Day 4 – We left Scotts Valley for the last time. Our destination was Cayucos, a small coastal town near Cambria. We picked this town because it was on Route 1, on the beach, cheap and looked like a nice place to stay. Ideally we wanted to stay in Cambria or San Simeon, but everything there was ridiculously expensive. Normally getting there would mean driving south down the famous Route 1 alongside the Pacific coast, but due to the landslide in May, the road was closed in sections, making it impossible to take this route. (Very disappointing as it was a bucketlist item). Instead we had to take Route 101, which runs inland in a South Easterly direction all the way towards Templeton, where the road branches onto Route 46 towards the coast.
Note: If viewing on a mobile or tablet device, the photos can be tapped into and swiped off the screen. 🙂
It was hot as hell that day, 42.7C (109F). Very toasty, but fortunately we had a lovely air conditioned car (truck). Our 2017 Ford Expedition Limited EL was growing on us. Yes it was huge, but so were many other cars on the road. I felt safe behind the wheel. Parking was initially a pain in the arse, because I was not use to having just a rear camera and reverse parking sensor. Our car at home has sensors and cameras all around, which makes life a lot easier.
Jo discovered an awesome feature on the front console, namely a button that turns on the air conditioned front seats. They made the seats icy cold and were amazing, especially after one got into the car after being out in the heatwave. I read the car could auto-start somehow, which would have been awesome if I could have figured out how to use it. In practice this looks to be an excellent feature and would be most welcome here in the UK in the cold winter months. We could start the car, switch on the heated seats and defrost the windows well before we got into it. (Nissan I hope you are reading this, although don’t bother, our next car will be a Tesla Model X when we win the lottery). 😉
The drive South along Route 101 was uneventful. All the towns and villages were off the highway and we weren’t stopping. Route 101 is one of the last remaining and longest U.S. routes still active in the state and the longest highway of any kind in California. I am not quite sure when we noticed them, but every couple of miles there was a pole holding up a bell and a signpost saying “Historic El Camino Real“.
It turns out Between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of religious outposts from today’s Baja California and Baja California Sur into present-day California. To facilitate overland travel, mission settlements were approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) apart, so that they were separated by one long day’s ride on horseback along the 600-mile (966-kilometer) long El Camino Real (Spanish for “The Royal Highway,” though often referred to in the later embellished English translation, “The King’s Highway”), and also known as the California Mission Trail. In 1892, Anna Pitcher of Pasadena, California initiated an effort to preserve the as-yet un commemorated route of Alta California’s Camino Real/ Modern El Camino Real was one of the first state highways in California. Given the lack of standardized road signs at the time, it was decided to place distinctive bells along the route, hung on supports in the form of an 11-foot (3.4 m) high shepherd’s crook, also described as “a Franciscan walking stick.”
Source: Wikipedia – El Camino Real (California), Bell photo taken by Ewen Denney.
Since there was this Spanish theme happening along the road we decided to stop at the historic mission of San Miguel, where we took a few photos and moved on.
At Templeton we turned right onto Route 46 and immediately the scenery changed to vineyards on either side of the road and it became a lot more hilly. It was very dry, not surprisingly from all the heat. Despite the dryness there was some wonderful scenery on each side of the road and at one point a beautiful vista of rolling hills appeared, with the sea in the distance.
We stopped on the side of the road at a large pull off and admired the breathtaking view.
We joined Route 1 again near the coast and drove into Cambria, which surprisingly was no where near the sea. By now the car was almost empty so I pulled into a gas station and went about filling up, which was not as simple as it was in the UK. As a foreigner one has to go into the shop, hand over your credit card and guess how much gasoline you want to buy. Not knowing what to say as I didn’t know the size of the tank I said, “90 dollars please“, thinking it would never reach that much. How wrong was I? It reached $83.77 and clicked for full. I got it almost spot on. Still at $3 a gallon one can’t grumble. Fuel was so cheap.
We carried on up the coast on Route 1 past San Simeon. There was nothing special about this small holiday resort either. It was on the other side of the road (not closest to the sea) and looked nothing like the photos. We were so glad that we had not booked to stay at either Cambria or San Simeon. A few miles up the road we pulled into a parking lot overlooking the bay. There were quite a lot of people standing at a viewing deck looking out towards the beach and for good reason. On the sand were hundreds of elephant seals.
Most of the elephant seals were massive in size, covered with mud and were just lazing about in the heat. Others were a lot smarter and lazing on the water’s edge, letting the small waves crash over them, while others were playing in the sea together. The two we spotted in the water were having a tussle and they looked huge. There were loads of seabirds as well. Quite a spectacle.
After giving a donation to the friends of the elephant seals, we headed on towards Ragged Point, which was a couple of miles up the road. We knew the road was closed a few miles beyond that, because of the landslides, but with time on our hands we figured we’d drive as far as we could. It was at this moment that I thought about putting my GoPro 4 Hero camera to good use by attaching it to the bonnet of the car. If only I had some way of switching it on and off when I wanted to, but alas, I didn’t have a remote for it. (something I would regret the whole trip as it meant I would have to get out the car to start or stop it, nor did I know when the battery was flat so had to regularly check on that as well). First short video is below. There will be more as I edit some of the 360GB of video footage 🙁
The road started off flat and straight with the beautiful calm Pacific ocean on one side and the rolling hills and mountains on the other side. Once in the mountains the road became more winding as we gained elevation. The views though were spectacular around each corner or hairpin bend.
At Ragged Point we stopped for lunch. Man, it was hot there, despite being right on the coast. There was no let up with the heatwave. Whilst buying a bottle of water, the shop assistant told me it had been the hottest day ever and he had worked there for over twenty years. It was too hot to sit outside, although it would have been lovely had it been cooler, so we opted to sit inside under a large fan, which made no difference. Still we enjoyed a lovely meal. Afterwards we explored the lovely gardens that ran along the top of the cliffs. The views were incredible on both sides.
Driving back down Route 1 we caught a better view of Piedras Blancas lighthouse and a rock that looked very much like the Sphinx (from a certain angle). We also noticed thousands of birds flying in a large circle centimeters off the water.
Cayucos was our final stop for the day as we were spending the night there. It sits between Cambria to the north and Morro Bay to the south. The town looks like it is stuck in the past, which is not a bad thing. There were plenty of motels, inns and hotels on either side of the high street as well as bars, shops and a biscuit shop. Route 1 ran right through the town. We stayed at Cayucos Beach Inn and it was set off the road. It was really nice! Cayucos had a lovely beach running both directions for miles and long pier that jutted out into the sea.
In our next post we head East along Route 41 towards the town of Three Rivers and then into Sequoia National Park, so it was farewell to the west coast for a while.