Cruisin’ California – Part 5

(A blog series on the adventures my wife and I enjoyed during our honeymoon.)

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By this point, my wife and I were both hoping this trip would never end. (I’d gladly volunteer any information that would have made this anything less than a completely satisfying, delightful experience – but I really can’t think of anything that would apply.) It had been an amazing week so far, and the rest of the journey did not disappoint.

Our first stop that morning was a neighborhood fish place in Cayucos that our friend had recommended. It was not open for business at that time of the day, but the sweet aroma of smoked fish around the perimeter of the building made it absolutely worth the stop.

Of course, this led to us immediately becoming rather hungry, so we headed down to Pismo Beach for our friend’s second recommended restaurant, Honeymoon Café. You should have breakfast there sometime. No, really. Cool place and great food.

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The fresh squeezed orange juice and the spinach wrap burrito filled with eggs, bacon, sausage and all kinds of goodness were both quite tasty. Meanwhile, my wife enjoyed a hot chocolate as we sat on the patio and enjoyed the funky setting. Yeah, funky…in a good way. The place had a sign on the front, directing hippies to use a separate entrance. Fantastic.

We took a walk down along the pier and were treated to a surfing display by some pretty talented folks. It was fun watching them carve up the waves.

Someone asked if I was a photographer for Surfline. I replied that I wasn’t, but ended up having an in-depth conversation about surfing and the various different techniques. I’ve never done it, but feel like I know how to now, after talking with the gentleman on the pier. Good times. These are conversations worth having. Seriously, such a random, fun week.

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We drove past a bunch of grape fields on our way south from there. I had no idea so many wineries existed in that particular area of California. Pretty fascinating to see all of the rows of grapes. We were equally impressed by all of the other fruit farms we’d passed in previous days, and surprised that many of those were right next to the beach. That’s some prime real estate, man!

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We made it to Santa Barbara early that afternoon, our “home” for the next two nights. Gave the Airbnb thing a shot – and, it was a good experience. We rented an apartment unit just two or three blocks from the downtown shopping and dining district.

The place was, well, that funky word comes to mind again. Yeah, it was funky – again, in a good way. Lots of interesting art on the walls, a little loft in there and a door at the bottom of the stairs next to the sidewalk that was open 24 hours a day. Urban living at its finest. We liked it.

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You can do some serious shopping in Santa Barbara. Not always my favorite activity, but it’s vacation, so why not? My wife and I both found some items we just couldn’t say no to, then headed to get something to eat.

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Dinner that night actually consisted of two stops, several hours apart. Queso fundido at Sandbar and sushi at Yume. Thumbs up to both. We actually did the same thing the next night – small plates at Nectar and a burger at The Habit.

We enjoyed it all, but that Nectar place is worth mentioning again. Some seriously well prepared food there. The flatbread my wife ordered was ridiculously good and the lemongrass shrimp was great, too. Friendly service, smart décor. Stop in there if you’re in Santa Barbara sometime.

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We made it a point to visit the historic mission the following morning. A short bus ride and a little bit of a walk later, and we were there. (We loved the road trip aspect of the vacation but it was nice to park the car for a day!) This was a worthwhile stop, for sure. Lots of history there, and the architecture is quite impressive. Here are a few photos.

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We spent the rest of our time at the beach. One thing we noticed was all of the activity going on nearby. Pickup soccer games, rugby and a skate park all just a few steps away from the sand. Sweet.

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We headed out after our two-night stay there, feeling refreshed and just high on life.

That morning took us past a bunch of beach towns – Malibu, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and more. Each one is a little different and has its own personality. Love that. California is one cool state.

We rounded out our week, staying with my sister and brother-in-law in San Diego. Had a blast with both of them and we got to meet our brand new nephew and see our niece, too.

It was one of the best weeks of my life.:)

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We made it back home and shared the photos and stories with our kids. Maybe they’ll take this trip someday. Maybe we’ll do it again.

I’m just thankful for the opportunity to go on a honeymoon with my wife, for the incredible sights we’d been able to see during our journey and for the joy we experienced…Cruisin’ California.

Cruisin’ California – Part 4

(A blog series on the adventures my wife and I enjoyed during our honeymoon.)

We got going pretty early on this particular day. Of course, we’d been up since 6 a.m. so why not? The two-hour time difference didn’t bother us during the trip…we just tended to get up early each morning and go to bed early each night.

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So, off we went. Back to that winding, beautiful stretch of pavement they call Highway 1. We were getting into the idea of just driving from town to town, staying the night and then leaving the next morning. A good sign for our future plans/dreams to buy an RV and just randomly travel the country together. Anyway, back to this trip. 

One of our first stops that day was the Bixby Bridge. Oh man, it was sweet! I’d heard of it, courtesy of a Death Cab for Cutie song a number of years ago. Any bridge mentioned in a song must be cool, right? Indeed, it is. This is one incredible structure.

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We spent a fair amount of time just enjoying the view and, of course, taking more photos. We also chatted with a couple from New York making the same trip we were along Highway 1, except going in the opposite direction. Nice folks.

