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Published: December 23rd 2011
For the most part, my business trips while working at NAVFAC were of one week duration, particularly those that took me to te West Coast. Monday and Friday would be travel days with Tuesday through Thursday as work days. However, in August 1996 I attended a two week course on Environmental Law in Port Hueneme CA which gave me a two day weekend. Never one to waste two days, especially on the California coast, I and a collague of mine decided to take a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.
10 August 1996 Saturday. We left Port Hueneme quite early as we had set an ambitious itinerary for ourselves. We caught US101 in Ventura headed north, passing Santa Barbara, one of my favorite spots to eat when on one week trips. Our first stop was Solvang, a Danish village which has become quite a tourist attraction. It was kind of corney, so after a half hour of walking around we continued north past Pismo Beach. We left US101 at San Luis Obispo and caught Rt 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Our next stop was the Hearst Mansion at San Simeon. This castle was built by Randolph Hearst, the
newspaper publisher, in the 1930s to house all his art and antique collections from his acquisition trips to Europe. When I say antiques, do not picture only objet d'art, but also entire fireplaces and wood paneled rooms. He also used the mansion to entertain Hollywood stars. A drive up the coast is not complete without a tour of this amazing, lavish mansion.
Beyond San Simeon the highway gets twisty as it follows the mountains that drop into the sea. We stopped briefly at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to see the large redwood trees. We drove by Big Sur with its dramatic coastal scenery, and arrived at the mission in Carmel. We stopped there for a quick tour before proceeding to the 17 Mile Drive along the Monterey Peninsula, with Pebble Beach and other famous golf courses. Again, this is beautiful scenery.
We drove into Monterey and saw Cannery Row, of John Steinbeck fame, and the historic downtown area. Then we went looking for a hotel. This proved to be impossible. There was some festival happening, so if we hadn't reserved a room six months ago, we were too late. So our search area was expanded, and we
eventually ended up in Salinas, of John Steinbeck "Grapes of Wrath" fame.
11 August 1996 Sunday. After breakfast we rejoined US101 north, proceeding directly to the Bay area, taking interstates along the east side of the Bay and crossing the Bay at Richmond to San Rafael. We drove to Sonoma and the wine country of the Sonoma Valley. We stopped to taste the wine at several vinyards.
Not satisfied with just Sonoma wines, we proceeded eastward across the mountains to Napa Valley and proceeded to do the same. We got as far north as Calistoga before turning south through St Helena and Napa. There we turned west to drive through Marin County. Before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Sausalito: Spinnakers on the marina looking out over the Bay towards San Francisco. Both the food and the view are great, especially as the sun goes down and the lights of the city come on.
By then we didn't have much time to tour the city, and didn't need to as San Francisco was one of my major destinations for my week long business trips, as we were
closing all of our Navy bases in the region and I was responsible for their environmental cleanup. So we drove through town and caught US101 all the way back to Port Hueneme, arriving about midnight.
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