After many hours on Highway 5 amid very dry, dusty conditions and a sense of brownness everywhere, I finally made the turn toward the sea. It is one of the final legs of my journey: California Highway 1.
At first, I was a little nervous. There were a LOT of people on the 1 around Santa Cruz, and the drive wasn’t all that pretty. Lola and I can’t drive very quickly around the bends, and traffic was piling up behind us, with no place to turn off. We headed south. Monterrey was much the same. You may ask why I didn’t stay in any of these places. At $50 a night, just for an RV spot, it simply didn’t make sense, and prices were close to that everywhere. I spent $35 for a spot with no water or electric, and had to pay $1.25 to shower. It was definitely a cold night, but at least the view was pretty. Finally, after driving through Carmel (alas, not the same corn patch of home) the traffic thinned and the drive became something closer to what everyone imagines.
The sun was shining, the waves were crashing, and there were plenty of places for me to turn off and stop for a while. Yes, there were bends and hills, but we went slowly and used our gears. The 1 is one of those perfect roads where it’s okay to drive slowly, and it’s (probably) okay and fun to zip around, too. I stopped in Pacific Valley and strode down to the beach one evening with Monty and Niko to watch the sun set, as the moon rose opposite.
There is plenty to look at, but not many places to stay in those parts. I drove all the way to the city of Big Sur where I finally found an extremely pretty (yet expensive) forested campground. The redwoods there made even big Lola look small. When we moved on, we finally made it to the National Forest just south of there. All the campgrounds there lack electricity, but because we’d moved far enough south, we didn’t need our little heater, and made do.
Sand Dollar beach is beautiful, and you can walk there from the Plaskett Creek campground. The tides are pretty severe in winter, so the beach is only really a beach in the evening, but you can look at all the creatures in the tidal pools and walk along as the sun sets. I love the great big strands of kelp. They look like tentacles. I also love the view from the cliffs. At night in the campground, you can hear the sound of the waves crashing and not a thing more.