This month’s Road of the Month brings us back to the coast, driving along a world-renowned stretch of highway affectionately nicknamed “PCH.” The abbreviation, of course, is short for Pacific Coast Highway, a road which spans almost all of the California coast. Although the various sections of road are associated by name, some sections of the PCH are better than others. Sections north of San Francisco tend to be socked in by fog and rain, while the highway becomes just another busy street in the SoCal region. That’s what makes the the drive from Monterey to Morro Bay so special – it is a refreshing vista in a high-tech, fast-paced state.
I personally drove this road going southbound, so that’s the story being told here. Start in Monterey by visiting some of the more popular sights and attractions. Though Monterey might seem like an expensive, high class place, there really is something for everyone. Cannery Row is home to some art galleries and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but parents of younger children may be more interested in Dennis the Menace Park. Golf aficionados might be interested in heading slightly south towards Pebble Beach’s 17 Mile Drive. Adventurists might go out kayaking in the bay, while the rest of us jog and bike along the coast. Keep in mind, though, that Monterey is not the main attraction. Remember to leave time to head down the PCH, where there will be even more opportunities for pictures.
The first roadside attraction that you’ll come up on is Bixby Creek Bridge. It’s a pretty normal looking bridge, but it has been prominently featured in many car commercials. Besides being a movie star, it is also surrounded by some stunning scenery. While the pull-off on the north side of the bridge is a great place to take pictures, you can also travel up a little known dirt road to get better views. Old Coast Road is the road that locals used before the bridge was built, and it heads east up into the mountains to give a different vantage point of the bridge. Just be careful, since dirt roads aren’t always well maintained.
Continuing on down the highway will remind you of a time when roads didn’t cut through the land (to borrow a phrase from Sally Carrera, of Cars fame). The advantage of building a road that flows with the land is that you get to see things from lots of different angles. You’ll see the same beach from up high, and down low. The colors of the ocean change as they reflect the suns rays. This is the main reason why the PCH is one of my favorite roads – although there’s usually traffic, it allows nature to wow you, and you control the pace of the dazzling scenery simply by controlling vehicle speed.
The downside of a road that flows with the land is that…it flows with the land. Luckily for me, I drove this highway right after an extremely wet winter. Several sections had been washed out, and only recently had been patched up enough to drive through. It’s odd having to navigate a one-lane dirt road as part of a highway system, but it wasn’t too bad. Like they say, when life gives you limes, make smiles. The temporarily closed road allowed me to pull off and take some more pictures!
Later into the drive, you’ll pass by San Simeon, which is home to Hearst Castle. Slow down and notice the fields by the side of the road. If you’re lucky, you might see his zebra’s roaming around the estate!
Finally, you’ll drive into Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Visit Morro Rock and San Luis Obispo. It’s a nice place to relax and unwind from the long drive. Stop by the Mission in San Luis Obispo to see a piece of California’s history, or head towards downtown for some Tri-Tip at the Firestone Grill. Hint for In-N-Out lovers: if you cut east on 41 (north of Morro Bay) instead of heading straight into San Luis Obispo, there is an In-N-Out just north of the 41-101 junction in Atascadero!