Diary for Daniel Tours America

California Route 1: Santa Cruz to Monterey to Cambria


Absolutely on a whim, I drove from Santa Cruz to Cambria, half way to LA, all the way down CA-1.  Laura had mentioned that Monterey and Carmel where worth a look, and a chap in the hostel raved all night last night about how great the Big Sur route was.  Therefore I decided to hit it up, and today drove from Santa Cruz to Monterey, to Carmel, and down the coast on route 1.  

Monterey, named after the (Count of?) Monte Rey, was once the capital of California and the only port at which foreign vessels could dock.  It has a rich naval heritage and some free museums that reflect this, which I visited.  I did not know that 16 flags have flown over California, including England`s, Spain`s, Mexico`s, and a derivative of Russia`s.

Carmel is a delightful little town, quaint without being fake, containing small houses and boutiques on a narrow steep strip that leads down to a glorious white sand beach.

From Carmel, Route 1 really comes into its own.  It`s from here that the road starts to run right along the coastline, and where the amazing views start.  It`s from here that one`s progress must slow to an average of 30mph, half due to the bends and switch backs, and half due to needing to stop at every vista to gawp.

This road is the one from all the commercials, all the movies, where one sees a sports car driving over tight curves adjacent to the ocean, with a handsome man and a beautiful woman in the front seats.  Well, apart from the soft-top, that was certainly me.  A young traveler, Natalie, whom I had met in SC (one of the hippie girls from the organic garden), and I traveled down the coast together today.  At every turn the scenery becomes more impressive:  mountains that come right down into the water, beaches 5 feet from the road, sheer cliffs below the road into the water, lush forests, and an ocean that can be four colours at once:  navy blue out to sea, dark blue close in, turquoise patches near the beach, and ice white foam around the rocks.  Stunning.  We stopped for a lunch break over a sheer cliff, with an absolutely amazing view of rocks in the Pacific.  Adjacent to us was a girl tracking condors with a scanner and antenna.

We arrived in Cambia, another quaint but rather more fake seaside town, where we are staying at a home hostel (a B&B basically).  We arrived in the late afternoon, had some ice cream, and then headed to the beach to drink and watch the sunset.  It was very windy and I think we ended up looking like bums - she in her hippie clothes and I with beard and wrapped in sleeping bag sitting on the promenade drinking wine.