The first couple of days in CA were spent in the company of relatives and extended clan. Not much travelling happened, if you discount the trip to Angel Island from Alameda on a ferry that had been booked for the junket. It was fun being on the ferry though the wind was cold even for folks who had come from as far as London, England!
Once we were done with the (in)formal engagements, we left our cousin’s house one Sunday morning later than I had wanted to, but late enough that others in the group were still complaining about how early they had to get ready (Baab and Katya, I am referring to you two!).
We first headed towards the coast to get onto the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a road that parallels the Pacific Ocean. It was fun for my mother to have her first view of the Pacific! We exited the road at Monterey and spend some time at the beach there. For some reason (maybe because of the really really gentle waves or because how the waters were surrounded by land from three sides as far as I could see), I didn’t realize that we were actually on the Pacific Ocean.
Once we got back on the PCH, I unilaterally decided that we needed to go on the 17-mile drive next. Though this was my third time on this drive, the amazement is undiminished at the sight of the ocean and the sea creatures that you see along the drive among the many vistas. For us Floridians, the water was definitely much colder than what we were used to, based on our limited trips to our Atlantic coast. But we still had a fun time, literally getting our feet wet in the water.
Back on the PCH, we stopped every few miles along the way to take in the sights of the Pacific Ocean meeting the mainland cliffs. The Bixby bridge at Big Sur is a tourist attraction and so are other similar vistas where huge rocks in the Ocean close to the shore rend the ocean waves into giant explosions of spray.
We were headed towards a waterfall (almost) on the ocean that had been recommended by a couple of my friends including Sundar – the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. After a couple of false alarms (I thought that we would be reaching the place much earlier than we actually did), we finally found the right location. Nestled against a cliff and the Ocean is a stream of water that falls on the beach just out of reach of the Ocean – well maybe it falls into the Ocean during high tide, but we did not stay long enough to check that out.
With darkness fast approaching, we decided to turn around from the PCH as quickly as we could; however, because of the layout of the land, there was no good way to cut across the mountains until San Luis Obispo further south, so we kept heading in that direction. While a couple of pairs of eyes were peering towards the left at Hearst Castle, Mrs. P and I noticed a vista point on the right where a bunch of cars had parked. Figuring that something might be afoot, we did the same and it was good that we did – once we approached the beach-head, a stench engulfed us, but that led to the realization that we had probably been here before in the late 1990s … to look at elephant seals. There were scores of them lying on the beach, throwing mud at themselves and at one another, making loud groan-like sounds. That sight alone (if not the McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park) made up for the long drive. We had fun looking at the animated animals, if I may say so 🙂
After a few minutes, it was time to resume the trip. We turned on US-101 and proceeded northeast for a while. Then, we took the exit to State Road 42 that would lead towards Fresno, which is where we had originally planned to halt that night. However, because we had taken more time than planned along the PCH, we had to find a place much earlier than Fresno if we wanted to sleep at a decent time. So, it was that we pulled into a motel at Kettleman City for the night,