Posts Tagged ‘road’

The Coast Road

18th March 2011 by Helen
Californian coast - between the main towns

Californian coast - between the main towns

The last couple of days have been a bit of a ‘road trip’.  After leaving the company of the North California Land Rover Club on Tuesday evening we headed south.

We’ve taken the scenic coast road, Highway 1, which has been absolutely beautiful, driving right up close to the coastline, with the beaches and sea to our right.

It’s been a pretty classic experience in many ways.  We’ve seen the surfers out to sea of course.  There are loads of surf shops all along the coast.  The houses are pretty fantastic, and there have been mountains and fields of crops as well.  There have been more joggers out along the coast than we have seen elsewhere.  There also seems to be a proliferation of psychics plying their trade along this coast too.  We’ve passed through or by some famous names we know from old songs and films – places like Santa Barbara, Malibu beach, Laguna beach, Santa Monica, Manhattan beach, as well of course as Los Angeles itself.  Fame however, doesn’t protect from the ravages of nature, and the news all along this coast has been of the recent tsunami following the earthquate in Japan.

looking out to sea - Californian beach

looking out to sea - Californian beach

Yet, despite the expensive homes and stunning scenery, it’s not that different to anywhere else.  Sure, even McDonalds manages to look slightly more upmarket, but it’s still there alongside Wendy’s, Burger King and a whole host of other well known chain stores and tourist shops.

We didn’t see anyone we know to be rich and famous.  Although if we had I probably wouldn’t have known it.  Paul is a little less incredulous these days about how few actors I recognise on screen, or even know the names of, so I truly would walk past them in the street and not know I was supposed to recognise them as someone ‘famous’.

plump seaweed on a Californian beach

plump seaweed on a Californian beach

It wasn’t all driving of course.  We took a little time out to have a look around,

 taking a walk in the park and along the beach.  We couldn’t come to California without a walk on the beach, now could we?!  We happened to choose the same beach a large group of children were exploring, looking in the rock pools and along the sand.  When we looked we found no small crabs or marine life nestling there, nor even many shells on the beach itself.  Although there were quite a few ladybirds on the sand.  There was some plump looking seaweed and a few small pieces of driftwood, but not the richness of life I recall from beachcombing as a kid in England.  Makes we wonder if those beaches back home are more devoid of such childhood delights.  I’ll have to have a look next time I’m there.

Perhaps once again the most profound part of our walks though was the smell.  They say smell is the most powerful of the senses.  In many ways we’ve not felt ‘away from home’ while we’ve been travelling – not least perhaps because, like the molluscs, we carry our home with us.  But here in California the smell of the sea reminds us instantly of England, having both grown up by the sea.  The sounds of the crashing waves reinforces the effect.

Swanton Berry Farm on the Californian coast road

Swanton Berry Farm on the Californian coast road

Another delight along the road was when we stopped for lunch at the Swanton Berry Farm.  This place is an absolute must.  An organic berry farm that also sells pumpkins, the shop is amazing.  It’s in what appears to be an old barn.  Down one end there is the ‘shop’ where they sell some of their produce in the form of some delicious fruit pies or vegetable pumpkin curry.  Their strawberry cider was amazing too.  There’s no till or cashier, just a box with lots of small change and a few small notes.  You work out how much your food comes to, put your money in the box and take your own change.  The rest of the space is taken up with an assortment of chairs or settees, coffee tables and full bookshelves with books and games.  It’s like a real community centre.  The books tend to focus on the organic message, what we are doing to our planet through over-consumption, over-manufacture, etc.  A real treat of a place and we were so glad we had stopped there.

