Thursday, 20 September 2012

Day 22 - The Chequered Flag

We left the Peach Tree Inn in San Luis Obispo this morning, which was a lovely little motel. Breakfast was in what felt like a grandmother's kitchen, complete with 1930s music and TEA! And best of all, the stay was cheap as chips (well, actually those would be quite expensive chips, but you know what I mean).

I wanted us to be grumpy old ladies sitting on the porch and muttering at passers by, but Fi wouldn't let me

After breakfast we were back on the road to experience the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway.

Hey, I'm a rock, just sittin' here in the Pacific Ocean
Not the worst view in the world
Hero shot!

We were driving completely blind, our friendly EZ Guide having ceased directing us back in Santa Monica, but fortunately Route 1 is a darn sight better signposted than 66. Probably something to do with the minor detail that it wasn't decommissioned 28 years ago.

Sadly, this sign is not directing us to the World's Largest (But Unusable) Bike. Route 66 has given us unreasonable expectations.

The PCH is by no means the quickest way to reach San Francisco, not least because there is far too much pretty to simply drive past, and we ended up pulling over to gawk at the view rather a lot. At one such stop, we bumped into a large group of bikers who had also just completed a Route 66 trip; apparently we're not the only ones who don't consider Santa Monica a suitably satisfactory ending.

These guys seem to spend all day basking in the sun. Where can I sign up?
Another reason it's not the fastest road is that it's extremely twisty and turny; kind of like the Oatman Highway, except the sheer drops plunge down to a little puddle called the Pacific Ocean.


Am I checking out the road ahead, or am I a meerkat? Who can tell?

I wanted a Thelma and Louise ending here. Fi is such a spoilsport.

Countering the good signage, a disadvantage of the PCH being an active highway is that other people use it. I was very much looking forward to the twisty turny roads, but it turns out you only get short bursts of fun driving in between loooong stretches of being stuck behind nervous drivers. I wouldn't mind if they were just cruising to take in the view, provided they made use of the many passing places (or "turnouts") to let faster drivers pass, but these were clearly people just not accustomed to corners. Watching out for sporadic and often illogical braking quickly becomes both exhausting and infuriating.

That said, I was probably alone in my frustration; Fi is not as fond of the twisty-turny as I am, and was probably quite relieved that I was being reigned in (though for the record I wasn't even speeding: the slow-pokes were braking in a straight line when there were no corners when they reached the dizzying heights of two-thirds the speed limit).

I have decided that each of these drivers needs to be sent to England for lessons on country road driving. They can join the many people we've encountered who need to go to England for lessons on proper queuing etiquette. And the many, many more who need to learn how to make tea. And then America will be empty enough for me to enjoy driving on lonely roads.

I miss the long empty roads of New Mexico

Okay, rant over: one of the plus points was that in the stretches where passing was impossible (and turnouts ignored), the only way to regain a nice empty road was to pull over for a while, and there was lots of pretty to occupy us.

We stopped briefly at Hearst Castle along the way, which we were told was built because a rich guy got fed up of camping. We decided that's almost crazy enough to be worthy of a spot on Route 66, though it would need to claim it hosts the world's largest of some mundane object in order to merit a relocation.
Add the World's Largest Spatula and you can move to Seligman

All too soon, though, we were rounding one of the coolest cambered flyovers I've ever driven on that took us into San Francisco.

Finish line in sight!

Unfortunately we had unwittingly kept to our accidental tradition of arriving in cities at rush hour, so my first impression of San Francisco was of long traffic jams and aggressive drivers and pedestrians. Despite the city's best attempts to get us lost, however, we did eventually find the rental car return, and finally had to say goodbye to our home of the last few weeks. Fortunately, she appeared to be lacking any cuts or bruises from where I reversed her into the giant pole back at the Midpoint Cafe in Texas. 

Anyone who comments on my appalling parking gets a Glare

Our hotel in San Francisco is lovely (thanks mostly to Fi's mum (<3) who upgraded us when we realised all we could afford at the end of our trip was a motel out by the airport). After checking in, we went out for a celebratory end-of-road dinner at John's Grill just down the road, and I found a Coldstone Creamery - one of my favourite things ever and a reason to come to America all by itself - so there may have been celebratory ice cream too.

In Estate Agent speak, our hotel room has stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge

We now have a couple of days of sightseeing in San Francisco. And I originally typed 'Chicago' there, which just goes to show how quickly this trip has gone!

1 comment:

  1. Shame its over but it has been a very enjoyable read. Were the people incapable of coping with speed and corners elderly or zombies? My brother in law often talks of being stuck behind the driving dead.