Pacific Coast Highway, California

California’s Pacific Coast Highway adventure recount / A celebration of a dear friend’s triumph

We heard the great news today. I feel close enough to my friend to use the collective pronoun “we” which I often wish to avoid for the reason that individually, human beings usually arrive at much clearer decisions than they do as a group. Political gripe aside, I have been privileged enough to hear about my friend’s life via private messaging (thanks, Facebook) for the past two years or so. It’s rare enough to find the kind of friend you can really talk to, having someone you actually want to spend a lot of time with is even rarer for me. As life descends into a frenzy of hustle and bustle, there is very little time to be spared for pleasantries and good ol’ BS. I read a great quote by Roger Ebert (unfortunately after the time of his passing) that says: “What I believe is that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: Curious and teachable.” Sherie Ann Pedros is both of these things.

Pacific Coast Highway

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I feel very lucky to have had the chance to swap personal stories, soak up pop culture, make music recommendations, and discuss current events with you but most of all, I am honored you trust me enough to keep me in the loop where your heart is concerned. I may not know all the details about your fast-blossoming friendship that has later bloomed into a deep commitment (I hope I’m not embarrassing you too much, dear) but your chat photo captioned “a world without borders” by the guy who won you over was enough to make my dark heart melt. I’m not one for “friendships” by mutual association but I’ve done a little stalking and can I just comment on the photo of the stack of lumber sticking out of a tiny car? Is that Patrick’s? If so, I trust a guy who makes a ballsy third world style move like that to take good care of a dear friend. If not, I would like to meet more people who think outside the confines of their cars or whatever boxes they have to work with. ;p

Before I go off on another tangent, here’s another installment of the unexpected long vacation-turned-best-time-ever that I took back in December. I know I have kept you and a few people waiting, mostly because I got extremely busy and nomadic right after that time, but also because I haven’t really come to terms with the Facebook photo-gawking zombies auto-clicking “Like” on every photo they see of every person they like. Okay, enough with the rantiness. I’m here to talk about the dreamy Pacific Coast Highway, dammit.

  • My first view of the Pacific Coast Highway.

I’d first heard of this amazing route packed with as much sights and beauty as you can handle from my cousin who is based in Kentucky. I was highly intrigued by it, even more so after I caught a glimpse of the area very close to Carmel, another California wonderland that is very worthy of talking about. I also saw signs pointing to the Hearst Castle, but a further investigation showed it would take over $100 to tour all the rooms. A bit expensive, if you ask me. Maybe one day I will feel justified spending that much on one landmark. But I definitely felt it was a must to travel this famous highway and see it for all its glory in the daytime where there’s sunlight to guide me. The night before, we stayed at Holland Inn & Suites in Morro Bay which I’d booked hours before via Priceline. I cannot stress it enough, Priceline is the best way to go for booking last-minute accommodations at amazingly low rates. The older couple running the hotel were very gracious and did a fantastic job in maintaining a “home-away-from-home” vibe in the rooms. It was one of my favorite places that we stayed at on that extended December 2012-January 2013 road trip.

Another point of interest south of where we were staying is the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History which sits on a hill overlooking the Morro Bay Estuary. We didn’t have time to visit the museum because we were running on a tight schedule and had visited LA’s La Brea Tar Pits the day before.

Pacific Coast HighwayThis was the Avila Beach Pier, a stark contrast to the beautiful chaos that was Bubblegum Alley from the night before. To say that I was enchanted by the view is an understatement; little did I know how much I’d be taken by the scenery that awaited me as we headed up north. This wasn’t part of my list, but Google Maps tells me this is along San Luis Obispo Bay which is more rural and agricultural than many other coastal regions in California.

Pacific Coast HighwayWe kept driving north…and then there were zebras. What a treat after possibly the worst cup of coffee in recent memory from Cambria Coffee Roasting Company. Sorry guys, but your “medium roast” black coffee tasted like charcoal mixed with piss. It was atrocious and I couldn’t finish it.

