Route One here we come.

Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Dec 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
Veterans campsite

Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, November 20, 2010

After spending a very civilized couple of days the idea of camping reared its ugly head again.

The reason that we've considered camping is that America is so expensive! Especially given that we’ve just come from Vietnam. Sooooo, after spotting a Super Walmart, we went in to explore.

Turns out, as I remembered from my last camping trip around America, that Walmart sells everything. Even camping gear in winter (although it was tucked away behind cardboard boxes). We stocked up. We got ourselves a nice cheap $30 tent; a couple of cheap $10 sleeping bags and (our best buy) a blow up air bed. Have tent will travel.

Now we bought all this stuff bearing in mind that we were heading into Southern California where the temperature is supposed to be constant all year round. Hmmm.

We weren’t able to camp the first night that we had our stuff as we were still in the vicinity of San Francisco (and it was weeing it down). So we pulled up to sleep at a rather horrible road side motel where the lady at reception was behind very thick perspex glass.

After another 4am wake up call with the jet lag (and the need to get out of the horrid motel) we were off again! We headed down toward Oakland to try and drive over the Bay Bridge this time, into San Francisco to then pick up Route 1 and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway.

After getting lost somewhere in Oakland, we pulled up at the side of the road (still in the dark) to check the map. We were both very aware of the weirdos on the street so I suppose it’s fair to say that we were on edge.

We were just about to put the map away when I turned to look out the window and saw this grinning man stood there. I jumped out of my seat, which startled Simon who then proceeded to scream very loudly for about 30 seconds! Hilarious! The poor man was just trying to see if he could help us and we scared him to death. He backed off apologising and looking more scared than us. I then proceeded to laugh my head off at Simon’s impression of a girl (I also realised that he won’t be that useful in an emergency unless loud screaming is required).


Anyway, eventually we found the Bay Bridge and drove over it while it was all lit up and then down into San Francisco. We then managed to find our way out of San Francisco and onto the Coast and picked up the beautiful drive that is the Pacific Coast Highway in a town called Pacifica (where we watched the sun come up with our bagels and coffee – still not good coffee).

After heading through Pacifica we meandered down a really beautiful stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway and Simon stopped every 5 seconds to take photos and eventually ended up having a second breakfast at a place called Duarte's in Pescadero. Now we thought that Mamma’s was a good breakfast, but this was exceptional!

Duuartes is one of only 5 places in the US that has been awarded for being a classic American diner, and it really was! I, yet again, had French Toast (which was amazing) and Simon, being on a health kick, had oatmeal with Walnuts and Sultanas, which he also said was amazing. The coffee as usual was rubbish.

Our next stop for lunch (you have to remember we had been up since 4am) was Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz seemed very nice but as it was raining it put a bit of a dampener on things (if you’ll pardon the pun). We did manage to stumble across a sale in Gap though so we stocked up on warm clothes to prepare for our first night’s camping.

After stopping to eat and stock up in Santz Cruz, our final stop before hitting Big Sur was Monterey. Monterey is famous for being the setting of John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row. I like John Steinbeck (although I’ve not read Cannery Row yet) so I was quite excited by this! Monterey may also call to mind the Frank Sinatra song "What Happened in Monterey", which annoyingly I couldn’t get out of my head.


We had read about a camp site before hitting Monterey and luckily it wasn’t too difficult to find. We pitched up (sorry again) there in time to give us about 2 hours to put the tent up before the sun went down.

We felt slightly self conscious getting our Walmart gear out (all still in its plastic bags) as we were surrounded by RVs and professional looking tents. One thing that we have learnt whilst camping here is that camping is big business in this country! People come to camp with everything you could possibly imagine. It’s fascinating.

Anyway, I digress. We easily put up our tent but once it was up we realised that it had a fatal flaw (which I still haven’t got over). The top half of the tent is open to the sky in order to ventilate it and you put a silly lid thing on top to stop the rain getting in. However, as our tent is a cheapy, the silly lid thing barely overlaps the bottom half of the tent that has a full skin (and isn’t open to the elements unlike the top half). If there’s even a breathe of wind the whole of the lid lifts up and 'hello world’.


If the weather in California was doing what it’s supposed to do, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, our first night in the tent featured the worst weather we had experienced whilst being here.

As we were anticipating this to be a problem, we headed into town to the general store to see what we could do to solve the problem (we’d tried sellotape and that didn’t work). We found some rope at the store and thought that that might do the trick. We then headed to the nearest bar (in the wind and the rain) to have a stiff drink before bed. We needed it.


When we got back to the tent (still in the howling wind and rain) Simon braved the elements and literally had to tie the tent down. We then put on all the layers we could find and proceeded to spend one of the most uncomfortable nights of our lives in a damp tent!

The following morning, our camping neighbour (who had an arctic tent) introduced himself and said “great car, shitty tent. You folks got wet last night then”! We almost did. Thank you.

We went and got a big American breakfast inside us to warm ourselves up (bad coffee again) and then packed the tent up and explored Cannery Row before heading for coffee at the very beautiful little town of Carmel-by-the Sea.

Next stop – Big Sur (a particularly scenic part of the Pacific Coast Highway / Route 1).

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