Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Road Trip - Palm Springs to Calgary Days 2 and 3

Day 2

We’ve barely moved the map pin so far. We enjoy the free breakfast at the Best Western (you get what you pay for, but the oranges were a nice touch) and continue our journey north. We have to head inland to avoid the Langley Air Force Base and drive through some rolling hills. Then we see fields of vegetables and lots of workers picking them. If you ever think your job is hard…

We stop in San Luis Obispo and wonder if it rhymes with Nabisco (it doesn’t) and I use yelp to pick the highly rated downtown BBQ spot. We park beside a twin white Lexus SC-430 which makes for a cute photo.

As I gorge on my sauce laden BBQ tri-tip Howard informs me that he doesn’t eat much red meat. Howard grew up on a farm in Alberta and now he’s aligning himself with KD Lang. I vow to eat red meat for every meal for the rest of the trip. See you on the gurney buddy. This later proves impractical. It was probably the tri-tip affecting my thinking.

We decide to stop at the Hearst Castle Visitor Center. A full tour isn’t in the cards since we have to drive drive drive to at least San Francisco to day. I’m OK with not seeing the actual digs. I appreciate craftsmanship and nice views but I’ve never toured a palace, castle or cathedral that can compete with Mother Nature. I get confused by the Hearst worshipping dioramas that show a zebra and how awesome it is that they put a bunch of cows on the land. At any rate, you can’t take it with you. 

Soon we hit one of the highlights of the Pacific Coast Highway. Big Sur. A thin crenulated ribbon of asphalt stuck to massive coastal cliffs. Lots of construction projects trying to protect the highway from landslides. The views are stunning and the road is mercifully uncrowded. This section of the highway requires focus.

Our car is a Pebble Beach edition and soon we’re there. We don’t stop for a cute photo of the car by a sign or the golf course or the beach. We stop for gas. The sand dunes are stunning. Soon we’re travelling past fields of artichokes. I’ve played around with this spiky vegetable in the past but they were kind of pricy and more spike than like. I would change my tune if I lived in Santa Cruz where they sell 10 of them for a dollar. We don’t stop and buy 10 artichokes for a variety of practical reasons.

We need to get north of San Francisco today which isn't that far north in the great state of California. Suddenly we’re on a freeway and in California that often means going nowhere fast. Between a little fender bender and some kind of rush hour peripheral to Silicon Valley we get bogged down. Eventually we pop out onto a nice stretch of 2 lane that heads through Half Moon Bay. We stop at a local kite surfer beach. Even iPhone photos look pretty good. We are sneaking up on San Francisco.

The Gold Gate Bridge beckons and I take a couple of crappy iphone photos while driving on it. We decide to push past San Francisco. For a few minutes we are on a multi-lane interstate but once we turn off, there is a delightful stretch  of mint condition twisty black road. Unfortunately it is getting dark and the towns are getting smaller. We stop on Olema which is close to Point Reyes. It is dark and we don’t have many options that we are aware of for a room. We stop at an inn and ask if they have any rooms with 2 beds. Nope. We ask how much the rooms will cost and he seems evasive. We ask again and he says normally we charge $140 a night but since you’re here… Both of us assume that we’ll be paying some jacked up rate. Turns out we are wrong. We get a bit of a deal on an apartment above the local deli. We also catch the local restaurant before it closes. I forget my red meat vow and attack the local oyster supply. Our server tells us that there are two kinds, both local. I have oysters as an appetizer, mussels and clams for dinner and oysters for desert. I will never be an oyster connoisseur but the shells of one kind were a bit smaller than the other.

Day 3

We are still in California which is pretty far from Alberta. Had we taken the interstate we’d be home already. However, the early morning sun and nearly abandoned road make for spectacular views. It is hard to believe that we are so close to San Francisco. We have an amazing breakfast in the Café Aquatica. No red meat here either but some very nice poached eggs and a view that was stunning. I’m reminded of the coast of Scotland. We drive through Bodega Bay which is a town mentioned in Cracker’s I Need Better Friends.

Signs imploring drivers to slow down at the outskirts of every town and village do not encumber this stretch of the highway. My driving strategy is to let the local Toyota 4 Runner pass the fancy-ass sports car and then follow behind.

The coast is stunning but soon we head upward and inland through towering redwoods. The canopy almost completely covers the highway. We are getting close to the end but what looks like a half hour drive by distance on the map will take 3 times as long. We see logging trucks on this twisty turny road. There are truck drivers and then there are Pacific Coast Highway truck drivers. Wow! I try to imagine driving this road during the summer tourist season. I think it would suck.

We eventually hit the 101 near Leggett and the end of the Pacific Coast Highway. I almost feel like crying. We did it. Howard celebrates by taking a leak on the other side of the highway. Then we drive through a giant redwood tree.


All we need to down is drive to Calgary.