25 March – Pacific Coast Highway here we come!! Left the peaceful campground of Montana Del Oro and into Los Oso for a few supplies and refill of propane and then had lunch just up the road looking across to Morro Rock with a pretty sheltered bay in the foreground. The first leg of our trip up the highway was through rolling countryside, so reminiscent of NZ that it felt like we were still at home – cattle were grazing on the paddocks and quite green. Destination was only about 40 miles up the road to San Simeon Park and a campground back from the sea which was in a nice setting. We wanted to be within striking distance of Hearst Castle and this was the ideal location.
Our RV parked at Montana Del Oro campground
Nice fire engine sitting in the foyer of the Hearst Movie Theatre.
26 March – Overcast day and much cooler as we headed off for the spectacle of Hearst Castle. Unfortunately it wasn’t visible as the clouds had descended right down the mountains. We stopped off at the visitors centre and watched the movie about the building of the castle and a little about the man they called the “Chief” – William Randolf Hearst. He certainly had some vision to build his castle and with unlimited money it shows that anything is possible.
The rain had decided to fall as we left the castle and the next 40 miles of the Pacific Highway were not the most memorable – all I can say is that thankfully we were going from South to North and the road is on the inside of the cliff – it was narrow and windy for most of the 40 miles and with low cloud and rain we probably didn’t see the best of this part of the road. The road however is a real feat of engineering the way is just carved into the mountainside and must also be a beggar to maintain as the mountainsides are full of very loose material with rock slides a continual danger. We passed several trucks with snowplough like shovels on the front and they just continually ply this roadway making sure that the rocks get cleared. The road was built with convict labour during the depression.
Only made a stop to have a look at the elephant seal colony conveniently right beside the road. The colony was full of pups which had been born in January and a whole load of juveniles which had come in to moult. We made to our campground perched on the edge of a smaller cliff with a lovely view of the sea. The rain had cleared by the time we were settled so went for a little stroll down to the water’s edge – no beach just a rocky foreshore. The small campground had mainly people in tents and we were very thankful to have our little warm house to spend the night in rather than a little cold tent.
27 March – Quite a bit of rain overnight must have been really unpleasant for the tenters and also demonstrated that we weren’t completely water tight either – we have a small leak coming from somewhere in our bathroom ceiling and dripping through the light. This is the first real rain that we have experienced. The 60 miles today was far more enjoyable – the road opened out a little more, we had nice clear weather so the coastline was visible all day, and was far less winding than yesterday. We passed through Big Sur and stopped off at a gallery and cafe. The artwork on display was beautiful – stunning glassware, wood wares and paintings and leatherwork. Before we knew it we were at Monterey and our stop for the night at a small campground a couple of miles from town. Monterey is a bit deceptive – we had a look on our map and thought we would walk into the town, find the AAA office and then walk around the town. We walked down from the campground OK – it was a steep path down and then it looked like it was just a short walk up to the AAA office – not to be!! – it was a long way away and all uphill so all though of returning back to explore the rest of the town was totally off the agenda. That was more than enough exercise for one afternoon!! Monterey is like San Francisco – full of hills!! Resorted to a cab to get back to our home on wheels. The campground only has a bout 40 sites and it is very pretty with trees, squirrels and interesting birdlife.
28 March – Spent the day exploring Monterey – first a walk around Cannery Row where the sardines and squid from the Monterey Bay where processed into cans – in it’s heyday if was a very bustling (and smelly) area. Needless to say the fish stocks were depleted by overfishing and the canneries had disappeared by the 50’s. It was very lucrative while it lasted and people came from all over the world to work there including Japan,Philippines and Sicily. Today most of the old cannery buildings have been pulled down and replaced with modern buildings but made to look like the originals. We parked at a marina housing Coastguard and scientific research vessels and out the end of the marina was a rock wall which was covered in sea lions and the noise was incredible.
Typical cannery worker’s house Monterey Beach
Monterey has put in an 18km biking/walking path along the seafront so we walked from our carpark into Monterey town and out on to Fishermans Wharf – a bustling place with restaurants lined along both sides of the wharf. We had our wedding anniversary treat of lunch at one of these and sampled the local seafood delicacies in a quaint restaurant jutting out over the water. Had a further wander around the wharf areas and made our way back to the RV. Spent the night back again at the Veterans Park.
29 March – Left Monterey and headed up the coast toward our next stop at Santa Cruz which was to visit friends of Howard and Diane Porteus- Ken and Sharron – who had kindly allowed us to use their address for forwarding mail. What a lovely spot they live in – high up in the hills from the town of Santa Cruz – their house sits in among a grove of huge redwoods and all around there are huge oaks and pines so it is like living in your own personal forest. With the kind offer of a place to park the RV, we managed to get it parked in position just in time as the weather changed and the rain began. We had a lovely lot of mail awaiting us including a replacement tablet and spare part for our fridge. With the rain also came a big drop in temperature so we were quite spolit to be able to enjoy the warmth of wood fires burning and home cooking.
30 March – As we were still missing one vital piece of mail (our registration plates for the RV) our hosts suggested that we wait until Monday and the next mail delivery on Monday, so with a bit clearer weather Bob and Ken did some running repairs on the van. First getting our bathroom door to close properly (after 3 goes it finally agreed to play the game) and we now have a door that doesn’t stick. The fridge got it’s replacement thermistor fitted so hopefully that fixes our frozen milk problem.
31 March – Horrible weather – rain, rain and more rain and another temp drop. We were going to set off after the mail came but our kind hosts made sure that we stayed another night so that we didn’t have to drive through it. A pleasant afternoon in the warm watching movies and again more lovely home cooking. The loan of an electric heater ensured that our wee home was nice and snug come bedtime (it doesn’t have much in the way of insulation so quickly cools down). Our plates did arrive today so that is one less hassle and we should now avoid the eagle eyes of highway patrol vehicles.
01 April – a little bit of weak sunshine greeted us this morning and after breakfast we made our farewells to Ken and Sharron – what a lovely break we have had – nice company, good wine and food. We will have to pop back in a couple of weeks as there is one more book that we are waiting on.
Down back into Santa Cruz and then we headed in a SE direction in the hope of improving weather and different landscapes. First stop was at Hollister where we got some more maps from the AAA and then another lot from the BLM which will help us to find the out of the way places to camp in. Didn’t have very far to go to find out camp for the night – we are at an arm of the San Luis reservoir in a BLM camp and made it just in time as the heavens opened up and we have had several thunderstorms along with hail. The reservoir was 32 metres below it’s normal level and this water has to supply irrigation for a huge area of California so it plays a vital role in the region and with it being so low every gets affected. We stopped for a while at the visitors centre at the dam -interesting chap on the desk kept us amused for quite a while.