Episode 3 – Pacific Coast Highway: California Central Coast

View Larger Map

Script and show notes

Previously on Road Nomad we flew from Miami to Los Angeles, California and visited many of the famous landmarks.  Then we took off on the Pacific Coast Highway, passing by Malibu, crossing paths with the Google car, paid a quick visit to Santa Barbara, and tasted wines at Solvang.  Today we continue due north.  Enjoy.

At San Luis Obispo, we get back on California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway after our Santa Ynez valley wine drinking detour.

We arrive to Morro Bay.  Originally named El Moro by Portugese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillos because the big rock resembled the turban worn by North Africa’s Moorish people, however morro also means pebble or rounded rock in Spanish, so either origin works for me.

The main industries are tourism and fishing and the town’s most striking feature is the Morro Rock, a reserve for endangered species the peregrine falcon.

We are hungry for some seafood and this place looks nice enough.  The clam chowder was good.

Anchor memorial park.  The park was developed as a memorial for fishermen lost at sea.

We continue or journey north.

We arrive to the town of Cambria, which features a pretty interesting dwelling, The Nit Wit Ridge.  It is a house built out of junk, thousands of found object by one man, Arthur Harold Beal over the course of 51 years.  It is considered a fine example of folk art, actually a historic landmark.  A poor man’s Hearst Castle.  We’ll see the real Hearst castle soon enough.

We stop every few miles to admire the scenery.

And that is the famous Hearst Castle, built by newspaper millionaire William Randolph Hearst as his private paradise.  Probably worth a visit but not this time.  We prefer to hang out with the elephant seal at their private beach near piedras blancas.  Apparently, according to the park ranger on site, these are adolescent male seals just playing and getting ready for mating season.

Fascinating creatures.

Back to the car.  We approach the Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.  We are treated to some of the most striking landscapes this coast has to offer.

We are about to cross Big Creeck Bridge, an impressive double arched bridge.

Further north we stop at another vista point overlooking the MacWay Rocks, near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Our next stop is the Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café for a much needed espresso, snacks, and local beer, and of course to stretch our legs.

Next we cross historic and iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.

We are finally arriving to Monterey California, as supposed to Monterey, Mexico.  This one is spelled with only one “r” instead of the two on the one south of the border.  Monterey was the first capital of California both under colonial Spain and Mexico.  It also had the first theater, brick house, public school, public building, public library, and printing press in California.  We have dinner at what looks like the local tourist trap, the Fisherman’s Wharf, at this Italian place called Isabella’s, not bad though. As the day ends and the moon, rises we say good night.

On the next episode we will visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, famous for its jellyfish exhibition and more… Also the set for the movie Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home We will pass by neighboring Carmel and the place where we really wanted to go eat.  And eventually we will make it to San Francisco.

Until then thank you for watching and see you on the road.

Episode 2 – The Pacific Coast Highway

View Larger Map

Script and show notes:

Oh, Venice Beach, what a place!  Great for people watching and I guess it could be a bit of a culture shock for some people with all the medical marijuana being pushed and all the different colorful characters.  This is the famous boardwalk, where all the action is.  Souvenir stores, medical marijuana clinics, tattoo shops, street performers, scam artists, restaurants and bars…  Yeah, that’s Venice Beach for you, fully recommend it for a summer afternoon stroll.

A short drive north is the Santa Monica Pier, especially beautiful at sunset.  There is a famous amusement park and the beautiful pacific coast: Santa Monica Beach.  There are also a bunch of performers, some ok, some not so good.  The ferry’s wheel steals the show.

Time to get one the road.

We are cruising along Malibu with its lavish hilltop mansions.  Here we have a fortuitous encounter with the Google Street View car.  Towards the north end of Malibu we approach County Line Beach, a very popular spot for surfing.  Let’s check out the surfers doing their thing.  We reach the Emma Wood State Beach Campground in Ventura County.  This looks like a great campground and in our future life as fulltime RVers we shall definitely pay a visit. Our next stop is Summerland, and Summerland Winery for a well deserved wine tasting after such a long drive.  The offshore oilrigs are also quite a sight.  Our next pit stop is historic Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara is quite picturesque.  We decide to take a walk along the pier.  There is this guy solar carving.  The weather is perfect, one of the reasons why Santa Barbara is called the Riviera of the west.  We are not going to be here for long, as our goal lays further north, but this place is definitely on our to do list next time we come to California.  The most notable landmark we have missed is the Spanish Mission.

We get on the road again as it is our goal to reach the town of Solvang, in the Santa Ynez Valley.  We learned about Solvang through the movie Sideways, mostly about two best friends on a road trip of this area drinking wine and breaking hearts.  The restaurant the Hitching Post was also made famous by the film.

Solvang, which mean Sunny Fields in Danish, was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes.  There are plenty bakeries, restaurants, and merchants, but lets not kid ourselves here, the reason we came to Solvang is to taste wine.  There are plenty of tasting rooms featuring the best Santa Ynez Valley wines.  We spend the next hour walking around, sampling delicious pastries and fine vinos.  However there is absolutely no nightlife in this city as everything closes at around 5:30pm.  That’s our cue to drive to neighboring Los Olivos for dinner at los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant also featured in the aforementioned movie.  As the sun sets, it is time to call it a night, and get back to our hotel the King Frederik.

We are back on the road, the most scenic portion of the Pacific Coast Highway coming up ahead.  In our next episode we will continue on our journey north as we get closer, and closer to our final destination San Francisco.  Until then, thank you for watching and see you on the road.