Pacific Coast Highway - Los Padres National ParkPacific Coast HighwayPacific Coast HighwayAnd on we went…until we stopped again at the sign that said Los Padres National Forest. I don’t know much about it but can somebody help me find the name of the plant above? They soothe my sensibilities.Pacific Coast HighwayPacific Coast HighwayWe took another stop on the California Route 1 otherwise known as the Cabrillo Highway that would lead us to the natural beauties I had wanted to see that day. And really, this was by no means a short drive. Well, Google tells me we only covered 121 miles and that would normally take 2 hours and 54 minutes. However, that was our last chance to explore California in all its panoramic and coastal glory. With the many little stops we’ve made, we started around 10am but didn’t reach Monterey, CA by 5pm. If you have the money and the time, you can explore all the hidden coves and beaches day by day and take as much time as you need to savor it all in. Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast HighwayWe squealed thinking this was Bixby Bridge but no, it was just one of the 33 bridges spanning this super highway. I wish I wrote the name down because no one seems interested in anything but the historic Bixby Creek Bridge.Pacific Coast HighwayAt last, we have arrived at the stop I’ve been saving a lot of energy and enthusiasm for. I even went so far as to writing the directions down on a notepad in case we got lost. This is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it broke my heart with all its exquisite beauty. Homesteaders John and Julia Burns, thank you for keeping this little piece of heaven intact. Pacific Coast HighwayAbove is the iconic McWay Cove and the McWay Falls. There used to be a house around here that was torn down when the owners died as they have requested on their will. Some people do have a great sense of what belongs with nature and what doesn’t, thank you Browns for the lack of vanity after death.Pacific Coast Highway Pacific Coast HighwayPacific Coast Highway - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Pacific Coast Highway - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park McWay Cove Pacific Coast Highway - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkDid you know I really like tunnels? This connects the inland portion of the park with the seaside area. Pacific Coast Highway - Bixby Creek BridgeAnd finally, we have reached the right bridge if the big sign was to be believed. We saw a few people stop on the same spot so it must have been the famous Bixby Bridge, right?

IMG_2591_0Right. This bridge is situated 18 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea which I have previously talked about here.

Pacific Coast Highway - Bixby Creek Bridge Pacific Coast Highway - Bixby Creek BridgeThe Bixby Creek Bridge was quite stunning and truly an example of masterpiece engineering. Learn more about its history here. Photos don’t really do justice to a lot of things, I believe bridges to fall in that category along with great paintings.

Pacific Coast Highway - Bixby Creek BridgeAnd this was the area we caught a glimpse of the first night we got on this highway designated as an “All-American Road” and pronounced by some as “one of the best drives on earth.” The All-American Road designation is granted to scenic byways meeting two out of the six “intrinsic qualities”: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and/or scenic. I find that people exaggerate the greatness of a lot of things but this time I have no words.

Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State Reserve Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State Reserve Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State ReserveThis is Point Lobos State Reserve where I saw deer and baleen plate from a humpback whale (what it uses for filtering food from water instead of teeth). I hate sounding like a hippie but there are just moments where you can breathe the encompassing beauty around you. Point Lobos is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen and has been called “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world” and “the crown jewel of the state park system.” The entrance to the park is three miles south of Carmel and vehicle admission costs $8 per car. We avoided this by finding roadside parking and walking over to the entrance.Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State Reserve

Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State Reserve Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State ReservePretty neat tree, isn’t it? As great as it’s been outside, I had to go in and check out the not-very-big but definitely interesting Whalers Cabin Museum.Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State ReserveIf you’re a film buff, download this photo and zoom it in. These are some of the movies that have been shot in this area before the restrictions took into effect.Pacific Coast Highway - Point Lobos State Reserve

So, Sherie, despite the fact that I will never live in California again, I am willing to do this drive with you when the time permits. I want to explore more of the hidden coves and beaches, I want to go in the summer when it’s warmer and we might get lucky enough to squeeze a swim out of these lovely but often too cold waters. But for now, let’s set our sights on backpacking across Belgium and the rest of Europe, shall we? Thank you for sharing the good news.

Since you mentioned One Tree Hill in our last conversation, let me leave you with a song by a band (not from California but Arizona’s close enough) featured prominently on that show. I believe this is appropriate — hope you both enjoy.

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Author’s Note: I can provide some directions if you’re interested, but this road trip is widely covered on the internet. A great start would be National Geographic’s coverage. The following is a map of the general route that we took. I hope to cover more ground the next time I’m there. Hopefully then some of my old friends can join me.

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