Day 7 (June 12, 2008) Flight to West Coast, Monterey, Karmel and Big Sur


Route from SFO to Big Sur

   Flight to San Francisco takes off at 8:40, so we must wake up early to arrive to JFK airport on time. This flight is 6 hours and a half long but, due to the time change, we will land there at 12:10h. Our plan is taking the 4WD car in the same airport and drive to Monterey lunching wherever in the way. We will do the short walk around the town is in our California guide and then back to the car to go to Karmel, which is quite close. Clint Eastwood was the mayor of this town until a few months ago and it looks very beautiful. This visit should be quick as we will just watch around its beach and streets.

   From here, we will drive along Hw1, the scenic highway following the coast with a bunch of spots to stop and enjoying the views of the cliffs and the sea. We don’t have any hotel booked for this night as the idea is going as far as possible. The end point for today should be between Big Sur (B on map) and Morro Bay (C on map), both with plenty of lodging. The minimum trip for this day is 164 Km, which we should do in 1h 38 minutes with no stops.


   Today we’ve been ready early as it was a must: at 7:00 we’re taking the taxi called by the hotel staff. It is a fix rate of 40$ for a trip to JFK airport and we would have time enough for a check in which closes at 8:10h. We do this trip quiet, looking through the windows and saying good bye to New York City. Farewell!

   Once in the plane, we can see a vast area of houses with gardens just after taking off. That’s Long Island!. I know that because I’ve been lost in there! Then we spend the six hours and a half of flight by sleeping or playing trivial games in our individual display.

   In San Francisco airport we just follow the “Car rental” signs to get into a corridor with the desks of all the car rental companies. Dollar is at the end and we join the small row until the time of our turn. They confirm my price is right and all insurances are included but one: driver and passengers. I’m offered to include it and to add the first tank of fuel as well and I agree on everything because it means paying less than the price of one tank of fuel on the street for everything. I’m still remembering I paid twice the price on Hertz when I’m taking the elevator down to the parking to pick up what is going to be our car for the next 12 days.
Sapporo Monterey
   We love this white Jeep Liberty and, recalling the most recent experience, I set D gear and go ahead. I get the highway and am constantly checking we’re on the right way. It seems I’m better on West Coast! Our destination is Monterey and we drive directly to there, first following Santa Cruz direction and then Monterey itself. Once in the city we automatically reach the beach. Following the road along the sea we end in a big parking area with a Japanese restaurant in it: Sapporo. Parking meters are double-headed and you must insert quarters into them. I put enough for one hour and go upstairs to the restaurant.

    It’s been a bit less than two hours drive and it’s 15:00h, at this time everybody has already lunched here and we can check that when seeing a completely empty restaurant. It has big windows with magnificent views of the marina, so we’re expecting touristy prices. And it seems so at menu as dishes are two ciphered prices, but the final bill of 70$ for three big cokes, three miso soups, one sushi platter, another one of sashimi, another one of orange duck and one tempura basket, it’s not that expensive as I thought.
Monterey's beach
   We want to walk around this town as we liked what we’ve already seen of it but, before, I’m putting coins for one more hour and take some long sleeve clothes because, it may be hard of believe, but it’s kind of cold here!

   We walk along the pier, which is a platform above the sea with the help of wood pillars. Usually it has a wooden floor too. This one has parking slots on both sides we can see the marina we could see from the restaurant at our left and a very long beach at right. In front of us, our first view of Pacific Ocean. On despite of this chilly there are some people at beach. We don’t dare to take a bath so we go on with our walk. We can see a pink lighthouse and another pier, but this is a big one, as a town over the waters. This is the starting point of the short track across Monterey streets explained on my guide, hence we follow to the historical park, which can be seen from here, and leave this beautiful pier and the sea for later, although a sea lion swimming close to us has make our cameras to work.

Pier of MontereySea lion

   Reaching the historical park make us go into a western landscape, but more like a Mexican village than the typical on with its saloon and just a straight street. A stone fountain is sited in the middle of a big square with an old two floor building on it, with life size figures on the balcony as Indians, cowboys and colonists. One of the colonists has a blunderbuss on the shoulder and is dressed with the typical Catalonian costume. How is it possible?!

Monterey Historic ParkCatalonian colonist?

