Driving the El Camino Real


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Published: August 6th 2016
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Carmel MissionCarmel MissionCarmel Mission

As close as we would go due to the funeral.
Before leaving Carmel, we thought we would have a look at the Carmel Mission, which was clearly the most historic building in the area. Unfortunately there was a funeral taking place, so it would have been completely inappropriate to do the tourist thing and stroll round taking selfies and the like.

Finally it was time for that long drive south to Los Angeles. We decided to take the "California Route 1" coast road as that would definitely be more enjoyable than some nondescript freeway. That was definitely a good idea, although the winding roads started to make us all feel a bit green after a while. There were lots of "Vista Points" along the way to stop for views, although a lot of those views were of cloud and mist. The weather is definitely not on our side for this holiday.

One particular vista was the Elephant Seals' Beach. Like on Pier 39, they were providing lots of entertainment for everyone who was watching, particularly two who were clearly in the middle of some testosterone-fuelled face-off. One thing we didn't notice on Pier 39 was the smell. It wasn't pleasant.

Given that we had not filled the car
Fighting SealsFighting SealsFighting Seals

Two of the seals by the 'Vista Point'.
properly last time and given the remoteness of this road, when we saw a filling station near Big Sur, we thought we had better fill-up. We regretted that. It was $6.77 per gallon (compared to $2.76 in Los Angeles). Mugged-off #7 and #8 (it's only one I know, but it was such a rip-off that I'm counting it twice).

After a while the road got wider and the scenic drive was over. It was then just a matter of clocking-off the miles and getting down to Los Angeles. We stopped a few times, including one stop at a Walmart. We love to visit the American supermarkets as they are very different to those in the UK, not least because of the Sporting Goods section. Unlike one we had previously visited in New England, this one only appeared to sell air-guns and not the full-on rifles and machine guns. Obviously they are not as in to their "Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin'" here as they are in New England.

The temperature is slowly rising. It's gone from 59°F in Carmel to 84°F as we approach Los Angeles. There are also an increasing number of "State Beaches", which all appear to
LA TrafficLA TrafficLA Traffic

Just what was to be expected for 5.00pm on a Friday.
be very well used.

One thing that they do not do very well on American Roads are the services. I know the services in the UK leave a lot to be desired, but at least they are there if you need them. Absolutely no sign of any restrooms at any point. We were bursting for a 'rest' but just had to wait.

As with these long journeys, it gives us a chance to observe the surroundings. We were constantly seeing what looked like bells along the side of the road, labelled "Historic El Camino Real". A quick Internet search when we arrived in Los Angels showed that this means "The Royal Road" (sometimes known as "The King's Highway") and is an historic 600 mile road connecting the 21 missions of the former Alta California. The bells are apparently the distance of one days travel by horse apart.

We also loved the fact that the sign for every town or city we passed through gave its population and elevation (the population being updated every ten years based on a census according to my son and another Internet lookup). The smallest we saw was Harmony with a population of 18 and the largest was of course Los Angeles with a population of 4,045,000 (it went past too quickly to catch the last three digits).

When I say quickly, that sounds better than it was. As soon as we hit Santa Barbara, we also hit the traffic jams, which were then more-or-less solid all the way to Redondo Beach, not helped by the fact it was 5.00pm on a Friday and despite the fact that the roads were up to six lanes in each direction. We were able to use the multiple occupancy lane, but even that was jammed solid. It felt like the last 50 miles took as long as the previous 200. Just what we expected from the stereotype LA traffic.

There was a stunning sunset as we drove into our hotel. Whilst our hotel is very nice and technically in Redondo Beach, it is about four miles from the beach and is positioned in between a railway line, a freeway, a DHL distribution centre and some sort of radar station. Not the kind of location we were expected and certainly not what how it appeared on the website. Mugged-off #9.

Despite the fact that we were sick of driving, we decided to drive to the actual Redondo Beach and see what was available there. We will be changing hotel after two nights, so at least this mugged-off can be partially rectified.

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