Days 126-129: Pacific Coast Highway

Jimmy and I ate breakfast in Sierra Madre and then walked around the cute, small city. Afterwards, I made edits to my blog while Jimmy left to hang out with some friends.

I realized I was only a short 15 minute drive away from Mount Wilson, a mountain that I had hiked many times before. It’s one of the most difficult hikes in the area because it’s nonstop climbing. I enjoy the hike because it’s also mostly empty.

img_8809

The afternoon sun was beating on me. There isn’t much shade the first one and a half miles and it was 89°F with a real feel of 93°F. The dry air was mixed with smog. The hike was beautiful and offered some amazing, hard-earned views of the metro Los Angeles area.

img_8814

img_8810

img_8813

img_8815

img_8818

I finally got to a tree-covered area, but the heat didn’t let up. I was happy to enjoy the sunny day, but I was also looking forward to going north to cooler temperatures. I hiked a total of six miles and watched the sun move behind the mountain to set. The hike was difficult, but it was a good kind of difficult.

img_8830

img_8825

img_8841

img_8821

img_8844

I went back to Jimmy’s place to shower and then I drove to West Los Angeles for my friend Jessica’s birthday party. I saw some other friends there and met some new people too. There were a few women there that were interested in hearing more about the book I was writing about the John Muir Trail. I was also telling them about my travels. One woman said, “I’ve never met someone who actually did this. We all think about it, but you actually did it.”

The next day, I went to brunch with Jimmy and a mutual friend, Nguyen. We got to meet Nguyen’s boyfriend, who I had heard a lot about. We ate some delicious dim-sum and then had to part ways. I went back to Jimmy’s place to pack up my stuff and hit the road. Before I left town, I stopped at Costco in Burbank to get some water bottles and it took me 20 minutes to find a parking spot. The crowd made me happy to get away from the city.

img_8862

I started driving north, planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway this time. Previously I had driven highway 5, which goes through farmland. It’s quicker, but very boring. The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful roads in the U.S. It goes along the coast of California and winds its way around the mountains. It takes much longer because of the amount of turns and elevation gains, but the scenery is a fantastic payoff.

img_8864

img_8870

I arrived at Morro Bay just as the sun was setting. I found my motel, Harbor House Inn. I parked my car outside of my room, brought my bags inside, and then walked down the street to grab dinner. I found a restaurant and ordered a sandwich to-go.

As I was paying for my order, the young guy around 20 years old asked, “You’re not from here?”

I replied, “No, LA.”

“Cool. Are you just on vacation?”

“Well, I’m traveling for two years.”

“Nice! It’ll be good to find a place you’ll want to live when you’re older.”

Flattered, I thought, “How old does this guy think I am?”

I ate my dinner in my motel room and went to sleep. The next morning, I was loading up my car to check out and there was a guy in his late 20s to early 30s unloading his car into the room next to mine. He asked me, “Does your directv work?” I explained that I had issues with the HDMI cable and it seemed to be a known issue with the staff. The guy said, “I just got here 30 minutes ago and it’s not working. I guess I shouldn’t be watching TV anyway, right?”

I walked to the front office to hand in my key and check out. I walked back to my car to leave and the guy was still hanging out by his car. He said, “You’re leaving? Where are you going?”

“Hearst Castle and then probably Eureka.”

“At Hearst Castle, take the movie tour. Some people say it’s cheesy, but I think it gives you a good base of the place. Are you just on vacation?”

“No, I’m traveling for two years.”

“Wow! That sounds like a conversation I’d love to have with you. Dang it. Why couldn’t this have been a couple of days ago? You can’t stay another couple of nights?”

“No, I actually have plans in Whistler. Are you on vacation?”

“No, it’s a long story, but not as fun and adventurous as yours. Dang, I wish we could have a conversation.”

“Well, I gotta go, sorry.”

