California Trippin’, Part Deux: Southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway

Prologue:  Carol and I traveled out to sunny southern California this past September to help my brother, Pat and his wife celebrate Pat’s retirement.  In Part 1 we traveled north to Monterey to enjoy the sights and spend two glorious days hitting the links at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.  Part 2 deals with the trip south which we took along the Pacific Coast Highway (Rt. 1) heading back to the Los Angeles area.

As we left the Pebble Beach Resort property, Pat took us out along the beachfront drives of Carmel Way and San Antonio Avenue.  Here lies a tightly laid out neighborhood situated on the hills off the beach with spectacular views of both the Pebble Beach property and the Pacific Ocean.  There is ready access to the beaches here, where a stroll out the front door (or just down the street) brings you to a view worthy of the envy of any land-locked easterner.  I particularly enjoyed the “neighborhood feel” of this section of Carmel, even if the neighborhood has to be one of the priciest in which to live.

As we left Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula, we headed south along the Pacific Coast Highway, to our next stop in the town of Cambria.


Random impressions and second thoughts:

Hairpin turns hemmed with dizzying drop-offs … views of the Pacific from roadways ABOVE the ocean fog … not nearly enough guard rails for my peace-of-mind … sitting in the front passenger seat heading southbound not for the faint-of-heart … incredible landslide sites = huge reconstruction efforts = Shovel-Ready Projects …

Our first stop on our southbound journey was Ragged Point, appropriately named since it’s a ragged point of land jutting out into the Pacific.  We decided to stretch our legs a bit and took a walk all the way out to the tip of the point to see the view.  The views from there are majestic.  Unfortunately we left the cameras in the car and were too lazy to trek back and get them.

Coastal landscape from next to the Bixby Bridge at Big Sur

One thing our vacations with brother, Pat seem to revolve around is food.  But I do not blame him or L.  Let’s face it, vacation time is one of the allowable excuses – along with holidays and gym workouts – where loosening one’s caloric limitations and their belts is expected.  Good food at reasonable prices in pleasant settings is crucial to the best vacations.  And in this spirit I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookies at the Ragged Point espresso bar!  

Our next stop was Elephant Seal Beach, where the elephant seals come in large numbers and sizes …

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…  to watch the people.

It was here that I had my first encounter with a German motorcycle gang!  Really just a tour-by-motorcycle trip organized by a Las Vegas travel company.  Motorcycle touring must be HUGE in Europe, as I had never seen such a large group of foreign moto-tourists before.  It looked very well-organized with chase vehicles and a support van that provided drinks and food.  Looks like a lot of fun, assuming you can get past the saddle sores and the possibility of severe road rash.  Now back to food … For several days we were treated to numerous verbal treatise on the origins, preparation and cult-like popularity of tri-tip beef  and its super-human powers when reduced in form to a well-prepared sandwich.  All this was intended to set up what our gracious hosts treated like a pilgrimage … a trip to the Main Street Grill in Cambria, CA.  The restaurant is not particularly impressive at first sight, like a McDonalds-on-steroids, but with ample TV placements that render the atmosphere favorable to watching weekend football with the guys.  Bar service is available.  The food is very good at reasonable prices.  The tri-tip sandwich was admittedly quite delicious, tender and worthy of encore.  The salads are HUGE and also very good, as are the pork ribs I had several days later when we made our mandatory farewell homage.

Guy on left works the counter at Main St. Grill!

Two things they really need there are some good Amoroso rolls, which any Philadelphian will tell you improves any sandwich, and perhaps a refresher course on customer service.  (Would you like addy-tude with those fries?)  Still a great place for a well-portioned, delicious meal that’s not too rough on the wallet.

Our carefully developed travel plans had us enjoying several days in Cambria, a small touristy town located along Rt 1 (PCH).  We stayed at the The Fogcatcher Inn with comfortable rooms and – of course – an excellent complimentary breakfast arrangement, including make-it-yourself waffles and excellent coffee!  The Fogcather is located in an area known as Moonstone Beach, whose beach is located just across Moonstone Beach Drive.  The beach area is accessible here; and there is a well-maintained boardwalk that traverses the beachside hills with scenic views in both directions.

Just a few things you will experience … Cute, mooching little brown squirrels … Silly, short-sighted humans feeding the critters POTATO CHIPS! … Native American remnants in the form of rock drillings (cup-shaped depressions in the rock) where grains and corn were ground into meal (These take some searching to find, but they are in plain sight.) … Playful otters “honeymooning” in the surf … (Those with children should be prepared with their tactful explanations of blatant otter porn.) … No cell phone reception except for a spot about 25 feet long by 3 feet wide (and quite a bit harder to pinpoint than evidence of Native American culture) … Technology-dependent humans shuffling back and forth across Moonbeach Drive in search of a signal …

View from Moonstone Beach, Cambria towards San Simeon

Have I mentioned the food?
Our second day in Cambria – which was filled with artsy, tourist activities – was dinner at the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill.  The Moonstone is a family-owned establishment located across Moonstone Beach Drive from the ocean.  It offers both indoor and al fresco dining.  We chose to sit outdoors on a seasonable September evening; and it was the perfect choice.  The evening was a perfect combination of atmosphere, delightful food, great service and beautiful ocean scenery.  I enjoyed the sea scallops with citrus honey glaze, Carol the grilled salmon with salsa fresca.  The clam chowder was also a big hit.  Definitely the place for dinner in Cambria!

Sunset at Moonstone Bar & Grill

No foodie tour would be complete without recommendations for desert!  And although the Moonstone Beach B&G had some delightful offerings, I would be remiss if I did not plug Linn’s of Cambria.  Linn’s is also a family-owned enterprise that – from the number of locations in Cambria alone – is immensely popular with the local folk and visitors.  Our hosts insisted on taking us out to Linn’s Original Farmstore located in an isolated area of hills outside the town.  It was well worth the trip!

If you get the chance, check out the Linn’s story provided as a link on their website.  It’s an inspiring story of a couple’s relentless pursuit of their dream, living on a farm where financial challenges required an imaginative solution which eventually led to an extremely successful venture.  The Linn’s are credited with the development of the ollalieberry, a cross between blackberry and raspberry.

The store offers a wide variety of fruit products, jams, jellies, and their signature pies.  (An on-line catalogue is also available.)  I tried a personal-sized ollalieberry pie and enjoyed every bite!  Well worth the effort to seek out their back road locale.  Just watch out for that intrusive peacock!

That’s all for now.  I’m off to have the rest of these pants let out …

Some additional photos in no particular order:

Master of his domain

Note the paddle board surfers to either side of the middle rock outcropping (below).

2 thoughts on “California Trippin’, Part Deux: Southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway

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