Here are the long overdue pics from the road-trip which followed my trip to San Francisco to visit friends after a chemistry conference. Hopefully this post will inspire you to do something different for your next holiday, and even serve as a guide for anyone thinking of doing an American road-trip.
My friend and I who normally plan things to death just did not have time to plan this trip, and it was the best thing that could have happened to us. The feeling of adventure was really exhilarating and not having to rush anywhere and spending our time as we wished was very liberating.
Highways 101 and 1 run pretty much along the entire west coast of America, and our plan was to hop on near San Francisco and drive south to Los Angeles where I would catch a flight back to London. Along the way there were loads of sweet little towns whose names I had heard in 60s surf songs.
First stop was "Surf City" Santa Cruz with its spooky, faded amusement park on the boardwalk; and the fish canning-town of Monterey which is filled with amazing vintage Americana shops. The famous American novel Cannery Row by John Steinbeck was based here.
|Amusement park in Santa Cruz and vintage shops in Monterey|
Next was the upmarket town of Carmel with it's beautiful beach houses and one of the area's older missions, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. When the Spanish colonised the area in the 1700s they set up missions to spread Catholicism. The missions were connected by El Camino Real, or the Royal Road and were separated by a day's journey by horseback on this road. Highway 101 goes more or less along El Camino Real. It was very interesting to explore the history of a place on the opposite side of the globe to where I'm from.
|The Carmel mission|
|Postbox in Pacific Grove|
Centrella Inn is a sweet little Victorian B&B, with a wholesome breakfast and cheerful staff who even left cookies out at night. To me it felt like a cross between a doll house and the house on the Morgan ranch from The Ring (again, too many horror movies, but this was a winning combination). Our stay put us in a great mood to start our next day of road tripping along Big Sur.
|Big Sur with McWay Falls (left)|
We stopped in a nature reserve to take a walk in a giant redwood forest:
|Giant redwood forest along Big Sur|
|Giant redwood brought out my inner tree hugger|
|Not rocks but elephant seals|
|Cheeky Beach Squirrels|
After Big Sur we thought we would settle down for the night and found ourselves in the wine country of Paso Robles. Again using our guidebook we randomly phoned up a bed and breakfast and made our way over to something called the Wild Coyote Estate wine farm. This is what awaited us:
|Wild Coyote Estate wine farm and guesthouse|
|I loved all the cute rows of postboxes|
|The scene in Pismo Beach|
I loved the iconic flickering neon signs we saw as we made our way south. In fact the very first motel in the world was from this region...
One of the last towns we saw was Santa Barbara. My friend and I had a strange desire to see the place because in South Africa in the 80s and early 90s when there wasn't much else on TV, we watched a B-grade soap opera called Santa Barbara.
One observation from this trip of a lifetime is that judging by the road signs, California is a very dangerous place. Somehow though we managed to survive without any attacks by wild animals, encounters with dangerous plants or extreme weather conditions
|California is not for sissies|
How have your travel experiences changed with age and experience? And can anyone recommend another US road-trip route which is good in early Spring? I'm thinking of New Orleans...