California Coasting

Back in the good old days... 

haha JUST KIDDING. They're still young and fresh in my mind. Before my friend Kana (birthday shout-out to her! Happy Birthday!!) moved to Japan, we went on a four day road trip up the coast of California and back.

This state is "SO BIG" as Kana would say time and again (and she's right!) that we decided it was a good time to really explore it.


Trip Overview

Day One: Los Angeles –> San Luis Obispo

Day Two: San Luis Obispo –> Monterey

Day Three: Monterey –> Humboldt


Day Four: Humboldt –> Los Angeles


Map: On the way up 


To plan the trip, we primarily used a website/app called "Roadtrippers," and it was extremely helpful and made it so much easier to find great, quirky, and fun places to go. 

In addition, Kana made this fantastic preview video that I absolutely LOVE. Especially the part at the end when it says "peanuts are not nuts." This was a debate for awhile in the car until we looked it up and confirmed that it was, in fact, true. #kanawasright

PS. This is when I first got my Canon DSLR camera! So it was fun playing around with the settings and figuring it out on this trip.


Let's Go! 

Starting in Los Angeles, we headed out in the early afternoon. My one stipulation on this trip was leaving my phone behind. Yep. I just left it at home. Kana must be a great person if I would be willing to spend a whole four days exclusively with her! ;) I thought it would be an interesting experiment in a way to see what would happen if I left behind something I relied on so much.

Kana did have her phone in case we needed to call someone, and we definitely needed it for maps. Other than that, I did everything "old fashioned" and made mix CD's, and printed out our itinerary and anything else I thought we might need on this trip. It really was an adjustment. I had gotten into certain habits of checking things on my phone and I'd find myself reaching for it at times or having mini panic attacks thinking I had left it somewhere on the trip. Even things like being able to look up information quickly was something I had taken for granted. It was way worth the disconnection though.

We first stopped at Ostrichland in Solvang. I mentioned this in my last post, but it has never been a bad place to stop any time I am around this area. Emus and ostriches are so strange to me.

Kana was SO EXCITED — it was the best! We bought food to feed to the ostriches and emus and observed their aggressive movements in getting the food and the way they moved around their long necks. At one point the ostriches were all looking out in the same direction and had a thin layer of one of their eyelids covering their eyes. They looked like ostrich zombies. A little creepy.  

Solvang is always such a treat. I love the little town and it's resemblance to a Dutch village. We got chocolates and I submitted a donation to be entered into a contest to go to Denmark — that I did not win.

I also enjoyed the clogs that they sold here. If I could wear those around, that would be ideal.

We zipped over to a Clairmont Farms — a lavender farm in Los Olivos — from Solvang. When we were planning the trip it seemed like a good place to go — I mean, how great would a lavender farm smell ya know? Unfortunately, the lavender was all dead when we got there, which was confirmed by the rather sullen gentleman in the very lavender colored gift shop.

It was still nice sitting outside on the chairs for a bit and enjoying the sun. It was sort of this amazing feeling to think that absolutely no one but Kana and I really knew where we were in that one moment. It felt sort of freeing for some reason.

We ended day one in San Luis Obispo. Getting some bubblegum to make our mark on Bubblegum Alley. An old man passed by us in the alley and said, "This should really be called herpes alley." Which I thought was hilarious but probably pretty accurate considering some of the stuff that was stuck on that wall.

We also had a delicious ice cream sandwich — caramel cookies and marshmallow crunch ice cream — from a place called Batch. Seriously, hands down, best ice cream sandwich I've ever had. 

I loved the little town atmosphere of SLO and the friendliness of the people there — including this guy that gave us some pointers on what to see in our minimal time there. We tried to make one of his suggestions to Bishop Peak, but by the time we got there it was already almost dark and we thought it might be dangerous to go hiking in the dark in a place we've never been. I have some precautions that I follow in my life.

Kana did freak out when a guy passed us after she was talking about seeing a bear (highly unlikely here). Oh the moments that we remember.

Another great moment was being so exhausted from the driving that we sort of just crashed once we got to the hostel and so I wrote in my journal while Kana played Parcheesi with a group there before really crashing in our beds in preparation for the next day.


Day Two! On our way out of San Luis Obispo, we stopped at Avila Valley Barn. Primarily because I saw they had a hayride. But we were in for a treat!!! Not only did they have a hayride to an apple orchard where you got to pick your own apples, but they also had a sunflower field, animals to pet and feed, sweet corn, and fudge! This whole experience was probably one of the greatest highlights of the trip.

On our way to Hearst Castle, Kana and I were driving past a vista point for an ocean view when I abruptly pulled in to take some time to get a better view. That's one of the greatest things about being in a car is to change your destination at any point and make all these stops along the way.

The clouds were looming over the ocean and making it feel that the ocean was fading into the sky. It was majestically beautiful. And then the sun came out and the colors became more vibrant.

Hearst Castle was beautiful too. We took the bus to the top getting higher and higher into the hills and clouds. I loved the tour we went on, especially watching the silent film at the end that featured famous actors from the early 1900s. It was weird peeking into this intimate setting in their life. They were all united by this man, this mansion, this location. Epic sounding, right? 

Seriously though — the view alone is enough to stop here and go on a tour.

Afterwards, we stopped at this beach where all these elephant seals are. We watched as they wriggled around trying to move to different places or scratched themselves with their flippers. They were pretty gargantuan. Kana is full of random facts. For instance, did you know that seals can "run" faster than humans? At least on the beach. It says so here too.

