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Laurie Niles

Up the California coast

June 26, 2007 at 6:46 AM

Greetings from San Francisco! Though I've lived in California since 2000, I had not taken the rite-of-passage trip that actually makes me a "Californian": that is, I'd never driven up the California coast on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). So the Niles family is taking a week for some important sight-seeing, rest and relaxation.

Yesterday we headed north from Pasadena (Los Angeles, basically), on the famous PCH. Somehow I expected a sleepy and sun-soaked drive along stretches of sandy beach forever, but I was completely mistaken. The Pacific coast is one long string of jagged cliffs, with only the occasional beach. This makes for stunning views of the ocean, but slightly difficult driving, even for a Coloradan who learned on a stick-shift in the Rocky Mountains. A narrow two lanes of traffic hugging the rocky cliffside, the PCH dips and winds, requiring total concentration to navigate.

I wanted to take pictures of these amazing views, but I have to confess to some mild acrophobia. When my children leapt from the car at a rest stop, ran up to the bare edge of the cliff, jumped up on a rock and said, "Take my picture!" I nearly fainted dead over. "G-g-get back a little, okay?" Even with the picture of me and Robert, you can see I'm leaning to the left, because to the right was a straight drop several hundred feet down a rocky cliff to the ocean.

Today we explored San Francisco. We arrived too late last night to see anything, but today I opened my window (at the Argonaut Hotel) to find a great view: the sunny San Francisco Bay, with the ship, the Balclutha, parked right in front of me.

Starting at Fisherman's Wharf, we took a cable car downtown. I'm pretty amazed by a system, built 134 years ago, that runs on cables, pulling these cars up and down impossibly steep hills.

Who on Earth thought of building this town? The sheer audacity of perching these buildings on these hills boggles my mind, not to mention all the engineering that had to go into every floor of every building.

My son (who turned seven on Saturday!) again went nuts with the camera. Among about 200 other things (pixels are free!), he took the picture of me in Union Square with a San Francisco heart.

Tomorrow's destination is Yosemite National Park, another great California wonder that I've never seen. I'll post pictures!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on June 26, 2007 at 7:15 AM
Oh Laurie, how fun! George and I drove that route on our way down to OK in the fall of 2002. I remember those windy cliffs, too! Of all the places I've been, the coast of southern Oregon and Northern California was most like I imagined it would be. It was gorgeous. You guys are gonna love Yosemite. I hope you go see the Sequoyahs. Those are amazing, too.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 26, 2007 at 1:55 PM
I am so jealous. Last year's SF trip was thwarted by a big tax bill. We have another trip planned for this year. Thanks for the lovely pictures. I can't wait to go again!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 26, 2007 at 1:58 PM
Welcome to my playground! But wait - leaving San Francisco already? And no stop to get motion sickness while negotiating the perilous twisty roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains? Oh, all the fun you're missing out on! Oh well, if you gotta leave early, Yosemite is an excellent reason to do so. Enjoy!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 26, 2007 at 5:26 PM
Wonderful travelogue, Laurie. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your next post.
From Albert Justice
Posted on June 26, 2007 at 6:43 PM
The ocean pics are beautiful.
From John Platen
Posted on June 27, 2007 at 3:17 AM
I love the Coast Laurie! My favorites are Carmel and Moro Bay. You will love it!
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on June 27, 2007 at 1:38 PM
Looks like a great trip and love the pictures.

Well, living in a place where are Lifts/Elevators to join different parts of the town, to say nothing of conveyer belts in more recent times to take you up some streets, it seems that people everywhere liked living on hills very much indeed!!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 27, 2007 at 4:56 PM
Hey, Robert was experimenting with a new slide show thingie, and now on my computer I can't see the pictures. Can you guys see the pictures?
From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 27, 2007 at 6:48 PM
Yes. Still jealous...
From Barbara S
Posted on June 28, 2007 at 6:59 AM
Laurie,
Thanks for posting the pictures!

I remember the first time I did Hwy 1, in the mid-80s with a college roommate...I couldn't get over those amazing bridges, and the fact that the passenger door was in some cases only inches from...the abyss! But what a gorgeous abyss...

That trip was what persuaded me to come and live here.

Don't miss Napa and Sonoma...there's a lot more to see 'up north' here!

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on June 30, 2007 at 5:37 AM
I knew somebody who was driving south on it from San Fran to L.A. He had a flat tire and didn't know how to change it. True. He continued driving on the flat tire, and and went over the cliff. That was the last thing he remembered until he was at a gas station and some Mexicans were changing his tire for him. He got distracted for a second, and when he looked back, the Mexicans were gone. Yes, he takes drugs but only presribed ones:) So in the eyes of the law it's a ghost story :D

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