Easily the most beautiful drive I have ever done and am probably ever likely to do. With the exception of the marathons, this has been the biggest adventure yet. Over 800 miles along Highway 101 between San Fransisco and San Diego, uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean and California Coast…bring on the road trip!
Friday 10th November 2017
So we have a car, we have a key, we have a map, now just the small matter of engaging ones foot with the accelerator and we will be off!
I felt a few practice laps of the car park (in America aka the parking lot) were necessary in order to test out the mirrors, road positioning, you know all the general key features of driving before heading down the ramp smack, bang in the middle of this busy city for the first time. I can only imagine what my brother and sister must have been thinking about this choice, but I was excited…a proper American road trip! And, as someone who actually really enjoys driving at the best of times, I was looking forward to it. Thankfully, the kind people at Thrifty had given me an automatic, so gear changes were one less thing to worry about.
First stop, back to Ocean Beach to get to the route leading to Highway 101 and then the long drive towards Monterey, where I would stop for the night. For the first few miles, I must have looked terrified. Americans are stereotypically angry drivers and I did not require horn honks whilst I was getting to grips with the concept of turning right on a red light.
Thankfully, no honks came. The city quickly shrunk away in the rear view mirror and before I knew it, it was just me and the sea. It really was amazing how quickly my brain switched to navigate on the opposite side of the road and within the first half hour or so I felt comfortable enough to put the music on…you know that old rule about how important it is not to have the music on to help you see better and all. My renewed and free subscription to Apple Music (thanks EE) meant I was all set for the road trip playlist essentials and yes, predictable though it is, what else could I be singing along to as I drove through California on day one other than the Beach Boys!?
First up, a stop off at the funky, little beach town of Santa Cruz. A walk along the beach to the boardwalk to stretch the legs, fill up the water bottle and then we were back on the road towards Monterey.
Unfortunately, the slightly later start today because of when I had to pick up the car meant it was now starting to get dark, so I missed the last little part of the view as it was almost 7.30pm by the time I got there.
All checked in at the YHI in Monterey, supper and feeling slightly smug that I’d manage to get here without getting lost, I had planned for an early night.
Day 1 Total Miles = 130
Saturday 11th November 2017
For some reason, maybe worrying about my wheels, I was awake really early, so decided to take full advantage of the short time I’d have in Monterey and go and do some exploring before breakfast.
The best bit…the sun was only just coming up. I couldn’t have planned it any better if I’d tried. What a start to the day…life really doesn’t get much better! Sunrise and morning coffee on the beautiful McAbee beach!
There was not another soul around, just me and the waves… heaven. The beach is for sure my happy place, even on the most miserable of days. I have such fond and happy memories of times spent there when I was wee which is why I think I will always love it so much. So, that said, this part of the trip; almost two weeks of chasing every sunrise and sunset on one of the most beautiful coasts in the world in thee Sunshine State really was going to be my paradise. I know, I can’t really rub it in any more. Still no matter how hard I try, or how pretty the pictures are, they cant quite describe the views and do it justice.
Just as I was leaving, an elderly man walking his dog came by and said to me, “that noise (meaning the sound of the sea) is better than any rock music you’ll ever hear” and I have to say I will always agree! There’s definitely something so peaceful about being by the water. Once I could tear myself away from the gorgeous view, a little walk down Cannery row, then on to the aquarium and all before 9am.
Pancake breakfast, courtesy of the hostel and now to make the short drive to Carmel-on-Sea. Another scenic little beach town, just beautiful. The recommended time for this trip is 4 to 5 days, but I’m so glad I had longer as it meant I could stop off at each of these little places along the way and enjoy them properly.
Next up, was what was definitely my most favourite part of the route…Big Sur; the most breathtaking stretch of coast with rugged cliffs and winding turns. Unfortunately, because of a recent land slide, part of the road here was closed which meant you couldn’t follow the whole route along the coast to the next stop, but instead had to make a little ‘U-turn’. Still, what I’d say were the best parts were still opened to be enjoyed so I couldn’t grumble about the little bit of extra driving.
There were viewing points galore, and today made for some of the most stunning sights I’ve ever seen. Bixby Creek Bridge marked the official start of the entry in to Big Sur. It was like something straight from a post card, so beautiful, it almost didn’t seem real.
Around 20 miles further along the road, the beautiful Julia Pfeifer Burns Park where McWay Falls, a pretty little waterfall that runs on to the beach, was hidden just a short walk from the road.
Here marked the end of the road in terms of how far along I could take the car, so time to turn around and make my way to my accommodation for the night, a Motel in San Luis Obispo. It worked out as the cheapest accommodation for the night and I’d never stayed in a motel before, so I can add this to the list of new experiences to tick off the list.
Day 2 Total Miles = 184
Sunday 12th November 2017
Well, I’m always up for trying new things and now we have tried the motel experience and I’m happy to have made my peace with that. It is unlikely I will feel the need to do it again. Not because it was awful or scary but it’s just very strange sleeping somewhere that is right on the main road, tricky to explain but just not my favourite.
