Leaving Los Angeles was a breeze, as I ventured up Sepulveda one last time to hook up with Highway 1 and make my way to the coast. The drive along Pacific Coast Highway up to Oxnard was relaxing, except for the joyous experience of filling up the car. The first station I stopped at in Malibu had six out of eight pumps out of service, and the only unoccupied one was in no mood to put gas into the Grand Marquis. For my second attempt at a Shell up the highway, I tried using a credit card at the pump. No dice - the pump asked for a zip code and refused to skip that step. Cue walk to the cashier. Back at the pump, it took some time and effort to position the nozzle into the tank, thanks to the cumbersome anti-fume covers mandated by state law. Cue a moment or two of muttered obscenities.
This is Point Mugu, one of the scenic spots on the Pacific Coast Highway. As you can see, the skies were grey. The sun decided it wanted to stay further inland. At Oxnard, I pulled into a tourist information centre, where the staff urged me to check out the elephant seals on the beach north of Hearst Castle on the following day. They were so eager to be helpful that I wondered if I would ever resume the journey.
The early afternoon was spent gazing at the architecture in Santa Barbara. Went up to the historic mission (pictured on the right) but due to time declined to take the paid tour, a decision that spared my ancestors several coffin turns. Several nuns were enjoying a Coca-Cola break on the porch while I surveyed the grounds.
The mission also accepts donations to use the restroom. I have likely condemned my soul for not pitching in.
After passing through locales mentioned in W.C. Fields movies and Warner Bros. cartoons (Lompoc, Pismo Beach), I settled for the night in Morro Bay. I arrived in time for free cheese and wine, which half-a-dozen or so guests were enjoying in the lounge. Travel stories were being swapped, mostly between an elderly couple from LA and middle-aged travelers from Australia.
Morro Bay is a fishing/tourist town marked by a giant rock in its harbour. It was easy to imagine waterfront overrun with visitors at the height of summer, but my timing meant a quiet stroll while determining where to eat. After walking up and down the Embarcadero several times, I settled upon The Flying Dutchman due to reasonable prices, eye-catching items on the menu...and it had the most tables filled. I ordered a local catch, mild-flavoured sand dabs pan-broiled in lemon butter. On the side was a creamy clam chowder loaded with giant chunks of clam.
Full set of pictures. All photos in this post taken on May 18, 2009 - JB