The past week has been spent in what might be the most amazing place on earth, the central coast of California. The central coast area is bordered by the endless Pacific ocean on the west side and a range of hills and peaks to the east side. Perfect for anyone who enjoys both the water and the mountains (as we do!) We started out in Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco with Jeff and Michelle Tripp and their awesome kids, friends who used to live in Chicago. We had an awesome night with them after our brief foray into wine country
. The next day we went with Jeff for a short hike through the John Muir Redwoods Monument. It was great to head out there with someone local. We were able to avoid the very slow-walking hoards of tourists and hike some of the backcountry trails.
That night we drove towards San Francisco and ended up staying the night at the Sausalito marina. Sausalito is an upscale tourist town just before the Golden Gate bridge. The next morning we checked it out on our bikes. We discovered a GIANT indoor replica of the entire San Fran water system built by the Army Corps of Engineers
in the 50s. It was initially built to help scientists understand the behavior of the water system and impact of human-made changes, but is now an educational center and tourist attraction. The whole model is completely to scale and covers almost two acres of indoor space! We also discovered an entire neighborhood of houseboats just north of the marina. There were many sailboats and trawlers, but also quite a few homemade floats pieced together from found materials. It was a really neat community!
We headed back to the marina to catch the ferry to San Francisco for the day. It was gorgeous, sunny and 75 degrees, and there were a ton of boats (power, sail, and open-water scull
). We docked at Pier 1 near the absolutely amazing Ferry Building. Saturday was the famous farmer’s market, so we checked out the fresh produce stalls and food trucks before heading inside. The Ferry Building is a sort of indoor mall filled with fine food shops and little restaurants. Similar to Boston’s Fanueil Hall, but less jam-packed and with more upscale vendors. We sampled fresh-shucked oysters, chocolates, and fruit before heading on our way.
We had our bikes with us and decided, despite San Fran’s reputation for monster hills, we would bike around as much as possible. So we headed up from the downtown area to Chinatown. They are not kidding with the hills. Seriously. There was a lot of pushing versus riding of the bikes! We arrived in Chinatown and locked up the bikes to search out some lunch. We found a place jammed with locals and figured that was probably a good bet. We ordered some fish ball curry, chicken congee, and sweet and sour broccoli chicken to share.
After lunch we caught a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf to look around. The cable cars were pretty cool, on the hills you really felt that at any moment the packed car would break loose from the underground cable and plummet to the intersection below. Very exciting! After touring around we headed back to Sausalito on the ferry. We had dinner that night at a little Italian cafe with a live 50s/60s retro quartet a la Beach Boys/Beatles.
The next two days we spent cruising along the prettiest stretch of Route 1 so far. Santa Cruz was an awesome surf and marina town. The curving road through Big Sur cuts right into the cliffs, so you have a sheer drop-off to the ocean far below on one side and a cliff face directly on the other. It was pretty exciting driving! Especially when the fog rolled over in the early morning. It was amazing to look over the cliff and see the tops of the clouds, knowing the the ocean was somewhere underneath. We found an amazing hike right off the side of the road. It went way down towards the ocean, through a tunnel built in the rock and out onto the surf. Apparently it used to be a delivery point for illegal shipments during prohibition. We camped at the very awesome Limekiln State Park in Big Sur and stopped for some awesome smoked fish tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos, CA. The next stop was San Luis Obispo to visit Will, a friend and recent Chicago transplant to the West Coast.