Anyway, what caused me the most amusement today was trying to fill up the car. With fuel of course,but what fuel?…that was the question!
Being a little silly and not thinking to ask this pretty essential and basic question when I collected it, hindsight being a wonderful thing, made for a little scramble around for the manual and receipts to try and find some clues. Mr Google informed me that a diesel pump would not fit in a petrol one, so you couldn’t really go wrong there but you could put petrol in a diesel car. Oh help!Thrifty, of course choosing now as a good time not to answer my calls, just great.
There was only one thing for it, call upon the help of Richard and Hyacinth, who were of course finding my whole predicament most amusing. And try as they did, they were of no help really (sorry guys) being some umpty thousand miles away, even when they did try to phone customer services to kindly ask on my behalf. Heroes!
Thankfully, the very kind man who ran the motel came to the rescue. He told me to drive to the garage (right next door) and he would come and meet me and help. And help he did!
From opening the petrol cap (yes, we have now worked out it is petrol!) to taking me inside, introducing me to the sales assistant and practically showing me how to use the chip and pin machine. This was of course after a whole tour of the forecourt, colour coding system and all. It was as if filling up a car with fuel was a completely foreign concept to me. Whilst I am making fun, I was in fact genuinely very grateful and it did make me think about just how many genuinely kind some people are. As he said cheerio, he wished me well, gave me some directions to my next stop and said that by helping me, I had made him feel better about his day. If only more people were like him.
A short drive to Cayucos, made for another morning walk along a beautiful beach and pier. I could get used to this.
Still no running today as part of my week off for recovery which made the perfect excuse to stop in at the taffy shop… salt water taffy in every flavour imaginable… and for breakfast! Mmm, mmm, mmm! A few pieces were devoured on the way back to the car. The rest, I saved a whole 60 minutes for the rest of the drive.
This was the only stop off for the day as it was a bit of a shorter drive on the whole. Next up, Santa Barbara.
Day 3 Total Miles = 100
Monday 13th November 2017
Having developed the slight touch of a sniffle, resuming training was postponed until the end of the week, just to be on the safe side. The recent marathon meant this wouldn’t actually do any harm to my progress, infact sometimes a little extra time off can be a good thing. I did make some time for yoga and core in the morning though before leaving the hostel.
Santa Barbara was just beautiful. A really gorgeous town with beaches and palm trees galore. I spent the morning wandering around the little shops in the Old Town and the afternoon at the Harbour and Pier. In the evening, a little stop off at West Beach to watch the beautiful sunset.
Day 4 Total Miles = 0
Tuesday 14th November 2017
East beach is apparently one of the preferred spots for the locals (according to Lonely Planet). There is a walkway/ cycle path connecting East and West beach and I was sorry not to be training as it would have made for a beaut of a run! A morning walk along the beach instead and a little stop off at the cafe to get a coffee, where plenty of the locals were doing their trendy California breakfast thing, before pitching up to watch the waves for a while.
Just before lunch time I made my way out to Arroyo Burro Beach, the only beach in Santa Barbara where dogs are allowed to go, so I got my little woofy fix for the day. The beauty of having a car meant it was really easy to get to stops that perhaps would have been more difficult otherwise. And another beautiful sunset in the evening before heading back to cook dinner.
Day 5 Total Miles = 20
Wednesday 15th November 2017
Last morning in Santa Barbara. A little stop off for coffee at State Street Coffee. Enough to wake me up and fuel me on my way to Malibu.
Malibu beach was as expected, stunning! And a lovely spot to sit and watch the surfers. They make it look sooo easy. Learning is definitely on my list. I don’t imagine it can be easy but I’m saving that until I hit Oz.
Next, Santa Monica, with plenty of photo stops along the way. The famous Santa Monica pier, complete with Ferris wheel and iconic Route 66 sign, marking what is the end of the well known road trip. I’ve mostly been eating/cooking in the hostels, the reason being you simply can’t afford to eat out for every meal when you are travelling for this long, and it means you stick to being mostly healthy, but maybe once or twice in the week I will treat myself to a meal out. Today I decided to treat myself to dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp, made famous from the movie Forrest Gump. Shrimp by the bucket load and all of the sides…delicious!
A little chill on yet another beach, no, I’m not fed up yet! And then a walk around the town before making my way to Podshare, a very trendy ‘pod’ style hostel that was advertised as an Air B’n’B to pitch up for the night. The rest of the evening was spent writing a good chunk of my NYC blog seeing as there were Mac computers available to use….must find a new method for keeping up to date! All these adventures are getting in the way.
Day 6 Total Miles = 97
Thursday 16th November 2017
Next up, the big drive to San Diego. The road trip traditionally ends in Los Angeles, but given that I’ve got some extra time, I’m first heading South to see another little part of the country. I got there fairly early and so it left plenty of time for some sightseeing before being able to check in at the hostel. I was staying at a hostel right by the beach and it had such a quirky, laid back feel to it, perfect location.
