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Monday, November 13, 2023

Coastal California - Big Sur, Carmel-By-The-Sea And The Pacific Coast Highway

Have you ever had the opportunity to behold the stunning views of coastal California, including Big Sur, Carmel-By-The-Sea and The Pacific Coast Highway?

Before you go on your amazing journey to this absolutely gorgeous stretch of California click here to make sure your car is ready for the road trip.

2022 Cross Country Road Trip Stop 15

When we first started planning our cross country road trip, one of the top things on Sandie's bucket list was traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1). I thought it sounded fun and a little scary knowing that the road is very narrow in spots and has lots of sharp curves around high cliffs with no guard rails. But taking it slow is all you have to do to be safe and we definitely wanted to take it slow and enjoy the beautiful sights.

We drove this picturesque road to get to Big Sur Campground & Cabins. This would be our home for the next four days. We were more than happy when we got to our campsite in the middle of the giant Redwoods.

We grilled pizza for a quick dinner.

Then went to Saturday evening mass at St. Francis of the Redwoods. We were early so there was no one else around. We started to wonder if we were in the right place on the right day.

We looked around the grounds of the tiny church as we waited to see if anyone was going to show up. We wondered who the talented sculptor was that carved these beautiful wood statues.

Finally the priest and a handful of parishioners showed up. There were only about 20 parishioners who were probably the same people that come to this church on the first and third Saturday of each month. We stuck out like sore thumbs in this Spanish-speaking community. The pastor realized that we didn't understand a word of Spanish and  it was so nice and thoughful of him to translate his homily in English for us.

The church was unlike any we have ever been in and the whole experience was wonderful and will be one of our favorite memories of this road trip.

Our plan for our first full day of this stop was Point Lobos State Natural Preserve located off of Hwy 1 in Carmel.

We combined several different trails to make a loop.

We made sure our hike included the trail with the incredible views of the coast along the Pacific Ocean.

We hiked the South Plateau Trail to get to Bird Island. 

We would find Pelican Point on Bird Island. We never saw pelicans in the wild before. And to see so many was incredible!

And we also made sure to we hiked Sea Lion Point Trail to possibly see dolphins, sea lions and otters. We saw sea lions but we couldn't get a good picture of them. They were too far away. Sandie took a video which showed movement but you would only know they were sea lions if she told you. But the scenery was incredible so worth the hike here.

After our hike in Point Lobos we made our way to the city of Carmel-By-The-Sea which was only 4 miles north of us. We parked on Torres St. where three of the over 20 Fairy-Tale Cottages are. This one is the Hansel Cottage.

GOOD TO KNOW: Be sure to pick up the guide to the Fairy-Tale Cottages at the Visitor Center. Inside the guide you will find a map to use on your cottage tour.

Then we walked around the city.

We shopped in a few stores before heading back to the campground and calling it a day, a really beautiful day!

The plan for day three was to find a beach to relax at. The beach closest to our campground was at Andrew Molera State Park. .

The beach was a little disappointing because it wasn't as beautiful as we thought it would be after everything else we saw on this stop so far. We were intrigued, though, by the wooden huts people made for shade and for hanging their clothes and other things on. 

The bathrooms were at the parking lot which was about a mile hike away from the beach, so we weren't able to stay on the beach for long. But everyone, except me, wanted to get back to the campground to do some tubing. I volunteered to take their pictures.

After dinner we went on a search down Hwy 1 to find the best spot to see the sunset. We parked where we saw the largest crowd. We noticed that a lot of people were taking pictures where we parked. We turned around to see the Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the most photographed locations in California.

Then we followed them across the highway and waited for the sunset. It was beautiful!

We took care of laundry and cleaning the trailer on our last morning in Big Sur. After lunch we sat in front of the County Library for about an hour and used their wi-fi to catch up with email and messages. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the river and sitting around a campfire. It was nice to have an easy day before we hit the road again in the morning.

The little bird we made friends with at the campground came by to say good-bye. This little guy visited us every day. Even though we were not feeding him we must have left enough crumbs around us after every meal for him to keep coming back!

2022 Cross Country Road Trip Stop 16

We started off on the Pacific Coast Highway as we made our way to our hotel stop in Santa Maria, CA.

We made a couple of stops on our way there. The first stop was Point Piedras Blancas off Hwy 1. We stopped to see the elephant seals, we were not at all expecting to see this many!

The next stop was Hearst Castle.

We decided we were fine with just seeing it from a distance when we found out that it would cost us $30 each to go on a tour.

By that time we were starting to get anxious to get to the hotel where we planned to swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub and use the hotel wi-fi!

And that's exactly how we spent our short stop-over in Santa Maria.

Read about our Stop 15.

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Have you taken a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoyed all the sights of Coastal California? We would love to hear where you stopped to take pictures!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Visiting Napa, California With A Day Trip To San Francisco

Did you know that you can easily make a day trip to San Francisco when you are visiting Napa, California?

