Friday - 'round the bay
The day dawns once again cloudy, but it's clearing fast as we're tooling our way north 'round the bay to Santa Cruz & Points Beyond.
The Pacific Coast Highway follows the curve of the bay, rarely getting more than a mile from its waters as you head up it. You pass through a patchwork of dunes, wetlands, small forested areas, the odd (very) small town, intermittent freeway and two-lane road, and lots and lots of artichoke farms.
Surprisingly, it takes about an hour to make your way from Monterey to Santa Cruz and once there, we don't stop, but instead head north on the "Graham Hill Road" to the small town of Felton and the "Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow-Gauge Railroad
" - which describes itself as "historic," in spite of the fact that - appearances of old-time logging railroad aside - it was built in the late 50's, early 60's (admittedly, the "main line" to Santa Cruz certainly qualifies as "historic"
I'd ridden this train twice before in my life, once five years previous (when I was so tired from the solo drive up all I can really remember is blurry trees), and once even longer ago - so long ago that I can't remember just when (other than I was probably a single-digit age).
Unfortunately, by the time we got there, we discovered that we missed the first (but only!) train of the day!
In fact, the train was just returning from that "one trip" and getting ready to head back into the car barn. We were very disappointed to have missed it - so disappointed, the engineer was nice enough to give us a ride on it back to the parking lot to try and cheer us up.
Okay, so that was a whole four or five hundred feet - it was still nice!
We decided to have lunch, but nothing in Felton attracted our interest, so we headed back down into Santa Cruz on the 9. It's an interesting little drive in which, one minute you're cruising along through tall redwoods on a mossy, windy, two-lane road and the next, boom!, you're in Santa Cruz.
Not really having any idea where we're going, we continue on down Front (which is what the 9 turned into) towards the Boardwalk. Suddenly, we come across the "Pontiac Grill
" - a 50's style dinner that looked very interesting. So we park (not
an easy thing to do there, near the college) and head in.
[Update - April 12th, 2004: Unfortunately, on our most recent trip to the area
, we discovered that the Grill had closed - or at least, moved away. Darn!]
Yumm! We recommend the place most sincerely. Standard diner food, but in large amounts with nice little touches (like the chile sauce on the burgers and the homemade lemonade) that make the place memorable.
The desert menu is seriously dangerous too...
After lunch, we drive around a bit more, seeing some nice old houses and the Boardwalk and such, then head back to Monterey. It's still fairly early by the time we get there, so I decide to keep on going south down the 1 to Big Sur! Thanks to the road closure, we missed it on the way up, so I figure we can get it now.
The once you get down past Carmel, 1 winds its way along clifts high above the Pacific for most of the way. Now, "high" is not
DeeDee's favorite altitude, but there are beautiful views the whole way. It took lots of pictures.
There's a whole heck of a lot of wind as we drive (which shakes the car a lot - something that doesn't add to DeeDee's security...), but after about an hour or so of zooming past green hillsides, dark-tan clifts, and crashing surf, we dive into the trees that mark Big Sur.
It's now getting towards late afternoon, so after a brief rest stop at a store in Big Sur, we turn back towards the north.
About an hour later, as the road drops down to sea-level, we start passing the deep-green of Carmel Bay and pull off. It's time for our Official Kite Fly of the Day, so we park and walk to the beach.
DeeDee flies the tiny micro-kite we got the day before (okay, so we didn't come straight
back from Chipoltes after dinner...). Me, I'm still trying my stunter - and still discovering that "gusty" strong winds are just as bad as no wind at all.
Eventually we tire of this bit of fun and pile back in the car to make our way to the Carmel Mission...
...or if you prefer "Mission of San Carlos Borromeo
." It's the second oldest mission in Alta California, and the last time I was there was with the legendary (at least, if you grew up in Temple City) "California Heritage Trip,"
back in the fourth grade.
We actually spend much of an hour walking about the old mission grounds. The main church
is just as I remember it, right down to the slightly off star-shaped window above the main entrance. Flowers abound all over the place and, all in all, it's a nice, quiet, relaxing place to end your day's touristing...
Now, the mission hasn't changed in those decades, but the area about it has built up. Still, there are many of the English-countryside style thatched roof houses that Carmel used to be famous for still out and about.
The sun is setting as we pull back over the hill into Monterey and - in spite of lunch at the Pontiac Grill, we are by now pretty hungry again. So we head down to Fisherman's Wharf, on the grounds that a) we haven't been there yet and, b) it's pretty much solid eateries.
As the day turns to night, we stroll down the wharf, checking out all the places to eat, looking for something to catch our eye. What get's caught instead is our noses as we pass "Domenicos
." There stands an employee handing out samples of their clam chowder. And once you've tasted that, well, you're pretty much sucked in to going there.
Well, we had to have the chowder in sourdough bowls - even DeeDee, not as chowder-fanatical as I - and the Seafood Open-faced Ravioli, and the steak grilled in a maple syrup and soy-sauce marinade (not only better than it sounds - but so could DeeDee spent considerable time trying to recreate it at home!), and Linguine with Mussels and Clams...
...okay, so we got a little carried away. We loved it - and will definitely head back next time we're anywhere north of San Luis Obispo...
Domenicos Restaurant - Very Yum!
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