Big Sur & Santa Cruz

If you take a road trip south from the bay area, you hit some of the most beautiful coast and scenic drives imaginable. Driving south on the 101 takes you inland through San Diego, and for mid October and being in a non-air conditioned car, it was stifling hot. Although as soon as we cleared the hills and dropped into Monterey, the cool ocean breeze was heaven. We celebrated not having to lie in our own sweat pools anymore by paying the (slightly overpriced ) $9.50 fee to drive 17 mile drive, a beautiful stretch of road now part of a private, gated community. This is when we realised our car wouldn’t turn off. It stayed on, unless we stalled it, and in addition to not being able to turn the key, we couldn’t get it out. It added for a more interesting drive, to say the least, but at least the view was great 🙂

one of the many amazing golf holes at Pebble Beach, the private community owning 17 mile drive

17 Mile Drive

We stopped briefly in Carmel-by-the-sea to let AAA try and help us with our car problem, but after they offered to tow us as their solution, we decided to keep going with our half working car.

Our next stop was to find a beautiful camp site in Big Sur, derived from the Spanish translation of big south, “el sur grande”, taken from what it was nicknamed by Mexican settlers back in the 1800’s who called it “el paĂ­s grande del sur”, “the big country of the south”. It’s a lot of forest still, barely developed except for tourist facilities – mostly in the form of campgrounds. They’re not cheap though – we paid $35 to stay at Pfeiffer Sur, a state park, and the privatised parks nearby were $40, just to sleep on the ground… lovely ground though.


a sea of fog replacing the normal view of the Pacific Ocean from highway 1

Highway 1 that hugs the cliffs as you drive through Big Sur was even more breathtaking than 17 mile drive. We drove through Andrew Molea state park and took a one mile hike down to the actual seaside, and came across a shipwreck that was being cleared by park rangers.


park rangers demolishing a shipwrecked boat

As we left Big Sur that afternoon, the fog slowly began to clear, and the view from our car was a beautiful scene to remember as we headed all the way to the lively little town of Santa Cruz. Still on the beach, it didn’t quite have the same feel of bigness and wilderness that Big Sur offered, but we got excited to hit the waves surfing until we realised that we were arriving exactly at high tide time of day and there was absolutely no surf. We retreated to getting juicy burritos and sitting and staring at the unusually calm beach from beside the wharf instead. All in all a successful road trip; the ocean was a bit too cold for comfort to surf in, if I can be totally honest, so maybe I was just relieved to stay in my campfire smelling clothes.

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