Friday, July 22, 2011

Road Trip: California (Part 1)

Josh had some leave to use before his deployment begins, so we decided to take a road trip we have been discussing since long before we moved to San Diego. We wanted to drive up the coast of California to San Francisco and see the sights. We had a pretty fantastic time and I would recommend the trip to anyone who is considering it. 

California is obviously a HUGE state, but what never ceases to amaze me is how many different types of landscapes that you can find here. As we were driving cross country during our most recent move, I kept waiting to see the "desert." Josh informed me that we were (in fact) in the middle of the desert and had been for several hours. I was a little confused (Where was all the sand? Why are there so many plants and green things?) and really disappointed because I was expecting the Sonoran Desert to be more like the Sahara. I was pretty bitter about the lack of sand (and camels if we are being honest), but the saving grace for the Sonoran is the fantastic saguaro

My Dad always watched westerns when I was growing up, and the saguaro cactus was in pretty much all of them.  As a child, I had always seen the saguaro but never noticed them. As an adult, I was mesmerized by them. Who knew they were THAT big? Josh is never surprised (sometimes irritated maybe) by the things I'm fascinated with, so he kindly let me take a short detour (which he pretends took all day) to the Saguaro National Park. It's a beautiful park even more so when the desert in in bloom, just watch out for rattlesnakes. As soon as we drove into California, what appeared? A real desert. Seriously. Miles of dunes. No plants. Very Sahara (minus the camels). I was pretty excited. I digress. 

That said, California also has some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline I've ever seen. You can live in a myriad of different climates or cities, all with a different feel. Part of the reason I wanted to take the road trip was to experience all of these different places. We started the trip driving up through Laguna Beach into Malibu. Josh and I had dinner at Duke's while we were on Waikiki on our honeymoon, so we wanted to have lunch there. Gray enjoyed the booth and the coloring. He didn't really care about the valet or the scenery. 

Coloring at Duke's 
Naturally we had to stop by the Malibu pier to check out the waves. Josh wasn't pleased that he left his board(s) at home because the waves were awesome. I was more interested in the people walking around and thinking how much this view reminded me of Baywatch. 
Malibu pier
We drove to Slovang after lunch at Duke's. This fun little town is just north of Santa Barbara (which is amazing and I want to move there). Slovang is basically a small (English speaking) Danish town in the middle of Southern California's wine country. Solvang has plenty of Dutch architecture and little pastry shops and Dutch food. We could have even had a smorgasbord at one restaurant. I wanted to try that, so I could sing Templeton's song (Charlotte's Web anyone?) to Josh and Gray. Josh passed.
Solvang, CA
Post-dinner sillies 
The next morning, we got back on the road. We had every intention of seeing Hearst Castle, but apparently it's a big fan favorite so we were going to have to wait 2 hours to see it. Not happening. We decided to get lunch at a place the woman at the front desk suggested and get back on the road. This is a glimpse of the less impressive scenery along Hwy 1. 
HWY 1 from the windshield. 
There are a million places you can pull over and take pictures, have a picnic, etc on the road to Carmel by the Sea along Hwy 1. We pulled over for photos just off the road many times along the way, but had to park and walk a few minutes to see this fantastic waterfall. McWay Falls "drops 84 feet off a cliff onto the beach nestled in a pretty little cove." It's amazing and I never wanted to leave. 
McWay Falls
Wikipedia tells me that Bixby Bridge is "one of the most photographed features on the West Coast" because of it's location along the scenic Central Coast of California, and has frequently been used in automobile commercials." I think it is quite scenic but I also think it's very windy. Not as cool as McWay Falls, but very pretty to look at for 3-4 minutes.
Bixby Bridge. Big Sur, CA
We spend one night in Carmel by the Sea then we drove through San Francisco (across the bay bridge) to the Muir Woods National Monument.  The redwoods are amazing. The park is the most peaceful place I've ever been. I told Josh I could see why the elves (in Lord of the Rings) chose to live here. hehe

Seriously, with all the people in there walking around, you would think it would be loud and obnoxious (even though you are outside) but it is seriously the most serene, beautiful place I've ever been. If they would let me move into the middle of the park, I'd pack my pillow and head north. 

I found no less than 4 places I wanted to move to while we were on this trip BTW.

Apparently before logging began in California, there were approximately 2 million acres of old growth forest with redwoods. Now there are few old growth forests remaining and approximately 240 acres of old growth forest is protected within the national park thanks to the generosity of a couple who bought the land to protect it and eventually donated it to the federal government in 1907. Was that a runonsentence? Becauseitfeltlikeit. 
Muir Woods National Monument
This post is taking way too long, so I'm going to split it into two posts. Check back in the next few days for the rest of our California road trip! 


  1. Sounds so fun and looks so pretty! I so need to come visit you, probably not happening so very soon with the new monkey here and all, but I want to!!

  2. What a wonderful, wonderful trip. I love all the pictures and everything was so beautiful. Y'all planned a great vacation. Gray is so lucky to be seeing all these amazing places. I agree, Muir Woods is one of the most peaceful places on Earth. I want to take Claudia some day. I can't wait to see more pics!