Leaving Yosemite we we’re excited to be heading to the coast (err, yes, back to the coast)! In true Travelling Marsh’s fashion we headed to Santa Cruz on a whim hoping to find a cheap campsite. Actually, any camp site would have been nice but after searching for somewhere to stay for a couple of hours and having no luck (all being full), we headed into the town-centre to a hostel; very nice but also full, but they did give us the number of a lovely B&B. Getting desperate and definitely tired we took a look. This one was going to blow the budget big time: a proper four- poster bed and the promise of a good breakfast! Our most expensive stop-over of the trip so far.
So after checking in and changing into some warm clothes (it gets chilly on the coast don’t you know?), we headed to the sea front which was only a block away; walked on the beach watching the harbour seals play and grabbed a pizza before heading to the “arcade” (much like Brighton but without the pier) where we watched a couple of very sweaty young men jumping around on the dance-mat game. Comedy gold. We exited along the boardwalk, where – after deciding not to steal Poncherello’s bike (ask your parents) - we found a band playing on a nearby stage…hang on – I recognize that song!
It was the Flock of Seagulls; famous from the early ‘80s but still rocking Santa Cruz. We stayed for a couple of tunes but being desperately tired and with the thought of a very inviting four-poster we headed back to starfish!
I woke up early for a run - one of my favorites so far - the early morning was drizzly and there was a triathlon about to begin in the sea (very jealous), lots of men in wet suits. I ran along the sea front for quite some time, passing a man playing the saxophone to the sea. I got back to the B&B in time for breakfast and it was delicious, lots of fruits for me and meat & egg stuff for Tim. The owners were Mexcian and we had a lovely chat (I think they were pleased that Tim poured on lots of their hot chilli sauce onto his eggs).
We packed our things and left for our Big Sur adventure. This one had been on the map in our lounge in Ruislip as a must (reinforced by many people we’d met along the way), so we were very excited indeed as we started the drive along the winding coastal roads, with the most amazing views of the sea around every corner. With a strict ‘no overnight parking’ policy along the coastal road, we hunted for campsites only to find most of them full again; we found one site with one available space for the bargain price of $55 (west coast = expensive!!).It was nice but not THAT nice! The following morning we got up early and headed along the Big Sur some more towards a State Park site to make sure we had a place for the night, all booked-in we could explore more. Driving along, we passed a car-park with a large number of people walking around; thinking it might be something interesting (and hoping it was free) we turned around to take a look. What we found was huge, noisy and a tad smelly… it was the Elephant Seal beach. Very vocal beasts indeed, but quite magnificent to see.
Up early the next morning I ran through woods that then went onto the beach, brilliant! Back to the van and Tim, we went into Cambria which is the only place we could get internet connection, and breakfast, so all fuelled up on tea and coffee and lovely muffins we went along to www.hearstcastle.com, which the lonely planet and Mrs Askew-Miller had highly recommended (thanks Em).
Sunshine had been a bit hit and miss along the coast but today skies were very blue and sun very hot and we were greeted by a magnificent building with the most beautiful pool and décor, obviously we came away wanting to build our own place when we get back - watch this space on that one!
From here we continued and soon arrived at 17mile drive, which is – unsurprisingly - 17 miles of winding roads that takes you into Pebble Beach Golf Course and into Carmel, (one time home to Clint Eastwood).
Pebble beach golf course was very neat as you might expect, with some difficult looking holes (eg, on top of giant rock formations by the sea). We went up to the club, to have a look around (and use the loo), pretty impressive; we think there was someone very famous there but Tim & I didn’t have a clue who it was as everyone seemed to be dressed the same, ie, lots of pastels and beige.
That was our first taste of West Coast life and very nice it was too. From hereon we started to head back inland again with the general plan of getting Vegas and the canyons beyond. Heading away from our 17 mile drive we got back onto the Big Sur and carried on along to our next site for the night, another KOA campsite, this time arriving very late, in the dark with nowhere for us to actually stay as the site we had booked was down a steep path to a campsite area, there was no where we could Jeremy down there so we ended up camping out in the car park. Being joined by a British family (now resident in Portland, Oregon), who had problems of their own; one of their kids tripped over a rock, hit their head on a water tap and sliced his head open. He was OK after some steri-strips and it provided some welcome entertainment for us.
The following day saw me doing some much needed laundry whilst Tim went hunting for our first major investment for the van – a new tyre. He’d started to wobble quite a lot (the van, not Tim) when we drive along as the heat had got to his winter tyres. Quite some time later (despite being in North America, no one in the tire-stores (sic) spoke English, only Spanish), Tim arrived back with Jezza and a new tyre… $70 out of pocket (ouch) but a much smoother ride.
More straight-road driving: zzzzzz. Another overnight in another KOA but this one had plenty of space for us and a pool, which was much needed as we were now on the edge of the Mojave Desert. With bizzarely good wifi, we booked a hotel in Vegas online for the following nights. I got up early for my hottest run so far, being warned of the rattle snakes and the scorpions I laced up my trainers and went in a straight line for miles and then back again. Hot but fun, a breakfast of free coffee for Tim, then on our way to the bright lights of Vegas…..once again thanking Jezza for AC.