ROAD TRIP: MONTEREY TO VENTURA
Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
89Trip End Jun 28, 2013
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Where I stayed
What I did
Morro Bay, CA
McWay Falls, Big Sur
Carmel River State Park
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Maria, CA
Pismo Beach, CA
Cayucos Tavern & Card Room, Cayucos
Ripplewood Resort Cafe, Big Sur
I made sure I was up and organised nice and early. I checked out, scoffed a bit of brekkie at the hotel, grabbed a banana and a yoghurt to go, and was on the road by 9.00am. I would spend the rest of the day, bar a couple of small deviations, on the Pacific Coast Highway (aka Highway 1), which tracks down one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
I stopped a fair few times in the first hour because I kept seeing all this amazing scenery. Within 5 minutes of my departure I was passing Carmel, the town where Clint Eastwood was mayor for 2 years.
My first stop was just past Carmel at a place called Monastery Beach at Carmel River State Park. There was a crew of divers on the beach getting ready for a dive. It was pretty chilly so you wouldn't have caught me out there. That, and sharks.
I cruised on down the coast with the top down on the Camaro, freezing my arse off, but looking pretty cool in the process. I stopped for a couple for photo opportunities including one of a bunch of seals and sea lions hanging around the rocks. Next was the historic Bixby Bridge followed by Point Sur.
I decided to stop off for a coffee to warm me up at a quaint little cafe at a place called Ripplewood. Then it was back on the road. Tripadvisor had recommended Pfeiffer Beach as a 'must see'. It involved turning off the Pacific Coast Highway and heading down a one lane road which needed to be shared by traffic going both ways. I feared for the Camaro. I made it down okay only passing a couple of cars on the way. As it was a state park, there was a ranger waiting to take $5 off me. We have it so lucky in NZ with all our National Parks having free access.
I parked the car and tackled the 5 minute walk to the beach which was absolutely amazing
After a bit of a wander around, I jumped back in the car and headed back up the road, passing 3 cars this time. I seemed to be the only bastard giving way though.
Once back on Highway 1, I hit the most specatacular piece of the coast - Big Sur. I stopped at a place that very much reminded me of Cathedral Cove in NZ, the McWay Falls. The Falls drop from the top of the cliff to a little beach at the bottom which is pretty much inaccessible by land. It would be a great place for a picnic. But one-man picnics are never much fun so I jumped back in the car and carried on.
I then had a fairly big stretch of driving, stopping a few times for photos before I reached the Piedras Blancas Rookery, home to a shit-load of elephant seals. They can grow up to 5,000lbs and 16 feet long. The seals return to this spot between April and August to molt their skins and grow new ones. They can be found down this part of the coast line for most of the year.
5 minutes down the road was Hearst Castle which was a huge castle designed by Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951. In 1957, the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California. Since that time it has been maintained as a state park, where the estate, and its considerable collection of art and antiques, is open for public tours. Mr Hearst formally named the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill").
There are a number of different tours you can do of the castle and grounds, each costing around $25. The visitors centre is located just off Highway 1 and from there you catch a bus up to the castle which stands at the top of a hill and overlooks the coastline.
I did the 'Grand Rooms' tour which was awesome. You got to go inside and see some impressive artwork and marble roman-inspired statues. There were wood carved ceilings, grand fireplaces and plenty of silver which is initially how William Hurst made his fortune. I then had a look around the grounds which included a tennis court, the Neptune Pool, the Roman Pool, beautiful gardens, more statues and some amazing views.
I caught the bus back down and watched a 40 minute movie on how the castle was designed and built. There was some great old footage.
I left Hearst Castle and had to pull over almost immediately as I spotted 3 zebras on the side of the road. They were descendants from animals William Hearst had in his private zoo up at the castle while he was alive.
Back on the road I carried on to a town called Cayucos. I stopped off at the Cayucos Tavern and Card Room which was an old style saloon. I had a sneaky Jack Daniels and then went for a walk down to the end of an old pier they had on the beach. Plenty of people were fishing off it but I didn't see anything big being caught.
I ploughed on, passing through Morro Bay, and had to stop off at Pismo Beach for gas. There was a classic car show on in town resulting in some detours. It took me an hour to get out of the place. If I wasn't on a schedule, I would have stopped for a bit of a look. Actually I was now behind schedule.
I carried on passing through the towns of Santa Maria and Lompoc
Traffic was pretty heavy as I carried on to Santa Barbara and stopped at 2 places there only to be told they had no rooms available as it was graduation weekend. Shitballs ! That was going to make life difficult for the next couple of hours. I kept moving and got the same response from another 5 hotels in the towns of Summerland and Carpinteria. I was starting to think I might be having to drive to LA and it was already 10pm.
Next stop was Ventura, only 80 miles north of LA, and I finally struck gold. It certainly wasn't the flashiest of places but it would do the job. I dropped my gear off and headed to the Burger King around the corner to grab some takeaways for a late dinner.
I was stuffed and well and truly ready for bed.
Over and out !