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May 20th 2011
Published: May 29th 2011
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After clearing the chaos of the Bay to Breakers we picked up our rental and began our road trip south. Heeding my brother’s advice on Walmart’s rather liberal return policy we decided to shop there for a few of our camping and road trip needs. A word of advice though – a $20 tent from Walmart is indeed a $20 tent, and it would appear that waterproofing costs extra. The tent’s debut outing was an epic fail as it died under the windy and rainy conditions, and meant that we spent our first night camping in the car. Our neighbour greeted us in the morning, asked us how we’d slept, and remarked (rather smugly) that he’d seen our tent blowing across the campsite during the night. A trip to Walmart later that day saw us upgrade to a bigger, sturdier (and hopefully waterproof) tent, coming in at the princely sum of $80. We’ll let you know how this bad boy travels.

But back to the beginning … After our initial Walmart experience we headed south along the coast to the wicked little town of Pacific Grove, which retains a quaint village-like atmosphere in a world-class setting. We found it far more beautiful than the nearby towns of Monterey (famous for it’s cannery and wharves) and Carmel-by-the-Sea (a millionaires' playground, renowned for posh resorts and golf clubs, and a stretch of coastline that you have to pay to access). Oddly these towns get all the good travel raves, and are consequently overrun with tourists. Sadly it was raining and bleak whilst we visited Pacific Grove (so the pictures don’t really do it justice), but trust us, it still had a lovely feel and is the true highlight of the Monterey Peninsula.

In Pacific Grove, we stayed with Dionne, who took us for some sumptuous vegetarian fare one night, and the following night we were spoiled as she and her son Jeremiah cooked us a lavish Mexican feast. PG was close to the Point Lobos State Park, featuring a craggy coastline that is home to sea lions, and we spent a couple of hours battling the winds and rains there.

The warm Californian sun avoided us for most of our trip down through Northern California, instead we were threatened with high winds, heavy rain and land slides. Not to be deterred though we pushed on , determined to make the most of the beautiful national parks and rocky coastline that stretch along the region known as Big Sur. We camped at Kirk Creek in the Los Padres National Forest which is a campground located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It would’ve been magnificent had the weather held out, but sadly this is where we were required to sleep in our car.

The State Highway 1 coastal road was closed due to landslides so we headed east across the San Lucia ranges to take the inland route. We veered towards the coast again in search of beach access to the sand dunes at Guadalupe. We found the access point where the signage indicated that the access is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and despite it being a Wednesday, the barriers remained firmly in place. The route south took us to Santa Barbara famous for it’s buildings with red-tiled roofs and white-washed adobe walls.

We stopped just short of Malibu, and camped in Leo Carillo State Park at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, sleeping opposite the beach amongst the trees, and surrounded by birds and squirrels. It was our last nature stop before we rolled into LA, but that’s another story …

Additional photos below
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Stormy weatherStormy weather
Stormy weather

Still beautiful despite the rain!

29th May 2011

Love the California photos
Love the photos of one of my favorite areas on earth -- Y'all going to make it to Texas?
29th May 2011

Great stuff - keep it coming. Rob

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