Over the past weekend I decided on a solo roadtrip up the California coast from my hometown San Juan Capistrano, CA to San Fransisco, CA. One of my colleagues (Gala) relocated to the downtown area, and because she and I are good friends, I was invited to visit for the weekend.
I did drive through Frisco on the 2005 roadtrip, but I never got a tour of the place. I made sure to fix that. Instead of flying though, I figured to take a drive up the coastline using Highway 1.
DAY 1 - October 19, 2007
I left San Juan Capistrano at 5:45am to get a head start and miss most of the LA traffic. Haha, notice I said most. I did hit a few snags but it was a total of maybe 25 minutes delay. I'm not gonna complain over that.
Using I-405, I headed all the way up to Highway 118 and headed west. My first stop was in Simi Valley. One of my favorite movies is the 1982 flick Poltergeist, and the studio is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. What most people don't know is that the famous house they used for the shoot is located in Simi Valley, on Roxbury Street. So at 8:30am I pull up to the house (and it still looks as pristine as it did 25 years ago) and took plenty of shots. Funny enough, the house directly across the street was for sale, reduced to a price of $730,000. They should have put on the flier "Across from the Poltergiest house" as a marketing feature. But then again, maybe that would scare people away.
After that, I continued west on the 118, despite its periods as a road and not a highway, then briefly hit Highway 126, and finally changed over to US-101 in Ventura to proceed North.
Most of this leg of US-101 is squeezed in between the mountains and the ocean, so it was a nice sight to see after over a decade. (I did this road on the 2005 roadtrip but it was dark so I saw nothing). So I'm blasting away the trance music and taking in the sights.
I did a refuel in Santa Maria and continued up until I hit San Luis Obispo, which at this point, I strayed from US-101 and continued west on the Cabrillo Highway (Hwy 1). Now the last time I was on this road, I was probably 12-13 years old, and it was during the summer when the clouds and fog hugged the coast so there was nothing to see. This time, however, there wasn't a cloud in the sky so it was all mountains and ocean. *happy sigh*
I passed Cambria (which I observed to be an excellent town; I'll have to come back and check this place out in detail, maybe for retirement purposes haha) and then found myself at San Simeon, where I decided to break up the driving day, and kill 2 hours at Hearst Castle. I arrived there at 11:30am and took their noon Experience tour. The place was amazing. I recommend it if you haven't been there.
I left the Castle at 2:15pm and continued north. Here's where the sharp curves, high cliffs, and old bridges kick in. It was a Friday afternoon so I really didn't have to follow too many slowpokes. The ones I did, they usually pulled over at the first turnout. (Probably because I tailed them. Yes, I'm bad...shhhh). I had brand new Michelins on, so I was *ahem* testing my trusty Saturn and it's new tires. I didn't do anything too crazy, but there's something about those hairpin turns that make you feel like you're on a roller coaster. I only stopped once to take a picture of a 1932 bridge, but time was of the essence at this point so I kept it moving.
Once I reached Santa Cruz, I detoured off Hwy 1 on to Hwy 17 and kept up my northward pace. It was getting dark by the time I reached Hwy 85 and went east. My final change was to I-280 by Cupertino and I stayed on this highway for the remainder of the drive. I could see that the rainclouds were making their way to meet me, and the traffic for a Friday night was horrendous, which I should have expected anyway.
I arrived in Daly City at 6:30pm. Instead of dealing with the traffic, I met my colleague Gala at the BART station, and we headed up into downtown by way of the tram and got off at Powell street.
Now I'm not a city person by any means, so it was kind of startling to surface smack dab in the middle of Union Square, where Gala lives. Busy busy busy...
We get to her place on O'Farrell and settle in. We immediately head back out to pick up some dinner and find a little bar to hang out for a while. After that we rode back to the tram station because I forgot my phone and a few other things. It was almost midnight by the time we got back.
All right, I'm tired. Nighty night...
DAY 2 - October 20, 2007 (No driving)
Today was "tourist day" as Gala took me around to my "high priority" destinations. We left her place at 8:30am and the first thing we did was get breakfast at the outdoor mart by the San Fransisco Port. It was nice to sit and watch the city people doing their thing. The birds there are kinda vicious. They'll steal your food! But we had fun with that.
Next we walked along Embarcadero street until we hit the famous Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. It's a mini version of Balboa in Newport Beach, CA. Lots of little shops and attractions, though a little smaller than I had imagined. We walked around and saw the place where all the Sea Lions were hanging out on the docks.
