United States of America · 4 Days · 10 Moments · August 2018

PCH with Mom and Grandma


21 August 2018

We made it over to Interstate 5 that evening, and for as far south as a tiny town called Kettleman City, where we got a brand new room in a cheap (but freshly-renovated) motel. After a restful night of sleep, we got up and had breakfast, and the only other major stop until we arrived in Phoenix was a detour through Tujunga (outside LA), where grandma was born and lived until college! We drove around the old neighborhood and found the house she grew up in! The house has a tall wooden fence around parts of it now, but we all walked into the yard and saw the pond and pathway her dad had built and the place where she pressed her hand into the wet concrete in 1949!! Definitely well worth the detour, and a wonderful way to end the family trip :)

20 August 2018

Our last stop before heading back south was at a tiny town about 20 minutes north of Santa Cruz called Davenport. Nearly everything there was closed, but after a short walk and a hop across some railroad tracks, you start encountering “Danger Steep Cliffs” signs. The cliffs are huge and amazing! You can walk along the windswept, flat tops and look over the edge to see the ocean crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below! The only place I’ve seen bigger or more spectacular cliffs was at Moher in Ireland, so these are really awesome and we were the only ones there!!
After the Mystery Spot, we headed to Natural Bridges State Beach. The beach is a really awesome area where the erosion from the ocean has carved a huge arch into a bridge in the water. We planned to relax there for a while and read, but I ended up wandering around and discovering lots of awesome tide pools with crabs, colorful green anemones, and a few vibrant purple sea urchins! After we’d had our fill of the beach and we’re getting hungry, we drove into town to make a stop at mom’s favorite pizza place from when she lived there: Pizza My Heart
We woke up, had a nice leisurely breakfast buffet at the hotel (the had messed up our check-in, so we got free breakfast!), packed up the car, and headed to our next adventure—the Mystery Spot. The Mystery Spot is a little tourist-trap-y attraction just outside of Santa Cruz, but I have to say it was well worth it!! Our tour guide, Fergus, was great and so punny, and told us the story of how gravity was different on this one hillside full of redwoods. No one knows why it’s different, but theories range from aliens, to weird volcanic activity, to shared hallucination because of gas coming from the ground. The cabin is set at an angle and there are a series of demonstrations that “prove” the weird gravitational forces at play. Some of the demonstrations were pretty mind-blowing, and it really was a great time!

19 August 2018

Later in the afternoon, we took a brief stop in Monterey for some frozen yogurt, then continued on to Santa Cruz! We took the evening to explore the boardwalk and fair that’s there, and mom and I rode the 5th-oldest roller coaster in America! Afterwards (note: not before the rollercoaster), grandma and I shared some deep fried Oreos—I’d never had them before and they are delicious!!! Finally, we took a walk to the end of the wharf, where we admired the local sea lions barking and had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. After a night of great conversation and food, we headed home to crash for the night.
After seeing the seals, we kept driving up BEAUTIFUL state route 1 and stopped at a little place at the south tip of Big Sur called Ragged Point. According to our CA tour guide (my mom), it used to be just an ice cream stand on top of a cliff with a steep trail down to a little beach at the bottom. The trail is still there, and it is still steep, but the ice cream stand has turned into a big resort! After some exploring and climbing, we continued our trip north, stopping every few miles to admire the scenery. We found a spot where a short trek on an overgrown path along the top of a cliff led to an overlook with seals on a rock below, and a small restaurant at one stop featured a garden with some crazy-looking plants!
We left the motel and drove into Cambria for breakfast at the Redwood Cafe. After a nice meal and conversation about biased news, we drove north through slowly-lifting fog to reach our first stop: the elephant seal rookery! These animals are so big and loud and make the grossest guttural burping noises—they’re really cool to see! There were relatively few seals there because of the time of year, but we saw plenty lounging on the beach and lazily fighting each other in the water and on the sand. The big ones with silly noses in the pictures are males, and the smaller ones are females!
After arriving in San Simeon and realizing that we probably didn’t bring enough warm clothes to be comfortable, we headed out to brave the CA August cold and watch the sunset on the beach. The ocean was gorgeous and people had built really cool driftwood structures there, so played photographer for a while. After dinner we had a nice relaxing night of eating delivery pizza and watching master chef in the motel.

18 August 2018

We left Phoenix on Friday morning and drove about 7 hours to our motel in Canoga Park (Northwest LA area). We checked in, and then decided to take a drive up over the mountains on highway 27 (Topanga Canyon) to the ocean to have dinner and watch the sunset. I don’t have any pictures of the drive that evening, but it was windy, fast, and fun, and the views from the road were beautiful! The next day, we woke up and drove up Mulholland Drive over to Highway 1, and started up the coast! We stopped for a while to walk on the beach in Malibu (Grandma discovered that she could still run on the beach at 80!!!) From there, we headed north to the Santa Barbara area and stopped for a bit to explore Carpinteria, a small beach town that advertises “The Safest Beach in America”. We tried some apparently famous mint chocolate patties and continued our drive north!

17 August 2018

From Santa Barbara, we actually made a wrong turn and ended up on on highway 101 instead of along the coast. We made the most of it, stopped and bought some fresh strawberries at the rate of “a whole bunch for $5” and ended up in a small town called Los Alamos for lunch. The town felt to me like a mix of Wild West and sort of upscale wine, which was interesting, but I guess that’s probably true for a lot of small CA towns? We ate delicious vegetarian lunch in a restaurant there and then headed back towards highway 1 and the coast. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving north towards our motel in San Simeon, stopping along the way to admire the beautiful coastline!