Before you head out, check out our State By State Guide To State And National Park Campgrounds if you are traveling here in your RV.

2022 Cross Country Road Trip Stop 14

Sometimes, on our road trips, we find things to see on our way from one destination to the next. This was one of those times. We were excited to find out that we could take a slight detour off US-101, on our way from our stop near Redwoods National Park to Napa, and take a more scenic route down the 31 mile Avenue of the Giants (Redwoods) instead. The road conveniently intersects and parallels Hwy 101. There were many points of interest, restaurants and gift shops along the route to veer off to but we had loads of laundry to do once we got to Napa so we didn't make any stops. Hopefully we will have another chance in the future to enjoy this road at a more leisurely pace.

GOOD TO KNOW: Be sure to get the map for the Avenue of the Giants that highlights all the fun stops you can make along the way.

After we settled into Skyline Wilderness Park, me and Sandie drove 5 minutes down the road to the laundromat. We were very happy when we found out that the laundromat was so close to the campground and very happy that we had leftover Costco chicken and could just throw together a quick dinner with. Not having to make a complicated dinner, gave us time to relax after this hectic first day in Napa.

We had two stops we wanted to make on Day 2 of our four day stay here. The first was Sonoma Botanical Garden.

This garden was a small, natural garden surrounding a big pond. It wasn't as manicured as some other gardens are but it was quiet and relaxing and there were nice paths to stroll along. 

We took one walk that led you up a hill and ended with a nice view at the top.

We had a picnic lunch under this Japanese-style gazebo before we left for our next stop.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you enjoy visiting gardens like we do, look into getting an annual pass from your local garden. You will want the pass that entitles you to the benefits of reciprocal program. It gives you free access to many gardens nationwide.

The next stop on our "Things To Do" list was Sonoma Plaza to do some shopping. There were also some beautiful old buildings to see as we walked around the few blocks that make us this plaza.

We stopped in a few of the stores. 

One of our favorites was this chocolate shop. The chocolate was delicious!

After awhile the husbands got tired of shopping and were ready to get by back to the campground to relax with a beer and everyone was hungry for the Japanese stew that was cooking in the crockpot. Before long it was time to turn in to get some sleep. We had a busy day starting early the next morning. Everyone was excited about the day trip we were taking to San Francisco on our third day in this area. It was only an hour from Napa but it took a little longer than that because of traffic. 

Soko and JT were excited about visiting for the first time and me and Sandie were excited about showing them around the hometown of our parent's friends. We have been to San Francisco a few times to visit Kay and Dick and have really happy memories of spending time at Fisherman's Wharf so that's where we headed first. We were able to walk there from the Chinatown parking lot where we left the car for the day.

One favorite memory of mine and Sandie's was of the arcade. We were so excited to see that it was still here. 

Musee Mecanique contains loads of 20th century arcade games that still work and some newer games. Sandie and JT tested their romantic level with the Love Tester Machine.

The thing that was missing, and what we remember most about the game room, was the Human Roulette Wheel. We wondered if this was even where it used to be and then we found this article hanging in the room. This thing was crazy and I would have been shocked if it was still here and still operating. It literally rotated, slowly at first, then faster and faster sending kids flying off it until there was only one kid left on it. The feeling of being the last one standing was amazing, flying off felt the opposite and sometimes it even hurt...a lot!

We strolled along the boardwalk, bought souvenirs and sourdough bread then it was time to hop on the famous San Francisco cable cars to get to our next destination. When we visited as kids, we remember taking rides on the cable cars for the sake of taking the ride. At that time, the cable cars didn't stop to let you on. You had to run along side them then jump on at the right moment. 

We got off the cable car when we arrived at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. 

After climbing down and then up the crookedest, and steepest (just my opinion!) street in the world...

we jumped on the cable car again and took it to Chinatown.

Sandie and JT treated us to a delicious lunch.

From Chinatown we took a bus to Japan Town. 

We shopped in our favorite store, Daiso, the Japanese version of Dollar Tree. Then in Mijiya to buy some sushi and snacks to take back to the campground.

We passed by Soko's store but we didn't need any hardware so we didn't buy anything.

We took a bus back to our car and drove on the Golden Gate Bridge back to the campground. It was so foggy that we couldn't really see the bridge, but we were happy just to know we were on it.

We spent our last day in Napa at Black Stallion Estate Winery to do some wine tasting.

Before the tasting, we had time to peruse the informational plaques in their educational vineyard. You were able to taste the grapes as you learned about them.

This was the first wine tasting for any of us.  Our server was very attentive and took her time explaining the differences in the wines we were going to try and was able to answer any questions we had. Although me and Soko aren't wine drinkers and know very little about wine, we had so much fun drinking the wine, learning about the wine and eating the cheese, nuts and crackers.

Stop 14 was another fantastic stop but it was time to move on to Stop 15!

Read about our first stop in California.

Have you been to Napa or San Francisco? We would love to hear all about your trip!