Leaving the hustle and bustle (meaning the insane traffic) of Los Angeles behind was not as quick and easy as all had hoped: just getting out of the area took close to two hours on more and less congested freeways. Then it was finally time to start enjoying more natural views as the car headed for the coast and Highway 1.
Before getting to the twists and turns of the Big Sur area, a stop was made for lunch in the small seaside town of Morro Bay. Tempeh tacos at the vegan Shine Café were perfectly suited to the laid-back, apparently surf-oriented atmosphere. Then onwards to a lookout point where dozens of big, lazy-looking blubbery elephant seals could be viewed lounging on the beach, attempting to stay warm with an incredibly strong cold wind blowing in from the sea.
The road then continued onto the cliffside, offering amazing views as well as slight heart palpatations with all the unexpected curves and steep drops. After 100 miles of this joy, the road finally got back to normal as Monterey was reached in the early evening. Crabby Jim’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf served up delicious, creamy Monterey clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Well worth the drive!
Then still onwards to Palo Alto for the night. The town full of techies and Stanford University intellectuals was a nice peaceful place for a night’s sleep and brunch at the University Cafe the following morning. Hattivatti was intrigued by the Californian champagne served as a mimosa: apparently the French are not exclusively entitled to the production of this fine bubbly treat.
The tourist attraction of the day was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. This odd, enormous house was the result of almost 38 years of nonstop construction, ordered by the excentric (or most likely mad) widow Sarah Winchester after her husband’s death. The tour included views of about a hundred different rooms, many of which were in various stages of construction or renovation, and had visitors marvelling at stairways to nowhere, windows in the floors as well as nooks and crannies that made no sense.
Night was then spent in Oakhurst close to Yosemite National Park, the destination for the following day. A dinner of hearty meat-topped pizza at the Pizza Factory was just the thing to finish off the day.
Yosemite National Park would easily have offered things to do and see for at least a week, but our troop had to try to get by with about 6 hours. First stop was the Mariposa grove of giant sequoias, the largest living beings of Earth. The unbelievably large trees were stunning and the peace of the forest was a nice change compared to the noise and hecticness of L.A.
After gaping at trees for an hour, the trip continued on towards Yosemite Valley, where incredible views of forests and waterfalls were seen. Unfortunately, as could be seen all over the Southern parts of California, water has not been very abundant in the past years, and the waterfalls and creeks of Yosemite are suffering from this alongside the pistachio farmers and wineries. The highest waterfall in North America was not nearly as impressive as brochure photos suggested due to a clear lack of water. It’s no wonder lawn watering and decorative fountains are frowned upon in California these days.
After enjoying the beauty of Yosemite for a few hours and a late lunch of warm sandwiches at PJ’s Cafe in Groveland, it was time for the last longer stretch of highway, once more towards the west and the final stop in the continental US, San Francisco. Soon the driving would finally be over!