West Coast Road Trip Part I: San Diego to Big Sur


20 months. That's how long it's been since I first shared my extremely ambitious 30 Before 30 list. Not surprisingly, 30 came and went without me crossing more than a handful or two of the items off. FYI.... 30 things is a lot of things!

This was hard for me to (not) do as a person who is pretty perfectionistic about the crossing off of lists. But instead, I bargained with myself a little: I amended my interpretation of 30 Before 30 to mean before my 30th year was over, not before it began.

So I turned 30 and with the generous time extension I gave myself (thanks, Bri!), I immediately set out to continue tackling the rest of my list. The most pressing of which?

Roadtripping the West Coast.

It was a trip I had wanted to take since before I suffered through my first driver's ed class. Still, 15 years later and actually living on my coast of choice, a lot of things had to come together to make it happen. I had so many excuses not to, like who would watch the dogs and when would I be able to take the time off of work and what about marathon training and and and...

But when solutions to all of my excuses miraculously aligned, I didn't hesitate. In fact, I did the opposite of hesitate... I decided somewhat impulsively that Ryan and I would take our great West Coast Road Trip a few weeks later, during the last week of August.

Soon enough, it was Sunday, Day 1 of our 8 Day West Coast Road Trip. It was also 11:30am and time to go. More accurately, it was an hour and a half after it was time to go, so it was really time to go. Upon realizing this, we threw a bunch of random shit into my new car, gassed up and hit the 5 freeway. We were Big Sur bound!

The reason for the panicked exit out of San Diego was simple: we had a camping spot reserved at Limekiln State Park and all of the materials I'd read warned that the park entrance to the campgrounds had a gate that closed and locked at sunset.

I tried calling various park hotlines in an attempt to figure out if this meant that we wouldn't be able to get into our campsite if we arrived after dark, but I couldn't get anyone on the phone. So rather than risk it, we threw whatever we thought we needed into the car and drove as fast as we could towards Big Sur.

Only one necessity was worth stopping for and risking getting locked out of our campsite: beer

The Soberanes fires were raging on... Big Sur had been evacuated until a week before we arrived

Somehow, someway, we made it to our campsite just before the sun set and got to enjoy watching it with a couple of beers down on our own private beach by the ocean. It was gorgeous!

After watching the sunset, we came back to our site, finished our beers and watched as the Milky Way slowly appeared above us. We saw shooting stars and satellites and made a decent effort trying to figure out how to photograph any of it with my DSLR. In retrospect, trying to figure out how to do night photography 5 beers deep with no internet access was a doomed endeavor before it started. In the end, I knew it was something I would just have to remember!

Also, I should mention that while there are only 27 campsites at Limekiln, Site 4 is the best one in my opinion. With unobstructed ocean views, a bathroom close by, and a large, private picnic area, we really lucked out with this site.

Our set up for bed...

...and how we woke up. Not too shabby!

After getting a nice slow start the next morning, we locked up the car and headed out on the Limekiln hike, one of two hikes in Big Sur that I have wanted to do for a couple of years now and haven't ever had an opportunity to on previous trips because of the dogs (unfortunately, the second hike I had planned, Ewoldsen, was closed due to the fires).

I was so stoked that we were finally hiking Limekiln and that it was so convenient since we were camping right there!

"Hike" ended up being a very generous term for the Limekiln trails. It was really more of a nature walk. The trails at Limekiln are super easy and heavily shaded with few inclines. In fact, the only part that really resembles hiking are the creek crossings, which admittedly, happen about 4 or 5 times along the Waterfall Trail.

Though I've heard pleasant things about the Hare Creek Trail, we decided to pass on that one and head straight for the two main attractions: the abandoned lime kilns and the waterfall.

After taking in the eerie majesty of the lime kilns and the frigid waters of the waterfall (obviously, I stuck my head in there... it was a brisk way to really wake up!), we headed back to camp, changed for lunch and drove to our final dog-free splurge in Big Sur: Nepenthe!

Oh, and about that whole gate thing: as we were leaving Limekiln, I asked the Ranger what would have happened if we'd arrived after sunset. She informed me that while it is shut and roped up, campers just have to unhook the carabiner, open the gate, drive through, and close it all back up behind them. In conclusion: there is no lock, and if you arrive after dark you will be mildly inconvenienced by the gate, but not SOL.

Still... I was glad we made it in time for that gorgeous sunset!

The famous cliffside Nepenthe Restaurant is on practically every Big Sur bucket list ever made. And ever since reading Big Sur by Jack Kerouac during our camping trip last year, I've wanted to go there that much more, if only to sip cocktails in the very same restaurant that Jack did 50 some odd years ago.

Alas, Nepenthe is most definitely not dog friendly, so it was most definitely a must on this trip! We got there just as they opened for lunch and sat at the famous railing overlooking the Pacific.

And what a lovely lunch it was, even if it did cost way too much, involve us fighting off an extremely aggressive Steller's Jay, and was often interrupted by the sound of fire-fighting helicopters lowering down to scoop up gallons of water from the ocean.

Still... worth it.

This one's for you, Jack

After lunch, I bought a cold brew coffee at the coffee shop downstairs, Cafe Kevah, and then strolled around for a bit at what I now know is the best shopping in Big Sur: the Phoenix Shop. It's like an Anthropologie meets World Market but better. We definitely picked up a few souvenirs there.

Soon enough it was time to get back on the road for our next stop... Santa Cruz!