Day 13: Ventura, CA to Carmel, CA.

Trip Start May 29, 2010
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Trip End Jun 14, 2010


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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pacific Coast Highway (Big Sur)!

"Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look."
---- Henry Miller

This morning, we left Ventura, CA and proceeded north along Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).  Although we had no final destination in mind for today, we had planned on stopping at the Madonna Inn, located in San Luis Obispo, and further north, at the Hearst Castle.  The Madonna Inn features 'theme rooms' and most of the Inn is built with rock.  In fact, as strange as it seems, the Inn is well known, and famous, for the men's room located off of the inn lobby.  In the men's room, there is a large waterfall, as opposed to urinals, and it is so well-known, that people enter the men's room simply to see this amazing site, including women.  Therefore, privacy is limited! Patty and I stayed at this Inn back a few years ago (1978) while we were on our honeymoon! 

The Madonna Inn opened in 1958 and became a famous landmark along the central cost of California. The Inn was created by Alex and Phyllis Madonna, and was designed in a Swiss-Alp decor.  Common areas of the Inn are significantly accented by pink roses and numerous murals, making this Inn a popular honeymoon stop.  As mentioned previously, each room has a unique theme.  No two rooms are alike! The Inn continues to be very popular today, and the Inn can rightfully boast of having an excellent restaurant and bakery right on site.

Upon leaving the Madonna Inn, we continued on our northbound trek on the PCH. What we found was that the Big Sur continues to be a highlight and scenic drive for those who love both the shoreline and the mountains. Big Sur has been described (Wikipedia) as a "sparsely populated region of the central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el país grande del sur", "the big country of the south". The terrain offers stunning views, making Big Sur a popular tourist destination. Big Sur's Cone Peak is the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states, ascending nearly a mile (5,155 feet/1571 m) above sea level, only three miles (4.8 km) from the ocean."

For the history buffs........

While cruising along the PCH we noticed what appeared to be bells located atop a pole at several locations along the highway.  Each pole, with the bell, had a sign which read: Historic El Camino Real. Research provided the following explanation on the California Highways website:

The history of El Camino Real (The Royal Road) and its bells, is quite interesting. At the same time that the American colonies were rebelling against England, a handful of Spaniards and Mexicans established outposts up the California coast. The first was established in 1769 at San Diego, when they established a fortress and a Franciscan mission. A footpath, called The El Camino Real, or Kings Highway, was created to connect the outputs. Each outpost, called a Mission, was situated in areas where large populations of Indians lived and where the soil was fertile enough to sustain a settlement. As time progressed and more Missions were built, the footpath became a roadway wide enough to accommodate horses and wagons. It was not, however, until the last Mission in Sonoma was completed in 1823, that this little pathway became a real route. From that point, a series of small self-reliant religious missions were established. Each was a day's travel apart and linked by El Camino Real, Overall, El Camino Real ("The King's Highway") linked 21 missions, pueblos and four presidios from San Diego to Sonoma. The bells signify this historic route.

As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story..."

Just north of San Luis Obispo lies the unique and picturesque coastal community of Morro Bay. Although we did not stop in Morro Bay, we did have an opportunity to observe the famous Morro Bay Rock, a famous Morro Bay landmark located just off the coastline.  The Morro Rock is reported to be 22 million years old.  It didn't look quite that old to us, but, who knows!

Continuing north, we decided to exit the PCH as soon as possible in order to gas up the bikes. In order to find the closest gas station, I used my trusty Garmin GPS and it directed us off the next exit, which surprised me, as there was no sign of life, let alone a gas station in this secluded area of the Big Sur. Trusting the GPS though, we exited the highway, headed west, and within a quarter mile, found the small Town of Cayucos, nestled within a valley along the coastline. What a find it was! 

We gassed up the bikes, and rode through this seaside community and found interesting buildings, both homes and businesses, as well as an array of restaurants. Had we not had lunch an hour earlier, we would have loved to stop at the Bar-B-Que Restaurant at the south end of Town, or should it have been Duckie's Chowder House, or Ruddell's Smokehouse, or Schooner's Wharf, or possibly Skipper's Restaurant?  As Kevin pointed out, "how sad that we only get three meals a day!" Cayucos, CA, was a beautiful seaside community and we would have enjoyed a longer stay, but time was not in our favor.   

We continued north on the Big Sur, stopping for the long-anticipated tour of the Hearst Castle which is located in San Simeon, CA.  We were disappointed. By the time we arrived at the castle, all tours for the day had already been booked. This left little to do other than to admire the castle from afar, and wish we had departed Ventura earlier....or spent less time in Cayucos, no, I take that back, we were glad we did what we did!

Our trip north continued after our stop in San Simeon and our objective was to reach either Carmel or Monterey, CA.  The drive along the PCH proved to be tiring though as we wound our way around numerous sharp curves, steep inclines and challenging hills where the road narrowed significantly, especially as we crossed the many bridges that spanned deep gorges and chasms.  Of particular concern though was the high wind that battered us with relentless fury, mile after mile, as we continued northbound. The elements resulted in our stopping on several occasions, and although words went unspoken, we looked forward to reaching an acceptable destination, and settling in for the night.

Ultimately, after passing numerous opportunities to stop for the night in local Inns along the PCH, we did arrive in Carmel, CA. This quaint village is where Patty and I stayed on our honeymoon back in 1978. At the time, we stayed at a beautiful hotel, the Jade Tree Inn, a Best Western facility, although, at the time, one would never know it was a Best Western. I found the motel, and although it is no longer known as the Jade Tree Inn, it was just as nice as I remembered it back in 1978.  We declined the opportunity to stay here though, as there was no jacuzzi, an amenity that we had become accustomed to along our journey.  We tried a few other motels and inns, yet, to no avail.  No one had a jacuzzi. Apparently no one has a bad back in Carmel! We settled for another Best Western Inn located near the center of the Village.

Once we changed, we were directed to either the Hog Breath Inn Restaurant, a local favorite owned by Clint Eastwood, actor, and former Mayor of Carmel, or Casanova Restaurant, which featured Italian and French Cuisine. Casanova was highly rated, and we chose this restaurant. Sorry Mr. Eastwood!

Although Mike and Kevin chose a seafood medley for dinner, I decided on Filet Mignon and none of us were disappointed.  The head Maitre' d was happy to have 'three motorcyclists' choose his restaurant and he went out of his way to make us feel welcome. This included great discussion, coupled with generous samples of appetizers as well as desserts! This restaurant is a 'sure bet' for those seeking a great dining experience in the Village of Carmel.

Not long after dinner, we decided to walk back to the motel in order to 'get some exercise' before we retired for the night. 

Today's Mileage: 278 miles
Total Mileage: 3762.2
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