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West Coast Adventuring

Getting the frame right with digital viewfinder

Feeling a little poorer from our night in Las Vegas, we retreated to L.A. via the Mohave desert to mingle with the stars and glamorous people of Hollywood. We didn’t bank on the craziness of the L.A. drivers and were shocked after the calm and courteous drivers of Route 66 to find aggressive and selfish driving abounded in the highways surrounding the city. After one too many close calls (mostly people deciding to exit across four lanes all at once at the last minute) we finally made it to our friends’ home. We were to make L.A. our home for a few days to recover from the constant travel the past week. Simon also took the opportunity to hold an impromptu photoshoot with the gorgeous Miss Reno.


Diner photoshoot

A cold day working with Simon

After visits to several locations around L.A. to find the perfect shots, Simon had a complete set of prints for his project. Although the in-situ shots were fun, Simon’s extended to cold swimming pools which the brave model put up with! It certainly made a refreshing change to landscape photography and the light in L.A had a golden, deep quality to it we hadn’t yet experienced.

Once the photoshoot was done, we took the opportunity to experience American culture one step further and tried our hand at baseball – Simon was pretty good, Alex less so… We also had a coffee in Hollywood, hoping to spot some stars (we didn’t see any). We did, however, get invited to tea by the oscar-winner Arnold and his charming wife Isolde. Simon held the Oscar in his hand for a few seconds and declared it “very heavy”. Vicarious greatness is the most fleeting kind!

All too soon the time came to hit the road and make our way up the west coast towards San Francisco. We took the coast route – highway 101 and 1 to enjoy the ocean views as much as possible.  As the weather was still temperate for December, we camped as much as possible. The first night saw us camping outside Santa Barbara in the Los Padres forests leading along the coastal road.  We found a great spot to camp, overlooking Santa Barbara however, we didn’t bargain on the fierce Pacific winds. The tent gamely fought against the wind but suffered a few tensioning disasters all the same and we woke frequently to the roof flat on our faces.

Camping in the hills above Santa Barbara

Another tented morning


Doubting whether or not we’d survive the night, we fixed the tent twice over the course of the early hours of the morning and finally woke at 7am to total silence, no wind, no traffic, just peace and a glorious sun. We went through our ritual of coffee and museli and whilst eating breakfast were astonished to find huge shadows crossing us. Worried that a fast storm was about to roll in, we looked up and were pleasantly surprised to see three paragliders circling the sun. Clearly they were early risers making the most of the cool morning.



The coastal route hugged the Pacific and treated us to some glorious views. Leaving windy Santa Barbara in our wake we suddenly shifted inland and admired pine covered hills and sweet little villages. We left the 101 to join the infamous Highway 1 -leading to the Pacific and the Big Sur. Just as sunset was about to strike we came to a small coastal village called Morro Bay, known for its unusually large rock stubbornly sitting the bay. We decided to stay for the night and took a walk along the oceanfront to admire the misty horizon and all the birds coming in for a swim and a snack. We even saw a badling of ducks in the shallows!! Who knew they swam in saltwater…

Admiring the sunset at Morro Bay

Morro Bay Rock in the mist


Saying hello to some of the locals

We set off early in the morning, hoping to make it to Santa Rosa for the early evening. Leaving Morro Bay, we admired the wildness of the coastline and the calmness of the road. We crossed a few bikers going in the opposite direction and gave friendly toots and hand salutes to each. Soon, we came onto the Big Sur and it did not disappoint, the roads wound to the steep mountainside, reminiscent of the Andes except with the Pacific crashing below us on the left. The road would narrow occasionally but without the 18-wheeler trucks of South america, this gave us no worries and we zipped through all the bends and hairpins, exhilarating in the ocean air and honeyed light. We passed elephant seals at lunchtime, delighting in their blubbery pouncing and croaking calls. We passed by the Californian Monterey and thought of our friends in Mexico! We re-joined the 101 and battled our way through rush hour traffic past San Francisco and silicon valley.

Alex Chilling on Big Sur

We finally reached Santa Rosa after enduring hours of traffic and one small crash (other people) on the way in. It seemed that San Francisco drivers were not as impatient as L.A. drivers but they definitely want to be the one in front of you, not vice versa. It was such a difference from the friendly calmness of Highway 1 that it was a relief to finally pull in to our new friends’ house in Santa Rosa, about 2 hours later than planned! This marked the end of camping for us as the weather was markedly different from Southern California. Winter was coming fast!


A beer in the sunset


1 Comment

  1. David on 05/01/2017 at 9:22 am

    That picture of Morrow Bay Rock is stunning! Surprisingly I recognized it from a recent video I watched on the Morrow Bay Oyster company -I was researching oyster farms, as one does.

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