Road Trip Update: Pacific Coast Highway Magic

I'm currently on a 6,000 kilometre road trip from Vancouver, BC down the Pacific Coast, into California, sideways to Nevada, and then up again through Utah, Idaho, and Washington State. I'm joined by my dad as copilot, and we'll be gone for two weeks. The car we've chosen for the adventure is my Speed Yellow 2000 Porsche 911 GT3 Aerokit Cup.
Road tripping 101

I'm sitting here, poolside on the 14th floor in Vegas, trying to remember all of the things I've done in the past week. Recapping it day by day will be tough as things tend to blend into one another. So I'm going to deviate from the usual format and instead summarize Day 6 to Day 11, which took me from just below San Francisco to Las Vegas via Los Angeles, by stopover. This could also serve as a quick reference guide for future visits to the smaller places we visited. Like remembering Santa Monica was kind of disappointing and touristy, and Santa Barbara is kind of like the French Riviera. Let's get started. 


Monterey Peninsula (Pebble Beach, Carmel, Big Sur) and PCH: This would be our lunch stop on day 6, as the Monterey Peninsula is only a two hour drive down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from our B&B just below San Francisco. The drive itself was relatively uneventful as PCH cut inland for about 100 clicks. After getting "slightly"lost "only once," we decided to skip Monterrey (in short, it's a standard town with a Fisherman's Warf tourist trap similar to San Francisco's, with a world famous racetrack, Laguna Seca Raceway, located a few clicks out of town) and headed straight for Pebble Beach. Our plan was to drive the famous 17-mile drive through Pacific Grove and into the Pebble Beach area (read: windy golf courses and a many ocean front mansions hugging clubhouses). We then checked our watches, and realized that if we were to make the last tour at Hearst Castle, located 200 clicks below Carmel, we could only get away with visiting one of Pebble Beach or Carmel. Not too big of a deal, since I had visited both only a few months ago with my cousin Felix. Convincing my dad that he was about to miss Pebble Beach however; that was an entirely different matter. But once I mentioned that I knew a little bakery we could stop at for lunch in Carmel, the choice was quickly made. We parked the 911 in the quaint Carmel downtown, comprised of just 4-5 small city blocks on a hillside that finds it conclusion in a nice sandy beach by the water, and hiked a few blocks up for a tuna sandwich and a crumbly peach pastry that more than filled the void left in our souls for having skipped out on mystical Pebble Beach located only a few miles north of us. If you're a fan of exterior architecture, the Big Sur and Carmel neighbourhoods and mansions are a must. But we simply didn't have time. 



After lunch we hit the curvy bit of the PCH and this time it got serious. Seriously twisted. To some, this portion of PCH is simply what it is; 1000 nauseating turns, German tourists in rented camper vans, and every weather variation imaginable this side of a cyclone. Car enthusiasts see it differently. We see it as 60 miles of asphalt spaghetti draped along the California Coast that beg for consumer guide-style evaluation of your car's grip, handling, acceleration and brakes. 
The yellowbird receiving an oil top up at a picturesque gas station on PCH.

Unfortunately the German Winnebagos spoil all the fun, as they're thrown from apex to apex, Haribo candies flying out the window as Frieda holds on quietly in the passenger seat and young Hans and little Inge try unsuccessfully to complete their 5000 piece Ravensburger puzzle of Berlin's Brandenburger gate. Of course, Wolfgang behind the wheel thinks he's moving at light speeds, but his 25% Northern Italian genes (Milan, don't ask - Wolfgang doesn't like to talk about it) from his mother's side has biologically prevented him from checking his rear view mirror - where he would of seen the lineup of rental convertible Mustangs keeping their lazy V6's tightly wound at the top of their torque curve should the opportunity to pass arise. But no opportunity came. And it was us in the Porsche and a string of skittles (rentals come in all colours, equally) that sat and waited, like neutered dogs, behind this big RV kicking more dust from clipping road edges than an Apache landing in a sand box. When the RV did finally pull over, I nailed it, but soon found myself stuck behind an eighteen wheeler who had taken a wrong turn down the narrow part of PCH. From near jacknife to near head on collision we sat and watched, and pondered about our choice of taking the much, much longer route down the coast via this legendary "must see" coastal highway. PCH; Heaven or hell? Hell. Absolutely. Without question. 
Pacific Coast Highway - constant fog, thousands of rental Mustangs, and big German RVs

Hearst Castle. Bliss. 
Hearst Castle (San Simeon) and Morro Bay: Before I get into the details, let me just start off by stating that this was one of the highlights of the trip. The location of the castle, way up in the hills, the 15 minute bus ride up, the gardens and pools on the property, and its history, were all equally and individually amazing. You see, Mr. Hearst came from a wealthy family, but made his fortune by printing one of America's first tabloid newspapers. He capitalized on his success, started many newspapers, and quickly dominated the industry. As a young boy, he had fond memories of camping on the hills of San Simeon, and when he was in his 50's, he decided to build a European style (think Versailles in an Italian garden flanked by Roman baths and as perched on a hill as the Mont Saint-Michel) that would take 28 years to build. A year after it was completed, Mr. Willian Randolph Hearst passed away (1951), but not before hosting lavish parties for the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. Mr. Hearst loved entertaining and sharing his property. He was also very casual about it, telling guests to make their own snacks after finishing a movie in the theatre, or calling the castle "the ranch." He would also have guests sit farther and farther away from him (at the centre of the long dinner table) to let them know they were overstaying there welcome. Interesting. 


What a view indeed...
We opted for the "Grand Rooms" tour which took us up to the property in a way that made us feel like we were guests invited to the castle. We toured the property and snaked through the grand rooms as Churchill would have in the late 40's. The views were endless, and we couldn't have picked a better time to visit. Dusk, with not a cloud in the sky. When we eventually drove back down to the visitors centre we were treated to a movie in a surprisingly large and well appointed theatre, that walked us through some original footage of the construction phase and parties held at the castle. The entire experience, from arrival to the visit and afterwards the movie, it was all oddly touching. The underlying message was one of chasing your dreams, not giving up, and then sharing those dreams and passing on something for futures generations to enjoy. I highly recommend the Hearst Castle. A near transcending experience in the middle of nowhere, 400 kilometres above Los Angeles. 

Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach: The next morning we woke up with only two missions for the day ahead (day 7). One was to stop for lunch in Santa Barbara. The other was to explore Santa Monica and walk Venice Beach in the evening. We completed both missions, although the Porsche was thinking other things. More on that later. Actually, more on everything later. With afterwards, Beverly Hills and a few studio visits in Hollywood. Leaving Vegas tomorrow for Idaho, so still lots of blogs to catch up on! Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend!
The Roman pool where Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill partied hard in the 40's.