San Simeon is a weird place. Basically it’s a bunch of hotels on either side of CA-1 just south of Hearst Castle. We found a room for Saturday night but kept wondering, why does this place exist? I couldn’t believe it was all for Hearst Castle, a State Historical Monument run by the California Parks Department.
So the next morning we drove up to see what the fuss was all about. The place was a madhouse. Literally crawling with people. On a Sunday. At noon. At a historic landmark. We actually had trouble finding parking. I thought families had barbecues and went to the beach or the mountains on Labor Day weekend. I didn’t expect such groundswell for an educational activity. Suddenly San Simeon made sense.
There was the hair of a chance we could have gotten tickets for a late afternoon tour and watched a movie about the castle between noon and then, but Stephanie and I looked at each other and realized that wasn’t at all how we wanted to spend the rest of the day. We wanted to keep moving, and we didn’t want to end up staying in San Simeon another night.
So I give you, dear reader, Hearst Castle as seen through a viewing telescope, which is as close as we got to it.
We continued on our way down CA-1, with every intention of making it to Santa Barbara, when we saw in the distance an unusually large rocky mountain off the coast.
So we stopped in the city of Morro Bay find out what was up with this rock, and we discovered it to be:
Volcanic plugs. Ha.
We got out of the car, sat on a sandy beach at the base of the rock, and thought about where to go next. The only downside of going all the way to Santa Barbara was that on Monday (the next day) we’d have to drive all the way back to San Francisco. So driving even further south was becoming less appealing.
Looking at the map before we stopped, I happened to make the discovery that the north-south road through Yosemite (CA-41) starts on the coast at none other than Morro Bay. And technically speaking, driving towards Yosemite would be driving back in the direction of the Bay Area.
I freely admit that prior to heading out on this trip, I’d been wary of the crowds that might descend on Yosemite over Labor day weekend, so at the time I didn’t want to commit to going. But driving north to Yosemite on a whim without any sense of what awaited us seemed to be a more compelling reason to go.
Stephanie agreed, so we were off, stopping only at an avocado farm just outside Morro Bay (avocados grow on trees!)
Otherwise we drove straight through California’s coastal mountains and central valley towards Fresno.
Sometimes it looked like this:
…but once we got past the mountains it looked like this all the way to Fresno:
Next: Yosemite, finally!