Highway 1: The Ultimate Road Trip?

As I was looking at options for US adventure (can’t leave the country with your foster children), I began to research Highway 1 and what all it would entail. Connecting two major cities and cultural hot spots (San Francisco and LA), it seemed to have it all on paper. I like to drive, my baby likes car rides, and I’d never been to California before. So it was settled. I threw the Redwoods onto the beginning, tacked Disneyland and Catalina Island on to the end, and prepared to take the so-called “ultimate road trip” by storm!

She didn't take in much of the scenery, but she did get a lot of long naps!

She didn’t take in much of the scenery, but she did get a lot of long naps!

The first part of our trip took us through Carmel-by-the-Sea, a cute town that I drove through in order to get a glimpse, and then a stop at the Carmel Mission, which is now a museum, school, and active church all in one. After getting to Monterey, I really wished I had opted to stay over in Carmel instead, it was so beautiful and quaint (not so much Monterey). Oh well. I didn’t find much to like about Monterey, although I’m sure that it is a great home base if you’re going to do some serious exploring of the surrounding area, or for off-coast activities like whale watching. The town itself though was a bit grimy and uninteresting, to me, although admittedly I was only there for one night, and would’ve liked to see the surrounding beaches and the aquarium.

google photo of downtown Carmel, cause I didn't take any

google photo of downtown Carmel, cause I didn’t take any

Carmel Beach

Carmel Beach

Carmel Mission

Carmel Mission

Carmel Misson graves

Carmel Misson graves

Cell of the Padre, recreated in the mission

Cell of the Padre, recreated in the mission

HI-Monterey Hostel

HI-Monterey Hostel

Google photo of one end of Cannery Row, Monterey

Google photo of one end of Cannery Row, Monterey

Well, we had other beaches to explore, in particular Pfeiffer Beach, which was located up a narrow, winding road, and very off the beaten path. There were a few handfuls of people there, but for the most part it was wilderness beautiful, and my favorite beach of the trip. Unfortunately, high tide and other conditions meant I didn’t catch the sand at its most purple, but that’s ok. Still worth the stop!

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Baby putting her feet in the Pacific

Baby putting her feet in the Pacific

My mom taking a rest

My mom taking a rest

The next stretch was the Big Sur portion, and in my opinion this was what Highway 1 was supposed to be! It was windy, twisty, narrow, and so very scenic. I wanted to stop every few hundred feet for photos, but since my baby was sleeping in the back (and wakes up when I stop the car) I didn’t stop much at all. No matter, it was a fun drive and I wish the entire highway had been ALL Big Sur coastline!

scenic view, Big Sur

scenic view, Big Sur

My little rental car

My little rental car

Scenes from Big Sur

Scenes from Big Sur

Elephant seal colony

Elephant seal colony

Our next stop along Highway One was in Los Osos, on Morro Bay. The bay was pretty and all, but I live on the water at home, and a bay is sort of similar to a large lake. Here are some photos from our sunset walk.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

The remainder of the drive to LA was less breathtakingly scenic, but did offer views of the coast here and there. We passed through Ventura and Oxnard, with a final stop in Malibu at Surfrider Beach before checking into our hostel in Hollywood.

Lunch stop at Faria beach outside of Ventura

Lunch stop at Faria beach outside of Ventura

Santa Barbara Highway 1

Santa Barbara Highway 1

Santa Barbara Highway 1

Santa Barbara Highway 1

Surfers catching waves at Surfrider beach

Surfers catching waves at Surfrider beach

Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier

surfboardsign

Malibu from the pier

Malibu from the pier

All in all, it was a great road trip, with wonderful places to start your trip (like Northern California, or San Francisco), lots of beaches and beach towns to stop in, and a great ending (LA and all it has to offer). If someone had more time, they might even continue south to San Diego, or venture inland from there to Death Valley or the Southwest. I’m not sure if I’d call it the ULTIMATE road trip, just because I think a lot of the driving portions lacked scenery, and the Big Sur stretch is sort of what I had imagined the whole drive to be. Monterey and Morro Bay fell pretty short of my expectations, but my experience in the Redwoods, my love of San Francisco, and the fun I had in Hollywood made up for it somewhat.

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