Route 1 Road Trip Day Three: from beautiful Big Sur to picturesque Pigeon Point

I continue my road trip up the California coast via Route 1 with my travel buddy Nick, check out Day One and Day Two.


After our big night out in Cambria, we took the advice of our new local friends and hit up the Redwood Cafe for breakfast. Nick was tickled by the brown leather bar stools, Americana kitch, and bottomless coffee. We ordered California benedict with hash browns (a must!) and Nick’s first order of biscuits and gravy. We were sparing no calories on this trip! The hot sauce bandits struck again.

Displaying the goods. Why yes, I will take another refill, thank you. *

Serious about my biscuits and gravy! To the uninitiated they may look ugly, but they are cheap, tasty, and even better with hot sauce. *

We left town, but not before a celebratory jumping pic in front of the town sign on the side of the highway. Discussions of proper jump-photo variations and techniques ensued… these are the top priorities that our traveler minds are occupied with.

Jumping for love of Cambria!

Our 4 hour route for the day, Cambria to Pigeon Point. Better get moving!

Ten minutes up the road from Cambria is Hearst Castle, the mega-mansion of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. I had seen the little brown signs on the highway and was all about checking it out. Little did I know what I was getting us into: it is an Attraction, with a capital A. I thought we could pull up, see the house, be on our way. But no, it’s a $25 ticket with guided tour and the house is only accessible by tram. Instead of a pit stop, this would be a three hour major detour. So we played in the ridiculous enormous and random gift shop, looked at postcards and calendars to pretend we had actually seen the grounds, and rocked out.

Because what better says I visited (or in our case, didn’t) Hearst Castle than a giant pencil or whale shark toy?
Shortly up the road we stopped to gawk at a beach full of elephant seals chillin’. Question is, do they have a gift shop? Indeed they did, in the form of a volunteer selling elephant seal mugs and stuffed toys at a card table.
Elephant seals taking it easy. Occasionally one would splash itself with sand, or an energetic youngster might hop a few feet. I cheered them on.
The drive up was perfectly picturesque. The sun, the water, the land… all incredibly beautiful. Driving through the neighborhood of Big Sur–with a full tank of gas, mind you–was an utter joy. We stopped at many a lookout point to enjoy the scenery.
Utterly gorgeous coastline. *

Check out that beautiful kelp. If we can gotten our acts together, we would have gone diving in it. *

Me and the ol’ Honda. She’s doing pretty great! *

Stunning views for hours. *

Nick took a turn at the wheel, happily navigating the racetrack-like curves of Route 1 through the oceanside cliffs. I DJed, introducing him to one of my favorite bands of all time: super-mega group 2Ge+her. 2Ge+her is the Monkees of my generation, a made-for-TV parody boy band who had a movie and show on MTV in the late 1990’s. And they are FANTASTIC. If you are unfamiliar, you must improve your life immediately and watch this and this. We grooved to their sweet beats, doubling over laughing more often than not, with most of the lyrics and dance moves coming back to me easily even though I hadn’t listened to many of the songs in years. Then Nick remembered that he lost his driver’s license in Vegas seven months prior. Whoops. Time for a driver change.

Sharing driving responsibilities, briefly.

I love the California coastline hills. *

Big Sur, you are lovely!! *

We pit stopped in Monterey for a late lunch. Out on Old Fisherman’s Warf, we sampled chowder slurps from various restaurants, then had a mediocre chowder and fish and chips lunch with a pithy “VIP” calamari appetizer. Oh well, not brilliant cuisine, but part of the experience I suppose. We watched the gulls, pelicans, and sea lions from our window table. But the far and away highlight of the meal? Nick’s fantastical instruction of his personal strategies and opinions on how to eat an Australian meat pie. From his well-versed description, I came up with my own (perhaps foolhardy) ideas of how to eat my first meat pie down under, stubbornly different than his tried-and-true technique perfected over three-plus decades. He cautioned me on the many obstacles ready to thwart an unsuspecting novice, but I’m ready to take it on… sounds like an adventure to me!

Monterey Bay harbor. *

Sampling chowder along Old Fisherman’s Warf. It’s apparently a thing. *
We arrived at Pigeon Point, just north of Santa Cruz, home to a historic lighthouse and cozy hostel. We checked in, were instructed on all of the Hostel International rules (and their lax enforcement), dropped our things off in the dorm, and then went out to the lookout to check out the sunset. As we approached the boardwalk, Nick pointed, “look!”. A grey whale was breaching right off the point in front of us. He continued to frolic until dusk, delighting the many whale watchers on shore. 

Stunning Pigeon Point vista. *
Nick taking in the sunset.

One of the hostel “rules” is no alcohol. We had been given a nudge nudge wink wink on this at check in, so I snuck some beer from the cooler in the trunk and sipped it discretely from a coffee cup throughout the night. It was so relaxing to quietly chill out on our spectacular balcony. When finished, I weighed my options: put beer bottles in the recycling or discretely pack them out. I opted for the former and laughed when I opened the bin; it was filled to the brim with wine and beer bottles. Guess I wasn’t the only one ninja drinking!

Just ninja drinking beer out of a coffee cup at sunset, nbd. *

Pigeon Point was a peaceful retreat. Nick and I criss-crossed periodically throughout the night, but spent most of the evening having individual quiet time, a travel necessity periodically. When our paths did cross, one of us would say out of the blue “Don’t do it! It’s a bad idea!” with a bit of a smirk. We had had enough DNMs throughout the trip that we both knew what the other was thinking without talking anymore. I curled up in a wool Army surplus blanket and talked on the phone out on the porch for over an hour, then actually got into the kitchen and cooked dinner. He found a spot on the couch and caught up on Dexter episodes (you still owe me a bag of chips and a Black Books viewing party, man!). The evening closed with a hot shower and soft bed; it felt wonderful.

Our adventure continues on Day Four when we arrive in San Francisco! Coming soon…

* Photos courtesy of Nicholas Cooper.

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