The Great Californian Road Trip Part 1 – dodging landslides & dogging hotspots!

Back at the tail end of last year when our epic trip around the world was still a pipe dream, one of the first things we started to plan was a road trip along California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway.

Inspired and advised by our best friends Alannah and Felix, we booked with the most badass camper van company we could find, plotted a route, studied guidebooks and were ridiculously excited for a week on the open road with nothing to worry about but arguing over google maps.

IMG_8312

But in California itself a lot happened in the 7 months between our initial excitement, and finally getting into our Ford E150 camper.

California’s wettest winter on record had caused a huge landslide which took out a bridge on Highway 1, right in the middle of the famous Big Sur coast road, rendering our planned route impossible.

But in California itself a lot happened in the 7 months between our initial excitement, and finally getting into our Ford E150 camper.

IMG_8614California’s wettest winter on record had caused a huge landslide which took out a bridge on Highway 1, right in the middle of the famous Big Sur coast road, rendering our planned route impossible.┬áSo we were in for a pretty major route change!

Rather than take the coast road straight down from San Francisco to Los Angeles (via a stop off at Yosemite National Park), we would have to drive as far south as we could along the coast (which really wasn’t that far) then double back on ourselves and do a big loop back through California’s mostly nondescript farm country, rejoining the Pacific Coast Highway at Cambria.

When we set off the road was due to be closed until at least September, but while we were on the Big Sur another huge landslip buried even more of the road underneath thousands of tonnes of earth, fortunately in the already closed section, but leading some to question whether the road should ever be reopened!

sjm-surslide-0601-09

Undeterred, we picked up the coolest wheels known to man – Soarin’ Eagle from Escape Camper Vans in San Francisco – and headed off on our adventure.

The souped up Ford Transit was an old girl; nearly 300,000 miles on the clock. And she drank the gas like an alcoholic trucker.

IMG_8288

But we loved her anyway. We had a little dining table cum foldaway bed in the back, a camping stove, tiny fridge and a pump action sink. What more could we need!

It wasn’t long before the majesty of the Pacific Coast Highway presented itself just south of San Francisco, just as the sun was setting.

We hadn’t planned much for where we were going to park up and sleep during the week, but the camper company reckons any rest areas without No Parking signs are fair game, so we picked one on an impossibly pretty stretch of coast (after the first of around 689 arguments of the week about where to stop) and bunkered down for the night, hoping it wasn’t a dogging hotspot.

IMG_8312

The serenity didn’t last long; fortunately not doggers (that’s randy couples or singles looking for roadside sexual encounters for those not in the know), but a group of rowdy teens in their parents car soon turned up, drinking and vomiting in to the night.

Chris had to play mean mommy in the morning and tell them to clean up their crap!

IMG_8303Day Two was our chance to get as far south as we could before the road closure. We spent a couple of lovely hours in the old seaside town of Santa Cruz, complete with 1920s wooden rollercoaster and classic pier.

 

From there we powered on to Monterey, famous for being so good at fishing for sardines that they literally caught them all.

IMG_8309

Now, the old canneries have been turned in to a tourist toy town, and Monterey is more famous for cheese, plus the world class Monterey Bay Aquarium.

DSCN3331
The demonstrations at the aquarium were top class – here a scuba diver feeds the fish

It’s well worth a few hours ambling around; the mesmerising jellyfish exhibit was a highlight.

South of Monterey is the real start of the famous Pacific Coast Highway, all craggy cliffs, brooding sea mists and, when it’s fully open, verdant forests and vast beaches to explore.

Sadly, the wet weather which caused the landslides had also rendered most of the beaches and state forests along the route impassable too. We could look, but not touch. Luckily the view of the sun setting across the wild terrain was stunning enough.

We drove as far south as we could, through Big Sur, until the road literally ran out. We turned back (joining plenty of other cars seeing how far they could go) and settled up for the night on a gravel lay by metres away from the cliffs.

The perfect place for a few bourbon and cokes in the darkness! After dark, it was perfectly serene.

IMG_8323Then came the Big Detour! First north back up the very misty Highway 1 where we stopped for a quick selfie at the iconic concrete crossing Bixby Bridge, past Monterey and then east towards Yosemite National Park, one of the most beautiful wildernesses on earth.

Our overnight sleeping locations had been relatively simple so far, but Yosemite presented a new challenge; bears!!!

Advertisements

One thought on “The Great Californian Road Trip Part 1 – dodging landslides & dogging hotspots!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s