Days 4 to 7: Santa Barbara to Monterey

I have just been called an asshole by a woman cycling on the pavement in Monterey, who clearly took offence at my pulling out of a carpark, slowly and safely, several metres away from her. However, almost immediately afterwards she changed her attitude entirely by asking me if I was blind. Nice of her to show an interest in my optical health.

On Sunday we woke up on the El Capitan State Beach campsite to the unexpected sound of rain, but luckily it had stopped by the time we’d driven back in to Santa Barbara, after checking out Refugio State Beach. We visited The Mission, then spent the day chilling out round the town and beach before driving up to Pismo Beach in time to catch the sunset and eat an apparently common American treat of Graham crackers. Pismo Beach is slightly unusual in that people go there to drive their 4×4 vehicles all over it. On the way we passed through Guadalupe where the almost entirely Mexican population were celebrating Fiestas Patrias. We stayed the night in a cheap Motel 6 in San Luis Obispo.

Monday I started the day with a Devil’s Mess. That’s a breakfast of scrambled eggs, spinach, chilli, onions and sausage. We then got back on the road and headed up to Morro Bay where we kayaked and took a trip on a boat including a “sub sea” tour – basically going downstairs on the boat and looking at fish through the glass. The most enjoyable parts for me during the kayaking were getting up close to a bunch of sea lions, and watching a pelican yawn and seemingly turn its throat inside out. You don‘t see that every day. After enjoying a Mexican shrimp salad at a nearby café that was roughly as tasty as a glass of tap water, we went for a hike up to the summit of Cerro Alto, which is a 2620 feet high hill about 8 miles east of Morro Bay. I think we saw some of the greatest views I’ve ever seen from up there, and also possibly the most lizards I’ve ever seen. There was even a lizard looking up at me from one of the toilets. We spent the night in another Motel 6, this time in San Simeon.

Tuesday we visited Hearst Castle, the sprawling, extravagant property designed and built  for publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst from 1919 until his death in 1947, in which he gathered artefacts from all over the world and built more and more rooms to put them in. He even brought in polar bears, and apparently there are still zebras kicking around the grounds. We then had lunch on Memorial State Beach, saw some seals off Route 1, then had a chilled night.

When I say Route 1, I am of course referring to the “famous” Route 1. I wonder if anyone looks forward to coming over to London and driving on the “famous” A3?

Anyway, this morning we got up early and headed North up Route 1 to Big Sur stopping at various view points, did some hiking at Julia Pfeiffer and Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Parks, and looked in vain for otters at Willow Creek, before carrying on up to Monterey. Incidentally the mention of “Big Sur” tends to remind me of the song of that name by the tedious Irish rock band The Thrills, but I still enjoyed the day nonetheless.

To finish this off for now, tonight we had the best pizza we’ve had since we got here in a place called Gianni’s, although judging by the size of some of the other patrons of the establishment, it’s not somewhere we should eat regularly.

We’re planning on staying here for a couple of days before heading off to San Francisco. Oh, and if you’ve been looking at the photos on Flickr, you’re probably thinking we’ve taken enough photos of the sea, beaches and lizards, so we’ll try and change that from now on. And I’m two chapters in to Alan Carr’s book.