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Published: March 1st 2015
Santa Clarita, California
Our starting point, my daughter's house in Santa Clarita, LA county
In September 2011 we rented a car from Hertz, and went for a week long road trip. Our starting point was Santa Clarita in Los Angeles county, the city where my daughter and family live. This entry is about our travels and stops in these two Western states of the US. California to Oregon
We were planning to leave my daughter's house early in the morning, but couldn't do so as the Hertz people told us to wait until they called us to pick up the car at their office in downtown Santa Clarita. They called us only around 10 am, and one of their employees came to fetch us. After completing all the paperwork at the Hertz office we took our rental car back to my daughter's house to load our luggage.
We didn't have a fixed itinerary, and therefore didn't make any hotel reservations in either California or Oregon. We figured that we would stop at any town that caught our fancy along the way. Our first stop was the Welcome Center in Oxnard where we got maps and brochures of both states. The lady there was very friendly and helpful and asked us to sign
Santa Clarita, California
Stopped at this place in town (Santa Clarita) for coffee.
the Visitors Book. She also gave me a pin to stick on the big world map in their office, to indicate which country I was from. Needless to say, I didn't find any pins already stuck on the map location of Myanmar. In fact, I have yet to find anyone from Myanmar signing in either the Visitors Book or on pin maps, in all the places I have been to. I am sure there were some, but perhaps they were just too shy, or just didn't bother to write anything.
We got on Highway 101 heading towards San Luis Obispo which is located about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and billed as "The gateway to California's central coast." Well, this gateway was closed, so to speak, as all the hotels in town were full. We did find a small bed & breakfast somewhere in a residential area, but they wanted a whopping $200 plus for a room, although it was advertised on their billboard outside as only something like $50 a night. The man at the front desk was apologetic and said it was because the prestigious California Polytechnic State University had just opened, or about to
Welcome Center in Oxnard to get maps and brochures.
re-open for the new academic year and many students were in the city, as well as their parents. So we decided to drive on to the next city which is Morro Bay a picturesque waterfront town on the Pacific coast. We checked in at a place called the Pacific Cottage Motel. I remember the name because we had to pay for the room in cash ($55) but the old guy at the reception didn't give us a receipt. However, there was a big grocery store nearby and we walked over there to buy some food and drinks to sustain us during our journey.
The hotel is just a short walk to the beach, and the next morning we went to see Morro Rock which is a California historical landmark and was an important navigational aid for mariners in the past. It is an imposing sight with a height of 576 feet, and sometimes called the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” However, people are only allowed to visit the base of the rock, as it is designated as a bird sanctuary.
From Morro Bay we continued our road trip, the next destination - Carmel, which I had heard/read about many
Saw these two vintage cars parked besides a restaurant off Highway 101.
times from movies and magazines. It is said to be a charming small city by the sea. One of its former mayors is Clint Eastwood, who of course does not need any introduction. We were now on US Highway 1 or PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway known for its scenic beauty along its long stretches of both straight and winding roads. This is the Big Sur region of California where many visitors, both domestic and international come for their vacation. Prices are very high in this part, particularly during the summer months. For example, we stopped at a restaurant called the Whale Watchers Cafe for breakfast, but changed our minds when we saw the menu that said $15 for a sandwich, and $5 for a cup of coffee! I must say that the view of the ocean from the restaurant was superb. However, we didn't see any whales as it wasn't the season for them to be in the area.
We reached Carmel before noon and went straight to the old Mission, a major tourist attraction in Carmel. It was originally built in 1771, and still remains an active parish church with Masses held everyday. We were told that
Historic El Camino Real or The Royal Road.
the Mission also hosts concerts, art exhibits, lectures and numerous other community events. As a matter of fact, while we were there, a wedding was being held. Next we went to the beach but it was next to impossible to find parking space, so we drove along the main street of the town which is Ocean Avenue. It is a tree lined street of quaint little stores with fancy names. A lot of people were strolling along this downtown area, but here again parking was a big problem so we couldn't join them.
From Carmel we continued to Monterey where we had a very late lunch at a MacDonald's restaurant. We also stopped briefly in a town called Marina, to buy a new pair of athletic shoes at a Wal Mart store, as my old shoes had worn out (didn't realize I had walked that much)! When we reached Santa Cruz we drove along until we saw a small park where I changed my shoes, and threw away the old pair. I thought this incident was quite funny, so I'm thinking of writing a short ditty called, "I Left My Shoes In Santa Cruz" which can be sung to
Morro Bay, California
We stayed at this motel in Morro Bay.
the tune of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."
To go on with our trip; it was getting close to 5 pm, and we kept driving on Highway 1 until we reached Pescadero State Beach, and stopped there to take a break. This place is a scenic shoreline with rocky cliffs, sandy coves and picnic facilities, and where one can have a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. From Pescadero we headed towards Pacifica, passing Half Moon Bay (I had already been there a couple of years ago) another popular vacation spot. When we reached Pacifica it was already dark. I was there to search for somebody from Myanmar who owns an Asian restaurant in that town. Unfortunately, I had left her business card at my daughter's house and although Pacifica is a small town, we couldn't find the restaurant due to not remembering its name. I was a little disappointed as I was looking forward to having a good dinner. Anyway, we got back on the highway and didn't even stop in San Francisco as both of us had been there several times in the past. Driving through San Francisco was a little tricky as it was
Morro Bay, California.
