A beautiful deception

Posted: July 2, 2015 in Personal, Travel
Tags: , ,

The setting sun burned the sky pink and orange in the same bright hues as surfers’ bathing suits. It was beautiful deception, Bosch thought, as he drove north on the Hollywood Freeway to home. Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story.
Michael Connelly, The Black Echo

I rolled out of bed at 2:50 am CST, was at the airport by 4:30 am, in California by 8:30 am CST, on the way up the coast no later than 9.  Our older daughter, now living in Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade and Bowl, and I were on our way to Napa for some wine tasting and relaxation.  We had four days and the first one would be a long one, as our plan included driving up State Highway 1 for the spectacular scenery.


As we drove north, we were gradually weaned from the hugeness of LA, the highways of multiple lanes, the city all around.  We drove by beaches, keeping a careful eye out for the hundreds of cyclists on the road, toiling up ever higher hills.  Although he Tour de France starts July 4th, this influx of cyclists is an every weekend occurrence in a state where people tend to live outside. The beaches are lined with rows of nets for beach volleyball, empty at this time of day, but full later on.


Tesla's a far cry from a stagecoach!

Tesla’s a far cry from a stagecoach!

We stopped in Santa Barbara, enjoying the quaintness of the downtown, where all the upscale stores are present, but hiding in older, mostly single-story buildings.  What a contrast with the hardy pioneers who made it all the way to the west coast by horseback or stage coach!  Not only were there no restaurants, no Sur la Table or Macy’s waiting for them, they jounced and bounced for days or weeks in a stagecoach filled with sweaty, smelly people.  There were Indians but no rest areas; no airports to complain about and delays much longer than air travelers might experience.  They may have started with a wagon filled with goods, but many were left behind along the trail.  And when they arrived, they couldn’t check into a Best Western or B&B to refresh themselves after the months-long journey.


Part of the beautiful deception of California is that most people it as coast, big cities and Napa, with maybe some redwoods thrown in.  But it’s primarily an agricultural state and all along the way there were fruit and vegetable stands.  We stopped for some strawberries.


It was chilly and cloudy in Morro Bay, but we enjoyed a stroll along the water, peeking into shops and then having a picnic by the water.  If there had been rain in those clouds, we would have rejoiced at our lost time outside; the state is drying up, although the coast side, between ocean and mountains, appears to be suffering less than the central part of the state.  Rain tends to drop before getting over mountains.


Here’s something we didn’t expect to see!  Spotting some cars stopped and people taking photos, we joined them, then felt as if we were in Africa. Not sure why these zebra were there, but it was certainly interesting!


When the highway reaches the coast, the mountains rise steeply to the east and then drop off to the ocean on the opposite side of the pavement.  The road twists and turns and around every bend there seems to be another, more spectacular view.  If you stopped for all of them, the trip would take days.  We resisted as best we could, yet it was 9 pm by the time we reached our hotel in Carmel.  About the time we seemed to be getting no closer and the hours were catching up to us, we saw people sitting on the hilltops, waiting for the sunset.  We had to pull over as well for one last assault on our senses.  Then tiredness kicked in along with the darkening sky and we made port for the night.


  1. My only time in the USA consisted of two weeks in Los Angeles what feels like a lifetime away, and then we had a Christmas drive to San Francisco, just on this road. I was stunned by the ocean, the colours, the scenery. Who knows where all those (pre-digital) photos that I took are now, so I’m happy to see yours.

    • I’m glad I could bring back some good memories. All our photos from when I was little are either those little black-and-white photos or slides, so it’s much harder to look at them.

  2. Nato says:

    What a wonderful collection of pictures, and memories!!

  3. Nicely said. I could both see and feel the trip. i like that.

  4. An amazing day, Janet!

  5. Adventure, family and California–that’s a stellar combination.

  6. jpeggytaylor says:

    I really enjoyed your road trip – via armchair travelling 😉 – so much to see and learn, a wonderful day.

  7. Jan Morrill says:

    Awesome photos and writing. I’ve driven along Highway 1 many times. I’ve also been to many places around the world, and I still think California’s coast is one of the most spectacular places in the world. I’m glad you’re getting to make these memories with your daughter!

    • Jan, it is a spectacular place. California has so many different beautiful spots. We’re having a great time, even though we’re back in Pasadena and not covering the rest of the state. 🙂


  8. Wow, you have had a great d time. I loved this little tour – your photos are great.

  9. I’ve always wanted to take that costal drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco and never have – seen it in bits and pieces, got from San Diego to LA on it, but not all the way north. Thanks so much for the tour! The last shot of the sunset is nicely framed. Good job.

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