The Pacific Coast Highway, aka PCH, aka Highway 1 is incredible.
We started in Santa Monica/Malibu, and made our way north up the coast. We missed a turn at some point, and ended up in the cutest little Danish town in the middle of some vineyards. The town is called Solvang (“sunny field”), and it’s so cute and quiet you’d never know it was there. As you’re driving through some serious valleys (with wicked cool fog – or clouds? I couldn’t tell, but it definitely felt like we were driving through clouds), you slowly come up upon it, and then you’re greeted with a couple of large windmills, wicked-cute styled store-fronts, and tons of bakeries that sell, wait for it — danishes! Of course I had to stop and get some, and I enjoyed every bit. I even gave L. Smith a bite :). We were there rather early in the morning, so all the shops and attractions, including a Hans Christian Anderson museum weren’t yet open, but they all looked enticing. I think it’s a great place to go for a day trip. You can sip at the near by wineries then get a traditional Danish dinner in town and take some photos with the windmills.
After Solvang, we headed up the 101 for a bit, more inland. We drove through some really large farms, including Driscoll (they sell your supermarket strawberries) and Dole. It was cool to see, since the company logos are ones I see when I buy my grocery store fruit, and it’s cool to see where our food is grown. (If we lived in California, our local food would be year round! One of the many reasons I’d love to move to CA!!) I don’t know why we didn’t think of it, but I really wish we had stopped at some roadside farm stands. We definitely missed out on that (a reason to go back! 🙂 )
As we made our way back to the coast on the 1, we started to really see what all the hype about the PCH is. The twists started to get twisty-er, and the cliffs started to get steeper. So, I didn’t anticipate this but, there were some sections with no guardrails. Let me reiterate that: There were some sections with NO GUARDRAILS. Who makes a crazy cliff-road-rollercoaster like that with no guardrails?! It felt like that scene in The Chronicles of Narnia (L. Smith says, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader!”, I guess for all you Narnia nerds out there) where they literally get to the end of the world, like we would go careening off the side of the cliff with one wrong turn of the wheel. We also kept seeing progressively ominous road signs along the inner edge of the highway. They started out pretty harmless, with warnings like “ROAD NARROWS”, and “TURN AHEAD”. But then you’d see “FALLING ROCKS”, or “ZOMBIES AHEAD”. Crazy.
The views got more magnificent though (if that’s even possible) and the photo ops came early and often. In between gawking at the views, I gripped the car door and seat for dear life like a squirrel headed down a just-too-rapid river on a small piece of wood. It got to the point where L. Smith stopped the car just so I could get some fresh air and feel some solid ground under my feet for a while. We stopped at a gas station for the breather. Having just driven from the other side of the country, heavily reliant on sources of gas the whole way, we couldn’t help but notice they were charging $5 a gallon (and $6 for premium)! I guess they were the only game in town. Good thing we fueled up beforehand! This is the one (large) down-fall of California for us—high cost of living! But if you spend your days on the beach and grow your own produce year-round, that makes up for it, right? #justifying
We stopped to take more photos, and then to check out the elephant seals at the San Simeon beach. They’re pretty incredible creatures. Massive, and most of all they were doing was sleeping on the beach, looking deceased but really just sleeping. But the few that were in the water, man, can they move! The beach was set up to see the seals well, and there were a bunch of signs describing more about them, their migratory patterns and habits. It was interesting stuff. The cutest part was the little baby squirrels, who have no fear and come right up to you looking for food. Their mamas stay off the path, but are super vigilant in case any harm comes near their babies.
Along the coast we drove (read: L. Smith drove, while I gawked at the view/but also kept my eyes closed/thought of anything BUT my fear of the heights/tried to take pictures all at the same time), until we reached Big Sur. There’s a popular Big Sur marathon about 2 weeks after the Boston Marathon in April. In our running community, Boston2Big Sur is a thing, and many people embark on a crazy challenge of running both (2! hilly!) marathons in less than a month. We knew we wanted to stop and run some trails in Big Sur, and that we did. We made an afternoon of a run-hike, coming across a small waterfall and some great views of a valley, as well as some huge redwood trees (or were they sequoia? Anyone know the difference?). The biggest news of the Big Sur adventure is that the best burger of the trip was found at the lodge there, and that I ate ALL. OF. IT. Totally wasn’t expecting much, but the burger showed up perfectly juicy, made with super melty cheese (not sure what kind), and the finishing touch was homemade, delicious aoili sauce on a crisped focaccia bun. Perfection. Sadly, I have no photo evidence of it, as we hit up the lodge right after our run and didn’t have our camera with us. L. Smith got their house-made beef lasagna. Can you tell we were hungry runners? 🙂 We enjoyed our food and drinks while catching a world cup game. It was a perfect ending to an afternoon in the woods.
Next stop: San Francisco!