Walking by Monterey   We keep walking by a pedestrian avenue full of modern design and antiquities shops at both sides. The streets and the plants are clean and impeccable. At the end of the street we can see a Café, where Eva wants to take the coffee she hasn’t got after lunching. There, she gets in conversation with an old man about the coffee, as Eva says is the first good one she can take in USA. The man is from Italy and speaks a perfect Spanish. He’s been leaving in Monterey for 20 years now and loves this city. When talking about our route he tells he lived in L.A. for a while but, with more than 10 million people living in there, he preferred a lot more the quietness of this part of California. Karmel is very beautiful, fully recommended by him.

   We’re in Del Monte Boulevard and our pleasant walk is taking us to Pacific Street, close of Robert Louis Stevenson’s house, which we’re not going to visit. In this street is the first theater in California, which basically is a wooden hut. We love everything we are seeing: an old tram seems made of wood, a modern red car with a classic design, the streets, the houses, the squares…

Car in MontereyFirst theater of California

   We take Scott St. down because this time we’re going to go to the pier. It is more a shopping mall with stores with wood colorful facades are making up streets, which are asphalted. It’s incredible all this “village” is borne by trunks over the sea. It is kind of a fishing environment with statues of fishermen, whale watching services – December to April, so we’re out of season now -, an horde of seagulls populating the roofs. We can see a floating platform where some sea lions are in a nap. We can find Zoltar machine here as well! The magician who granted the wish from a kid of being Tom Hanks in “Big”. You can see it in picture at right (the magician is the one at left).

Pier of MontereyZoltar on pier

   On the first stages of planning this travel we would spend one night in Monterey ad we’re leaving the city thinking that’s always a good idea. It’s almost 17:00h and we arrive to Karmel in a few minutes.

   At first sight it is a town matching with its environment: single floor houses with a lot of plants, some even build in stone, but all of them with this big money looking. As we’re short in time, our idea was driving around for a car tour of the town, but when we reach the beach we must park and go into it. Karmel’s beach is beautiful because of it looks wild: the fine white sand ground is full of pine needles and twisted trees with strange forms, far from the usual straightness. It looks more like a virgin beach than one belonging to a town. The beauty of this landscape is a call for us to taking off our shoes and joining to the frog. We take a lot of photos here for the short time we can spend here.

Karmel by the seaCarmel

Karmel by the seaKarmel

    Some minutes later, we’re back to the road for officially starting Hw1 route. Soon we’re driving between hills at left and cliffs over the sea at right and, with the Pacific Ocean, appear the “Vista points”, with a parking area for enjoying the views easily. We stop in all of them as we love everything we’ve seen today in California and these landscapes are not disappointing. For some of these views the frog is appearing, but that’s charming too for us. We drive between tall Highway 1fir trees in a road across Big Sur town. I know there are good lodging options in this place, but as I’m guessing still two more hours of light I decide to go on further. We pass by Pfeiffer State Park entrance, which I know because of a beautiful picture with a waterfall dying over the sand of the beach I could see all over the internet, but you must pay and go into the park to see it, so we keep driving.

   Sun is leaving and is helping on getting magnificent pictures of the sunset in such nice place, but it means dark can get us in road still so we must find a motel. It’s obvious we’re not going to reach Morro Bay today but we’re now in a rush after several kilometers with no hints of houses or so.

Cliffs in Big SurCliffs in Big Sur

Sunset in Big Sur
   Around one hour later than being around Big Sur Town I’m regretting for not stopping there but, when the dark was close to be completely over us appears some few houses in the middle of a long straight and we can see a gas station and a sign saying “lodging”. We’ve reached a place named Gorda apparently made up of a store with four rooms for hiring over it, a gas station and a restaurant. I go to the restaurant to ask about the rooms but I’m answered to ask in the store. Murphy law: there are just two places and I’m going to the wrong one! Room is 120$. It’s a bit expensive for me for a road motel but I agree as the alternative is sleeping in the car in the middle of nowhere. I must say it is not a motel room, though: this is as a small house with fireplace. And if you open the door all the blue from the Pacific Ocean – dark blue now – is coming in. It’s not that bad by 80€.

   I smoke a cigarette on the balcony watching how the colors of the sea and the sky are getting darker and darker until merging in black. I think one travel on vacation because of these moments.
Sign in Gorda

   A good dinner in the restaurant is our next move. All the decoration of the place is whale themed, in coherence with its name “Café Whale watchers”. On the way to our room I pay attention to sign pointing to multiple spots, which is funny in a place with just two spots.