Sunday, May 18, 2014

Drive Down the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica Pier

The day after Chris's graduation, it was time to say goodbye to Nana and Dubby and start on our solo portion of our trip.  Andy and Dubby went to grab the rental car and we headed south towards the Pacific Coast Highway and LA.  I had read many reviews about the PCH warning against trying to go from San Fran to LA in a single day.  They warned that the switchbacks can be dangerous at night with no light other than headlights and that it can take 10 hours to complete on a good day.  I had never done it before, but decided that this was likely going to be the only time we do it (because you have to do it at least once) and 10 hours is no big deal for us as road warriors.  We got started around 9AM, so expected to reach Santa Monica around 7PM. A lot of this post will be pictures with no explanation unless there's something cool I want to point out, so enjoy!

The color of the water is truly breathtaking.

You can see here how the road just curves along the sides of the cliffs.  Andy and I both marveled that someone thought to put a road here.  There were very few stops along the cliff portions and zero cell service.

A shot at the road hugging the cliffs behind us.  What captivated us was easily the rocky formations and cliffs just dropping off into the ocean as we are used to the Atlantic Ocean, where the land is at sea level for miles and the beaches are long and flat.

Stopping for food and gas at pretty much the only area to do so during the cliffs.

At this stop, you could walk behind the food and shops and there was a scenic view.  As soon as we came around the corner, the wind hit pretty hard as you can tell from my hair and Brady's expression.

As we had never driven on the PCH, we had no idea how long the cliffs and switchbacks would last, so we were paranoid about running out of gas.  We filled up at that stop for $5.80 per gallon.  Not more than 10 minutes later we were almost at sea level and gas was $4.10.  Guess they know they have a premium in the cliffs and anyone heading north would have to stop there.  We stopped at a site where they have a large population of elephant seals and this seagull was not afraid.  Brady and I even got out of the car to shoo it and it wouldn't move.

Even though it was Sunday, we hit quite a bit of traffic in the Santa Barbara and Malibu areas.  This slowed us down to the point of losing an hour, but we got to see the sun set over the ocean (we only get to see it rise over the Atlantic).  Andy and I have seen a Pacific sunset before, when we were in Hawaii, but out there everything is ocean, so you can see sunrise and sunset over the ocean.  We made it to the Santa Monica Pier around 7:45PM and were excited to be out of the car and have some fun.

We decided to let Brady pick two rides since we would be in Disney the following three days.  He chose the roller coaster first, even though he'd never been on one before.

Andy decided I could take him and he took a pic of us waiting in line.  Brady never once lost his nerve and never cried while on the ride.  He loved it!!!

This is the second ride he picked, which was completely tame by comparison.  He looks pretty happy though.

A pic of the amusement park from the end of the pier.

After we grabbed some dinner on the pier, we got back in the car and drove the one hour to Anaheim to begin our Disney portion of the trip.  Disneyland is very different from Disney World in that it's not secluded requiring transportation to get from park to park.  Right across the street is a whole slew of hotels (one of which we stayed in) and we could see both parks from our balcony!  It was great for the kids to get excited for the next day.

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