Big Sur by way of Carmel Valley

I will forewarn you of two things: first, Big Sur was hands-down my favorite part of our cross-country trip, and second, the beauty of this place is better explained visually. That means lots of emotions and lots of pictures.

We decided to leave San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and drive as far as we could on it for the rest of our trip. We made our way down some stunning coastline to Carmel Valley, which is at the north end of Big Sur. We planned to use the whole next day to drive Big Sur. Carmel-by-the-sea reminded me a bit of Nantucket, that is, beautiful but uppity. We stayed in a decidedly non-uppity airbnb rental. I knew from the beginning this rental would either be fine for one night or totally awful. It ended up being fine. Our hosts were lovely, if a bit overly attentive. They have a friendly dalmatian who played well with our dogs in their huge fenced-in backyard, which was really fun for them. The cabin was tiny, which I knew, but fitting two adults and two dogs into what I’m guestimating was less than 200 square feet was tighter than I’d hoped. And the bathroom was separate from the cabin, which I didn’t know. We made the best of our tiny space by going out. We were able to walk to a main road where we got a fancy dinner and drinks.

The next morning we bade goodbye to our hosts, got a terrible breakfast in downtown uppity-ville, and set off to see Big Sur. For anyone who doesn’t know, Big Sur is a section of the central California coastline with dramatic rock cliffs kissing the ocean swells. One note if you’re planning a trip to Big Sur: there is no cell service in most of the region. GPS and looking things up on the fly aren’t going to work. Plan ahead and do your research.

We saw all the things you’re supposed to see when you drive the PCH through Big Sur: Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, and we even took a detour on Old Coast Road. That last one ended up being a mistake since Hobbes threw up all over the car at the other end. It was still fun to see another side of Big Sur and I know Trev enjoyed the opportunity to take the Jeep off-road. We also got to see sea lions, LOTS of sea lions. We finished our day with Ocean Front Pizza in a great surf town called Cayucos. Not only was the pizza delicious, but the owner was extremely friendly and chatted with us for quite a while. I love small surf towns and Cayucos got me thinking about whether what I want is just a simple life by the water.

Words really can’t do justice, so I’ll just show you the glory that is Big Sur in pictures.

Big Sur was the most important stop on this trip for me. This is where I had the ah-ha moment I mentioned in the first post I ever wrote on this blog. It’s where I knew travel and adventure are in my blood forever. It’s where I came to tears realizing everything I’d left behind and everything ahead. It’s where I closed my eyes and breathed in freedom. California does that to me. This trip was life-altering and life-affirming in so many ways, but what I felt standing on that cliff, surrounded by wildflowers, overlooking the ocean, was that my new life was real. I was across the country and I likely wasn’t coming back (sorry mom!).

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