Right now, I’m in Monterey, California. One day ago, I was in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California. Last week, I was in Port Hueneme, California. The week before that I was in Seal Beach, California. And, sometime before that, I was rambling along the hot and bumpy interstates of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
In case it’s not quite clear yet, I’m currently on a westward journey from Texas to California, moving upward to Vancouver, British Columbia. So, I would like to share a little bit of my travel experience and perhaps help those who will set out on their own journey. Here are a few of my westward highlights:
I’m not really “from” anywhere. Answering the question of “where you’re from” is a bit complicated for a military child. But, if I were ever to claim anywhere, I would probably claim Fort Hood and the cities surrounding it.
From my experience, New Mexico is a state that likes to emphasize culture, particularly Native American and Mexican culture. The moment you cross from another state into New Mexico the atmosphere changes and, if you crossover near sunset like I did, you’re in for special and beautiful treat.
San Simon & Dragoon, AZ
I’m not a fan of Arizona. It’s hot and dry, there isn’t a patch of grass to be found, and apparently you have to be over the age of 55 to be old enough for any of the respectable campgrounds. But, I will give the state credit for its photograph-ready rest areas and the fun of counting the train cars that run parallel to the interstate.
Arizona Interstate 10
Who can complain about watercolor skies?
Texas and California have quite a bit in common, at least in terms of geography and transportation–it takes forever to get in and even longer to get out. There is no better evidence of this than how long it takes to reach a full-fledged city after crossing the California state line from Arizona.
Palm Springs, CA
This town/city/place is stunning because of both the way the valley casts the sunlight at sunset, as well as the sheer number of windmills that are stationed in neat rows like sentries. There is something decidedly and beautifully changeable about this place where the sky is painted and the wind is power.
Seal Beach, CA
My family discovered Seal Beach two years ago when we ventured out on a very similar westward journey, and we couldn’t wait to come back. It is a darling town, particularly in the winter season when tourists are limited and the locals are a bit more settled in. Perhaps the best part of the whole town is the developed and thriving downtown area.
Port Hueneme, CA
Port Hueneme, Oxnard, and Ventura, California, occupy relatively close quarters along the coast just west of Los Angeles, and that makes all three cities perfect in terms of accessibility and amenities. Plus, there is diversity in everything here–people, cuisine, entertainment, and so much more.
U.S. Route 101
My family always jokes that we pack a drought to bring with us whenever we travel or move. While California has recently been experiencing drought conditions, our presence here seems to have brought the opposite effect. The last time I saw this much mist was when I was in Washington in 2012.
El Capitan Beach, Goleta, CA
This “in the middle of nowhere” state park is just stunning. When we drove in, there were quite literally no other people or cars about and the ocean waves were the only noise. It’s a bit more suited for a “stop and go” visit, but it is lovely regardless of how long you choose to stay.
U.S. Route 101
On the road again…
Avila Beach, CA
Avila seems like it would be a bit of a tourist attraction during the summer, but during the winter and spring it is the perfect blend of off-duty tourism-based businesses and local favorites. The pier makes for the perfect place to stop and watch the sun set–or rise, at least, as much as you can see a sun rise from the west coast. Also, be sure to stop into Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab for some delicious hand-scooped ice cream.
Pismo Beach, CA
We stumbled upon this beach overlook at the very back of a neighborhood and on the edge of a gated community. There’s not much to mention aside from the generally delightful view that “almost” outweighs the poor parking situation.
Shell Beach, CA
I may have these pictures labeled incorrectly because the beaches seem to overlap quite a bit here, but it was a beautiful area regardless of the area name. My only complaints were the cliffs with nothing to guard from people falling off of them, and the children (and teenagers) running about that my inner summer camp counselor self kept wanting to snatch back from the edge.
Pismo State Beach, CA
If you don’t mind walking approximately one-half of a mile to even see the beach then this is the campground and beach access point for you. We didn’t actually stay here overnight; however, we stopped in for the day and took in the sights. To the east, the view is quite similar to the cityscape of San Francisco with colorful homes climbing up into the hills overlooking the sea.
Camp San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA
When I lived on Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, I felt like I lived on the smallest military post in the world. I was convinced that something as powerful as the military simply couldn’t exist on or in a place so small. Well, the California Army National Guard exists on a much smaller installation in San Luis Obispo. There may not be much a PX/Exchange or Commissary to speak of, but the quiet and inactivity of the post is peaceful.
San Luis Obispo, CA
Regretfully, I failed to take many pictures of downtown San Luis Obispo, but I assure you that it is absolutely wonderful. The downtown area is a successful combination of refurbished buildings and new construction with stores like Pottery Barn butted up against delights like Palazzo Guiseppe’s. Also, as a college town, the options for entertainment and food are endless, intelligent conversation isn’t hard to come by, and you can walk nearly everywhere.
Estero Bluffs State Park, Cayucos, CA
It’s a state beach. Dogs, bikes, camping, and about 10 other activities are not allowed within the gate because of endangered birds called Snowy Plovers. That’s about it, really. The view is nice thought!
California State Route 1/Pacific Coast Highway
On the road yet again…
(For the RVers that may read this, I feel obligated to note that driving North on CA-1 can be a bit difficult with longer rigs, and driving South is decidedly easier. Also, driving this route at night is not recommended because of limited lighting, resources, service stations, areas to pull off, and narrow roads with sharp turns.)
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