Path to the beach at Morro Bay. In the background is Morro Rock.
night time, and we couldn't see the street signs well. We did find the Golden Gate Bridge and after crossing it, reached the city of San Rafael where we spent the night at a Motel 6.
San Rafael has some interesting sights, such as the Mission and some notable celebrities live there, but we didn't get to see any of them as we wanted to cross the California/Oregon border that day. However, we took a leisurely drive through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park which is off US Route 101 near the city of Eureka, and has the world's largest remaining redwood trees. The Avenue of the Giants on State route 254 also runs through this park. It is a long but pleasant stretch of highway lined with giant redwood trees, and has many natural attractions for visitors. We were now in Northern California. We stopped at the Tree House in the very small town of Legget. We saw the Grandfather tree near the village of Piercy. This enormous tree is reputed to be 1,800 years old. We also went to the Shrine Drive Thru Tree in a place called Myers Flat. Needless to say, we had to drive through
Morro Bay, California
Morro Rock from a distance.
this big tree just to say we have done it!
By the time we did all the sightseeing it was already night, and we still had to get to the border between California and Oregon. We had some hard driving ahead of us, and at some parts didn't even see a single car on Highway 101, but finally crossed over to Oregon in the dark. As we needed gas, we stopped at a town called Brookings on the Oregon side. We were surprised to see an attendant at the gas station fill up the car's tank and wipe the windshield. Oregon is one of the very few states in the US that provides full service at gas stations and does not have a sales tax too. If it weren't for the cold winters there, I would seriously think of moving to this state! Oregon to California
After we filled the car's gas tank we continued our journey in Oregon on US Highway 101. We had planned to spend the night at Coos Bay on the Oregon coast. There were very few cars on the road at this time of night and we arrived at Coos Bay around
Morro Bay, California
Bye bye Pacific Cottage Motel.
9 pm where we checked in at another Motel 6.
As its name implies, the town of Coos Bay is surrounded by a beautiful bay, lush emeral forests and the mighty Pacific Ocean, and the next morning we saw some of these sights but really didn't stop for long periods, except for the brief visit to the Vistors Center at North Bend which is just outside Coos Bay, to get maps and directions. We were in a hurry to get to our friend's house in Corvallis where they had invited us to spend the night. However, after about half an hour's drive from Coos Bay we came to a place called Winchester Bay which is listed as a 'vacationer's paradise' in the tourist brochures, and boasts of sandy beaches, abundant wildlife, lakes and fishing among others. The area looked pretty enough with its sand dunes, but here again, we didn't stick around for long.
We were still on Highway 101 and crossed a big drawbridge to enter a town called Florence, which of course does not have the same characteristics as its namesake city in Italy. Nevertheless, we saw a restaurant there named, 'Little Brown Hen' and parked
Pacific Coast Highway (1), California
The cafe where we stopped in the Big Sur region.
there to have lunch. The food there was good and the prices reasonable. However, we didn't see any little brown hens inside the restaurant, hahaha! Afterwards, we drove non-stop until we reached our friends' house in Corvallis. We had some difficulties finding it at first, but after a few phone calls we managed to find it. Our friends Bob and Phyllis welcomed us with open arms. That evening they were going to take us out for dinner, but the snacks and drinks that Phyllis had prepared for us in their home filled us up so much, and as I was rather tired from the long drive I went to bed early.
Bob and Phyllis wanted us to stay longer at their place, but I didn't want to impose on their hospitality, so we left Corvallis the next morning intending to switch over to Interstate Highway 5, just before the city of Eugene. Once on I-5, we made a stop for lunch at another small town called Roseburg. This time it was just at an ever present McDonald's, and not one like the one with the cute name in Florence. Sometime in the afternoon we made another stop at Sunny
Valley near Grant's Pass in southern Oregon. There we saw the Applegate Wagon Trail which offered a glimpse of the colorful history of the pioneer settlers coming in their covered wagons, the discovery of gold, the impact of the stagecoach, and the building of the railroad. We also came across the historical covered bridge near the museum.
Still on Interstate 5 we managed to cross the Oregon border back into California before dark, and made a brief stop at the vista point near Mount Shasta to take in the scenery before heading towards the town of Red Bluff, where we spent the night at yet another Motel 6. The next morning we wanted to see the salmon in the Sacramento River's east bank as they work their way through the fish traps, so went to the Recreational Park which was not far from Motel 6. We stood and waited at a boat launching ramp, but did not see any salmon at all as the season had just finished in August. A lot of picnic sites, camping areas, boating facilities, but no salmon!
The prevous day I had called my aunt who lives in Sacramento, the capital of California
state. She invited me to visit her in Sacramento, so from Red Bluff we went there. She came to pick me up at a truck stop outside town, and took me to an Indian restaurant for lunch while my friend stayed behind to meet her own friend in Sacramento. Afterwards, we went to visit Lodi. (of which a separate blog will be posted here on TB )
We were nearing the end of our road trip, and it had been a pleasant journey. The weather was good all along, our rental car ran smoothly, and we didn't encounter any trouble at all on the roads. We could have made it back to my daughter's house in Santa Clarita that night, but decided to make a last night stop at a Super 8 Motel in Santa Nella, a small town just off Interstate 5. There was nothing much to see or do there so the next morning we re-packed our bags one final time, and drove non-stop to Santa Clarita arriving there in the early afternoon of September 15th.
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