Cruising the 101

Trip Start Jan 04, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hi Darl,

It was great talking yesterday. I am happy with whatever you think is OK, as far as van goes.

Trying not to be negative but have just come back from Docs getting the results of the MRI scan and they are a bit concerned with some type of lumps on the liver and a problem with my bowel also.

I will see specialist on Wednesday and hopefully go in for a colonoscopy on Friday, as have told him of my travel plans.

No cause for concern at this stage, but do need to have this done before I leave.

Love you heaps

Dad   xxxxxx

This was the email I received just days into our cruise down the 101. We were stopping at random intervals and didn't have much internet so when I saw this email I was quite taken aback. What exactly it all meant I didn’t know yet but it was a worrying thought. I got in contact with Dad and we talked about it some more and until he had the colonoscopy they wouldn’t be sure but there was one thing for certain, they were looking for and suspected Cancer. I can’t quite explain the feeling you get when you find out a loved one might be potentially very ill and you can’t be there to put your arms around them and assure them it’s all going to be ok. Staying positive Dad and I were confident they would find out it was nothing serious and I would be seeing him in a week. The flights and hotels had been arranged. Dad had a house sitter ready to move in. They had been busy getting things all packed up for their 3 month road trip. This little hiccup was proving troublesome. We were all left on stand by from that point on. All we could do was stay positive and hope that it would all be ok. So we hit the 101 as planned and headed to LA with the hope that my family would be there to meet us.

On our way to the Redwoods we stopped briefly at the Cape Blanco look out point, which Morgan and I both commented, had a striking resemblance to Ireland. It was quite amazing. The Redwoods are a feature of the Californian coast that can not be missed. The giant sequoias in the Redwoods are said to be some of the biggest. We drove into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and spent the night at Florence Keller Park in the middle of the dense redwood forest. In the morning we drove to Simpson Reed Grove trail to see the massive redwood trees. They were the most magnificent sight. The trees soared so high that the only sunlight that shone down was through the smalls gaps in the trees branches. It created the most amazing light affects. The base of the trees that had fallen down had lifted from beneath the ground and was exposed to our view. Surprisingly the roots of the giant redwoods are very short. Morgs jumped inside the base of a few of the fallen trees for a photograph, this is where you get a real feel for the sheer size of these trees. Incredible!

The fog on the 101 is an amazing site and it follows you all the way down the coast side. The sun will be shining and it’s the middle of the day and there will still be a layer of fog hanging low over the water or in patches around the cliff side. It makes for the most picturesque surroundings and ads a real chill in the air. The sun was shining and the water was a rich deep blue but there was still dampness in the air that kept the temperature down. Driving along the 101 gave you plenty of options on where to spend the night. There were national parks and campgrounds all along the coast. We spent one night at a campsite beside the beach called Clam Beach County Park, which was simple, cheap and perfect for a place to stop for one night when you are on the move. Some of the national park campgrounds were very expensive, over $35 per night just for a spot to park the van. The campgrounds were really gorgeous though. We had drizzle and fog for most of the trip, it lessoned the further South we got but we never quite escaped it. We were always waiting and expecting it to heat up but were always disappointed when it never really did. Next time I will be packing a whole lot more warm clothes. Take note fellow travelers whilst the name California sounds warm all year round, it’s not!

We stopped at a couple of towns along the way like Arcota for breakfast and a wander around town. This was a young hippie university town filled with Hobo’s and wanabee singer/songwriters.  There we a plethora of little towns to stop in for the day or even just to spend a couple of hours.

Hitting the Avenue of the Giants we had to stop and visit at Founders Grove to see Dyerville Tree. It is the biggest tree in the Redwoods measuring at 362ft high and 53ft in circumference. It’s thought to be possibly 2000 years old. It was incredible, making Morgan and I feel like a tiny speck whilst we lent up against it.  We walked around in wonder admiring all the trees in the rainforest like environment. It’s a gorgeous place to take walk and breath in the gorgeous crisp fresh air.

Santa Cruz was one place we both wanted to stop at. I don’t think you can visit California and not pay homage to Santa Cruz. Not even knowing much about the place, it was just the name that drew me there. Tourism Santa Cruz is doing their job. Who actually knows anything about Santa Cruz but I bet a lot of people want to visit none the less. We parked the van near the surf museum. Yep a museum dedicated too and all about surfing. It gives you a pretty good idea of what the town is like straight away. We walked along the beach and dined at the very trendy vegetarian café, where I ordered a veggie burger. Hmm not enough to turn me but it was pretty damn good. Strolling out along the wharf on a gorgeous sunny day we noticed a lot of noise coming from below the wharf. We noticed stairs leading down to a swimming platform that was completely overtaken by sleeping sea lions. The were all sleeping happily until one of the older, obviously dominant males decided to wake them all up trying to get up onto the platform. He was huge and dark brown with a powerful stare. After annoying them all with his grunting and pushing them all aside to make room for him, he finally drifted off to sleep but kept on eye open and on us at all times. It was quite comical to watch actually. Some of them slept on their sides but most of them slept sitting up with their necks arched all the way back and their faces facing the sky. It was obviously their way of getting warm. We stayed taking photos and watching them for quite a while. We were so close we could have lent across and touched them. After our stroll along the wharf we had a cocktail at the end of the pier and walked to the amusement park that ran along the beachside. This is what Santa Cruz is famous for we found out. We took a walk through the park as the sun slowly came down and imagined how cool it would have been growing up here and spending your weekends at the beach in this quirky little theme park. You could start your day on a few rides then sun bake in the sun and eat a nice meal on the wharf in the evening. It’s a very cool town for kids and adults alike.

