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Trip Report First time US driver survives the PCH!!!!

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Firstly I would like to thank everyone for their confidence in me before I set off for the US. I must admit I was very doubtful of my own abilities, but I did it and although scary at times have lived to tell the tale.

Our "adventure" started with collecting the car at SFO where we were offered an upgrade from a standard car to a midnight blue Mustang convertible, we'll have some of that we thought but unfortunately the luggage would not fit in the trunk and I was not happy about having bags on the backseat - so we ended up with a Dodge (can't remember the model). I negotiated the multi-story car park and we were on our way to Monterey, me getting more confident with every passing minute, although my son kept telling me I was drifting to the right. We stopped off for lunch in a little town on the 85 and eventually arrived in Monterey around 5.30 pm. The hotel/motel, Casa Munras, was lovely as were the staff. We dropped the bags and headed off for dinner at Fishermans Wharf, about a 10 minute walk. We are not "foodies" and tended to eat wherever we found ourselves which at this point was the big place at the end of the pier with outstanding views across Monterey Bay and excellent seafood.

The next day was spent at the Aquarium which we both thoroughly enjoyed, especially feeding time for the sea otters. A walk along Cannery Row browsing the shops finished off the day and we headed back to the hotel to try out their restaurant which although a little pricey was well worth it, we shared a meat based paella which was full of flavour and perfectly cooked. We ended the meal with an Irish coffee each which certainly packed a punch - didn't seem like the spirit was measured, just poured in the glass free-hand but we weren't complaining.

Up early on the second day to check out and begin the drive that was the whole purpose of the trip. We started with 17 mile drive and although it was very misty and overcast the views were wonderful. We stopped often and saw seals, numerous sea birds, really tame squirrels, the Lone Cyprus and Ghost Cyprus trees - but no wild otters. Leaving by the Carmel exit we intended to go to the Carmel Mission, but after driving around the block 4 times could find nowhere to park so we carried on to Point Lobos. Our first stop here was Whalers Cove which was awash with wet suits and kayaks - but again no otters. A quick visit to the museum and we were off again - ever closer to Big Sur. The weather was gradually improving and we stopped off at many vista points including the Bixby Bridge. Our next proper stop was the Big Sur Bakery where we just had a drink as they had sold out of goodies. We attempted to stop at Nepenthe but the car park was full and time was running away with us - so we headed for Julia Pfieffer and McWay Falls. It was when we arrived here that we realised we had missed the sign for Big Sur beach which I really wanted to see, so that was a downer, I do remember reading on here that it is easy to miss. The view at the Falls was breathtaking but I was a little disappointed with the actual Falls, more like a trickle. Back on the Highway and the most challenging part of the drive as far as twists turns and drop offs are concerned. We stopped another few times at vista points then the road became straight and I relaxed a little. The next stop was to see the elephant seal rookery which was great and we spent a while watching their antics. Then on to our next hotel at Morro Bay.

The Blue Sail Inn at Morro Bay is basic but clean and once again very friendly staff. We arrived at around 7pm after leaving Monterey at 8am - so we were quite tired and just had a quick evening meal at a place a couple of doors away recommended by the lady at reception. THe following day we had breakfast at the Otter Rock where I was introduced to homestyle potatoes which I absolutely adored. Then after a quick explore of the seafront we headed off to Santa Barbara, our final destination with the car. We arrived at around 5pm at the lovely Castillo Inn, a stones throw from the Marina, where the excellent, wise cracking guy on reception told us there was a 3 day Fiesta going on. What a bonus!! So we dropped the bags and headed off to State Street to join in with the fun.

We awoke the following morning and when we looked out of the window across to the park opposite, there were men in uniform on horseback and ladies in traditional dress. We were told by our friend on recepetion that they were preparing for the big Fiesta Parade and that we could watch it pass by whilst waiting for the Amtrak Pacific Coast Surfliner to LA at Santa Barbara Station - yet another bonus. The train ride to LA was so relaxing after the rigours of driving the PCH and the rail staff were attentive and gave a great and sometimes very funny commentary as we went along the coast. Off course once again the scenery was amazing.

With hindsight I would have spent longer between Carmel and Morro Bay as it did feel a bit rushed at times. I would also have spent a little longer in Morro Bay (I fell in love with it) and a little longer in Santa Barbara.

Hope my account hasn't been too boring for you all. Will do a separate account of LA, New York and Washington when I get a mo.

Bye for now.

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