California to Oregon by car

We were planning to leave my daughter's house early in the morning, but couldn't do so as the Hertz people told us to wait until they called us to pick up the car at their office in downtown Santa Clarita. They called us only around 10 am, and one of their employees came to fetch us. After completing all the paperwork at the Hertz office we took our rental car back to my daughter's house to load our luggage.

We didn't have a fixed itinerary, and therefore didn't make any hotel reservations in either California or Oregon. We figured that we would stop at any town that caught our fancy along the way. Our first stop was the Welcome Center in Oxnard where we got maps and brochures of both states. The lady there was very friendly and helpful and asked us to sign the Visitors Book. She also gave me a pin to stick on the big world map in their office, to indicate which country I was from. Needless to say, I didn't find any pins already stuck on the map location of Myanmar. In fact, I have yet to find anyone from Myanmar signing in either the Visitors Book or on pin maps, in all the places I have been to. I am sure there were some, but perhaps they were just too shy, or just didn't bother to write anything.

We got on Highway 101 heading towards San Luis Obispo which is located about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and billed as "The gateway to California's central coast." Well, this gateway was closed, so to speak, as all the hotels in town were full. We did find a small bed & breakfast somewhere in a residential area, but they wanted a whopping $200 plus for a room, although it was advertised on their billboard outside as only something like $50 a night. The man at the front desk was apologetic and said it was because the prestigious California Polytechnic State University had just opened, or about to re-open for the new academic year and many students were in the city, as well as their parents. So we decided to drive on to the next city which is Morro Bay a picturesque waterfront town on the Pacific coast. We checked in at a place called the Pacific Cottage Motel. I remember the name because we had to pay for the room in cash ($55) but the old guy at the reception didn't give us a receipt. However, there was a big grocery store nearby and we walked over there to buy some food and drinks to sustain us during our journey.

The hotel is just a short walk to the beach, and the next morning we went to see Morro Rock which is a California historical landmark and was an important navigational aid for mariners in the past. It is an imposing sight with a height of 576 feet, and sometimes called the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” However, people are only allowed to visit the base of the rock, as it is designated as a bird sanctuary.

From Morro Bay we continued our road trip, the next destination - Carmel, which I had heard/read about many times from movies and magazines. It is said to be a charming small city by the sea. One of its former mayors is Clint Eastwood, who of course does not need any introduction. We were now on US Highway 1 or PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway known for its scenic beauty along its long stretches of both straight and winding roads. This is the Big Sur region of California where many visitors, both domestic and international come for their vacation. Prices are very high in this part, particularly during the summer months. For example, we stopped at a restaurant called the Whale Watchers Cafe for breakfast, but changed our minds when we saw the menu that said $15 for a sandwich, and $5 for a cup of coffee! I must say that the view of the ocean from the restaurant was superb. However, we didn't see any whales as it wasn't the season for them to be in the area.

We reached Carmel before noon and went straight to the old Mission, a major tourist attraction in Carmel. It was originally built in 1771, and still remains an active parish church with Masses held everyday. We were told that the Mission also hosts concerts, art exhibits, lectures and numerous other community events. As a matter of fact, while we were there, a wedding was being held. Next we went to the beach but it was next to impossible to find parking space, so we drove along the main street of the town which is Ocean Avenue. It is a tree lined street of quaint little stores with fancy names. A lot of people were strolling along this downtown area, but here again parking was a big problem so we couldn't join them.

From Carmel we continued to Monterey where we had a very late lunch at a MacDonald's restaurant. We also stopped briefly in a town called Marina, to buy a new pair of athletic shoes at a Wal Mart store, as my old shoes had worn out (didn't realize I had walked that much)! When we reached Santa Cruz we drove along until we saw a small park where I changed my shoes, and threw away the old pair. I thought this incident was quite funny, so I'm thinking of writing a short ditty called, "I Left My Shoes In Santa Cruz" which can be sung to the tune of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."

To go on with our trip; it was getting close to 5 pm, and we kept driving on Highway 1 until we reached Pescadero State Beach, and stopped there to take a break. This place is a scenic shoreline with rocky cliffs, sandy coves and picnic facilities, and where one can have a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. From Pescadero we headed towards Pacifica, passing Half Moon Bay (I had already been there a couple of years ago) another popular vacation spot. When we reached Pacifica it was already dark. I was there to search for somebody from Myanmar who owns an Asian restaurant in that town. Unfortunately, I had left her business card at my daughter's house and although Pacifica is a small town, we couldn't find the restaurant due to not remembering its name. I was a little disappointed as I was looking forward to having a good dinner. Anyway, we got back on the highway and didn't even stop in San Francisco as both of us had been there several times in the past. Driving through San Francisco was a little tricky as it was night time, and we couldn't see the street signs well. We did find the Golden Gate Bridge and after crossing it, reached the city of San Rafael where we spent the night at a Motel 6.

San Rafael has some interesting sights, such as the Mission and some notable celebrities live there, but we didn't get to see any of them as we wanted to cross the California/Oregon border that day. However, we took a leisurely drive through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park which is off US Route 101 near the city of Eureka, and has the world's largest remaining redwood trees. The Avenue of the Giants on State route 254 also runs through this park. It is a long but pleasant stretch of highway lined with giant redwood trees, and has many natural attractions for visitors. We were now in Northern California. We stopped at the Tree House in the very small town of Legget. We saw the Grandfather tree near the village of Piercy. This enormous tree is reputed to be 1,800 years old. We also went to the Shrine Drive Thru Tree in a place called Myers Flat. Needless to say, we had to drive through this big tree just to say we have done it!

By the time we did all the sightseeing it was already night, and we still had to get to the border between California and Oregon. We had some hard driving ahead of us, and at some parts didn't even see a single car on Highway 101, but finally crossed over to Oregon in the dark. As we needed gas, we stopped at a town called Brookings on the Oregon side. We were surprised to see an attendant at the gas station fill up the car's tank and wipe the windshield. Oregon is one of the very few states in the US that provides full service at gas stations and does not have a sales tax too. If it weren't for the cold winters there, I would seriously think of moving to this state!

The next segment, 'Oregon to California by car' to be continued in Part 3 of California/Oregon road trip.