A Travellerspoint blog

That was a 'Big Sur'-prise we Could Have Done Without

One Step Forward = Two Backwards

sunny 27 °C

Today was one of those days we'll look back on and laugh about, one day, maybe.

The plan was to drive towards LA via Big Sur (Sur is Spanish for South) a famous piece of coastal highway. The warning bells should have gone off when we passed a couple of signs along the way advising that the road was closed in X miles. That couldn't apply to us and all the other people who who enjoying a pleasant drive along this Scenic Byway?. Wrong.

Long story short, we drove about 65 miles only to find that the road was impassable from that point - there was no other option but to turn around and retrace our steps until we reached a point where we could take an alternative route. All up that was some 130 miles (210 kilometres) down the tubes - on the plus side we did get to see some great scenery (twice).

After a long slog of driving we have holed-up in Santa Barbara for the night. We are staying down by the harbour which is a pretty groovy/trendy place.

Anyway, all good things do to come to an end, as has this trip.

All that is left is the planning of the next one (and to be reunited with our darling daughter).


PS: The following info would have been handy earlier:

Associated Press
Posted: 05/03/2011 09:05:32 AM PDT
Updated: 05/03/2011 09:53:32 AM PDT

A section of Highway 1 through the Big Sur region will remain closed for another month or so as crews continue to work on clearing a landslide.

A spokesman for the California Department of Transportation says the highway at Alder Creek won't be open for another four to six weeks.

Alder Creek is about 25 miles north of San Simeon, or about 38 miles south of the town of Big Sur.

Colin Jones says the section of roadway was covered when "thousands of tons of dirt and debris" fell on the highway last month.

The same stretch of roadway was also closed for several days after a landslide in late March.

Posted by robali 21:49 Comments (2)

All Good Things Must Come to and End

But not quite yet

sunny 25 °C

We didn't travel far today as Mrs M's back was playing-up which necessitated a visit to a chiropractor, luckily we were able to locate one who was free only a couple of minutes away from where we were staying (actually it was astounding, to me, how many chiropractors were in, maybe, a 5 mile radius. Anyways, the back is better and we managed to get to Monterey and the all too familiar Pacific Ocean.

We did the 17-Mile Drive which is drive (duh!) around the Monterey peninsula - like many things here (National Parks, State Parks) you have to pay a fee ($9.50). Fortunately the road has excellent signage and markings - otherwise it would be very confusing with it's twists and turns. The road starts out as a bit of a yawn - unless you like hill roads with pine trees (or similar) on either side - but that all changes when you get down to the coast. Not far offshore are a couple of small islands - these are covered with seals, sea lions and birds. There are large rocks on the banks leading down to the beach where a number of squirrels are living. I have seen squirrels in a number of places in my travels but never by the sea - maybe I need to get out more.

As well as otters and deer, the peninsula is home to four golf courses as well as some affluent (or mortgaged-to-the-eye-balls) people judging by the impressive homes that we were able to see (many more are obscured by walls or gates or trees).

Tomorrow will see us meander down the coast towards Los Angeles.

Posted by robali 20:01 Comments (0)

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Nope. But fortunately the GPS does.

sunny 18 °C

We did the drive around Lake Tahoe this morning, fab-u-lous! We had intended riding on the gondola (one that goes up a mountain not one that meanders around a lake/pond/Venice/whatever) anyways, that was ruled-out due to it being closed for maintenance. Actually, a few things are closed to due to the 'end of the season', what season? one wonders, is not spring a season too?

We had hoped to exit Tahoe via a Scenic Byway (a road recognised for its superior views/scenery/other notable features) sadly it was closed due to snow so we took another, quicker/more direct route which was just-as-well as that quicker/more direct route was friggen long enough. Not having any local knowledge makes guesstimating how long/tiring/demanding a trip will be impossible. Like today. The first section was great, nipping down the side of a mountain at 65 miles an hour on a road that was like a ski run, then zipping through the countryside without a care-in-the-world until finally reaching Sacramento (population 1.4 million) with the traffic getting continually heavier and the fun levels ebbing away!

Anyways, we stopped in San Jose for the night simply because it appeared on our radar at about the right time to call it quits for the day (it was getting into rush hour time and that is best left to the locals who want to get home-fast).

Having now covered a fair few miles I think we are qualified to make a few comments on life on the road in the USA (or, at, least, the tiddly bit that we have seen).

