Cambria to Monterey

Cambria to Monterey: 103 miles

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I woke up to a foggy Monday morning in Cambria but Tim the innkeeper informed me that the fog would blow away by 10am. I had coffee and some chocolate chip muffins I packed myself and headed to San Simeon and Hearst Castle.

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The road footage of the previous day was garbage so I made a few modifcations to the camera setup and it worked great. It was a short 10 miles to Hearst Castle so I got there on the very first tour of the day.

Hearst Castle and William Hearst is the inpsiration for Orson Welles’ classic, Citizen Kane. Sadly I missed the evening screening of the film at Hearst Castle last Friday but today will do.

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The castle was donated by the Hearst Corporation to the State of California in 1957 and is now managed by the California State Parks. They do still own the surrounding land where Black Angus cows graze along with zebras who are descendants of the exotic animals that Hearst once populated the area with.

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The house was a continuos project of Hearst and architect Julia Morgan.

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I’ll save the details about the tour for the documentary but on with the road. It was 10am by the time I got back to car and started to set the car back up. Not far from San Simeon are Elephant Seal colonies where I stopped by and took some pictures and video before I set on for the challenge of the day. Big Sur.

Big Sur is the most exciting and deadliest part of California 1 that requires you to check road conditions before setting off as there could be landslides. The fog had moved inland and roads were dry and the sun was out which made for an excellent day to drive up.

The road winds it’s way along the California coast with tight switchbacks and hairpin turns with a suggested speed limit of 20mph. But with the car I was driving I could make the turns at 35-40mph.

Throughout this part of the trip, there were three times where traffic was controlled due to construction. One of the things to keep in mind about the highway is your rearview mirror. There are numerous turnouts for slower cars to use to let faster cars through. Sadly, many drivers don’t know this thus making the trip a lot longer than it should.

After passing these vehicles eventually, it was now time to take note of the damage on the road. Orange traffic cones line the edges of highway marking places where rock slides had destroyed the road recently and taking the steel barriers with it. A huge bridge construction effort is underway thus making us wait for at least 15 minutes before we could pass.

Just last year, the road was closed for seven months due to damage. It’s a sad reality that such a beautiful road is being reclaimed by the sea.

The Mazda RX-3 2012 base model worked perfectly. The front wheel drive of the car enabled ease of turning the corners and just having fun.

California 1 is not a place you would want to drive during the summer. The road is filled with people going back and fourth along with numerous bike tourers. Most bike tours go from north to south which to predominantly downhill coupled with favorable tail winds and the coast on your side, thus making a perfect ride. Being on a bike also provides the opportunity to experience the road like no other. You can stop in the middle of Bixby Bride and enjoy the view. Something you can’t do in car. It’s something I’d like to do but I’ll get into shape first before trying this out. Michael Ballard over at crazyguyonabike.com has a great journal on his trip down the coast in 2010.

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I hit Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey around lunch time and proceeded to Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is home to the famous 17 Mile Drive and Golf Course. It’s a private area thus requiring all vehicles to pay $9.50 to take in the scenery. Bikes get in for free. No motorcycles though.

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The views here are amazing as the Pacific waves crash on the jagged rocks of Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is also home to the world’s most photographed tree. The Lone Cypress tree which is estimated to be 250 years old is also the trademarked tree of Pebble Beach thus making it illegal to photograph the tree for commercial purposes. The tree is actually being held in place by steel cables to prevent it from falling into the ocean. At least the cables aren’t that visible.

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I drove into the tourist area of Moneterey and checked in for the night.

Not far from Monterey is Salinas, birthplace of John Steinbeck and home to the Laguna Seca Racing circuit. But it is over in Monterey where Steinbeck made famous the Cannery Row, where fishing boats that netted the waters of Moneterey Bay docked and sardines were packed until over fishing killed the industry. Now all that remains is a tourist row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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I’ve never been to the aquarium before so I made it a point to visit on this trip. It’s not Sea World, but the collection is still amazing. Their collection of jellyfish and sea horses is just stunning. The aquarium highlights the biodiversity of the Monterey coast (which by the way is a protected area that stretches all the way to San Simeon).

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After I had cioppino for lunch the rain and the wind started to come in. I then made my way to San Francisco up along the 1 since it was a weekday and I knew the traffic that was ahead of me as I drove up the peninsula. This version of the documentary will end here but I will keep adding on to it as I come across more stories and information about the coast.

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