Leon and I had driven on Hwy 1, the iconic coastal highway that goes up the coast from Southern California to Oregon, in summer 2014. We had started north of San Francisco and continued until we reached the end of it. The road is very windy with plenty of switchbacks. I remember saying at the time that we were lucky to be driving north as I was at least on the mountain side of the road, not the cliff side.
We left our Santa Cruz campground on a rainy Sunday morning hoping to drive south to Big Sur. But first we dropped into the Sunset State Park located in Santa Cruz on Monterrey Bay. The surf was very rough and we spotted no surfers. We could have walked for miles but it’s still quite cool so we thought we’d continue south. I did take time to admire the large homes overlooking the bay.
The park Ranger said there were plenty of other state campground as we drove south. She warned us the road was a bit windy (as in lots of bends in the road). We figured that would be fine as we’ve driven through that before. What we didn’t expect was 66 miles of winding and windy road along the high mountain sides. Of course, this time we were driving south, so I was sitting right beside the cliff. I had visions of all those movie scenes where the car goes off the road. Luckily Leon is a very good and cautious driver, so I had no fear. I enjoyed the view as much as I could because Leon was not able to look anywhere but at the road in front of him. Oh the sights I saw! The long stretches of road along a turbulent rocky coast. The sun had come out at this point, so the views were as clear as can be.
There are innumerable turnouts and vista stops along the way. We stopped many times to take pictures. We could have stayed in a state campground on the oceanfront, but it was just too open and windy. At one point I was looking down at my map when the camper jerked sharply to the left. I thought Leon had turned the wheel to avoid something, but it was actually a strong gust of wind that pushed us.
As we got further down the coast, we saw signs for seal watching. There is a huge elephant seal rookery along the coast near Ragged Point. You don’t even have to go to the designated viewing points as they are all over the beaches and even close to the road at some point. They are fascinating animals. Read about them here.
After this most unexpected highlight of the day, we continued driving south to San Simeon, where W.R. Hearst owned a large ranch which had lands from the ocean to the hills above it. There is a castle there for all to visit, but we decided to drop into the seaside winery and ranch for some meat to cook for dinner. The thing about this drive is that there are few commercial areas, so grocery stores were more like convenience store at home. We settled on some very frozen hamburger from the Hearst cows. Luckily, we had all the accompaniments as we had stopped just outside Santa Cruz at a roadside market. The fruit and vegetables there were varied and quite affordable. We could have purchased a cauliflower for $1. But we settled on 10 kiwis for $2 and 8 avocados for $2. Everything looked fresh and delicious!
By the time we left the Hearst Ranch, it was close to 5pm and time to find a campground for the night. We found a lovely state park a few kilometres south and settled for the night. We weren’t on the beach, but we could hear the surf as soon as the wind died down. We could also hear the bullfrogs. I went out after dinner for a short walk and noticed the amazing stars. The hills were so dark that the stars shone bright. Leon and I spent a few moments trying to find the big dipper and the little dipper.
Since we had no electricity or internet, it was easy to spend the evening reading and get to bed early. I seem to have a bit of a cold, so I was glad of that. This morning we were awakened by a bright sunrise.