College Road Trip: Days 2 & 3

We made it to UC Santa Cruz, and enjoyed our tour, but subsequent we had a day off on the agenda, a day to enjoy Monterey. In fact, we stayed two nights in Monterey, so that the day we hit the Monterey Bay Aquarium we wouldn’t have to worry about getting back in the car and driving anywhere. No worries.

And have I mentioned how much we love Monterey Bay? We stayed a few miles north of downtown and walked downtown – about 2 1/2 miles on the beach.


Cameras in hand, of course:

beach photography

It was nice to walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row to downtown Monterey proper, and gave us a chance – thanks to the traveler’s best friend Yelp – to find and check out some holes in the wall for lunch, snacks, and dinners. We were disappointed to find what sounded like a great smoothie place in Yelp around the corner from the Aquarium, just to find a “For Lease” sign on the window, though. D’oh. Not good, and even the most modern of information sources has its limitations.

We used to live in Santa Cruz before we moved to Colorado, so we were members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and used to go frequently. I also had some connections at the Research Institute, and was a dutiful HP citizen for years too, so my connections with the Dave & Lucille Packard funded-Aquarium were many. Of the three kids, only A- has memories of our visits when she was younger, and it was fun to quiz her on layout and the children’s play areas.

She did enjoy exploring the Splash Zone, a favorite of hers from when she’d been 4 or 5:

splash zone, monterey bay aquarium

I can’t recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium highly enough. It’s really one of the very best aquariums in the world, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. The difference between it and the Denver Aquarium is the difference between a sleek Lamborghini and a Kia with a fancy paint job, if y’know what I mean. 😉

After a very enjoyable day in Monterey we woke up and jumped in the Ford C-MAX to tackle Big Sur and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The car did great with a super twisty road that has a surprising amount of ups and downs. With precipitous drops (not a good road if you’re acrophobic) there are still rough pullouts along the way and we stopped at many of them to enjoy the view.

This is pretty typical:

big sur coastline

Which of course leads to some nice opportunities to take photos of the C-MAX in its natural element, in the wilderness:

Ford C-MAX, Big Sur Coastline

Suddenly I feel like a commercial photographer, with my tiny little pocket Canon S95. Have I mentioned how much I love that Canon of mine? I have a big Nikon DSLR, but the Canon’s my go-to camera for travel because it’s the size of a deck of cards and does a terrific job with photos (as you can see: all the photos I’ve posted on this trip are from the S95). Some day I’ll upgrade to a newer Canon, but really, this one’s terrific and I recommend it.

Our goal on this day’s drive was San Luis Obispo for Cal Poly, but I’d forgotten about Hearst Castle, en route, so of course we had to stop there (and if you don’t know much about Hearst Castle, watch the biting satirical film Citizen Kane to get a sense of Charles Foster Kane, I mean William Randolph Hearst).

Hearst Castle is an amazing place. Hearst was extraordinarily wealthy and when he reached his 50s decided he wanted to turn the family cattle ranch north of Santa Barbara into a modest guest house. 160 rooms and a small private zoo later, 28 years of construction, he was done (actually it might well have been the grim reality of the Great Depression that took the air out of that sail) and in the 1950’s the Hearst family donated the entire property to the State of California, including 16-miles of stunning coastlines. It’s fascinating and ostentatious in a Great Gatsby sort of way.

Hearst Castle

We ended up in San Luis Obispo, in a great hotel that I could have comfortably stayed at for a week.

Our timing was excellent too, as Thursday evening is the weekly farmer’s market, though when we walked around it felt more like a street fair, with more vendors and more food stands than actual fresh produce. Still, we scored some delicious peaches and managed to pull together a great dinner on the run.

That was it for these two days. Very relaxing, fun driving, lots of walking (about 13mi across the two days) and good memories. Tomorrow it’s back to college visits, starting with Cal Poly before we head south to Santa Barbara and, eventually, the teeming metropolis of Los Angeles.

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