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Irma and I experienced something we have been wanting to do for some time – drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Known as the “1” or “PCH” for short, this highway runs mostly along California’s coastal line and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, sometimes at near sea levels while other times atop high cliffs.

The original plan was to fly to Bellingham Washington, which sits near the U.S. / Canadian border, and work our way down. After thinking about it, we decided that would take much more time than we had for a vacation. Therefore we decided to go up as opposed to down and started our journey in San Diego.

Rather than bore you with all the details, I will say that the only planned part of this trip, that is where we were going to actually go and stay, was the first part – San Diego. Everything else depended on where we would end up the next day. In light of this, I must say that the trip was both adventurous and sometimes exhausting. I’m grateful for the Kayak app for Blackberry which helped us secure lodging for each new destination.

The general idea was to work our way up the coast till we hit the Sonoma area (wine country) and then head over to Lake Tahoe area and work our way back home through Nevada.

The cities we actually ended up staying in were as follows:

  • San Diego, CA (Shelter Island) – 2 days
  • Ventura, CA – 1 day
  • Cambria, CA – 1 day
  • Monterey, CA – 2 days
  • San Rafael, CA- 2 days
  • Reno, NV – 1 day
  • Las Vegas, NV – 1 day

After 10 days and almost 2,300 miles in our Z, we were back home. Driving the Z was a lot of fun but did require very strategic packing. Luggage space was already pretty cramped when we left Phoenix and bringing 15 bottles of wine back home from our wine tasting adventures left little room for the imagination.

I can’t say the entire trip was “relaxing” – maybe certain parts of it, but I can say it was “educational” in that should we do something like this again (and we will), we know now what to do and what not to do.

Here are some of the highlights of our little trip:

  • Saw two excellent bands at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites in San Diego, one of which (Subliminal Trip) really stood out.
  • Added another roller coaster (Giant Dipper) to my list of coasters ridden over my lifetime bringing the total number to 141.
  • Visited Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Got to walk out on the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, which is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast, measuring 1,971 feet.
  • Drove through several beach cities in Southern California including La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas (stopped for tacos here), Carlsbad and Oceanside.
  • Visited and stayed in Cambria, a seaside village located midway between San Luis Obispo and Hearst Castle on the Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Visited Hearst Castle where we did one of the three tours available.
  • Experienced the wineries of Paso Robles for the first time including Hearthstone, Opolo, Carina, Mondo, and one of my personal favorites, Rabbit Ridge.
  • Visited Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row in Monterey.
  • Visited my wife’s brother in San Francisco, celebrating his birthday at the same time.
  • Discovered Embassy Suites in San Rafael, the place we will now stay every time we visit Sonoma.
  • Had a most excellent tasting at Cline Cellars in Sonoma (hit a few others but this one was the best).
  • Got to see what Reno was all bout (not impressed) and stayed at the Peppermill.
  • Drove the very boring Nevada State Route 95, also known as Veterans Memorial Highway, from Reno to Las Vegas where we passed through several ghost towns (the down economy) and a creepy dying lake (Walter Lake). I did pass everyone on that road and hits speeds up to 110 which is a plus. I would have gone faster but my wife was with me and hates when I speed. 😉

Of course the very best part of the trip was being able to be alone with my wife, who is not only my lover but my very best friend, for 10 uninterrupted days from the normal drama of everyday life. That is something that I feel every couple needs now and then.

I think we will do another one of these types of trips in the future but the next time take more time to actually “relax” in each place. Irma would say a big “Amen!” to that. For example, the next time we might take I-10 to Los Angeles and stay in Paso Robles for a few days, then visit Carmel/Monterey again but for a few days this time. We would definitely have to visit Lake Tahoe (we drove past it but didn’t stop). Coming home, we might drive the beautiful U.S. Route 395 (as long as it is not winter) as opposed to the boring 95 in Nevada.

All in all, I thought it was a great experience and look forward to doing it again in the future but this time with some more experience and maybe a bit more pre-planning.

San Diego Naval Base

San Diego Naval Base

 

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

 

Ocean Beach Municipal Pier

Ocean Beach Municipal Pier

 

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

 

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle