We only had two days to drive the legendary Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from San Francisco to L.A., and let me tell you: two days is not enough. We stopped first at Pigeon Point Light house, made famous by several movies. We couldn’t go in (it’s closed for renovations), but we got to examine the Fresnel lens up close as it had been taken down and was being cleaned. Outside, there were gorgeous views of the ocean and rocky coast, and even some harbor seals making merry in the surf and on the rocks below, so that was a nice treat.
As we continued southward, every curve rewarded us with one stunning vista after another. Stephanie commented that she had never seen anything like it in the US other than in Maine and Hawaii, and we agreed it may be the most beautiful drive we have done in the continental US. We needed a full day just to stop at every lookout point between Monterey and Big Sur. When the road turned inland, every breath was filled with the scent of pine trees. It was amazing how clear and fresh the air smelled.
We stopped for a bit in Santa Cruz, where we walked along the pier and the boardwalk. Although there weren’t many tourists around, the sea lions under the pier were totally enjoying themselves. The boardwalk I’d heard so much about was much more of a modern amusement park, and less of a vintage boardwalk than I expected, but at least there were no vampires. (Congratulations to everyone who get’ that reference to The Lost Boys.)
We spent the night in Los Osos, a small town just outside of San Luis Obispo – roughly the halfway point between S.F. and L.A. We enjoyed an evening of great conversation with our hosts and then we were off again the next morning. We stopped in town the for some fine chocolates from The Chocolate Artisan – I deemed the chocolate covered salted caramel to be my favorite.
The second half of our drive was beautiful though slightly less scenic than the day before, so we got all the way to Santa Barbara pretty quickly. We drove through Ventura and came upon a section of the road where a stream of RVs was parked all in a row. We decided to check out the attraction so we parked and climbed over a bunch of boulders and down to the beach. It was so much fun to take our shoes off and run round after sitting in the car so much over two days! I even put my feet in the cold cold water with Stephanie. In Malibu, I was disappointed that PCH didn’t take us past all the huge homes on the mountainside, but it did take us along the coast where we could look up at the homes above. Some of them are just enormous.
I made the determination that our trip down the coast should terminate at Venice Beach, which Stephanie had never seen. There were a few interesting people about, but not as many as you might find on a summer Saturday. The latest addition to the shops lining Venice’s boardwalk are medical marijuana “clinics” where you pay $40 for a “doctor” to issue you a prescription so you can obtain medical marijuana in California. After roundly ignoring the clinics, we checked out Muscle Beach. This is an outdoor, beachside gym where the fittest of the fit go to work out (aka show off). We did find some Olympic rings for me to play on, thus reminding myself that I am decidedly not the fittest of the fit. Stephanie had fun taking photos of the guys working out who *were* the fittest of the fit.
As we headed over to watch the sun set, we were distracted by a skate park consisting mostly of bowls that look like drained swimming pools. We watched the skaters perform some amazing tricks, and saw an 8-year-old boy who looked about ready to turn pro as he soared through the air again and again. Walking back after dark, we ducked into a still-open skate shop just to get a closer look at what the kids today are riding. Stephanie declared that she wasn’t leaving until I picked out a skateboard and got back into the sport again. (I had been known to carve up a street or two in my youth.) Whether she was joking or not, I ended up selecting a gnarly new stick, and literally skated rings round her as we walked back to the car. As we left the shop, my self-consciousness was eased by a couple of teenagers who congratulated me on my purchase, let me take a whirl on one of their boards, and pretended to be impressed at my not-so-high Ollie (look it up).
Leaving Venice, we got a taste of that famous L.A. traffic. We drove 30 miles in just over two hours. Woo hoo! Having gone to high school in Anaheim, I still have some friends in the area. One of them – Kirstin – invited us to stay with her for three days. We got to know her adorable kids, and even caught a glimpse of her elusive husband.
Our second night in L.A. we caught up with Scott – my best friend from high school. It is so funny how easy it is to slip back into our interactions like no time has passed. We met at the Farmer’s Market in L.A. which is now dwarfed by “The Grove” – a bastion to American consumerism. There were lights, fountains, Christmas trees, Christmas music, and an honest-to-goodness Santa in a sleigh complete with nine reindeer hovering above us in the air. It was all a bit much for my taste, but it did make us a bit nostalgic as it put us in the holiday spirit, and It didn’t stop me from having a piece of pie from DuPar’s.
No visit to SoCal is complete without a trip to Disneyland. This time, Stephanie and I decided to check out Disney’s California Adventure since we’d never been there. It has bits and pieces from all of the Florida parks, yet is completely its own. One of Stephanie’s favorite rides was Mickey’s Fun Wheel – a ferris wheel where the gondolas (gondolae?) are on tracks that let them slide and swing as the wheel rotates. If it’s possible for a Ferris wheel to be thrilling, this is it! My favorite ride was The Toy Story 4D Midway, where you play a series of old time shooting games, which simply must be ridden to be appreciated. Both of us loved Cars Land with its innovative rides, and its décor straight out of the movie “Cars.” We were there from open to close, and even stayed for “World of Color” – a water/laser/color/sound/light/fire spectacular.
Although the day was drawing to a close, we headed off to catch up with one more friend. We met Priyanka on a cruise several years ago, and have kept in touch ever since. We met her husband, and the four of us walked over to the La Brea tar pits, and peered at them through the fence. We could have chatted about travel all night, but we regrettably tore ourselves away around 1:30 in the morning.
The following morning, after a brief interlude with Kirstin (who whipped up killer French toast out of nowhere), we hit the road once more, bound for Arizona.