South to Monterrey
After our hasty retreat from Bodega Bay in the driving wind and rain we headed south aiming to get past San Francisco on the way to Big Sur. Our first stop was the Tomales Bay Oyster Company for a dozen tasty oysters. From there we made a stop to look around Point Reyes Station and pick up a few odds and ends. We had intended to stop and check out Muir Beach and possibly Muir Woods but the driving wind and rain changed that plan, it wasn’t too appealing to be going for a walk in the pouring rain, so we continued on and made the crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Apparently there is a charge for southbound traffic but to date we’ve been unsuccessful in settling up. The signs say to proceed as the toll is ‘automated’ which is another way of saying it doesn’t work. We both made repeated attempts to pay with our phones, I had one success in setting up payment but apparently guessed the wrong time we crossed the bridge so I didn’t get charged. I tried to set up another wider time frame to no avail, every time I entered my information and submitted it the webpage would blank out my entries and I’d be back to square one. We finally gave up and we’ll see if they mail me something. They will probably spend half the fee collecting it from me. Progress.
We made it through the rest of San Francisco and thought we’d make it as far as Half Moon Bay. Right around here we appropriately finished our second audiobook, On The Road. When we pulled into Half Moon Bay park we started having flash backs to our last windswept and rainy campsite, so we quickly got out of there on the road south again. We ended up skipping a fair bit of coastline, but I don’t regret it, I think it was in exchange for our slow pace up north. We ended up in Monterrey at a park right in the city that was quiet except for the distant sounds of barking sea lions. The storm didn’t seem to reach this far south and we were able to enjoy another night around the campfire.
The next morning we headed to Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center. The main attraction was to see Rocinante, Steinbeck’s truck camper he used in his cross country travels chronicled in Travels With Charlie, however the entire Center was a great experience.
After that we headed back towards Monterrey. We debated whether or not we should pay the $10 for the 17 mile drive. It seems like whenever you turn around, everywhere you want to spend an hour or so expects you to cough up another $10. I kept thinking I was reliving a scene from Better off Dead with the kid chasing me down the ski slope yelling “I want my $2!” Anyhow, we did it with no regrets. There were some great views and it was an interesting drive.
We stopped at Spanish Bay for a beach side lunch and enjoyed the pelicans surfing the waves. They would cruise along the waves apparently seeing who could get their wings closest to the waves before they broke.
We had a few other visitors as well. Maybe lunch looked good.
We hit a few more viewpoints and finished the drive.
Then it was on to Big Sur.
We made it to our planned destination, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, with just a bit of light left, only to find it was still closed due to the Soberanes Fire. I guess that’s what happens with a see how it goes plan and little research. We eventually backtracked and stopped in at a couple private parks (remember back to Ft. Bragg, don’t ever consider staying in a private ‘park’) and were informed it would be a mere $60 (since we only had two people and didn’t need electricity) to camp in one of their run down sites that were full of huge mud puddles and stacked right on top of one another. We had already broken the record for the all time expensive camping fees at the state parks on this trip, but really? No thanks. We were back at the Monterrey park in about half an hour. Both nights we had Four Wheel Camper company, but I didn’t get the chance to meet either camper.
The next day was sunny and warm and we headed back south again but not before a walk on the beach and Carmel and a trip to Point Lobos. Both were great stops that we wouldn’t have seen if we would have ended up with a site in Big Sur, so all the better.
After Point Lobos it was back to Big Sur. It was time for some lunch so we stopped at Nepenthe for a snack and a view, not necessarily in that order.
After that was a stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Imagine waking up to this view out your bedroom window.
Once again we were running out of light. We stopped in at Limekiln State Park which looked like a neat place to spend a night, but they were the first campground where the full sign was actually accurate, so we moved on south and enjoyed a sunset as we drove. We eventually ended up at Hearst San Simeon State Park and enjoyed another sky full of stars around the campfire while we celebrated the end of our southbound coastal travels for this trip.
Now it was time to change up the pace a bit and head to the Sierras.