California’s Central Coast on a Vespa

by / Friday, 13 September 2013 / Published in Places Along The Way, The Journey
2013-09-01 14.42.23

Traveling from Los Angeles northward was only going to happen one way. PCH. Legendary for a reason. This is a road that should have been experience on two wheels, but the quandary is I also needed to keep moving, so I put the Vespa on the hitch and hit the road. One day soon, I do plan to head back and ride up California’s Central Coast on a Vespa, though!

Spending as much time as possible on California Route 1, only hitting 101 when it merges or becomes absolutely necessary, I made my way up the coast. These are views that are not easily described, but stunning. So is the wind, so that was my only solace for not being on the Vespa!

As each day moved along, it became necessary to choose a place to stay. Once night I found myself in Cambria, nicknamed “America’s Prettiest Town.” With reason! There was a lot of care taken in appearance, I even saw a group of women out tending the street islands at 6 in the morning. [Funny enough, later that day I simply mentioned being through Cambria to one of the guards at Hearst Castle. She said “Its a town for middle aged woman to make themselves feel good about being involved.” I guess I saw the best example of that!]

Realizing I was nearby, I decided to make a slight detour to Hearst Castle (after taking an informal poll on Facebook, thanks to everyone for your input, it made the visit even better to take your suggestions.)

Hearst Castle: A study in contrasts.

I tend to get rather uneasy in grandiose spaces (I was once escorted out of the Vatican, as an example) yet I was not wanting to leave! Every corner had a detail to be discovered, the rooms were built with purpose, the guests taken into consideration. I think I was most impressed with the current family’s promise to keep the land they still own (surrounding the California Park’s System-owned “Castle”) pristine. So there is an even greater sense of magic as you ascend and descend from the home itself.

But I was happy to return to my little motorhome parked in the lot and drive off.

Let me give kudos to the tour guides, each one was incredibly knowledgeable, but just as important, completely interested and excited by his or her job. If you visit, make sure to set aside some time just to chat with them. In between tours, they are assigned to different areas of the grounds, you are not only not bothering them if you strike up a conversation, they welcome it.

I indulged in some time just sitting by the Neptune Pool, enjoying a gentle breeze and view that I knew I wouldn’t get again soon. I learned of the “swim nights” awarded to staff of the Park System and how the pool is not heated. You can imagine their antics in the shadow of the memories of once took place in this magical world.

Monterey

This was a planned destination for me, having heard quite a bit from friends over the years. Its a fun seaside city, with various neighborhoods and distinct flavors to each section of town. This is an ironic statement for someone that lives in a motorhome: I was quite taken aback by the number of homeless and street solicitors. No one was threatening, but it certainly made wandering solo a bit uneasy.

 

The pier is a hoot, in all of its kitchy splendor. And the sea lions intrigued Jerome to no end. We took some time boat watching and enjoying the views.

Its a pleasant place, I can see the appeal for many, to be by the water, close enough to a few larger cities.

Santa Cruz

Holiday weekends in any coastal town are busy, but Santa Cruz on Labor Day weekend? What was I thinking!? We don’t need to visit places when everyone else does, but it was fun to people watch. The amusement park and Wharf were visions of summer and a complete blast to wander around. The 25 cent trolley was a great way to move around once we were done with our endless walking.

But the best part… the observation platform for yet more sea lions! I could have stayed for hours and hours. What personalities these guys all had- but don’t be fooled, they can be very nasty and we witnessed that as well.

 

I treated myself to a new outfit and overheard the clerk discussing her time in Greenpoint with another customer. Ends up she lived blocks from my place in NYC, so we had a terrific chat about cocktails- and the lack of a great cocktail in town. Oh well, there is plenty of wine to be consumed!

The street art programs in Santa Cruz would make many of my artist and art-supporter friends back East jealous. They even have a terrific map of many of the public pieces. I found this by visiting and information kiosk, one of the best I’ve ever found. It’s right on Pacific in Downtown, stop there and just ask, “What’s not to miss?”

Davenport

 

Now, I sit 10 miles north of Santa Cruz, in a small little nook called Davenport. This is my kind of place. Four cafes right in a row, overlooking a magnificent coastal view. There is private land right on the cliffs where you can park an RV overnight without being bothered. But, the partiers know this too, so don’t expect it to be quiet. But, I’ve got internet, an incredible view, plenty of places to take Jerome for walks… all of our needs are met for now. Going to stay for a bit, well, until we get the urge to move on, that is.

My recommendations for this area are to decide you are going to fully indulge in one spot, or to plan on only a day or two in each. You won’t be disappointed with either path and will have plenty to see on a return trip.

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