Oh, the joy and sorrow of road tripping. There are aspects you can control, like your route, the timing, what to stop and see, and there are things you just have to go with. It felt like we could have spent longer in cute little Cambria, a town off the Pacific Coast Highway, but after we woke up I felt like I was ready to take on the day! Baby J and I spent a bit of time playing in the yard while Tyler us packed and played the piano a bit more, and then we said goodbye to the Music House.
We wandered down the streets for a bit, and I wished it wasn’t so early on a Sunday – none of the neat looking shops purporting to sell antiques were open for business. But we fuelled up on coffee and breakfast, and walked back to our car to drive off and make a stop for gas…then off we went up the coast! The only thing?
There was so much fog that it was hard to see much beyond the road. It was a little disappointing at first – the stretch of road from here to San Franciso – the ocean-hugging, rocky roads – were supposedly breathtaking. But there was still tons to see, as we found out when we decided to go ahead and stop as planned at the Elephant Seal Rookery – a quick pull off the road with a fenced in lookout over tons of these weirdly majestic and goofy looking animals. We saw seals flopping around towards the water, wapping each other, tossing dirt up onto their own back, baby seals nursing. And the sounds? Incredible! Grunting, yapping, barking – it was really interesting to watch the seals interact with each other. I loved how close we were but that we were still plenty far so that they weren’t bothered by us (I hope).
We pressed on, stopping at a few of the vista points but for the most part everything was still shrouded on fog: I could hear the faint rumble and crush of the ocean against the rocks below but rather than seeing the sparkling blue expanse, it felt like we were on top of the clouds. There was nothing but fluffy white mist as far as the eye could see on the ocean side.
As the day went on, I kept checking my list of places to potentially stop (I made a big list with options so we could gauge everything) and one thing I thought sounded fun was to stop at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take a small hike to check out the cove, and waterfalls. I knew we were getting close when we started seeing lines of cars on either side of the road. It was completely jam packed and I guess that should come as no surprise on a Sunday of a long weekend, so we decided to pass. We did make a few stops here and there – Tyler took a look around in the Henry Miller Memorial Library and I took some pictures at more pullouts.
Driving through the California wilderness was really awe inspiring, trees and rock and the smell of campfire, shooting out through a tunnel of tall trees to cows grazing on fields of downy green grass. There was one spot with a huge rock in the ocean and the mist clung to it, moving fast to show the outline of a lighthouse nestled on the top.
Finally the fog started to lift into giant white clouds, rolling off the water and revealing the turquoise depths below. The timing was good as we were still in Big Sur (which is supposedly the most beautifully dramatic landscape of the drive) and we caught a few glimpses of rock and shore, plus the 1932 built Bixby bridge.
More to be said for good timing: this was our backseat passenger for most of the trip.
He woke up just in time to look at the bridge, have a late lunch and backseat diaper change, and then we had maybe 20 minutes to go before we reached our final destination for the day: Pacific Grove. After all the sitting in the car and waiting I thought he deserved a treat, so we headed right to the Dennis the Menace park in Monterey. Although it’s known for the extensive play structures, baby J loved the lion watering fountain the best, pressing and sipping and sharing with us, too. He also enjoyed playing with a bell you could clang with a chain, running over a bridge again and again and again, and a bumpy slide made of red slats that had a steady lineup due to its popularity.
We stayed there until late afternoon and then headed back to Pacific Grove to find our B&B – the Centrella Inn. It was pretty tough to find a place to stay, but this lovely place rented cottages as well as room, provided a happy hour with a glass of wine and snacks, and freshly baked cookies as a bedtime snack. We headed out to get dinner, Baby J happy in his stroller while we wandered and tried to pick something. Luckily we chose two different meals to split as a way of sampling more food – I was waiting for one while Tyler waiting for another down the road. Once we got back and settled, we realized the Thai dish didn’t include cutlery and we had nothing at all to use in it’s place. The moral? Always carry a fork or at least a spoon with you. And in any case – the view from our back porch door was pretty lovely.