ADVENTURES
PERU: Lake Sandoval, Amazonia: Mundos Intocados – Untouched Worlds.
USA: Route 66 Texas to California RV Trip (Part 2)
USA: Route 66 Chicago to Texas RV Trip (Part 1)
KIWI: Stewart Island's Natural Beauty
KIWI: Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track - Stairway to Heaven
KIWI: Sitting on the DOC of the Bay - A Campervan in the Coromandel
HONG KONG: Top Ten Must See Attractions
MACAU: A Macanese Affair to Remember
USA, Rockies: A Most Excellent Adventure - RV Trip Part 2
USA, Rockies: A Most Excellent Adventure - RV Trip Part 1
KIWI: Top 10 Kiwi Coastal Department of Conservation Campsites
KIWI: South by Southwest Auckland
AUSTRALIA, QLD: Campervan Adventures on the Great Tropical Drive
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s Adventurous Atributes
KIWI: Top 10 Adventure Activities to Experience in Auckland
KIWI: The Gems and Jewels of the Tutukaka Coast
USA, WY: Unadulterated Wilderness - Yellowstone National Park
KIWI: Island’s in the Gulf
USA, MT: Montana’s Forgotten Ghost Towns
USA, ID and MT: Call of the Wild
WESTERN SAMOA: In the Footsteps of Robert Louis Stephenson
TONGA: Vava’u Island Group
USA, AZ: Tombstone - To Boothill and Back RV Trip
FIJI: Cavorting on the Coral Coast
NEPAL: Kartwheeling in Kathmandu
KIWI: Going With The Flow - A Day on the Dart River
NEPAL: Eat Pray Hike – Life on a Himalayan Trail Part 2.
NEPAL: Eat Pray Hike – Life on a Himalayan Trail Part 1.
USA, HI: Hairpin Highway to Hana and Beyond
KIWI: This Restless Land – Hiking the Tongariro Crossing & Mt. Ruapehu
KIWI: On My Bike - Mountain Biking and the Queenstown Bike Festival
REPUBLIC of IRELAND: Wrestling Wrasse on the Beara Peninsula
ENGLAND: The Land of Romans, Myths and Medieval Castles
ENGLAND: On The Trail of Lancashire’s Pendle Witches
VENEZUELA: Where Angels Dared To Tread
KIWI: The Wonder Country - Campervan Ventures in Southland
USA, FL: A Highway That Goes to Sea - Florida Keys RV Trip
MALAYSIA, Sabah Borneo: In The Land of the Red Ape

USA, CA: Highway 1 - The Convict Coast RV Trip

We were headed for the town of Pacifica and the start of one of America’s best known routes. For anybody who likes to get behind the wheel of a convertible, sedan, or luxury RV motorhome, Highway 1 is the road that will turn all other scenic routes into mere back street thoroughfares.

AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2010

 

Across the bay we spotted brightly coloured bay ferries, a few fishing boats and the waterfront—Fisherman’s Wharf. The seaport was once better known as the Barbary Coast, a district of wharves and saloons, brothels, bordellos and backroom gaming houses. Before the 1906 earthquake, this part of town was a dingy, ill-mannered place to hang out. Saloons with names such as North Pole, The Fair Wind, Thirst Polar, Life Saving Station and the Castle might lure any unsuspecting male who, slipped a ‘Mickey Finn,’ found himself on a slow boat to China—the word Shanghaied was coined in the waterfront vestiges of the Barbary Coast. 

 

Yet in the early hours of Wednesday, 18 April 1906 that all changed.  San Francisco was trembled with an immense magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Within minutes 30,000 buildings on 497 city blocks were destroyed. The result was 3,000 dead and 225,000 homeless. It caused more damage and destruction than any other natural disaster in America’s history.

 

It was Sunday morning as we manoeuvered the 30 foot (9.2m) RV into heavy traffic at the northern entrance to the mighty, imposing Golden Gate Bridge. With no freeway through the city centre my mate and I just cruised with the flow of traffic. We were headed for the town of Pacifica and the start of one of America’s best known routes. For anybody who likes to get behind the wheel of a convertible, sedan, or luxury RV motorhome, Highway 1 is the road that will turn all other scenic routes into mere back street thoroughfares.

 

Slowly, rolling hills rose to form mountains above a stunning coastline. We passed through Half Moon Bay and followed the curvature of the coast all the way to the surfing capital of Santa Cruz, a town loaded with heavy traffic and mature Victorian houses. At the end of State Street was the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the last true boardwalk remaining in California. The amusement park and boardwalk were built in 1924 and still house the original Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Louff Carousel. Today, the town pulls in an undercurrent of hip Silicon Valley couples who like the laid-back feel of the 1960s that made Santa Cruz famous. 

 

A few miles south of Santa Cruz we pulled our motorhome into Seacliff State Beach where we reversed carefully into a shady campsite and hooked up our lines. One of the features of this campground is a long pier that was perfect for fishing off accompanied by a few cold beers. For us a spot of fishing is a great way to end any driving day, that and a hearty campfire meal.

 

The next day we dropped into the Salinas Valley, an area that became home for the Okies during the dustbowl Grapes of Wrath era. Suddenly, the highway widened to six lanes. Produce shacks sold vegetables. Weathered farm buildings were entrenched in fields of plowed earth—this is an area known as the ‘Artichoke Capital of the World.’

