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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

White knuckles….

Yesterday morning Richard dropped off George, the Gladiator Jeep at Enterprise-rent-a-car, and was given a ride back to Newman. We filled up Newman with some more propane at our RV park as it is much easier to fill up when we know there is propane available, than to start looking for propane when we are desperate!

My job as the navigator on drive days is to program our RV Garmin GPS with the destination for the day. Our destination was Morro Dunes RV Park, in Morro, California, so I programmed our GPS and as we left Marina Dunes RV Park, and we were about to decide which way to go on the Highway, Richard says to me “That GPS wants us to go North to Hwy 101. Don’t you want to go South on Hwy 1?” I’m looking at the map at the same time Richard is saying this to me and I see that if we go Hwy 1 we will hug the Pacific Coast all the way to Morro Dunes. The GPS had said that if we followed Hwy 101 we would be in Morro Dunes in just over 2 hours. Then Richard says to me “If we stay on Hwy 1 South we get to see Big Sur.“. So we headed onto Hwy 1 South, which as this point was 3 lanes wide….but not for long!

As soon as we went through Carmel, just south of Pebble Beach, the road changed and we were now hugging the coast on a very twisty, windy, two lane road - Hwy 1 South - otherwise known as ‘Big Sur Coast Highway’. Little did we know that the Big Sur region of California is considered to be one of the most scenic driving routes in the U.S., if not the world. It is both a National Scenic Highway and a California Scenic Highway. Conde Nast Traveler named State Route 1 through Big Sur one of the top ten world famous streets, comparable to Broadway in NYC, or the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Big Sur portion of Highway 1 is the 71 miles from Big Sur, to San Simeon in the south. When I looked at the map I said to Richard “you know that once we are on this Highway 1 South, we won’t be able to get off it”. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t get off it, until we drove it. Oh my goodness! What a WHITE KNUCKLE DRIVE!

Richard said ”There is a reason why those rocks are there!”

We kept wondering why we didn’t see any other Class A motorhomes driving Hwy 1 yesterday. Everyone was probably looking at us and thinking “What the heck is wrong with those people, don’t they know how crazy this road is?”

And every time we came to another twist in the road we would look over in the distance and see that the road just kept going, and going, right along the cliffs and the side of the mountain! This highway would have been a much better drive for my BMW Z4 than for Newman!

Looking back to where we just came from. It’s really hard to imagine how on earth this road was built in the first place?!!

This road, just keeps twisting and turning!

I kept telling Richard not to look right or he would steer right, and right was a very severe drop to the sea.

The scenery was very beautiful, but with Richard having to be so focused on the road, and I was looking right over the cliffs most of the time, I got car sick and really wasn’t feeling well.

We kept saying “Newman, don’t fail us now!” Newman was a champ though handling that crazy road and Richard was an amazing driver too!

It just keeps going and going! Little did we know it would turn a 2 hour drive into a 4 hour drive!

Ok, when they post a speed limit of 15mph on a curve, you know its a really severe curve and you’d better follow the speed limit…..or else! We finally agreed that this road was worse than the stretch of road on Hwy 3, coming into Osoyoos, B.C.

Here we go again! We just got down to near sea level and now we’re going back up the side of the mountain!

Look how close we are to the side of the road, from my perspective in the passenger’s seat? And all I could see was miles more of this road!

As we were driving through Big Sur, we kept expecting to see a Vista Point to pull over to see ‘Big Sur’. Neither one of us had ever driven south of Carmel before, so we weren’t sure what Big Sur was. Finally I googled ‘Big Sur’ so we understood that ‘Big Sur’ is the rugged mountainous section of the entire section of the Central Coast of California between Carmel and San Simeon, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. Big Sur has been called the ‘longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States’. The road that is Big Sur - Hwy 1 - has been closed more than 55 times by landslides! The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan is one of the most restrictive local-use programs in the state and it protects viewsheds from the highway and many vantage points and severely restricts the density of development. We did see a few homes along the coast, but talk about remote! I’m not sure I would want to live there, although it was beautiful!

Somebody has a cliff dweller home!

At one point when we stopped for photos, I got close enough to the drop, and the courage to take this shot!

So how did they build Hwy 1? Well in 1915 the California State legislature passed a law that allowed the state to use convict labor! In 1921, the control of the convicts and camps was given over to the Division of Highways. The first contractor, Blake and Heaney built a prison labor camp for 120 prisoners and 20 paid labourers. They began work on 12 miles of road near San Simeon (to the south). The region was so remote and access so poor, that the company brought most its supplies and equipment in by barge to a sheltered cove near the middle of the road project. Machines were hoisted to the road level using steam-powered donkey engines. Construction required extensive excavation utilizing steam shovels and explosives on the extremely steep slopes. The work was very dangerous, and accidents and earth slides were very common. One or more accidents happened every week. In one incident a steam shovel fell more than 500 feet into the ocean and was destroyed. By 1924 a north and a south section were completed on Hwy 1 but they had run out of funds and the California State Governor said that they couldn’t afford to complete the remaining 30 miles to join the two sections of completed Highway. 29 bridges had to be built to construct Hwy 1 and after 18 years of construction, aided by the ‘New Deal’ funds during the Great Depression, the paved two-lane road was finally completed and it opened in 1937.

