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Two Weeks Along the Californian Coast

Meredith & Jaff

California Dreaming

My hubby Jaff and I had never been any further west in the US than Wyoming and Colorado, respectively, but we both craved an adventure out there before life gets too complicated to just pick up and go! We toyed around with the idea of visiting California, but our excitement really grew when Jaff’s cousin and wife told us tales of their recent honeymoon up Route 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH for short).

Wise Words of Advice
One main “lesson learned” that they passed on to us was to drive north to south in order to be on the “right” side of the road for all the views and scenic pull-offs. So, that is where the seed of traveling two weeks south down the PCH together was first planted.

The Stresses of Planning
Planning was overwhelming at first. Where should we go? What must we see? And for how long? The possibilities were endless! I polled all of the people in my life who had a California connection and searched Pinterest boards about Cali travel and the PCH specifically. Together we brainstormed our priorities. I have a friend in San Francisco and a cousin in LA, so that helped mark out the two end points. All the rest came together (somehow) and looking back now, the nuts and bolts of the days turned out something like this:

Trolly Meredith
Our Itinerary
Tues, Sept 15:
  • Flew into San Francisco
  • Walked Lombard “The Crookedest Street,”
  • Visited Coit Tower
Full house house
Wed, Sept 16: (San Fran) 
  • Enjoyed a long walk to the “Full House” house
  • Took a ferry to the Alcatraz audio tour (moving!)
Thur, Sept 17: (San Fran) 
  • Went on a trolley car ride (SO FUN!)
  • Went to the Presidio
  • Crissy Field picnic near the Golden Gate Bridge (delish sandwiches from Rhea’s in the Mission district)
Fri, Sept 18: (San Fran to Monterey) 
  • Drove over Golden Gate through the Headlands
  • Stopped in Santa Cruz for lunch on the pier
  • Ended at Lover’s Point in Monterey (sunset and beer on the rocks)
Sat, Sept 19: (Monterey) 
  • Drove the beautiful “17-Mile Drive” (saw the Lonely Cypress)
  • Point Lobos nature preserve (saw a whale flip it’s tale – Jaff has it on video)
  • Fisherman’s Warf happy hour

Sun, Sept 20: (Monterey to San Luis Obispo)

  • Drove Big Sur (too many beautiful things to describe)
  • Toured Hearst Castle (over the top)
  • Stayed at the Madonna Inn (over the top)
Mon, Sept 21: (Traveling) 
  • Drove from San Luis Obispo to Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Sequoia National Park (7 hours due to fire that caused road closures on our route)
Tues, Sept 22: (Sequoia NP) 
  • Saw the General Grant Tree (BIG!)
  • Saw the General Sherman Tree (BIGGER! the largest tree in the world)
  • Toured Crystal Cave
Wed, Sept 23: (Traveling) 
  • Drove from Sequoia NP through Los Padres National Park (nature looked thirsty) to Santa Barbara (classic palm-tree-lines streets)
Thur, Sept 24: (Santa Barbara) 
  • Toured historic Courthouse (amazing 360 view)
  • Enjoyed a swim and the sun at Leadbetter Beach
Santa Monica Pier
Fri, Sept 25: (Santa Barbara to LA) 
  • Drove through Malibu, visited Santa Monica pier (we rode the Ferris Wheel!)
  • Entered LA (1.5 hours to drive 13 miles)
Sat, Sept 26: (LA) 
  • Went to neighborhood farmer’s market
  • Went to Hollywood Blvd with Walk of Fame
  • Saw famous hand and foot prints at the Chinese Theatre
Seth Bogart
Sun, Sept 27: (LA) 
  • Attended Seth Bogart pop art show downtown
  • Drove through Beverly Hills/Melrose/Rodeo
  • Hung out at Venice Beach (eww)
  • Rooftop sunset at Erwin
  • Attended the Neil Hamberger comedy show (surprise appearance by Reggie Watts)
  • Saw the super blood moon eclipse
Mon, Sept 28: (LA) 
  • Experienced Le Brea tar pits (stinky) & outdoor at LACMA (cool lamppost installation)
  • Strolled through the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  • Ate at O Banh Mi (I still dream about my sandwich)
  • Griffith Park & Griffith Observatory (the view: so beautiful, also smoggy)
Tues, Sept 29: (LA) 
  • Went to El Pueblo (oldest homestead in LA)
  • Grand Central Market (tasty pupussas!)
  • Scott Rankie show at Melody Lounge in Chinatown
Wed, Sept 30:
  • Flew out of LAX mid-day and headed back east

Meredith Cali

My Reflections 

Although here it looks like SO MUCH, we really did have plenty of time to sleep in, take a siesta, and do nothing if we wanted. Maybe the most remarkable thing about the whole trip was the amount of TIME we actually had on our hands. People are always saying, “there’s no time!” but we found it in Cali!
Before we left, I wondered if we were being selfish or gluttonous in taking almost 3 full weeks away from work. The Pacific Coast Highway could be done in a day or two, for sure, but we really wanted to experience these places. We wanted to see, touch and smell some of these places that are so prevalent on TV, in movies, and in our collective unconscious that you almost feel like you’ve already been there. But we’d never been to any of these place before. We’d never seen any of these sights. We’d never breathed the air so far west or dipped our toes into that Pacific Ocean. This trip was a real first.
When anyone asks, “What was your favorite part?” I realize there was no one thing or place. It was all new, impressive, and beautiful. What comes to mind was the amount of time we had to really soak it up. To stop as many times as we wanted along beautiful Route 1. To linger, watching the sun change from setting, to twilight, to dusk, to night from an Adirondack chair at 8,000 feet or from our towel in the sand at sea level (both happened). To sit in silence without worry or wonder if there’s something that needs saying, because there was plenty of time.
Spending a couple of nights everywhere was a great decision, too. It meant really settling into our rooms and making ourselves at home while we drove here or there during the day. Especially in LA (5 days) we had a great 2-bedroom cottage with an awesome 3-season porch overlooking the city with a view of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign. There, we bought groceries and made meals, hosted friends, drank late into the night, washed laundry, and escaped the heat (it was 90’s every day).
California Meredith
Carpe Diem! 

Yes, time was truly the gift. I can’t remember the last time (maybe middle school before summer jobs and reading lists) when 2 weeks stretched out before me with nothing I HAD to do. Almost no responsibilities. It was summer vacation with each morning asking us, “What will you do today?” What a blessing. Looking back now, even though I was very disciplined about stopping to appreciate where I was in the moment…to breathe in and say a little prayer of gratefulness before breathing out…even though I was aware every day of the preciousness of each moment, it still feels like a dream now. Like, maybe that didn’t actually all happen to me. Was that me, in these memories? Were those all real people we encountered? Does life still tick by out there without us to witness it?

Luckily, Jaff and I really went for it with pictures, so we can prove we had all of these amazing experiences. My body told the tale of the food and drink I’d experienced when I returned home 5 pounds heavier than when I’d left! Oh, the “Summer of Yes” sure did go out with a bang! 

And now I can honestly say I’m ready for the shift in seasons. Bring it on, Fall!