lost, for a little while

(take a long drive with me) on california 1
June 22, 2011, 2:12 am
Filed under: trips


I was talking to a friend last week, and she asked me where I was.

“Driving through northern California,” I said.

“You’re still in California? I feel like you’ve been there forever.”

Twenty days, to be exact. Dude. California is a big-ass state.

I did a lot, saw a lot, and ate a lot while meandering my way through California. Some stops deserve their own post, but in the meantime, to quote the Decemberists, take a long drive with me on California 1 (and beyond).

A Joshua Tree!

Joshua Tree National Park: Great place for stoners and rock-climbers. Everyone else? Meh, not so much. Save it for a day trip or drive through on your way to elsewhere if at all possible.


The Cabazon Dinosaurs: These two dinosaurs (there’s also an apatosaurus) are billed as the largest in the world, which I just can’t believe because they’re big, but when has that ever stopped someone from making something bigger? Anyway, they’re one of those quintessential kitschy tourist stops–one that I first saw in the excellent feature film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (alas, I didn’t make it to the Alamo). I knew I had to see them. Little known fact: In the belly of the apatosaurus, there’s a gift shop with various pro-creationism paraphernalia decorating the walls.

Elephant Seals

Driving up Highway 1, not far from Hearst Castle, is a sign for the Elephant Seal vista point. You pull over, walk down a bit of boardwalk, and look over the railing. On the beach below are dozens and dozens of blubbery elephant seals sprawled out in the sand and on top of each other. Most are sleeping, but some are half-heartedly flopping around, and others are challenging each other to fights–presumably over the female with the most lust-inducing proboscis. They growl, rumble, snort, and also produce sounds similar to the fart noises you made with your mouth as a kid. It’s awesome.

Monterey Bay area

I was in love with the drive on Highway 1 and took it as much as possible. Looking back, there so many more stops I could have made. I could have easily spent a month just driving up the coast of California, making sidetrips for every little thing that piqued my interest. It’s slow-going at times, with sharp turns one after another after another, but I was in awe every second of it. There’s something about the ocean that tugs at my heart every time and makes me feel like I could stay put forever.


Muir Woods National Monument: I can’t imagine making a trip solely to visit this park, but for Californians who live in the nearby vicinity, I highly recommend taking an afternoon to walk around this peaceful (there are signs posted to discourage noise-making), unbelievably gorgeous forest. I expected the redwoods to be wider around the trunk, but I’d have to wait for those until I hit the Avenue of the Giants farther north. The ones in Muir Woods are impressively tall, however, and create a thick canopy overhead that lets only the smallest rays of sun shine through. If someone could tell me the proper way to photograph redwoods, I’d love to know–I couldn’t manage to capture their true height no matter how hard I tried.

the northern California coast

The beaches of northern and southern California are different in many ways, but both had me staring out the window when I should have been watching the road. In Fort Bragg, California, there’s a beach that’s known for all the sea glass you can find there, and I took a moment to collect a handful and wander around the tide pools. Again, I could have made an entire trip out of exploring all the tiny towns on the coast and just enjoying the landscape.

Among the Giants

Trust me when I tell you that there are redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants that are as wide as my car is long. There was just no way for me to pull over next to them to take a comparison photo. If you take the drive, time it so you have plenty of daylight to enjoy it with–the redwoods block out a lot of light on their own, and I hit the area just before dusk so I didn’t have much time to take pictures, which is something I regret. I also regret having to stop in Humboldt at a creepy roadside restaurant to pee, but that’s another story.

Guys, I think I’ve found another possibility for a future home: the California coast.


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