Palo Alto (a.m.) / Santa Barbara (p.m.), USA

  • Date
  • 14 December 2001
  • Lodging
  • Pepper Tree Inn
  • Distance
  • 522 KM
  • Total
  • 236352 KM

What a day! We drove Highway 1 along the coast passing from Monterey through Big Sur to Morro Bay. Winding roads, magnificent cliffs and stunning Pacific Ocean views, highlighted by a gleaming sun, make this one of the finest drives in the US according to Jim. Along the highway are few homes, some ranches stocked with cattle and horses and several national parks preserving this pristine coastline and the redwoods choker-block-full near Big Sur, home to a handful of lodges, motels and upscale hotels.

Near San Simeon and the Hearst Castle, we lucked onto a colony of elephant seals in the hundreds, lounging on the wide beach. Almost extinct 10 years ago, the seals are thriving now, with about 2000 pups added to the lot last year. Jim and I stood, as a forceful wind tore through, watching the fat, blubbery creatures waddle and wallow along the shore, but, much of the time, they just sat there and did absolutely nothing! A bulky, old male, with an impressive, dirty tusk, spent his time shoving, literally, other males away from his territory. Twice while we were there, he tangled with others vying for his harem. A couple of young, smaller, lighter-colored seals put on a show as well, tossing their heads at one another, making me wonder if they were playing or fighting.

For decades, Highway 1 has had a reputation for being a fantastic drive and, now, since the reintroduction of the elephant seals, the journey is even more captivating.