Day 9 – Lompoc, CA – San Simeon, CA
We are continuing our journey North along the Pacific coast. Distance-wise we only have to cover about 150 miles, but there will be plenty of things to see on the way. The initial plan was to stop again in Buellton to charge the car to full, but since we had some miles of range left from the previous day we deemed it unnecessary. There will be other opportunities later on.
First on our itinerary was Solvang – a picturesque settlement in Santa Ynez Valley dating back to early twentieth century. The Danish-style architecture prevails across the town, giving it unique appeal. There’s a Hans Christian Andersen museum (worth checking out!) where one can learn about the life and legacy of the famous writer. The museum features copies of the author’s masterpieces in many languages from all over the world, often complemented by beautiful illustrations that complete the classic story tales. There’s a mini-replica of the house where Andersen used to live growing up, too.
One will find plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining here – there’s a Danish bakery of course. Our favorite was aebleskiver, a traditional doughnut that requires a special pan to prepare it. Yummy!
We spent quite some time wandering around this idyllic town. The weather was absolutely great and we were in no particular hurry. We even found a Swedish candy store where they make and sell the famous polkagris. I brought some back home for my Swedish colleagues to their delight. Before leaving Solvang we have visited the old mission Santa Ynes, dating back to 1804.
About half an hour away is Pismo Beach. The recently opened Oceano Dunes Park visitor center was a perfect place to sit down for a picnic. Passing by the parked RVs and campers we traversed the sand dunes to get to the beach. It was quite a thermal shock once we stood on top of the dune! Back at the parking lot the temperature was in mid 80s, with a gentle breeze providing an additional comfort. Up here we were greeted with gusts of cold wind from the Pacific Ocean, happily blowing the sand in our faces and trying to throw us to the ground. It could not be more than 60 degrees here, and we had to quickly scramble for long sleeve jackets to stay warm (all while holding to our hats so they are not blown away). In contrast, the sand we were standing on was scorching hot. I took off my slippers to enjoy some barefoot walking and quickly regretted that.
After struggling against the wind and unstable surface we have eventually reached the beach. Me and my daughter quickly went to dip our feet in the ocean. It was freezing cold, and it felt like all of sudden the blood circulation to our legs have stopped. After few minutes our bodies adjusted to this change and both of us quite enjoyed the experience, giggling happily in anticipation of another oncoming wave to crash against our feet. What a great foot reflexology, completely free at that :).
It is official then – we stood in the waters of Pacific Ocean!
Walking back to parking lot was somewhat easier, the wind was pushing us forward. A quick rinse of our feet to remove the sand and we were on our way.
The next stop was at the supercharger by Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The inn was undergoing a renovation, but there was a local Tesla owners gathering. A few of them drove their brand new Model 3 to the meet. It was nice to chit-chat for a while and share some of the experiences. I didn’t really need that much of a charge, in reality it would be OK to leave after 5-10 minutes. As it happened, I was too engrossed in conversation with other Tesla enthusiasts that we stayed slightly longer than that. Oh well.
Some 15 miles later we would arrive at Morro Bay. Morro Rock – also known as the Gibraltar of the Pacific – stands proudly at the mouth of the harbor and can be seen from a far. A trivia: at 572-feet tall it is actually shorter than it used to be. Thanks to a quarry that was operating here once, chunks of rock were being blown with dynamite to provide material for local construction.
Lured by the smell of freshly fried fish and chips we have stopped by the dockside – both to enjoy the vista and the food. We were just few miles away from San Simeon now, where we would stay for the night. Since Hearst Castle was not on our points of interest list, we decided to check out Ragged Point instead. Leading to Big Sur, the curvy road winding along the coastline provided a nice adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, during our trip the stretch of Highway 1 between Ragged Point and Big Sur was not passable due to erosion and bridge repairs. We would cover the northbound stretch of the highway later, but for now it was time to rest.
That little escapade to Ragged Point ate some of our driving range. Luckily, Days Inn in San Simeon where we stayed had a Tesla destination charger, so plugging in for the night would allow us to start the next day with a full charge.
Day 10 – San Simeon, CA – Big Sur, CA – Seaside, CA
Since Highway 1 was closed past Ragged Point, we had to take a detour South through scenic Cambria, then northbound Highway 101. That added some 150 miles to our trip, but it was not all wasted.
The road led us through busy farmland. Along the way passed seasonal workers rushing to collect the fresh produce before they get spoiled (and taking advantage of the morning hours, before it gets too hot). The highway was full of trucks and semis delivering both empty crates and containers to the farms to pack the goods and carry the load back to market or distribution centers. We hardly ever think about where our food comes from or what effort it takes to grow and harvest the crops. This was a chance to have a glimpse at the hard efforts of people working in the agriculture and grow a new appreciation for what they do.
Passing by Salinas and Seaside we have arrived at Monterey. The scenery quickly transformed from the busy farmland to quiet town surrounded by majestic pine trees. There was what appeared to be smoke on the horizon. At first we thought it might be a fire, but it was actually the receding fog that is quite common across this part of the coast. The weather was gorgeous (mid-70s and sunny) when we arrived at Tesla supercharger. It was time to park the car and grab some early lunch at nearby California Pizza Kitchen. It was always one of our favorite places to dine in, but it was the first in a long time that we visited the place. It was also our first time experience in California!
With our bellies satisfied it was time to get going. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was next on our list. Although it was just half an hour away from Monterey, the weather was significantly different: dense fog, gusty winds and temperature in high 50s – low 60s. The fog seems to be constantly moving in and out of the land, something we would experience many, many times throughout the rest of our journey along the coast. Eerie and beautiful at the same time.
Within the park there is Whaling Station Museum, featuring a Whalers Cabin built by Chinese fishermen in 1850. Whale, abalone and famous movies all come together at this place. Whale bones that were found ashore are also on display, so one can visualize how large the creatures are compared to humans.
Despite the harsh weather conditions Point Lobos is a refuge for many bird species. Rugged terrain does not seem to stop flora either, there’s plenty of native plants that thrive here. There’s an ongoing effort to preserve the habitat and in some parts restore it to its natural conditions. Anyone can volunteer to help to plant the seedlings and to remove the invasive species.
Colder weather is not a show-stopper for having a healthy walk. Provided trails allow you to get close to the nature and enjoy the serenity of the area. The whole place is quiet, almost mystical. The sound of crashing waves and the breeze from the ocean can cure anyone’s anxiety, if you just let it!
After leaving Point Lobos we have continued South on Highway 1, towards Big Sur and ultimately Gorda – the farthest we could reach due to road closure. Once we reached Gorda it felt like we could just throw a stone and it would land at the Ragged Point. It was that close to where we started our journey today and yet it took us the whole day of driving around to get here.
Words can hardly describe the magnificent beauty of this part of the Pacific Coast. One just has to experience it themselves. If this is not the most beautiful coastal road in the world then it is definitely close to being the best. I strongly recommend to anyone to add it to their bucket list.
Even after covering the whole stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway between Monterey and Gorda we still had plenty of range left once we arrived in Seaside (where we stayed for the night). The combination of weather, slow speed we were cruising at (typically 30-40 mph) and rolling hills definitely helped. We would use the same supercharger in Monterey to get Nikola juiced up and ready for the next day’s adventure. In my opinion, this was the best experience we had this far!