Saturday, February 19, 2011

Southwest Road Trip Day 9-11: Cali Coast

Actual date of events: December 26-28th, 2010

Having landed in San Francisco a week earlier without a plan, we ended up spontaneously planning our trip perfectly. After eight days of an average of four hundred miles traveled per day, along with the daily events, Dad and I were pretty beat by the time we reached the Californian Coast. We spent the last three full days of our trip slowly jogging up the Ventura Highway along the Cali Coast.

Our days took a radical change as our travel cut down to roughly one hundred miles per day. Time in the car was replaced with time spent overlooking the rocky cliffs and wide beaches. Our diets changed from cold cut sandwiches and road-side diners to fresh fish, and fresh fish only. We were submitted to travel detox.

In the beginning of our coastal journey, we had trouble staying on Route 1. The recent rain had caused numerous rock slides, so our time on Route 1 was often segmented by a detour off to Highway 101. It wasn’t until we reached Santa Barbara that the rockslides had ceased. On a side note, if anyone is ever in SB, be sure to check out the Shoreline Cafe. The title of the Shoreline isn’t the least bit deceiving; the Cafe is located right on the beach, and from what I could tell, the vast majority of their summer business is barefoot.

In the afternoon of day nine, we headed up North on the only section of Route 1 that veers away from the coast. As we reached the Santa Maria area, we started noticing signs for the Vanderburg Air Force Base. Being that I am a huge fan of the movie Top Gun, and Top Gun was filmed at Vanderburg, we tried to get a tour of the base. Unfortunately, it isn’t all too easy to simply walk onto an Air Force Base, so we were denied at the gates. I guess we’ll have to call ahead next time.

We stayed the night at Morro Bay, which is known for it’s football stadium sized, harbor-inhabiting rock.

The next morning, we woke up to strong sun and the sound of seals down at the harbor. Our goal for the day was a modest 122 mile hike up to Monterey. It was in this stretch that we spent the most beach time. At our first beach stop, we collected a tin of some of the nicest beach rocks I’ve ever seen. Dad had spent some time talking to an older woman who informed us that just a few beaches up was the Elephant Seal birthing grounds, and it was the peak of the season. This not only sparked, but ignited our interest.

The beaches were littered with seals that weighed well over the weight of a car. There was a pup born every hour or two that day. We spent a good portion of our day beach hopping to check out the seals. As an engineering student, I’m a huge promoter of the study of bionics, which is the application of biological methods to engineering designs. I wouldn’t be surprised if the development of sunscreen was partially due to the study of Elephant Seals. The seals were constantly throwing dirt up on themselves to protect themselves from the heat of the sun.

Although we both would have loved to have spent more time with the seals, we decided to finish our trip up to Monterey to spend the night.

Of all of the places we’ve stayed at, or driven through, Monterey is definitely in my top three. The people were great, the town was beautiful, and it had some of the best sushi I’ve ever enjoyed.

The morning of day 11, we let our inner tourists out, and headed over to the aquarium. The Monterey aquarium had a very cool twist to it. Not only did it have some great displays, but it really pushed the environmental issues. There was one large scale model that proposed an ‘alternate city’ which included electric monorails, rooftop implementations of photovoltaic and wind power systems, green roofs, and public walkways. It was the ideal model of tomorrow’s cities.

I’ve always said that at some point in my life, I need to live in California. This trip has really solidified that statement. Cali has done a number of things well. Just to list a few of the things that really impressed me during our trip:

1. The 90’s phrase “rad on”, while dead everywhere else, still lives on in Cali. Rad on.

2. Wind turbines galore. On the east coast, there is so much controversy over the turbines ‘ruining the landscape’, which has ultimately prevented any real development of the structures here. I try to avoid any politics on this blog, but I’ve got to put in my argument here. Personally, I love the sight of turbines, but I understand why some people may not be too fond of them. But we need to be more conscious of the long-term time frame. Wind is a renewable resource that has huge potential to power our world. The alternatives (fossil fuels, nuclear, etc.) all have irreversible detrimental effects to the environment. We are all well aware of this. The ‘detrimental effects’ of wind turbines can be reversed. If, say one hundred years from now, some engineer discovers a new resource that trumps wind, then down goes the turbines. Just as with any structure, WIND TURBINES CAN BE REMOVED. Holes in the atmosphere can not.

3. Graded roads. Most highways in the east have a line of deep ruts that run alongside the shoulder/breakdown lane. The purpose of these is to wake one up if you begin to drift off of the road. Roads out west have these, plus the same aspect in the center of the road, preventing people from drifting into oncoming traffic.

4. Scenery. Mad props to the original settlers for choosing this.

5. Attitude, or lack there of. People are generally friendly and approachable.

Californian grad school here I come?

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