I got into my car and drove over to the large, famous rock that Morro Bay is famous for. I walked around, taking pictures and enjoying the cool breeze.

img_8893

img_8885

img_8884

After that, I drove 45 minutes to Hearst Castle. I joined a tour and we boarded a bus that took us on a 15 minute ride up the mountain.

img_8906

The place was built between 1919 and 1947 by California’s first female architect, Julia Morgan. William Hearst was a publishing tycoon and wanted to build “something a little more comfortable,” which became the extravagant castle on the large property where he grew up camping with his family. In the 1920s and 1930s, movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant all went there for parties.

img_8914

img_8904

img_8915

The tour was informative and we walked all around the property, stopping at the famous outdoor Neptune Pool. William Hearst died in 1951, and in 1958 the Hearst family gifted the property to the State of California and it became a historical monument. The family still owns most of the 82,000 acres surrounding the castle.

img_8908

img_8912

img_8917

Once the tour was finished, I took the bus back to the main office to get my car. I continued driving north on the Pacific Coast Highway. The views were incredible! This was the first time I had driven the highway through central California. The road forced me to make turn after turn after turn.

img_8940

img_8955

I was surprised by how busy the road was considering it was the end of October and should have been off-peak season. I saw a lot of rented RV’s, especially near Big Sur.

img_8964

I stopped many times on the shoulder when I had the opportunity. The mountains against the ocean was a site to see. I was also lucky enough to watch the sunset over the ocean.

img_8952

img_8961

img_8965

I was on the highway for several hours before I hit San Francisco and then started to head more inland. It was dark as I drove past the city, but I didn’t want to get a hotel there because that area is the most expensive in the country. I drove to Williams, California and got a room at a Motel 6. The drive on Pacific Coast Highway is magnificent and I highly recommend you drive it at least once in your lifetime.

The next day I checked out of the motel, grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s and continued north, driving though some mountains in Oregon. I was saddened when I saw the damage from fires that that occurred a few months prior. When I spent time there in June and July, it was green and beautiful. But when I was in Canada and Alaska, several major fires blazed through the area. I could see the burnt trees along the Highway and couldn’t believe how different it looked.

img_8993

img_8984

img_8989

img_8995

The landscape was dry and starting to flatten out as I continued north. After a full day of driving, I arrived at the Red Lion Inn & Suites in Vancouver, Washington, which is just past Portland, Oregon. It was around 9:00 pm and dark outside. The hotel wasn’t very nice, but it would do for the night.

I walked across the street to Subway and brought a sandwich back to my room. I had an Airbnb booked in Whistler starting November 1st, so I had to cover a lot of ground each day in order to make it in time. I was exhausted from so much driving and couldn’t wait until I had some downtime in my favorite mountain town.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
Thanks for reading! Hit the Like button or leave a comment!

Leaving Los Angeles (Part 2)

After leaving my house, I knew I needed a place to crash for a few days so I could sort through stuff that I had frantically thrown in my car. My friend Valerie offered her 1 bedroom apartment and said she’d stay with her boyfriend so I had the place to myself. She has a super cute apartment about 1 block from the ocean in Long Beach. When I arrived Wednesday evening, I had to unload a lot of stuff from my car. After many trips to and from my car, I finally sat down at her kitchen table. Her apartment was similar to the apartments I had lived in when I first moved to Los Angeles when I was 23. They’re all pretty old, have similar old doors and cabinets, and no air conditioning. I had cried (sobbed really) the entire way to Valerie’s apartment. After unloading the car, I finally ate for the day, a frozen meal I grabbed from my freezer on the way out of my house. Living alone means I eat my fair share of frozen dinners. Deafening silence engulfed every inch of the apartment and surrounded me.

I sat there eating in silence, crying. A feeling come over me that felt like I just slid back in life. I spent 15 years building a life; found and married my husband, bought and sold a condo, bought a house, and built a great career. Now it was all gone. I was jobless, homeless, and had no husband. I was back in an apartment similar to one I had 13 years ago, listening to the neighbors fight through the wall. Now I understood why so many friends were shocked when they found out what I was doing, what I was giving up. Fear sweep over me and I wondered what the heck I was doing.

Over the next few days, I sorted and organized my stuff. I bought a GoPro for my travels, and installed a roof top cargo box on my car. I went for a run on the beach, a path I used to run when I lived in Long Beach. I met up with friends to say more goodbyes. I still struggled to sleep. It’s maddening when you can’t sleep, even though you’re very tired.