 

An hour later we parked up the rig in Monterey. Monterey had more than once been the capital of California under the Spanish flag, first raised here in 1602 in the name of Spain by Sebastian Vizcaino.

 

Known as a popular town for authors where the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson wrote novels while staying here in 1879. It’s a town of former canning factories and wharves so admired in John Steinbeck’s life and literature and depicted in his book Cannery Row. Monterey capitalises on tourists. It has had to since the sardine stocks were decimated in the 1940’s. The town is a perfect stop for families, with the Monterey Canning Company, Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row all stacked with restaurants, bars, shops and museums. Opened in 1984, the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is architecturally designed around the once dilapidated Hovden Cannery and today definitely worth a visit.

 

The second Spanish mission completed in California is in nearby Carmel, named in 1602 when the Spaniard Sebastian Vizcaino’s expedition explored the region. Carmel was named for the Carmelite Monks that were traveling with Vizcaino. Carmel Mission was originally founded in Monterey in 1770. In 1771 it was moved to its present site, nowadays a few blocks away back from the touristy town centre.

 

Shortly after leaving Carmel, the coast road turns into the most scenic and photographed route in America. Big Sur was our next stop, not so much a town, more a rural community scattered and hidden in a redwood pine valley, sewn together with campgrounds, private homes, cabins, inns, motels and a store or two. The name Big Sur came from the Spanish El Sur Grande, meaning The Large South. The picturesque campground here is on the river in a secluded part of 700 acres of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

 

That night in Big Sur dancing light glittered off the coursing waters that swirled over boulders in the river as a black-creosote night enveloped us. Our campsite was set in a huge redwood glade. It grew cold. In a concrete pit we lit a fire beneath a swaying forest canopy. The fire roared, crackling like bacon in a frying pan, like all fires, both warming and mesmerizing. In the darkness soothing lights illuminated other campsites and RV’s. The scent of pine was puissant. We barbecued marinated chicken breast and ate well and polished off the last of our wine before retiring from the heat of the fire to the warmth of the RV.

 

The stretch of State Highway 1 south from Carmel to San Simeon was completed in 1937. Convicts—chain gang labour-pick-axed the rugged cliffs and isolated hillsides rock by rock and on the windblown plateaus curve by winding curve. Across the Monterey County line was Los Padres National Forest. It was spectacular and abandoned! On sinuous roads cut from 1000-foot high cliffs, bends swept gracefully below canyons the texture of moleskin.

 

The untamed nature of the land made us wary when we saw large slips of scree and boulders being repaired, a place imbued with tussock, moorland, jagged shorelines, storied mountains and photogenic headlands. Ahead however traffic was now fender to fender.

 

Further south fenced cattle country, uneven meadows and fields of wavering grass were divided by water, coursing out from the foothills into a briny sapphire ocean. Lonely black cormorants careened above lonely black crags battered by constant sea swells. Here RV’s had free-parked near gray sandy beaches. Seals on the beach bellowed or playfully rolled in kelp and flotsam. A white lighthouse and red-roofed buildings sat below coastal fields where the sea swept around more rocky headlands that had eroded away brontosaurus-sized coves.

 

At San Simeon Beach as fog rolled in across ocean vistas, is the entrance to Hearst Castle. On the ridgeline we could now see the turrets and towers and slender palm trees. The newspaper and magazine tycoon William Randolph Hearst started building the castle in 1919. When completed it had 165 rooms, equivalent to 90,000sqft.

 

From Morro Bay we continued south through San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, and Santa Maria until we hit major traffic in Santa Barbara. Families were now heading back to Los Angeles, but we had one night left to camp on the road before sleeping in the five-star luxury of the Shangri La Hotel in Santa Monica. Leo Carrillio State Park was the perfect end to a trip with 1.5 miles of beach with tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring and giant sycamores shading the main campground.   

 

All there was left to do was put another couple of steaks on the barbeque, open another beer and start planning for next year’s all American RV trip.

 

 

Know Before You Go Info:

 

- Get acclimatised to the RV; adjust the mirrors, seats and switch on the headlights.

- Buy a Rand McNally Atlas and obtain campground directories and state maps.

- Drive on the right-hand side and watch out for blind-spot on right hand turns.

- Beware of sea breezes on high bridges that turn your vehicle into a giant sail.

- Our RV had no central locking – make sure all doors are locked when parking up.

- For an extended stay buy an America the BeautifulNational Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Annual Cost US$80.00.

- Campground fees: From US$ 10.00 to US$50 in private campgrounds.

 

Shane Boocock flew to Los Angeles courtesy of Air New Zealand and United Airlines and was hosted by the following organisations.

El Monte RV: www.elmonterv.com or T: 562 483 4980. El Monte RV is privately owned offering RV rentals from hundreds of different locations across the United States. They feature the largest number of RV models in the motorhome industry.

Handlery Union Square Hotel, San Francisco

351 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

T: 415 321 7564 W: www.handlery.com

 

Hacienda Hotel, LAX

525 Sepulveda Blvd., El Segundo CA 90245

T: 310 615 0015 W: www.haciendahotel.com

 

Shangri La Hotel Santa Monica

1301 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401
T: 310 394-2791 W: www.shangrila-hotel.com

If you would like to read this article in full or licence it for your own publication, please click here to contact Shane.