Crossing over into California from Oregon, things were a bit different from the start. The vibe seemed different, a bit more relaxed, but most importantly, gas was WAY more expensive!
We continued down the 101, which in California is called Redwood Highway. We passed a number of old, rundown looking coastal towns and several different redwood groves. Branching off on the 211, we followed what is known as the ‘lost coast’. It’s California’s longest stretch of completely undeveloped stretch of shoreline – so incredibly different than the California I know with the huge houses, beaches and people everywhere near the beaches.
The scenery was a crazy beautiful mix of landscapes. In some areas there were dark forest floors with a covering of ferns, dense groves of furry Redwoods that looked like a bad drawing kids do of trees – stick straight trunks with a million straight branches jutting out. Then we’d come through the forests and see rolling farmland with fields of wildflowers, including a flower I swear looks like cauliflower. Other times we’d come around one of the steep curves and see huge stretches of deserted beach and sea.
Driving through the green hills with the sea in the distance very much reminded me of parts of the UK. I remember going on ‘walks’ (I quickly learned that Brits call even the most strenuous hike a ‘walk’) that wound across the hills and cut through private pastures and farmlands throughout Brighton. However, in the US everything was fenced in and divided up – in the areas we walked in the UK even private farmlands are made accessible to the public through strategically placed fence gates and even steps over the paddock fences. We passed through one little town on the coast called Capetown – a little smaller than the original!
The 211 turned out to be a really, really long, twisty turn-y roads – posted speed limit was at least 20 mph faster than we felt comfortable taking the curves, especially with the huge trucks and even fire engines racing the other direction on the road! We learned that Ted estimates the time based on the stated speed limit – it took us at least an hour (or more!) longer to do the drive than expected.
The Redwood Forests were just as amazing as I had expected them to be – huge, imposing monoliths, making me feel small. Dark, twisty roads are shaded by the giants. There are forests as far as they eye could see – we took a small little walk into one of the groves and it was so quiet with the needles absorbing the sounds of our feet, and the shafts of light piercing the treetops created so many picture-perfect images I just couldn’t capture. I can only imagine what it would be like to hike far into the groves away from the road. Looking up through Rex’s sunroof gave a really cool view of the tall trees! We even fell into a giant tourist trap and paid to drive through a giant redwood – silly, but pretty fun!
Highway 1 led us all the way down the coast towards San Francisco the next day. After our twisty-turny detour the day before, we were a bit sick of scenic drives! We’ll have to go back and experience the area again when we’re a little less wound in circles. I didn’t take too many pictures on this route because I had a few issues on the Sonoma County part of Rte 1 – I had a bout of panic as we crested one curve and I realized that the cliff face on my right (I was driving) was a sheer drop into the ocean. I started freaking out a bit at how far down it was, and even after I made Nick drive I was a bit jittery. I knew I was afraid of heights a bit, but usually am not quite such a chicken. Only other time was at the Cliffs of Mohr with my sister when we crawled out to the edge to look over and I was so frozen with fear I couldn’t go back…Or the time we stopped to watch people bungee jumping over Storms River in South Africa when I couln’t actually watch them without clutching my stomach…. maybe it was the combo of the heights and the wind. Who knows. But the rest of the drive was beautiful, with a ton of picturesque towns and even a good number of ‘houseboats’ – I say that in quotes because I’m not sure if they were actually boats or just houses built on docks.
The first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge was breathtaking. I’ve been to SF quite a few times before, but I realized I’ve never approached it from the North. When we crossed over it was dusk, and you could see the lights of the city coming on. Gorgeous. We tried in vain to camp at one of the sites listed in our book, but ended up in a great hotel downtown instead. We were both exhausted by the time we finally got our car parked and bags dropped off. We scarfed down some amazing (or maybe just amazing because we were starving) Thai food, and fell into bed. Of course, after watching some mindless television for awhile – it’s my guilty pleasure to watch silly sitcoms and un-newsworthy CNN when we splurge on a hotel since I’ve gone so many years without tv at home.