a herd of wild boar on the golf course to break up all the uptight monotony here. Unless you're a mega-millionaire whose dream is to own a vacation home that's surrounded by really tall hedges and gates to keep all of humanity out, this is not the place for you.
We also whiz through Carmel-by-the-Sea, another ultra-luxe boutique town with lots of big homes along the water. It's quaint and I enjoy the mishmash of architectural styles - southwestern adobe, Cotswold cottage, fairytale castle, modern steel and glass - but again I find myself yearning to leave, wanting to find a bit of nature and quiet and, well, reality.
The drive further south along the 1 takes us past glorious Big Sur with its dramatic ocean vistas and mountain walls that plunge to the oceans below
A guy at the campground nearly convinces me to try surfing until we stop by nearby Sand Dollar Beach where most of the surfers spend 1/2 hour just trying to get past the first break. Once they get out there, the waves are several feet higher than a surfer standing on a board and everyone is taking a good pummeling, so I decide that I'll wait to try until we find some gentler waters.
Near Hearst Castle, we stop at a popular tourist spot where hundreds of Elephant Seals set up camp on the beach each fall. There are big, blubbery bodies wriggling and jiggling all over, and they're constantly using their big, hand-like fins to scratch their faces, stomachs, and backs
We pass through Cambria, Morro Bay, and San Luis Obispo, taking a quick look at each town before we reach Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara, a breathtaking community of sparkling white mission-style adobe buildings with red tile roofs, spans the hills that reach from the edge of the ocean to the beautiful mountains nearby. It's a place of gorgeous landscaping, incredibly expensive homes, an active arts community, a university, easy access to all kinds of recreation, and 300 days of sunshine a year. Spectacular!
Since we haven't yet stayed with someone we've never met before, we're a little nervous to meet Bill, a friend of a friend who has generously offered to let us stay with him at his home. We quickly discover that he likes to laugh as much as we do and that he can dish it out as fast as we can, so it's pretty obvious from the beginning that it's going to be a great few days. We enjoy a couple of nice restaurants, take the scenic drive into the mountains above town, walk the historic downtown area, lounge around the beach for a few hours, explore the university. And last night, completely touristed out, we stayed in, grilled chicken and fresh veggies, and watched the season premier of Lost. A HUGE thanks to Bill for your generous hospitality and for accommodating our constant dessert cravings!!!
Next stop is the City of Angels...