Passing through Big Sur was what I sort of envisioned our coastal drive would be like. Cliffs on one side, windy roads, bridges, and the ocean on the other side. We were looking for Bixby Bridge which is supposed to be this historical site. Kana thought we passed it — there's another bridge that looks quite similar to that one — but as we rounded a corner I got really excited because THERE IT WAS! So we pulled over and took pictures. 

I forgot what it's like being touristy. There's a certain camaraderie that happens with other people that are on the same path of discovery as you. That take in the same fascination with the same historic sites or cheesy tourist traps. And it just sort of makes all that discovery better.

We also stopped at Nepenthe Restaurant for dinner. Honestly, it wasn't quite worth the 15, and then 20, and then 30 minute wait that it was. Especially considering how hungry we were. I recommend grabbing some drinks and sitting out on the patio to enjoy the view.

I wish we could have spent more time in Monterey. We didn't get there until it was already pretty late. I was checking in to the hostel when I heard Kana talking to someone she apparently knew. It ended up being one of the girls that played Parcheesi in SLO, Hannah. She joined us later to go out and walk around Cannery Row. The nightlife is rather limited here, but we did go to Ghirardelli's and split a huge chocolate sundae.  #score

When we were in Monterey talking to Hannah, she asked us what we had planned afterwards for day three, and we told her with much excitement that we were going to first stop to the see the world's largest artichoke on our way to San Francisco. "You're on a California road trip and you're going to see a giant artichoke?" she said. With much seriousness and disbelief that she wouldn't be interested in seeing something so amazing, we said yes.

It was rather large. And plastic. But completely worth the visit. 

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Passing along the Golden Gate Bridge that day was like entering into another world. The fog engulfed the bridge so we couldn't see past the first arches. Kana convinced me to exit and pull into the parking lot to get a better view and take pictures. I convinced her, once we finally got a parking space (lucky!), that we should actually go on the bridge itself.

It was amazing walking on it and thinking of the work that must have gone into building such a structure. It was very windy, and a little cold, but it felt refreshing in some way. 

This Sunday drive was perhaps my favorite one. It wasn't about the views really. Those were still gorgeous. But Kana and I turned off the music and somehow were able to talk the entire time. We thought of people we knew from elementary school, moments through middle school and high school. We talked about anything and everything. And as we wound through the forest we sang, "She's coming round the mountain when she coooommmmessss..." and would adjust our pace based on how fast or slow we'd drive around the curve. At 20 mph, we were running out of breath trying to hold the note.

We made it to Glass Beach, which is known for having a lot of sea glass created from garbage wash off. It wasn't as prevalent as I thought it would be. But when the ocean washed over it, the glass glimmered. I feel like we might have missed the area where it was more noticeable but since the sun was setting we didn't have a lot of time there. Which was unfortunate because it was the kind of place you could spend a good amount of time at.  


Kana and I stayed at hostels the first two nights, but up in the Humboldt area, there aren't any available. There's lots of campgrounds and there's motels (and hotels — but those were exnayed because they're too expensive). We opted for a motel.

It was a running joke the whole drive, this motel situation. "Motel Garberville" became a key name to signal either something ominous like the motel from "Psycho," or as a sarcastic way to talk about a high-end resort we were going to. When we got there, the "M" from the neon sign was burnt out, and it was already dark so we came up to the window and got our key before approaching our room. Lined with wooden panels, and a Vacant/Occupied switch outside our door, it didn't feel like the safest place I've been. It didn't help that it was dark though and all those creepy horror stories about motels I've heard kind of came back into my head.  

When we woke up in the morning though, it was bright and sunny, and there were trees all around. Things aren't as scary when you can see the whole thing in the light, for what it really is — which, for this, was primarily a place to sleep.

Before heading back home toward Los Angeles, we first went and drove through the redwood forest, or "Avenue of the Giants." These trees are really massive. We went down to a river and took in the beauty that was there. California really is amazing, and big, as Kana pointed out. This redwood forest area was such a different place from Los Angeles, or Big Sur, Monterey, San Francisco. They were all unique in their own way.  


We also drove through a redwood tree. At this one place, they had a drive-through redwood tree, along with little tree-houses that became our own (Kana and I are neighbors there). It was a little scary at first driving through the tree and wondering if my car was going to fit. Once I committed though, we went through it! 

The one-log house was pretty entertaining. It used to be a thing they took across the country and showed off. It's literally made from one tree and is surprisingly cozy and relatively large inside. I wouldn't mind staying there for awhile. 

Driving along the freeway, Kana pointed out the exit sign that was labeled "So Legget," and we laughed at the similarity to the slang phrase, "so legit," thinking how great it would be to say we were from that town.

We also somehow found the Chandelier tree, and went through another redwood. I liked the other one better — this seemed more of a set-up. It was still full of fun. I mean, how many times am I going to ride through a redwood tree? So far TWO times!

We made a final stop in Santa Barbara to visit our friends Jen and Kelsey. There was another moment where we were driving past the ocean, the moon was out and lit up the water beneath. It was just too beautiful to pass through and not stop and appreciate. So we pulled over and took in how fast the four days went, all that we saw, and everything we did. We went to McConnell's, ending this wonderful trip with a great scoop of fresh ice cream and good friends.

It was the best way to spend four days with one of my best friends.