Made another stop along the side of the road a little later that morning and had the privilege of seeing a condor, some 600 feet below, through the eyes of a kind gentleman’s telescope.

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I mentioned 600 feet – yeah, this road is perched at a crazy high elevation in many places. When you combine the twists and turns, oh and the fact that there really aren’t guardrails along the edge, it is actually quite an exhilarating ride if you think about it. More than once, my wife mentioned the lack of anything between her and the ocean way, way down below.

Our next stop was a pretty one. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is right off of Highway 1 and is home to a variety of spectacular scenes – everything from a Caribbean feel to a wooded, almost jungle-like atmosphere in some spots.

The highlight of the park is the majestic McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that spills onto the sand, next to water with a color that resembles something you’d expect to see in the islands somewhere.

The inland trail we took led us past redwood trees, a nice little creek and another waterfall. Three hours had passed, by the time we drove out of the park. Definitely recommend it!

The Big Sur area in general is full of natural beauty. Tree canopies over many areas of Highway 1, and just a really fun drive. We passed through Los Padres National Forest as we continued south. More sky-high curves in the road. More sweeping vistas with (multi) million dollar views. More photos. More fun!

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The flowers were blooming throughout our journey…so many colors and shapes to see. They’re great accents to the seaside landscapes.

It’s not every day that you see hundreds of elephant seals (or any elephant seals, I suppose) hanging out just a few feet away from you, so we decided to check this beach out, near San Simeon.

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Lots and lots of elephant seals!

We stayed at a little roadside motel, called the San Simeon Lodge that night.

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Granted, my wife prefers staying at places with the doors on the inside of a hallway, but it was just fine.:) Had some great burgers at the restaurant there and relaxation mode was kicking in, until…

…I noticed the sun. Hadn’t seen it for the past several hours that day. But, there it was. It was low in the sky and the ocean was right across the road from where we were sitting. That meant only one thing. Sunset photos!

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So, naturally the next course of action was for us to sprint across Highway 1, grab the camera and start firing away. It was worth it. What a day. Just writing this, it makes me realize how thankful I am that we were able to see so many amazing sights that week.

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Make sure to come back for the next, possibly final (depending on how much I end up writing about this fabulous journey) installment in this series. You’ll be along for the ride to Santa Barbara and beyond…surfers, a piece of history and more memorable meals. See you soon!

Cruisin’ California – Part 3

(A blog series on the adventures my wife and I enjoyed during our honeymoon.)

Our travels took us to some truly beautiful places on this particular day. 17-Mile Drive, winding through the Monterey Peninsula, was very much one of the highlights. Wow.

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This drive is absolutely worth the few bucks that you pay to travel it. Along the way you are treated to beautiful ocean views, a chance to gawk at some visually stunning homes that you’ll never be able to afford but yet are still fun to check out, and some really sweet golf courses. I mean, really. Check out this hole!

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Plenty of photo ops along this drive, including the area near the Lone CypressBasically, you drive for a a few minutes, then stop and take photos. Repeat. This was great with me, as I love taking pictures. My wife was patient with me and just enjoyed the views while I was busy snapping photos left and right. Thanks, babe!

Another highlight of the day was being able to not only visit, but also walk out to the 18th green of Pebble Beach Golf Links. Seriously? I had no idea this was allowed, but kudos to the folks who run the course for allowing it to happen. So much golf history here! Hallowed ground for golf fans. It was fascinating to be able to stand just a few feet away from the place where major championships have been won and where the legends of the game have walked and perfected their craft.

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We wrapped up our trek on 17-Mile Drive and then headed to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. More beautiful views! Why not? I mentioned the strong winds in the previous post, and that was definitely the case here.

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Elevated hikes at this park lead you to panoramic vistas, where you can see the waves crashing against the rocks, below. You can also nearly blow over when the winds are as strong as they were that day! The park ranger said it was easily the strongest winds of the year that day. More good waves to photograph and enjoy, though! We loved this place and I’d definitely recommend it as a stop on your journey.

We wrapped up the night in Carmel and enjoyed a meal at Affina.

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Nice vibe in there, the waitress was very friendly and helpful with our various questions and we had some nicely cooked steaks. One of the side items they served with the steaks – sunchokes. Ever had them? It was a new food for both of us. Not bad.

Afterward, we stopped at a candy store for some sweet treats and took a leisurely stroll through downtown Carmel. Another great day in California.

More to come in the next post…you’ll see another breathtaking bridge, waterfalls, seals, and a seaside sunset. Check back soon and have a great day, everyone!

Cruisin’ California – Part 2

(A blog series on the adventures my wife and I enjoyed during our honeymoon.)

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We woke up for the second day of our journey through California, feeling energized and ready to explore the coastline. First things first – breakfast. Enjoyed a good (free) meal at the hotel; we particularly enjoyed the variety of fruits and nuts available to make the morning yogurt quite a treat!

Off we went. As we made our way toward the ocean, we passed through a charming little town called Half Moon Bay. Half Wild West, half boutique is the best way I can describe the town. We loved it. My wife said she could live there, for sure. (This was just the beginning of our proclamations of potential future residency at the many towns and places we visited, during our trip.)

