The 17th day was spent driving up along the breath-taking Pacific Coast. We were on the road most of the day, but the hills, hairpin curves and incredible views captivated our attention, so it went quickly. Of course there were lots of photo opportunities, so we made several “vista stops” along the route.
The highlights of the day included our stop at San Simeon Pier where we spent about half an hour watching the otters play and the humpback whales hunt in the open water close to the shore/pier. I don’t actually have a pictures of the pier. I think Eden edited right out of the photos, but it really is beautiful and there is a beach at the base of the pier. (If you head east, up the hill, you can visit Hearst Castle. Tim and I did this tour years ago and the kids weren’t that interested so we didn’t do it this time.)
Just a short drive north of the pier, we stopped to see the Elephant Seals basking in the sun along the shore. There are signs that direct you to them, but the area is only a few miles from San Simeon.
Big Sur area is also incredible. There were many spectacular things to see along the road, as we drove through this section of the highway. Our final stop before Carmel/Monterey was at the Bixby Bridge just south of Carmel. It is truly a beautiful bridge, but we didn’t get very many good shots. The drive north was very hazy and this made it really difficult to capture the beauty of the drive.
Besides the haze, I have always been a bit afraid of heights and must say having my kids and Tim explore the views from the unguarded cliff edges had me very uptight and anxious. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be so scared and was taken off guard by the level of anxiety I felt. We snapped a few pictures and a man took a few family photos before I escaped and got back to the comfort of the van. The irrational fear of dying or losing a loved one over the cliff, kind of ruined the moment for me.
We stayed in Monterey for the night, knowing that we would be paying top dollar at a hotel, but that finding a camp spot would be nearly impossible.
We began the day by heading back to Carmel and doing the famous “17 Mile Drive”. Tim and I had done it before, but really wanted to drive it again with the kids. Of course, this is the drive on which you find the famous “Lone Cypress” resting on the cliffs by the sea. They say it is one of the most photographed trees in the world.
The views were spectacular, but none could compare to the site we saw when we pulled into one of the vista points along the highway.
One of the items on Shay’s road trip bucket list was to see some high end cars: a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bugatti. We had told him there would be many expensive cars on the road, especially in California. He saw two Ferraris and 3 Lamborghinis. (Tim saw more, but Shay often missed them by the time he looked in the right direction.) Although it wasn’t on his list (he’d never heard of it before), he was also lucky enough to see a Maserati on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We knew the chances of him seeing a Bugatti were slim to none, but he and Tim kept their eyes peeled. (I wouldn’t know a Bugatti if it ran over my toe.) So, we pull into this vista point on the 17 mile drive and what do we see parked in the lot (gaining much more attention than the beautiful scenic views)…..not one, but two Bugattis! Tim and Shay couldn’t believe it! We aren’t sure who the 3 guys were, but they all had Bugatti jackets and hats and what seemed to be British accents. They were really nice allowed Tim and Shay to take several pictures. Shay asked how much the cars cost and was told the new Bugatti is worth $1.5 million and the 1926 model beside it is worth $10,000,000! The guy told Shay, “If you put $5 a day in your piggy bank, you’ll be able to buy a Bugatti when you are about 1000 years old!” I’m not really a car person, but I can appreciate that seeing a Bugatti out and about (not in a show room) is probably a once in a life time thing and seeing a 1926 model is a true privilege. One of the highlights of the trip for the boys! (When we got home we googled it and learned that there was a Bugatti event being held a Pebble Beach when we were in the area. Obviously, these fellows were associated with it.)
As we were passing one of the beaches near Carmel, we noticed many people with their cameras out and they were clearly looking at something along the shore. We got out and once again were lucky enough to witness a “school” of whales hunting/swimming near the shore. It was so neat to watch them. On several occasions, they actually dove up to the surface in unison with their noses together almost like they were performing or playing. At one time, we counted a group of 4 jump out together. It was pretty cool!
We pulled into San Francisco in the late afternoon. It was a cold day and although we had initially planned to do Alcatraz, we hadn’t confirmed our schedule and thus I hadn’t booked a tour. Alcatraz sells out in advance, so we knew we risked not getting tickets if we didn’t pre-buy. In the end, we were thankful we hadn’t bought tickets. I think we were all ready to slow down a bit. Tim and I had done the tour before and the kids were fine with missing it. We did go to Fisherman’s Wharf where we visited the Ghirardelli Chocolate store, took some pictures of Alcatraz Island and the Wharf, and then made the strenuous 4 block hike up the hill to the famous curvy road ~ Lombard Street. We also opted to skip the long line and take pictures of the cable cars instead of riding. This was the one and only cold weather we experienced. It was very windy and cool on the wharf, so our short stay was long enough to show the kids a few of the sights and then we were all happy to get back in the van and carry on. We left the city via the Golden Gate Bridge and managed to snap a few pictures en route.
One of the few disappointments of the trip was the amount of haze there was on many of the days…..especially those days when we were doing the coastal drive. The weather was great, but the haze just meant we couldn’t get really great clear views or photos. Too bad.
We only drove a few more hours before stopping to set-up camp in Placerville, California. We had a nice stay at the KOA there and were up and away in good time the next morning.