June 22: Pacific Coast Highway

[Sorry this didn’t go up last night. The little motel we stayed in didn’t have internet. I typed this last night so that it was still all fresh in my head. Pictures from the last few days are up now and pictures from this day will be up soon.]

“Something I have long wanted to do is visit the Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California.”
~”I’m a Stranger Here Myself” — Bill Bryson

Although the quote isn’t directly related to our trip, we did go through San Luis Obispo, California right about the time Madison read this part of Bryson’s book (yes, Madison is reading).

We had a nice breakfast with Meg and LL this morning before heading up the coast for the next part of our trip. I’d like to thank Meg and LL, now that they’re reading this, for housing us the last two nights and being such great hosts. It was nice to have some home-cooked meals.

After we got through the L.A. area and it’s crazy traffic – even on a Sunday – started heading up California Highway 1, the classic Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a great old road that runs up most of the California coastline and through all kinds of small beach villages. We hit Malibu first, with all its nice beachfront houses and mansions up on the mountains and hills. There were also quite a few public beaches that were packed with tourists and surfers. I have never seen so many VW Buses in my life.

After Malibu, the ride calms down until Ventura Beach, where we sat in traffic for almost 20 minutes while about a thousand cars crammed onto the off-ramp. It had better be good surfing to make me wait in traffic like that…. When the road finally gets out of the bigger cities, it becomes an empty back road. There are more cows than people out there. The road wound through the mountains and into this massive valley with farms stretched from one end to another. It’s the part of California that you don’t think about: the part between L.A. and San Francisco.

Madison and I have been going through beach withdrawals since we missed our annual week-long camping trip to Emerald Isle. We decided to get our fix by finding a little beach somewhere before San Francisco where we could spend the afternoon on the beach and stay the night before getting into northern California. After staring at a map for way too long, we decided on a nice little town called Pismo Beach.

Pismo Beach is a cute little beach town that has – luckily – stayed away from commercial development. It’s the classic old town with mom and pop shops and restaurants and all independently owned hotels. Other than a couple of banks, there are no chains of any kind in this town. I haven’t recognized the name of a single business. I think it’s amazing that this town has continued to thrive without being invaded by a Walmart. It’s a rare thing these days.

As we were driving up the coast, we noticed that the temperature was getting steadily colder…and I mean colder. When we got to Pismo Beach, it was a solid 70. Madison and I walked down to the beach and it felt great! The sun warmed us up just enough and it was comfortable lying on the beach. The water was a different story. We had to get in just to say we have been in the Pacific Ocean. Even though it was cold and June, we illogically figured that the water wouldn’t be too bad. Oh…how wrong we were. It was like ice water. Literally. And our bodies didn’t get used to it like we though they would. We stood out there idiotically for about 10 minutes, hoping that we would eventually get used to it. No such luck. We ran out and spent the rest of the afternoon warming up on the beach and doing some reading.

I still can’t get used to the mountains running right up to the coast. There are very few beaches here: just a few lucky stretches of sand between the rocks. When we looked to our right on the beach, there were huge hills that ended in a pile of rocks that the surf slammed into. Farther into the distance, over the water, you could see a mountain looming in the shadows. It’s surprising and beautiful. Behind us the town was piled up with buildings clustered together and seemingly growing out of the huge hill. It reminded me of pictures of seen from Spain or Italy…or both. Either way, it looked vaguely European. These are the kind of things that I really think I could get used to out here. There is no shortage of amazing scenery.

Madison and I finally got back to the hotel just in time to find out that UNC had blown another chance to win the College World Series. Three years in a row coming up just short. Always next year?

We went to the Pismo Beach Fish and Chips restaurant about a block from the beach and enjoyed a great dinner. Now we’re crashing at this nice little motel before heading out tomorrow morning to try and make it to the other side of San Francisco. With any luck we’ll be near the Redwood forest tomorrow evening.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “June 22: Pacific Coast Highway

  1. Courtney

    Okay, first of all, I’m really glad that there were tons of VW Buses on the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve always pictured it with tons of those!
    Secondly, I know what you mean about it being weird that mountains go right up to the beach. It happens everywhere in NZ and I can’t ever get over it!
    I think I heard somewhere that the reason the water is so cold off the coast of California is because it comes down from the Arctic Circle, whereas the Atlantic water comes up from the Gulf. But I could be making that up. Either way, we’ve both experienced ridiculously cold Pacific Ocean water now!

  2. Mom and Tony

    Way to go Madison!!! Keep on reading!!! Love you both!!!

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