I planned on leaving on Sunday so I didn’t overstay my welcome at Valerie’s apartment. A friend was having a party on Saturday so I decided to go. On the hour-long Uber ride there, I chatted with the driver and he was about to embark on a 3 week road trip with his girlfriend across the US. I told him about my plans and how I just sold my house and quit my job. My friend Trisha had suggested that I make business cards with my blog, Vimeo, and Instagram information for people I meet along the way. I had literally just picked up the cards so as I left the Uber, I handed him a card. He thanked me and started following me on Vimeo the next day (that was super exciting!). He helped me grab some drinks from the trunk and said “You’re a little crazy. But it’s a good kind of crazy.” That made me smile. I am a little crazy.

At the party, I was able to see several friends one last time. We ended up going to a local bar afterwards and heard some live music. Once back at my friend’s house, I chatted with a couple of friends and fell asleep on the couch around 3am. It was my last night in LA and I didn’t want it to end. Finally around 4am, I grabbed an Uber back to Valerie’s apartment.

At 10am, I met two friends (Karyn and Mo) for breakfast. Knowing I was leaving that day and recently having had my heart broken (that’s a different story), I cried through most of breakfast (thankfully most people don’t go to brunch at 10am). Embarrassing you say? Yes, very much so. I remember the days in high school and college where I never cried in front of people, ever. My friends used to think I was a little cold because I didn’t really cry. Well, apparently my tear ducts are making up for lost time because I’ve cried more in the last 2 years than ever before. I was feeling so much loss, all at once, that I simply couldn’t handle it. Losing the house felt like losing my husband all over again. Maybe that’s why he was able to move on so quickly and I haven’t? I didn’t realize how much of my life with him was still tied to living in that house. My friends were very patient and understanding. They talked me through everything and helped me feel a little less alone. They asked where I was going that night and I had no clue. I couldn’t decide between the coast, up to Mammoth, or just go through the middle of California. After talking it out with them, I decided to head through the middle so I could get to Oregon and start exploring. I’ve seen a lot of California and had to be in Denver by August 31st so I wanted to spend most of my time in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

After breakfast, I went back to Valerie’s apartment and started getting my bags ready to be loaded up. Two friends (Debbie and Robin) stopped by to grab the spare key to my storage unit and a little safe with things like my birth certificate. Did I continue to cry? Yes.

Around 3:30pm, I was ready to head out but first had to stop at my storage unit to drop off a few more items and go to Best Buy to buy a keyboard for my iPad mini since the laptop I wanted wasn’t available anywhere. My friend, Trisha, met me at Best Buy with her kids so I could say goodbye. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye earlier because of timing. I’m glad I was able to have a face to face goodbye with her and she encouraged me that things would get better. Around 4:30pm, I was ready to head out from Best Buy and hit the road. Trisha asked me where I was going first and I said “Probably Merced”. I didn’t have a hotel booked so I figured I’d see how far I made it.

As I drove through Los Angeles, getting stuck in some traffic, I felt a sense of loss. Los Angeles is where I had just spent most of my adult life and it had become my home. I moved about every 4 years growing up, living in different cities in Missouri and Colorado, and each move was hard. The hardest move was when my parents were separated and my sister, mom, and I were living in my step grandmother’s house while she was touring Europe for the summer. My dad showed up in the evening about a week before school was supposed to start with a loaded Uhaul filled with all of our stuff from storage. My parents said they were getting back together and I needed to pack my suitcase because we were moving back to Missouri (we were currently living in Canon City, CO). I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends and we were gone by the morning. This was very dramatic for my 13-year-old self because I’m someone who needs closure. I need to say goodbye and I need to stay in touch with people. I don’t like losing people.

With this move, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to my house, and having no clue where I would spend the next few months felt overwhelming. I drove over the mountains and into farmland as the sun set and realized it was June 24th, the one-year anniversary of when my divorce had been finalized. All I could think was “This has to get better, right?”

Post edited by: Misty Kosek