Leaving Ventura, we continue north and work our way up to Santa Barbara. We’re told that the best thing to see in Santa Barbara is the courthouse. The courthouse? That’s all you got? Okay, let’s go see the courthouse.
It’s quite a courthouse. It’s built in the old Spanish mission style, with amazing mosaics everywhere you turn. After a quick tour, we’re outta here. Head up Route 1 until we get to Morro Bay.
Morro Bay is actually quite beautiful. If you’re passing through, you can stop at the museum and learn about estuaries. I know about estuaries; I’m from Cape Cod, where we have the largest salt marsh on the East Coast. Louise reads every poster and photographs the large rock that sits in the harbor.
Heading into town, we stop at a nice little place next to a fishing pier for lunch. The waiter tells us that every day a boat pulls in loaded with slime eels, which they sell to Korea. It’s apparently a big business. We’re just in time—no sooner do we get our clam chowder (again, it’s okay, but it’s not New England) than the boat pulls in, followed by the two sea lions that chase it every day. They’re looking for the eels that are always dropped in the loading process.
As they dip the nets in the hold and bring up load after load of slimy, smelly eels, sure enough, a few fall out of the net and are quickly scooped up by the hungry sea lions, which keep barking loudly for more. I know how they feel.
Next stop, San Simeon, home of Hearst Castle.
The Visitors Center is at the base of the mountain, and miles away from the actual castle. We arrive at 9:30 and have to take a bus for our scheduled tour, which is at 11:40. Two hours to kill in a tourist visitors center. Not my favorite way to kill time. We did watch a movie about William Randolph Hearst and learned of his early life as a Mama’s Boy. They traveled the world together while his father, George, stayed home mining and chasing his floozies.
Finally the bus is ready to leave and we’re on our way to the castle. It’s pretty impressive for an American castle, but we’ve both been to many of the truly magnificent castles in England and Europe, so as incredible as it is, we’re both a bit jaded. To me, it’s a perfect example of what happens when too much time meets too much money and a poor little rich kid needs a toy to play with. I will say that the indoor pool is truly spectacular, though.
A voice inside says, “Go north, young man,” and so we do along the Pacific Coast Highway. Right after the castle, there’s a scenic overlook where you can see hundreds of elephant seals. They don’t actually do anything; they just sort of lie there looking dead. It’s sort of how I look after a big meal. As interesting as they are to Louise, we must press on.
The scenery is truly spectacular, but no one told us how dodgy the road actually is. Hairpin turns, switchbacks, and 20 mph speed limits should give you an idea. The Lovely Louise spent the entire time afraid to even look out the window. Good thing I was driving.
At one point, I looked to my left to see the view, saw how high up we were, and loudly exclaimed “Oh shit!” Louise immediately yelled at me, “Don’t say ‘oh shit’ when we’re driving a road like this! I thought we were headed over the edge!” I promised her that if we got through this alive, I would buy her new knickers at the next town.
Suddenly, there are trees and we're in Big Sur. It’s sort of interesting but not really, and we were through it almost before we realized we were in it. That’s okay, we’re almost to Carmel and Monterey, where we plan to pop in on Clint Eastwood. I’m not certain he’s expecting us, so it will be a surprise.