Monterey was just a short drive south of Santa Cruz and another town with a lot of character. It was also another town where the occupants are not just of the human kind. There were seals galore in Monterey. In fact as we walked along the boulevard we came across a whole bay where the seals had completely overtaken. The stench was overwhelming. There is no way people would be swimming anywhere near that beach. They were sprawled out everywhere on the sand, in the water and on the rocks that jolted out of the water. Looking at my pictures it’s hard to make out the seals from the rocks. There are so many of them. The track that ran along the water’s edge was filled with people walking, jogging, with prams and riding bikes. There were lots of nice grassy areas to stop and sit or stare at the lazing seals. It seems like a very active town and why not, the sun was shining, the beaches were gorgeous and the town had a real clean and healthy feel about it. There was a low lying fog when we arrived in Monterey but when the sun came up the fog evaporated and it was a gorgeous day. We walked into the main town area, Cannery Row and looked around the shops. We stopped at Chocolate Factory and got some chocolate for the walk back. On the way back we came across the most cheeky raccoon trying to escape the eyes of a near by dog. His little head was poking out of a gutter and was peering at a great (type of dog) that was tied up to a near by fence. The raccoon obviously didn’t realize the dog was tied up and was doing his best to tip toe past the dog but his fear kept getting the best of him. He would edge out slowly not taking an eye off the dog and then scare and run quickly back into the gutter. The dog was watching the raccoon with barely any interest. He knew he couldn’t get there even If he wanted to but I think was just quite amused with the theatrics the raccoon was putting on for him. This went on for a while, Morgan and I watching on. The raccoon was not at all bothered by our presence just the dogs. Eventually he edged his way all the way out and tip toed away from the dog before finally finding what he thought was a safe distance, taking his eyes off the dog, and bottling for a near by tree. And just like that he was up the tree and out of sight. It was fantastic to watch. It was the first raccoon I have ever seen and it was the absolute cutest little character. After spending the afternoon in Monterey it was time to move on so we headed further south and spent the night at San Simeon campground and had a nice BBQ dinner. The campground was very bare, just bare soil but it was close to the beaches. The sun was nice and warm that day and it was slowly setting in this peaceful campsite as we ate out in the fresh air. It felt like the holiday was really winding down and this was a nice way to end our time, just the two of us! 

The Big Sur truly was such a lovely drive. The coastline seems endless and there are a plethora of places to stop and camp, surf or just take in the view.  We found ourselves stopping every few minutes to take photos along the long stretch of road that wound its way along the California coast. The Big Sur could be a trip in itself. Grab a van, mates and a surfboard and take a road trip stopping at all the amazing campgrounds along the way. I’m so glad we did it even if it was a little bit rushed towards the end.

With Santa Barbara the target destination for Morgan’s Birthday we were happy when we got there in good time. I gave Morgan his presents in the morning, a new ebook, just what every yachtie should own. We drove to Morro Bay and rented a kayak. We took the kayak out in the Lagoon in Morrow Bay State Park and paddled over to the other side where we could see rising sand hills. We parked up the kayaks on the beach and barefoot headed for the sand hills. After just a few minutes we were both complaining about thorns in our feet that left a sting when we removed them. The worst thing is we didn’t know what was sticking into us as we couldn’t see anything. So we continued to walk to the sand hills cautiously. When we got to the bottom of the sand hills we took to them with gusto, wanting to get to the top to see the view. We took only a few steps before we started running back down again. Our feet were burning. We didn’t think that one through. It was not the most successful kayaking adventures. Deciding to stick to the water we set off again and Morgan suggested we take a short cut through the middle of the lagoon. The guide warned us that it get’s very shallow in the middle which I reminded Morgan about but he assured me it would be fine, after 20 minutes we wound up bogged in the mud in the middle of the lagoon. I think he knew it was going to happen but was excited about the challenge. We eventually made our way to land and headed into town for lunch. Recommended by Lonely Planet we ate lunch at Giovanni’s Seafood restaurant, in the sun by the sea. The queue just to order was massive. The food was good old fashion fish and chips. I had a deep fried hang over for a few days following that meal but it was delicious. We drove into Santa Barbara that night and spent the night at a campground there. That was when we received news that things weren’t going well for Dad.  

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