After I was all settled I headed out to one of the local bars with a lovely Brazilian girl I had met. The Americans love a bar tournament, whether it be flip cup, beer pong or something else just as random and we happened to wander in to the bar that held weekly goldfish races. Two custom made long, narrow tanks on either side the top of the bar, filled with water. Each competitor is given a straw and the aim is to get your goldfish to the finish line first. For the animal lovers amongst you, don’t worry, no gold fishes were harmed during participation in this game…and if they were, well, they don’t remember it.
Day 7 Total Miles = 137
Friday 17th November 2017
A busy, jam- packed day, making the most of the last non-training day for a while. The immense Balboa Park in the morning. So much to see, you could literally spend the whole weekend wandering there and still not have seen it all; museums, cafés, fountains, all of the sights.
Then on to the Old Town to explore some of the historic buildings and features of the State Park. Just a shame I wasn’t hungry as there were lots of Mexican restaurants here that looked great!
In the afternoon I visited the little seaside area of la Jolla, made famous for the seals and rock pools along its coastline. Second in the international rules of being at the seaside being that you must eat ice cream, (first, obviously that you must build a sandcastle!) I treated myself to a rather delicious ice cream cone to enjoy whilst I made some new friends… only my second of the trip so far I think!
Finally to top off what had been a brilliant day of sight seeing, I visited Callibro National Monument at Point Loma. Forever chasing the sun, and reading that this was the best point to catch a view of the city and sunset all in one go, I reluctantly paid the $10 entry fee. It definitely didn’t disappoint though. The view from the lighthouse overlooking the city was special to say the least.
Day 8 Total Miles = 40
Saturday 18th November 2017
“You stay classy San Diego!”
Well San Diego, you’ve been swell, but for now it’s time to get to LA! Spending most part of the morning driving, I was a little anxious about hitting Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday, right in the middle of day, however it was actually grand. No disasters. Free parking at the hostel, smashing!
A bit like NYC, being lucky enough to have visited before, I didn’t have too much in the way of the touristy stuff on my list but instead wanted to explore some of the places it was easier to get to having some wheels. In the afternoon, seeing as it was nearby, a little wander along Hollywood Boulevard, stock up on the old shopping and do a little sightseeing.
But, oh dear! Disaster! Well not quite. Excited to get back on the training train today and discover I’ve misplaced my Garmin charger somewhere along the way…and it’s dead! What am I going to do? I’ll just need to wing it and hope I can find another one. What should be 40 minutes easy coming right up. Easy enough to work out time wise by my phone for this session I guess, could always be worse!
Day 9 Total Miles = 133
Sunday 19th November 2017
“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everyone that comes to Hollywood got a dream!”…name that movie!
75 minute run, 25 minutes easy with the last 50 minutes as sets of 2/1/30s efforts. This was a little bit harder to juggle on the phone clock but I tried my best. No idea of distance but my legs felt great, probably due to all the extra rest and recovery over the past few days.
Following training, a little stop off this morning in the one and only Beverly Hills. I’m glad I’m not staying here right enough. Im sure there really would be no comparison between my hostel and the Regent Beverly Wiltshire anyways. But if only I could find Richard Gere and his credit card for that shopping trip on Rodeo!
Compulsory trip to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. The slices were so big, I didn’t actually need any ‘real’ food other than this piece of peanut butter, caramel and chocolate deliciousness!
In the afternoon, a little drive out to Venice beach. A little cool to sit for too long but I had a lovely wee walk and paddle in the sea.
And to top off the day, after dinner I visited Griffith observatory in Griffith Park…California’s gateway to the cosmos and the most incredible view of the city from the observatory.
Day 10 Total Miles = 25
Monday 20th November 2017
I cannot believe it is my last full day in America already. Where have the last seven weeks gone?
Brunch on Sunset Boulevard and then to ‘Hike the Hills’ to the Hollywood sign, or at least as close as I could get to it. Because of the recent fires, some of parts of some of the routes were closed meaning I couldn’t quite hike up to the area behind the sign where I was hoping to go. I did manage most of the Canyon Trail though which should have been around 10K in its entirety but cut short to around 4. It still made for great views and it was pretty cool to see a lot of the locals homes and neighbourhoods up in the hills along the way.
Day 11 Total Miles = 10
Tuesday 21st November 2017
Total road trip miles = 876
Wawh! The first big part of my adventure has come to an end all too quickly.
Although I am super excited about what the next part might have in store, I am a little sad to leave the States behind. Lots of very special memories made, not forgetting some special bling earned. Fun times!
Traditional US breakfast of pancakes…(the blueberry ones are healthy right?) and the last few hours of California sunshine back at Venice and Muscle Beach made for the perfect way to spend my last few hours on US soil.
My flight later in the evening from LAX meant this was close enough by to make my way easily to the airport. I returned my car to Thrifty back at the airport…thanks for keeping me safe over the past few weeks. I really feel like I have accomplished something doing this road trip!
I look forward to seeing those stars and stripes again come April, all going well.
And just like that… America, we are done!