When we finally got to flat land, with more space between us and the Ocean, near San Simeon, we were very, very happy!

As we drove along Hwy 1 in San Simeon we knew that the Hearst Castle would be visible, but we weren’t sure where the castle was located. Finally we saw this white structure high up on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean and we realized that was Hearst Castle.

If you enlarge this picture in the middle of the photo, 5 miles inland and up on the hill is the Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle was conceived by William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon and was built between 1919-1947. In 1957 after Hearst’s death, the castle and its contents and 120 acres of the gardens were transferred to the guardianship of the California State Parks Department, in exchange for $80 million in cash together with $15 million in state tax credits. While the Hearst Castle attracts 750,000 visitors a year, we didn’t have time to stop at the castle, so we kept on driving!

After we finally arrived at Morro Dunes Rv Park at 2:30pm, we looked at each other and said, ’WOW’! What a drive. We were glad we did it, but we are not sure we would do it again in an RV the size of Newman!

And here is Newman jammed in pretty tight in our sight for 2 nights at Morro Dunes Rv Park. Because the site is so tight if we want to walk from front to back, we have to walk over the picnic table! I bet you are wondering what that big rock is behind us? You’ll have to keep reading and I’ll tell you!

As soon as we arrived at Morro Dunes RV Park Richard got a text from Jim from Fernie, asking when we would be arriving and Richard was able to tell Jim we were already here! Jim and his lovely wife Dani are staying in Morro Shores RV Park and we drove right by their park, 2 minutes down the road from ours! Jim said to Richard “We’ll be right over!” You see we lived next to Jim and Dani all last winter from December 1st to April 1st and Richard has done a great job of staying in touch with Jim, so we planned our route to Florida to make sure that we had some time with Jim & Dani!

Jim & Dani came over to see us and then Jim said that on Thursday afternoon in Morro Bay there is a Farmer’s Market, and would we like to go? Sure! With not having a tow car, it was nice to be able to stock up on some fresh produce!

Morro Bay Thursday Farmer’s Market with all the fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Central California.

The Farmer’s Market is held next to Spencer’s Fresh Market in Morro Bay which we thought was kind of strange because the Farmer’s Market is technically a competitor to the grocery store. More than likely though people will cross shop at both, since they couldn’t pick up meat or dairy at the market.

Look at the size of the artichokes at the Farmer’s Market!

We did some groceries at Spencer’s and picked up some produce at the Market. We aren’t sure the next time we will have a vehicle, so it was great of Jim to bring us to get provisions!

After visiting the Market, it was time for some sightseeing in Morro Bay. Jim and Dani have been coming to this part of California for a very long time, so they were great tour guides showing us around Morro Bay. We had never heard of Morro Bay until Jim mentioned it to us last winter when we were staying in Fanny Bay. Jim had told us he had booked for this winter in Morro Bay, a year in advance. We could not understand how someone could book a year in advance for an RV spot!

Looking over Morro Bay to Cayucos, California.

Jim’s Jeep and that big rock up close!

Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California.

I found this painting in the town of Morro Bay, which I believe gives a better understanding of Morro Bay and Morro Rock.

Moro Rock is a volcanic plug in Morro Bay, California formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs of long extinct volcanoes. Morro Rock was an important navigational aid for mariners for over 300 years because the rock is approximately 576 feet tall which makes it the most visible in a chain of 9 peaks. A Portuguese explorer named the rock ‘El Morro‘ in 1542. ‘Morro’ in Spanish means crown shaped hill. Morro Rock is sometimes called the ‘Gibraltar of the Pacific’. The rock itself was mined on and off until 1963. In 1966 a bill was introduced which transferred the full title to the State of California. The rock has been designated a bird sanctuary for the peregrine falcon and other bird species and it is illegal to walk on the rock!

We couldn’t help but notice this other large landmark in Morro Bay.

Morro Bay Power Plant. The Power Plant was built in the 1950’s and it was closed in 2014, due to environmental impacts. The existing owner of the plant plans to build the worlds largest lithium ion battery storage facility at the site, providing new industry and significant economic impact at the plant connecting to the existing electric grid infrastructure. The Town Council just approved the energy company removing the stacks and asbestos containing turbine buildings by 2028. The stacks on the waterfront as well as the Morro Bay Rock, definitely define the landscape of this town!

Morro Bay is very much a working fishing village as well as a popular beach town for tourists. As we were playing at being tourists, Jim pointed out to me this interesting looking nautical device.

A Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle! When a Navy submarine crew needs rescuing, this is the vessel that goes and sits on top of the escape hatch of the submarine, so the crew can climb into this vehicle and then rise back up to safety. The first Deep Submergence Rescue vehicle was built in 1972, after the Navy had lost a nuclear submarine, and the entire crew, with no method of rescuing the crew. I thought this device was pretty neat!

After yesterday’s drive and touring around town with Jim and Dani, we were ready for an early bedtime last night, because we had a tee time today!

This morning, bright and early at 8:30am, Jim and Dani picked us up to drive us to Morro Bay Golf Course which was about a 10 minute drive from our RV Park. Morro Bay Golf Course is sometimes called ‘The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach’! With views like this one from the first tee, no wonder they compare this course to Pebble Beach, but at $45 a person for golf, its so much more reasonable than Pebble Beach!

First tee with Richard, Dani & Jim from Fernie! At 9:30am this morning it wasn’t that warm, but the temperature got up to around 14C as we golfed.

The first hole was a blind tee shot up hill to a long par 5. It was the #1 handicap hole for women, which was not an easy hole to start on! What was so oddly coincidental today though on this 1st hole, was the way Richard started his day!

Richard chipped his ball to this distance from the hole, replicating the shot I had at #1 at Spanish Bay the other day on the 1st hole, - again a par 5! It’s so strange that we’ve both had the same shot, but on different golf courses and ended up with the exact same result! A par to start the round!

Richard played really well on the front nine today. I think its the best I’ve seen him play in a very long time.

A beautiful view from the 6th tee, which was the highest point of the golf course, down to Morro Bay.

Just look at that water! What a beautiful course Morro Bay is!

Jim striping it down the middle again!

Look at that scenery! Stunning!

We really enjoyed our round today with Jim and Dani. Richard was sub 90 which was great and Jim and I tied at 86. There were no flat lies on this golf course and all of the greens were either elevated or below us. The key was to try and figure out how much more, or less club to use into the greens. There were a few holes I wished I could have played over again, now that I’d played the course, but overall it was a wonderful day to golf with good friends!

After Jim and Dani dropped us off, Richard went down for a P.O.N (slang for Pants Off Nap), while I thought I would hike into town and see what the little town of Morro Bay was all about.

Walking into town I could see a lot of fishing boats and I knew I would see a lot of seafood restaurants along the shoreline in town.

Morro Rock definitely dominates the landscape of the town.

Morro Bay is definitely ‘touristy’ along the downtown strip. The town fills up on the weekends as a ‘getaway‘ spot for people in California and beyond.

JIm and Dani had made a reservation for our dinner this evening at this local fish place. It looked interesting, so hopefully the food would be good too!

I saw this very neat bench in Morro Bay, which looked like a replica of a bench seat from a Ford pick up. The inscription said ‘Thanks Nick’ 1946-2008. What an interesting piece of art and not just a simple bench with an inscription!

As the sun slid behind Morro Rock on my way home, I thought I might get a good picture of this monolith!

Our RV park is over to the right, where the Palm trees are growing. The walk to the town of Morro Bay was a brisk 15 minute walk. I was gone for close to 2 hours walking around the town, but I was glad to get back for a rest before Jim and Dani picked us up for our 6:30pm dinner reservations.

We had a beautiful table overlooking the water and the harbour at Great American Fish Company. The neat thing about this restaurant was that they offered Senior’s portions to anyone over 55 years old! Perfect! Just what we wanted…smaller portion sizes!

Cod for me. Look at the size of that baked potato! If this is a ’senior’s’ portion I would hate to see the regular portion size!

Richard had the Red Snapper, senior’s size meal. Again, how on earth can anyone eat so much food?!

We had a lovely, tasty meal with great company! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Morro Bay and visiting with Jim and Dani has been so much fun. We were really looking forward to seeing them after we planned our route to Florida. They will be leaving here soon to head to Arizona, where they will be spending the rest of their winter. Unfortunately our dates don’t line up with theirs for when we drive through Arizona, so we won’t be able to see them again on this trip. What a great camaraderie fellow RVers have for each other! We are like minded souls who love the freedom and flexibility the RV gives us, and of course Jim and Dani are both avid golfers, like me and Richard, so of course we enjoy their company!

Richard’s knuckles are back to normal now after the drive we had down Hwy 1 yesterday. I don’t think I’ve been any more nervous on a drive than that one and I think I was white knuckling it too holding onto the grab bar beside my seat. The scenery was beautiful though, but I think if we ever do that drive again we need to do it in a sports car and really take our time to enjoy the ride.

We leave Morro Bay tomorrow and we have one more overnight stop before we get to spend 5 nights in one place, to get a break, before we make our ‘pedal to the metal’ push to get to Florida. We’re really enjoying the pace of RV living on the road, and as long as Newman doesn’t act up, we’ll be just fine! 15 more days ’til Christmas. Will we make it to Florida in time???

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