Highway 1 - the Californian coast road - just after the road collapsed

Highway 1 - the Californian coast road - just after the road collapsed

Our journey was not without its drama too.  As we were passing the Santa Monica mountains to our left, and just as we had crossed Bixby Bridge, we saw police lights up ahead.  A few cars were stopped and we pulled in behind them.  Exploring the situation further we found that over half the road had collapsed and fallen down the edge of the mountain at that point.  A local woman just behind us told us she had noticed the level of the road dropping over the last few days and only a few hours earlier it had already dropped by about a foot, so she wasn’t surprised.  The only problem being was that she lived just the other side of the collapsed road and she was now faced with a four hour detour to get home.  It brought to an end the joys of our scenic drive and we too had to take the same four hour detour before we could continue heading south on the highway again.  An hour earlier and we might have got through.  Half an hour earlier and we might have been sliding down the mountainside!!  It takes a while to load but the local newspaper report of the collapse can be found here – Carmel Pine Cone.

Finally, on Friday, we reached Encinitas, close to where we want to be tomorrow to meet up with some car club members, and treated ourselves to a cheap motel for the night, having roughed it a bit the last few nights.

Switchbacks in the Canyon

30th January 2011 by Helen
sitting on the edge

sitting on the edge

After such a glorious sunny day yesterday we woke this morning to clouds and cold.  However by the middle of the day it had brightened up again and we explored the rest of the ‘Island in the Sky’, marvelling at yet more scenes of canyons and trees before heading back into Moab via the Long Canyon Road.  This delightful little road leading down from the ‘Island’ and into the canyon that stands between the Island and Moab is described as a 4×4 road.  Hmmm.  With high cliffs on one side and a vertical drop (Paul: “rubbish”) on the other, compacted snow under our tyres, and some 180 degree switchbacks as we travelled (often steeply) down hill to the bottom of the canyon, I found getting out to take photos and walk rather more compelling that watching the world go by from inside the car!!

After finishing off with some jobs to be done in Moab we found a campsite just outside of town, called William’s bottom, and in the dark set up camp.

Campsite – William’s Bottom

Distance travelled – 76 miles


27th December 2010 by Helen

It was with much sadness we left Seattle behind, having renewed friendships and made new friends, all of whom we look forward to keeping in touch with in the future.  But we are on a journey and sooner or later we would have to pick up the mantle and move on again.

And so it was, on Boxing Day (in the UK), two months after we first arrived on these shores, we packed up the car and headed off, as we had planned, back to Snoqualmie, where we had been with the local Land Rover club the previous week.  By the time we arrived daylight was fading so we headed straight for a spot where we had seen some campers the previous week and put up our roof tent.  It’s a long wide space, and just ahead we can see the signs indicating there is a closed road here.

It was cold and snowing.  We realised we were right underneath some power lines.  Looking up the lines glowed a faint green in the gloom beneath the stars.  The electrical buzzing sounded like a waterfall was only a few metres away.  Less pleasant, the ground below us was very wet with lots of puddles.  We decided we’d find somewhere better in the morning and so did not bother to put up the ground tent.

We ate a traditional Boxing Day meal – left over chicken from Christmas dinner, followed by mandarins and chocolate mousse desserts – accompanied by the twinkling lights of Landy’s very own Christmas tree, a personal gift to him from Carl.

Snuggled up in our sleeping bags under the duvet we were warm and comfortable, lulled to sleep by the sound of the artificial waterfall above our heads.


evidence of snow overnight in Snoqualmie

evidence of snow overnight in Snoqualmie

We were being roughly woken by the sound of someone banging hard on the aluminium roof ladder.  Paul peered out to find a torch being shone in his face.  “Washington State Police.  You are trespassing on a private road that belongs to the electricity company.”  A few exchanges later and we go back to sleep.  We’ve agreed to move in the morning.  No problem, we’d planned to anyway.

Next morning we wake to see six inches of snow has fallen in the night.  The trees are bowing under the weight and occasionally drop their load of snow and spring back into place with, if you believe trees have feelings, some relief.  We cook breakfast and chat with a local man who is out walking his dogs.  Three border collies, one black and white retired search and rescue dog, two brown and white.  He later emails us with his contact details, saying that if anyone is passing this way in future he is happy to share a beer and offer a bed for the night.

Eventually we move on.

Campsite – Snoqualmie

Distance travelled – 50 miles