I said my goodbyes to LA and friends early Monday morning and began the trek north up the Pacific Coast Highway (aka California 1 or PCH). Traffic was expectedly bad leaving LA, but I made it through and onto the PCH within a couple of hours. The PCH actually extends the full length of the coast, all the way from LA up to northern Washington. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get all the way up the coast, but after six hours of the twisting road, I think I got the jist of how the road works.
Beginning north of LA you enter the PCH and slowly start building your elevation along the slanted cliffs of the coast. Almost immediately you’re introduced to endless vistas and canyons winding along the Pacific Ocean, and they never cease the entire duration of the drive. It’s really a somewhat unsafe road as it’s hard to take your eyes off the coastline despite being fairly coast to driving straight off the edge of the road if you’re not looking closely.
Within the first fifty miles, I saw countless signs for “Elephant Seal Viewing” and figured, “Hell, I might as well stop and get a look at these things.” I stopped at the third offering I saw and made my way a quarter mile down the beach to an overlook of the ocean. Right there, clear as day, lay a couple hundred elephant seals, sun bathing, fishing, mating, and competing all directly on top of one another, or so it seemed. Seal after seal slithering their way in or out of the water, attempting to find a spot amongst the nearly invisible sand below the bodies.
It was such a neat experience watching these animals in their relatively undisturbed habitat, carrying on with life much more simply than we do. It’s rare that you get to see large packs of animals living in nature like that, but when you do, it’s definitely a humbling experience realizing how easy our lives really are. It’s hard to imagine a life like that, unaided and unsimplified like the lives we as an intelligent species are fortunate enough to have. With all of the gadgets, fast food, and other luxuries we have, it’s comforting to watch other animals fight and forage for a successful life as it was initially meant to be.
After my quick stop, I continued up the coast, catching countless views of the ocean to my left and the wooded cliffs on my right. One of my goals after my trip is over is to put together a GoPro video of some of the different scenery I’ve been fortunate to see, so you can believe that for most of my drive I had my hand sticking out of my sunroof, trying to catch all of the scenic images I encountered hour after hour.
About four hours into the drive I reached the town of Big Sur, a famous spot along the PCH known for it’s beautiful beaches and surfing community. Ideally, I had planned to stop here for a bite to eat and some potential selfies, but instead found myself roadside after an unfortunate screw found it’s way into my tire. In the heat I somehow successfully changed my tire and got my spare on, though despite what you might think, I’m really not much of a handyman when it comes to things like that. Really just an unfortunate series of events, but I suppose there are worse places in the world to get a flat than Big Sur, CA.
After fixing my tire, I continued on and got myself to Monterey where I was able to find a tire shop and get a new one. Thankfully I didn’t have to buy an entirely new wheel, as that would have caused issues with my other tires which are thoroughly worn at this point in the trip. $40 later and I had myself a new, fairly weathered but still perfect in every other way, tire that will at least get me the last 2,500 miles home.
I continued my way from Monterey up the remainder of the PCH to San Jose, and then crushed out the last two hours, finally arriving in San Francisco in the early evening.
To my surprise, the San Francisco Giants game was just beginning which made traffic into SOMA (South of Market, the area where my great friend Charlie lives) somewhat of a nightmare. At this point I’ve dealt with my share of traffic, but it still ended up taking me fifteen minutes to drive the two blocks between AT&T Park and Charlie’s apartment. Nonetheless, here I am, in the heart of the Bay area, and looking forward to a full day of San Francisco things before beginning the long journey back east. Until then, cheers.