California/Oregon Trail

Following Big Sur

Day 21 (June 17): You think you’re safe. You think everything is great. You think, you are in an Airbnb. You are not camping. There is no way (gulping as you look at the webs surrounding the door) you will have any trouble with spiders or bugs here.

Lies. All lies. Okay, so it wasn’t that bad. I am just bitter because when I went to rinse my hands in the sink at my supposedly safe Airbnb, there was a gigantic spider waiting for me. Then again, that particular Airbnb left… A little to be desired. That did not stop us from sleeping well, however. We were supposed to leave at 7:00 a.m. We somehow managed to sleep through all three alarms, and woke up at 7:00 a.m. instead. Thankfully, upon reviewing the schedule, we realized that we could adjust it pretty easily by not spending as much time as some of the scenic viewpoints.

Oh! I forgot to mention, that one cool thing about that Airbnb, though it did add to some of the anxiety, is they built their streets literally around redwoods! So we got to see more redwoods, but we had to weave and turn in the streets to get around them, and anytime a car was coming from the outside direction, one of us would have to pull over in order to get past. Also, the host family built a treehouse in their redwoods. Which was pretty cool.

Once we finally did leave, we began our day by fulfilling another dream. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Now, I should mention, that this was really Daniel’s dream. It was less than my dream to drive amidst all that traffic. But I will admit it was pretty cool. Now, just to figure out how to pay the toll when it’s a rental car, and they claim to do billing by license plates….

We had been told that we should absolutely do the 17-mile drive, so we drove down to Monterey, me wondering how on earth the drivers in California are still alive. Seriously, the population in this state should be extinct just based on the driving habits of these people.

We took a scenic route around Monterey Bay, which was delightful, in between me pulling off to let other people pass who didn’t believe in 25 mph zones, nor in enjoying the scenic route that they were taking (seriously, it was literally called “scenic route”), approached the 17-Mile drive, and gaped at the $11 they were planning to charge us in order to drive these 17 miles. We did a u-turn and headed on to Carmel-by-the-sea, which I have been wanting to visit for years.

By the time we got there, I was thoroughly stressed out from all the drivers around me, and then got lost trying to find parking in this gorgeous, but tiny tourist trap with far too skinny streets, and somehow ended up in some back neighborhoods that only had room for one car at a time, and was so far away from the town itself that we had to pull up directions again. Eventually we made it intact to a public parking lot that was a 5-minute walk from town, and I heaved a giant sigh of relief as we pulled in, turned off the car, and informed Daniel I was done driving forever. Of course, I will drive again, since he has to work at some point, but he did do the driving for the rest of the day.

Between all the traffic, trying to find parking, and sleeping in, we were two hours behind schedule, and I was super depressed about it, typically, even though it was my own schedule. Therefore, when we passed an adorable little tiny tavern, we stopped, and I ordered a Maker’s with lemon and basil. By the time we finished sitting there for a few minutes sipping on our drinks, giving me a chance to breathe, and talking through it, with Daniel assuring me that it was okay to adjust our own schedule and be late to our own hotel, I was finally ready to explore the town.

While in every sense a tourist trap, it truly was absolutely adorable. I mostly window shop, though we went in a few stores. I was especially delighted when Daniel found the secret garden bookshop that had made me want to visit this town in the first place. I made my way down the adorable little alley, through the plants for sale, and through the cute bookstore.

We also found an amazing toy store, and a shop filled with tons of knickknacks, including these super cute, tiny mice figurines that were insanely expensive.

And in case you were wondering, no, I did not buy a book while we were in town.

I bought two sets of paper dolls.

Per Daniel’s uncle’s suggestion, we went to a little place called the Tuck Box for lunch, and it completely lived up to both the recommendation, and the outside. It looked exactly how I would imagine a hobbit hole looking, and when you stepped inside, it was shaped just as quaintly, with teapots and flowers everywhere. And the food! It was to die for.

We finally left town a few hours later, with sore feet, and full stomachs.

From there, we kept going down the coast, fulfilling yet another bucket list item by following the famous “Big Sur”, and accordingly, stopping to see some of the more well-known sights along the road (at least according to websites I looked at ahead of time). Now, this did not exactly go to plan either. Because we did not expect one of the most famous highways in the world to be completely devoid of internet. So most of it consisted of us driving down, admiring the ocean, and hoping we saw signs for the places we were planning to stop at.

We saw the cars before we saw the signs for Bixby Creek Bridge. An amazing, man-made achievement, Bixby Creek Bridge was “completed in 1932 for just over $200,000, [is] one of the highest bridges of its kind in the world, [and] soars 260 feet above the bottom of a steep canyon carved by Bixby Creek.” (Visit California) It was certainly a sight to behold, and we got the expected pictures of it, which I will share. But I’ll be honest, I thought the ocean was more amazing.

We were pretty excited to find out that Pfeiffer Falls Trail had opened only last week, so we could go see the famous Pfeiffer falls. However, the signs along the highway failed us there, and we didn’t realize until we were well past it that we had missed the turn off.

Furthermore, we had planned this trip when a large portion of Big Sur was closed due to a landslide, and now that it was open, we were trying to decide what to do. We had arranged the entire trip on the fact that we were going to have to turn around and literally retrace our steps, and therefore had only planned to go halfway down, before retracing our steps back, go to Yosemite and Sequoia Parks tomorrow, and then pick up where the landside left off the following day. However, now that the road was open, and we were already on it, that seemed like a big waste of time. So, we decided that we would continue on down Big Sur, so we could drive the length of it, and see the elephant seals today instead when we came back, and then turn around and hit Pfeiffer Falls on the way back to our hotel, which of course, because of our original plan, was in the complete opposite direction.

That would have been a great plan had we had internet so we could see how far everything was. Let’s just say that by the time we hit the elephant seals, we were not going to take the entire coastal highway back.

But I keep getting ahead of myself. We did get to stop by the famous McWay Falls, we we were both utterly delighted to see! It was honestly amazing to see a stream of water pouring out of rocks into the ocean.

And the elephant seals were 100% worth seeing. I laughed so hard watching them as they squiggled their way across the sand to different locations, honked noisily whenever they were upset (And sometimes just because) but didn’t usually do it too long because it seemed like too much effort. And especially the way they tried to cover themselves with sand, and itched themselves. We could have sat there all day just watching their antics. They reminded me of gigantic, seafaring sloths.

But, as it got later, we peeled ourselves away to head back to our hotel, which was three and a half hours away now. Thanks to traffic, and a desperate search for semi-affordable gas (seriously, we had to buy a gallon and a half at over $6 a gallon to get us somewhere that was “only” 4.40), we got in around 10:45 p.m., gulped down some food, and now I am ready to go to sleep! See you all tomorrow!

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