1) If you ever plan to drive here then do your pelvic floor exercises (or what equivalent applies to you). Toilets for the traveler are few and far between. In NZ you can pretty much expect even the smallest town to have a public loo - not so here. I think that the first person who sets up a chain of user-pays restrooms will be guaranteed to be a millionaire in no time at all. I suspect the profusion of fast-food chains here is due to the number of people who pop in to 'spend a penny' and have to buy a drink or something to justify using the facilities. 0/10.

2) Road markings, who needs them? These are times of austerity, but I think that it is still OK to slap a bit of a paint on the road to show where the lanes are/ where to stop/ where to turn. On too many roads the markings have all but faded away. 0/10

3) Litter. What's that? Hats off to the Americans for the lack of rubbish on the sides of their roads. Maybe it isn't there as chain-gangs have picked it up or maybe it is the constant reminder that if you are caught littering then it's $1,000 fine -regardless, the lack of roadside rubbish is impressive. 10/10.

4) Food. Exceptional. Americans excel in this area. You have to love the free-market and the competition that it creates. My super-dooper super-sized whatever will be bigger/better than your extra-whopper mega-size thing-a-me. The variety of items available is mind-boggling. Travel may broaden the mind but the tummy isn't far behind...maybe we should leave the behind out of it.10/10.

Posted by robali 17:29 Comments (0)

Yosemite - Lake Tahoe


sunny 15 °C

The drive from Bakersfield to Yosemite was uneventful, apart from one point when the traffic coming to a complete stop for the longest time. It turned out that a motor-home (we're not talking about a Kiwi-style camper-van but something closer to the size of a bus) had caught fire and burned to a crisp. No doubt the occupants would have smelt the smoke and gotten out safely.

Yosemite is beautiful, which is apparently not a well-kept secret with close to the population of NZ visiting it each year. We got to spend a full day in Yosemite Valley - the relatively small part of Yosemite NP where the majority of people go (Yosemite Valley is 1% of Yosemite NP but it has 101% of easily accessible, jaw-dropping scenery).

We spent two nights in Yosemite about 7 miles from the Valley - on the first day there was a resident coyote less than 100 feet from where we were staying - the next day he was joined by another coyote. I suspect that they were hoping that someone would throw them something to eat - that is something that you are repeatedly told not to do.

There are lots of warnings about black bears and their incredible sense of smell – sunblock lotion, chewing gum and the smallest amounts of food left in a car can result in them ripping into a vehicle to get a snack.

A couple of roads, including a mountain pass that we would have loved to zip down are currently closed due to deep snow which is usual for this time of the year (spring). The spring melt means that the waterfalls are looking pretty impressive.

We left Yosemite for Lake Tahoe this morning - the way we went (there are many options) had us zipping along mountain passes and driving, for a large part, at alpine levels - and we are talking about a trip of around 290 km's. We passed frozen lakes and beautiful alpine meadows with lush spring growth.

Lake Tahoe is 6,300 feet above sea level, they say the water is so clear that you can see a white dinner plate 75 feet under water - I had a look - sure, the water is clear but I couldn't see any dinner plates.

We arrived at Lake Tahoe late in the afternoon -tomorrow will be explore time - including the obligatory 2-3 hour drive around the lake.

(Luckily for you that the wireless internet connection here is crap and the uploading of photos is so flakey that I have given up - for now)

Posted by robali 21:52 Comments (2)

Hutt Valley vs Death Valley

The smart money is on Death Valley

sunny 35 °C

We had an early start after the obligatory big breakfast that one gets from almost all motels/motor inns. A typical breakfast (you help yourself to what you want) includes all or most of the following: scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, breakfast sausages, toast, danishes, cereal, fruit juices, tea & coffee, assorted spreads, waffles, bagels, biscuits and gravy (soft dough biscuits covered in thick "country" or "white" gravy), fruit, yoghurt - suffice to say that you can eat enough to power you through a fair chunk of the day!

Death Valley was very cool while being rather hot. We made a couple of must do detours including Badwater , the lowest point in North America -282 feet below sea level. It was named Badwater as there is a small spring there but the water is undrinkable due to the high concentration of salts.

The drive through Death Valley was one of ups and downs - the road undulates, a lot , plus there are mountain passes along the way - it was a surprisingly long, but fun, drive and definitely worth the extra effort and length that it added to the trip.

We are back in California and are staying the night in Bakersfield (which has no claim to fame that I know of - for us, it was a good point in our travels to catch some zzzz's). Yosemite NP is some 4 hours drive away and we will be staying there for two nights - as previously mentioned we won't have access to the internet - I can feel the DT's kicking in already.

Posted by robali 19:49 Comments (0)

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