From there, we “officially” started the journey south, down Highway 1. It didn’t take long for us to find an amazing view – and for us to pull over to stop and stare at it.
This place was cool, and because random adventures are always a good thing, we (well, I) decided that climbing down the (very) steep and tall ravine to get down to the beach was a good idea.

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Other than the fact that you needed a rope to keep you from sliding down the ravine at some points, it was a totally relaxing walk down to the sand. That dripping sound you hear is the sarcasm, rolling off of that last sentence. It was quite a descent.

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After we made it down there, we saw another couple going through the same “discussion” halfway down, as to whether or not it was worth it to keep going. They opted against it. I told my wife I was proud of her for rocking it out and making it all the way.:)

One thing to point out about the first half of this trip is that the winds were rather strong. By that I mean, 25 mph sustained winds at times. It was crazy windy out there! The upside of that – huge waves, and some cool photos we wouldn’t have been able to get if it had been calm out there those days.

One of the best examples of that was our stop at Bean Hollow State Beach, a little turnoff just off of Highway 1. I really liked all of the jagged rocks out there and we found some other interesting looking ones while walking along the shore. As for the waves…oh, man they were amazing. What a great show. Free entertainment…so cool. Check out the slideshow, below!

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We made our way to Santa Cruz that afternoon…

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…and hit the wharf for some lunch with a view at Riva Fish House. It…was…delicious. Check out these fish tacos, and also the fried zucchini.

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Never had the latter before, but am going to try to make it at home sometime. Meanwhile the fish was super tasty and the aioli was a nice touch, on the side. California was definitely living up to its reputation as the place to be for good fish tacos.

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Said hello to a few sea otters, or seals, or whatever these guys were, hanging out by the pier. From there, it was off to Capitola, just down the road, where we stayed that night.

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Our lodging for the evening was the Monarch Cove Inn. Cozy little bed and breakfast, with individual little buildings and rental units and some nice views of the Pacific. The town itself was a memorable sight, as seen (below) during our walk down from the B&B that evening. Only 84 steps down the hill to get there – and we didn’t even need ropes to climb down this time, haha.

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It was a great day.

Don’t miss part three of this special series, featuring spectacular sights and scenes from 17-Mile Drive, a stop at one of the world’s most famous golf courses and an evening in Carmel. Much more to come!

Cruisin’ California – Part 1

(A blog series on the adventures my wife and I enjoyed during our honeymoon.)

California! We were so excited that the trip had finally arrived. We’d planned for it for more than a year, but at the same time, made virtually no plans for the time we were there.

To help you understand why we made no plans, we have four (wonderful) children between the two of us. They light up our lives. Being a parent is an incredible thing, but as any parent knows, it will keep you very scheduled! With four youngsters around, that is a lot of rides back and forth between sporting events, friends’ houses, and everything in between. We have an absolute blast with our crew, but we are busy folks.

It was time to give the daily planner a rest and just go exploring. And so, we did. We’ve been married for a little more than a year, and it ended up being a perfect time to take our “official” honeymoon together.

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Our trip? San Francisco to San Diego, along Highway 1. If you’ve never done it…do it.

We landed in San Francisco on a sunny afternoon, picked up our rental car and headed out. Side note: We really liked the rental. It was a Jeep Compass. Nice ride, handles well, plenty of room, looks pretty sharp, and I’m pretty sure we only spent 60 bucks on gas for the entire trip. Might have to get one, the next time we’re in the market for a vehicle. But, I digress.

I have no doubt San Francisco is a wonderful city. But, the two of us aren’t really into big cities and we had our eyes on other places in the area. Sausalito was one of those places, so we headed there to check it out. It did not disappoint. (Click on the collage to see the slideshow.)

What a fun little town. Carved out along the edge of the water, this is a great place for spending a day bicycling (we must have seen a thousand bikes that afternoon,) poking your head into the little shops, walking along the harbor, or grabbing a tasty bite to eat.

One of the things we noticed right away was the houses sitting on the hills. So many of them, with a nice variety of architectural styles. This became a common theme along our journey and wherever we went, we enjoyed looking at all of the homes tucked into hills and mountains.

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We took a walk around Sausalito and then enjoyed a tasty meal at The Trident. Waterfront dining, fresh food…good stuff.

As the day wound down, we decided to scope out a good place to view the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. We found a spot on Kirby Cove Rd. just northwest of it; an elevated location with panoramic views of the bridge and the city behind it.

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It was everything I imagined it to be, and more. What an amazing structure. Wow! The thing is huge, too. Snapped a bunch of pictures of the bridge and just took an hour or two to enjoy the view and relax.

We did drive through San Francisco twice that day between our other destinations, so technically we saw some of it. Looked like a pretty cool city. Maybe next time we’ll ride a cable car or something.:)

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All in all, it was a fabulous start to our journey. We went back to our hotel, grabbed some In-N-Out Burger just because you have to when you’re in California, and that was it for the first day.

Check back soon for a look at Part 2 of Cruisin’ California – wild waves, fabulous fish tacos and some beautiful views!

:)

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