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  • Travel Challenges
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    Pacific Coast Highway, California USA (August 2015)

    Amazing views only along the PCH Highway 1.
    Amazing views only along the PCH Highway 1.

    The PCH drive was like living through a series of those Sample Pictures that comes with Window builds. Incredibly scenic and breath-taking views.

    We rented a car in San Francisco and went south for Los Angeles (and kept the car throughout our LA trip and returned it at LAX). We split up the trip into 2 days (moreso, 1.5 days) and definitely could’ve sprung for extra stops along the route. We worried that it was going to be really cloudy (and it was for the beginning, but even with cloud, the experience was filled with incredible sights. I thought sitting in a car for 8 hours was going to be boring, but it’s not at all. From one amazing sight to the next, I was always in awe and excited. I’ll post which major stops I made, but my main takeaway would be – TAKE YOUR TIME. Do not rush through the drive. Stop often (in safe areas, of course) and take a moment to breathe it all in. Oh, and bring snacks and drinks for the ride.

    We “left” San Francisco around 10:30AM, meaning we tried to get to RTE 1 from Chinatown (I had to run a last minute errand), and might have hit some traffic getting out of SF. Anyway, our first stop was Monterey, to grab some lunch. Ideally, we wanted to eat at a restaurant, but ended up at going to a Compagno’s Market & Deli, which had 4.5 stars on yelp. I believe I just got a pastrami sandwich and it was very good – I don’t know if it was 4.5 stars, but the meat was fresh and I was starving. And they let me use their restroom, so I give them props. Even though hungry, we decided to wait to eat our sandwiches at our next stop, with the thought of a “scenic lunch”. So, we drove to Carmel’s 17 Mile Drive, which is a (you guessed it) 17 mile scenic road that goes through Pebble Beach (famous golf courses), ridiculous mansions, Lone Cypress tree, and Pacific Grove, in the Monterey Peninsula. Unfortunately, it was super cloudy for us that afternoon, so I don’t have any super-cool pix, but it was still a cool drive. There is a $10 gate fee (refundable if you spend $30+ at restaurants/gift shops) and they give you a map of all the scenic spots.

    Cloudy views during the 17 Mile Drive
    Cloudy views during the 17 Mile Drive

    After finishing the 17-mile drive, we continued down RTE 1 to our next major point of interest, Big Sur. I thought Big Sur was like one point on a map, but it’s actually an area of the mountain. We stopped a lot of times on our way to Big Sur, and through Big Sur. The cool thing is that they have designated places to stop (and you’ll see other cars there too), and sometimes, we just stopped if we saw there was enough space not to cause a traffic jam/hazard. The weather also got a lot better! Still a bit cloudy, but at least there was sun.

    Staring out
    Staring out

    During Big Sur, you’ll hit the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. You can’t miss it, because there are a ton of people out of their cars taking pictures of this bridge.

    Bixby Bridge
    Bixby Bridge

    There will often be signs telling you of a scenic or outlook coming up. Our next major stop was seeing the Elephant Seals. It was really cold by that point (I think we got there around 7:15PM.) but still amusing. They just lay there on top of each other. Cute.

    Chillin' elephant seals
    Chillin’ elephant seals

    We would’ve also liked to visit the Hearst Castle but that will be for next time. When I was planning the trip, I knew I wanted to stay a night in the middle of the route (as it’s no fun and no views driving in the dark). It was either Cambria, San Luis Obispo, or Santa Maria. Due to point values, I used my Marriott points to stay at a Fairfield Inn & Suites Santa Maria. We did however, stop in Cambria to just view the little town (and use the restrooms). We were planning to eat dinner in Cambria or San Luis Obispo, but we actually had half of our sandwiches from lunch left over so we just ate that.

    We got to Santa Maria around 9:30PM. Fairfield Inn in Santa Maria was great. Comfy, clean, and free breakfast! Woo! Perfect for just a one night stay.

    The next morning, we left Santa Maria and continued down RTE 1. We ended up driving through the cities of Ventura and Malibu, before we arrived in Los Angeles. Again, beautiful views (luckily the day was sunny!). It was very interesting to drive through Ventura and Malibu. Just as I expected from tv and video games — complete beach town, and I loved it. Even though I was inside the car, I could just feel the relaxed nature of the towns. Ton of that “ya surfer brah” vibe, but it’s all good. Next time, I’d like to do some beach time.

    We arrived in LA around 1:00PM.. which will be another post! 🙂 Again, this was the most beautiful drive I’ve been on (okay to be fair, I haven’t been on that many drives outside of the tristate area..), but next time I plan to do a reverse LA -> SF drive back up the PCH.

    Until then..

    xoxo Eileen

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