We headed west through the North Beach area afterwards. Here is where I bought some souvenirs and candy cause it was plenty cheap. After that we headed to the famous Ghirardelli chocolate store. I stocked up plenty on white chocolate while buying the variety pack as a gift. (Good stuff)
We headed south, through Washington Square, and down to the Transamerican building, the tallest structure in SF. Unfortunately their observatory deck was closed, and their virtual deck with the camera-controlled view wasn't working, so no go there. Bah... oh well...
We walked through some more districts, and of course found Chinatown. By this time my feet were yelling something awful at me. So we headed back towards Union Square and gave a little bit of a rest. That was at least a 6 mile jaunt. That might be nothing for some of you, but for computer nerds like me, that's a big "OUCH" on the feet.
Next we headed out for a little drive and went to the Palace of Fine Arts in north Frisco. It's some nice grounds out there, then she showed me a few more districts via car before returning back to the pad.
We ended up doing more "hang out" stuff later that evening, like going to one of the malls and catching a movie. There would be more to come the next day.
DAY 3 - October 21, 2007 (No driving)
After an 8:30am breakfast at a little local place, we drove to the famous crooked part of Lombard street and I made Gala navigate the hairpin turns. Being a Sunday morning, nobody was on the road. Going down honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I just found it amusing that people actually live on this part of the street. It cracks me up.
After Lombard we headed straight for Coit Tower and paid the $4.50 to go up to the top. Grand views from all around. You could see everything about the east side of Frisco from one place.
We headed back down and made a bee-line for the Golden Gate Park. Here we doddled around in the Tea Garden area for a while, and then headed over to Strawberry Hill, surrounded by Stow Lake and scaled the hill by the waterfalls. Pretty slick. After getting out of the park, we headed south through a few more districts, including Castro (hehe) and then back home.
OK wow my head is about to explode and so is my camera. We spent the rest of the day around the square going to some of my favorite shops and whatnot, then ended up just chilling back at the pad. Had to take the BART back to my car so I could bring back my souvenirs and pay for the daily.
I've seen what I've needed to see. Time to head back down the trail...
DAY 4 - October 22, 2007
Up we were at 5:30am to get ready. I had a vacation day set aside for this day, but Gala didn't, and she had to be at the office early, so we left at 6:45am and drove back down to Daly City where she dropped me off. Time for some driving...
I took the I-280 to the I-380 to get on US-101, then realized that probably wasn't the smartest move, as I kept hitting pockets of traffic and I saw on my mobile phone that the 280 was all clear. Hmm... now why I didn't I check that beforehand? Duhr... I kept taking different freeways until I got back on the US-101 past all the urban areas. Phew...
I kept pondering whether to take US-101 all the way back down, or once again drive Hwy 1. I couldn't decide right then, so I waited until the next gas stop, which was in Salinas.
Once I reached Salinas and filled up for the final time, I decided, yeahhhh I'll take Hwy 1 back. I'm a scenery sucker. Back down Cabrillo Highway I go. It was a little more annoying this time on a Monday morning with slow pokes. A few cars didn't understand the rules about letting 3 or more cars behind you pass. Some were more frustrated than I was and decided not to wait for the broken yellow lines. Yikes, whatevs man. I ain't that crazy. There were also many cyclists to watch out for. I didn't want to be scoring those kind of kill points today.
On the way down, I stopped at a few of the vista points that I drove by on the way up and got in a few scenery shots. The one vista point I really liked was just north of San Simeon where all the elephant seals are. Must have been hundreds of them out there sleeping, playing the water, making noise, etc. Pretty killer.
I was going to take Hwy 1 through Malibu, but the fire there closed the highway off, so yeah never mind. It's just as well because the entire area was smoky hazy and it wouldn't made for good sight-seeing anyway. I merged back to US-101 and continued my trek that way. Turning on to I-405 south, I thought I would hit LA traffic but surprisingly there were only small pockets of it.
When I reached Orange County, the Santiago fire quickly became prominent as the entire area was a dark smoky haze again, blotting the sun out. As I came home at 5:15pm it was very murky so I had to quickly bring in my stuff and keep all the windows and doors shut.
Overall, it was a very nice drive, and I enjoyed the sights of San Fransisco. I would personally never want to live as a city slicker. I'm more the urban type, but it's a nice place to visit. I did see some awfully strange things (and people) but if you know what and how to avoid those, you'll be good. If you go, be prepared to walk a lot. Driving is discouraged, especially on the weekend, although Sunday morning before 11am is OK. Take the tram, the trolley, or a taxi otherwise.
Total Stops: 2
Miles travelled: 1,042
Total time driven: 19:45
Gas cost: $89.00
Money spent: ~$240.00 (not including gas cost)