LA to San Francisco through PCH

Dated – August, 2015

Driving in US has been great! Except for a few minor ‘incidents’, I have largely been accident and injury free (to self and others). After spending about six months without a car, the ability to drive has been absolutely liberating. In a country where public transport is frowned upon, it is alarming how a small task like getting groceries becomes a challenge. Well, all that is sorted now. But the lack of public transport will always be a big negative for this country.Anyway, moving to nicer conversations, the new ride is an eye candy. S said that in the city of sun and sand, a convertible is a must. Quoting her – What is the point otherwise! Honda was immediately out of the reckoning. So was BMW, Audi and above. Soft top convertibles got ruled out as well (heat, maintenance blah). After weeks of breaking our collective heads over it, zeroed down on Volkswagen Eos. A dark grey hard top convertible. Pretty much love at first sight. Has quite a bit of what kids call these days – swag. Or maybe am not using the word right. Anyhow, you get the picture. 🙂

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The new ride 🙂

Few weeks after getting the car, a relatively free weekend came up. And without much thought, a friend and I left for San Francisco through the Pacific Highway (aka 1, PCH). The route – LA – San Luis Obispo – Morro Bay – Big Sur – Monterey Bay – San Francisco. Total distance one way was approx. 450 miles. The rule was to stop wherever the view catches our fancy. And the PCH is replete with such views.

We started as late as 8 pm for San Luis Obispo (SLO). About 165 miles through the 101. We were booked at the HI hostel at SLO for the night. Reached close to midnight, rued over the lack of food (and common sense to carry some!) and called it a night. Next morning, met Sandra at the hostel. Swiss girl traveling through the west coast right up till Canada. A baker by profession, she made my job sound so very morose! She was headed to Monterey and so were we. So, she hopped on.

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Morning was spent hiking up the Bishop Peak. That too after a fairly big breakfast (which was a very bad idea!). Someone had told us that the view from the top was awe inspiring, and included a glimpse of the ocean as well. Now, we went up the wrong way. More a climb than a hike. Realized later that there was a much easier way to do this. Anyway, water under the bridge. Sandra breezed through the hike/climb while I followed red in the face. Reached the top to realize that the view is good but the ocean was missing. So much for all the hard work! Slid down a significant part of the descent. Overall, would recommend the hike if you have free time on your hands.

Drove down to Morro Bay from Bishop Peak. About 30 minutes drive. Small town by the sea with the famous Morro Rock landmark. We spent a very peaceful afternoon at the Otter Rock Cafe there. There were a couple of tables at the patio, facing the Morro rock. That became our spot for the next few hours. The sun was heartwarming. The 805 beer was chilled and perfect. The music was old school. The hours spent, memorable.

It was cruise night that evening in Morro. The town was bustling with vintage cars. I am not a car enthusiast, yet the sight was extremely appealing. The crowd’s enthusiasm was infectious. Very old couples in some very cool cars. The evening was spent watching an incredible sunset with a view of the Morro Rock. Came back to SLO for the night. The city loves to party and how. Went to this place called SLO Brewing Co. There was a band playing up a storm with all sorts of instruments, while mingling with the crowd. I have been there one more time and had a blast that night too. 🙂 Highly recommended.

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Sunset at Morro

Early next morning, we started driving northward. Stopped at Moonstone beach for a beautiful walk. Each of these places deserve a couple of days’ stay with an intent to do absolutely nothing. Stopped at a light house on the way, only to realize that pictures were allowed only if you pay an entry fee for a two hour tour of the place. Two hours was a bit much. Sneaked in a picture anyhow. Made another stop at the Big Sur Coast Gallery Cafe. The craving for coffee was intense. And the cafe was beautiful. Overlooking the ocean, with a beautiful patio with red umbrellas.

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Moonstone beach walkway
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Lighthouse somewhere along the way

The next stop was Monterey Bay to drop Sandra. We had covered about 150 miles till now and planned to drive right up till San Francisco the same day. Stopped for a lazy lunch at Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle cafe at the pier. Excellent crab cakes and clam chowder. We had another 115 miles to go and it was late afternoon.

Checked in to USA Hostels at San Francisco. The first time I was in San Francisco, a friend had introduced me to this Thai massage place which was absolutely blessed. After a day’s drive and walking around, that was the only thing that came to our mind. The one hour spent there was blissful. 🙂 The night turned out to be a long one. With friends from school and college, various watering holes were visited. The rest are stories best kept under wraps.

It was a sunny Sunday, the next day. Had breakfast with one of my favorite people at Pier 39, bid farewell and went to Hawk Hill and Battery Spencer to get a few shots of the Golden Gate bridge. The weather was chilly and as usual, clouds were creeping in over the bridge. Nonetheless, the view was beautiful. Mental note to come back here to get a night shot in the next trip. Lunch was with a very dear Bong connection from school. And that was it. Started driving back to good old.

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Golden Gate from Hawk Hill
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Golden Gate from Battery Spencer

On the way, drove through the 17 Mile Drive. Saw the Lone Cypress and Pebble Beach. A tad overrated but it had its pretty corners, perfect for a picnic.

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Lone Cypress
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The moon looked incredible on the way back

It was a long long drive back home. Skipped quite a few places and marked quite a few for a second visit. Also, realized that I do like driving. 🙂 There is a long lineup of road trips on our list. This was just a start. A good one at that!

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