Day 12 - Great drive on US Highway 1 from San Francisco to Monterey


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September 18th 2012
Published: September 19th 2012
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Day 12 - San Francisco to Monterey, Distance travelled - 101 miles

Almost every day we see or do something special that makes the whole hassle of organising and planning this trip in such minute detail worthwhile and today was no exception. The US highway 1 is a spectacular road and we have barely scratched the surface with another possible 300 miles of it left to do!

With just a short 100 mile run down the coast from San Francisco to Monterey today, there was no need to rush and so the usual tank emptying and unhooking was completed by 10-30 and we were on the road leaving a slightly grey and chilly San Francisco behind us.

Mapquest gives you three alternative routes to Monterey, blast down highway 101, travel cross country on the I17 or hug the coastline all the way down on the single carriageway US1. Having consulted many different forums online about taking an RV on the coast road which ranged from 'I wouldn't even drive a car down the 1' to 'it's the easiest RV drive ever' we decided to throw caution to the wind and risk it.

For pretty much 75 miles the road does hug the coast, never more than a few hundred yards from the sea and at times a lot, lot closer. There were a few twists and turns to negotiate but nothing like what we experienced in Yosemite and the road was an absolute joy to drive on. Coastal erosion is playing its part and it's easy to see that in places there will (and is) have to be something done to keep the road open, but in the main it was a great run. There are also warnings that during fog or rain the road sometimes gets closed, but again we had perfect blue sky driving conditions (once away from San Francisco).

All along the route are pull ins and view points to stop and take photos and we did several times. There aren't that many people on the road at this time of year and on some of the fantastic long sandy beaches we could see, the only people on them were mad surfers.

My glamourous assistant in the passenger seat had been studying the books again as she does and as the road cut inland at the northernmost point of the Monterey bay
(it's about 40 miles long) she recommended stopping for lunch in Santa Cruz. Not knowing what to expect we pulled off the US1 and headed for 'the boardwalk' area of town. Santa Cruz is a lovely little beach town, it has a great seafront area with huge sandy beach, large funfair, arcades and 'boardwalk' and then a long pier that stretches out to sea. All of this looks new and gleaming and not at all tired and run down like you'd expect in a UK resort. We parked up the beast for free in a big carpark near the funfair (sadly closed today as out of season) and wandered onto the beach. The day was gorgeous although a bit windy, there were lots of people playing beach volleyball by the boardwalk. We had lunch at a small restaurant on the beach right by the pier and then headed on to it to check it out.

The pier is pretty long and obviously undergoing some renovation now the summer season is over but still very active. Shops, restaurants and bars line one side of it with great views out of their windows over the bay, the other side of the pier is reserved for car parking ( not quite big enough to get the RV on). You can fish, hire motorboats and kayaks or just sit and watch the world go by. Halfway up is a floating pontoon which had a group of about 15 sealions including babies lying out in the sun on it. Just like yesterday in SF, there was the usual squabbles and slapping down going on but very funny to watch. As we got towards the end of the pier the noise grew even louder and after descending some stairs on the side of the pier it turned out the whole of the underside structure was home to hundreds more sealions all lazing around or playing in the waves...it was bloody noisy down there as well and it was no wonder the fisherman above weren't catching anything, there can't be a fish for mile miles with so many of them down there!

Suitably refreshed and with more 'pressies' for Jessica purchased (will need a new suitcase soon) we headed back to the van for the trip around Monterey bay and the Marina Dunes RV park. The rest of the journey around the bay was a lot slower with much more traffic on the now dual carriageway US1. We travelled once again through miles of farmland growing citrus, avocados, kiwi fruit and one farm advertising fresh Brussel sprouts!

Marina Dunes is just off highway 1 and we hit a Walmart for barby supplies for tonight before entering the park. It's a very impressive setup once again with your own private gravelled area, fire pit, barby and the usual plug ins and waste out! There is a gym and 'clubhouse' which has a party going on tonight in there, i think we will swerve both, light a fire and cook our fresh steaks and sausages. I had to reverse into a spot for the first time as they have no 'pull throughs' but getting an expert at that now.

The best thing about the Marina Dunes RV park is it's proximity to the sea. After a quiche 1/3rd mile walk over the dunes we found ourselves on the most amazing sandy beach that stretched for miles in either direction. to our right wasthe Santa Cruz tip of the bay and to the Le is the Monterey tip and we are slap bang in the middle of the bay...absolutely fantastic. The worst thing about it is it's proximity to the main road but almost all the sites we have stayed at have been on main roads and once the head hits the pillow, nothing can stop us from sleeping.

So a short one tonight as not a lot else happening, just chilling and watching the world go by. Tomorrow we are out on a boat looking for blue and humpback whales...hope it's calm.


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