A Trip To Seaside

I wake early, thinking about the car. I call Alamo at 7-15 am, having laid awake since 6, mulling over what might happen. Good job I called. Patty, the manager, tells me she won’t have any cars until about 4 pm and even then there’s no guarantee I’d get one. She tells me she doesn’t know how she going to service the customers she’s got booked in who are expecting a car this morning. Oh dear… She does however confirm what Midas told me, and she says she has sent Alamo customers there many times without problems. She’s very apologetic but there’s nothing she can do for me and tells me Midas is my best bet. Or only bet apparently, I think to myself. So I’m up early and across for breakfast – which is OK again – and then into my wounded chariot and driving to Seaside – the town where the Midas depot is – leaving the hotel by 8-10 am.

It is of course Sunday morning and the roads are deserted but luckily Midas opened at 8 am. 10 minutes later I arrive and the man on the desk remembers me from last night’s call. We look at the tyre but he can’t see a nail or anything obviously wrong but the next thing I know the car’s on a ramp and the wheel’s off. He comes back a few minutes later to tell me they found a small pin embedded in the tyre but a mechanic was repairing it now. His attitude is 100% opposed to the prick at the garage yesterday morning: “We get loads of business from rentals”, he tells me. I understand the issue the Pacific Grove guy has as an independent – he needs regular cashflow whereas Midas as a corporate chain maybe don’t care too much, the manager just invoices Alamo and lets corporate finance chase the money. It’s a pity Alamo can’t get their systems sorted to have Midas logged as a repair supplier because I could have got this problem resolved once and for all yesterday morning. 🙂

17 Mile Drive entry leaflet

Entry leaflet

17 Mile Drive

So I’m fixed by 9-30 am but the manager tells me the car’s computer will need time for the tyre pressure reading to reset but that it should do so after a while. Then it’s out onto Highway 1 and within 20 minutes I’m entering 17 Mile Drive. I enter via the Hwy 1 gate (there’s an entry fee) and immediately I’m surrounded by forest on a narrow winding road. I didn’t know before but there are lots of other roads at various junctions and there are houses in the woods – people live in here. It’s all very picturesque as the road winds down towards the seafront… and then I’m in Spanish Bay at sea level.

It’s a gorgeous sight. The sky is clear and blue, it’s warming up nicely and there are very few people around. I park up and walk onto the beach of the Bay. Wow, it’s really pretty. After a wander around I’m back in the car and the Drive commences…

OMG. Beautiful. Fantastic. Out of this world, almost. As I drive then stop at various turnouts and car parks, it’s even more stunning than the first morning down the PCH. Waves crashing over rocks, blue sky, sea spray, surfers riding the waves but it’s all so, so pretty, absolutely fantastic scenery. I stop every few hundred yards to take pictures as another perspective on the views comes to light. The Restless Sea, Point Joe, China Rock, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell Overlook… all amazing views, one after another, gobsmacking in their beauty.

Spanish Bay looking north eastSpanish Bay looking westThe Restless SeaThe Restless SeaStanding on Point Joe with The Restless Sea in the backgroundLooking back into Spanish Bay from Point JoeLooking across Spanish Bay from Point JoeLooking south west from Point JoeSurfer at Point JoeChina RockChina RockBird RockSeal Rock BaySeal RockFanshell OverlookAt Fanshell Overlook looking back across Seal Rock BayThe Lone CypressThe Ghost TreeDel Monte ForestLooking out from Del Monte Forest

17 Mile Drive map17 Mile Drive flyerI drive around the headland towards the Lone Cypress, an iconic tree that is “one of California’s most enduring landmarks” as the leaflet says, the one I got when I paid my entry fee to 17 Mile Drive. It is as well. I can see Carmel Bay from here and it too is stunning. After Pescadero Point the Drive goes inland around the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Links so I lose sight of the sea except for glimpses through the trees surrounding the golf course. And then the Carmel entry/exit gate for the Drive looms into view and I exit the Drive and I’m in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I’m not one given over to hyperbole but I can say that 17 Mile Drive is one of the most spectacular places and ‘experiences’ that I have ever had, seen or witnessed in my life. Go and see it before you die, you will not be disappointed (unless of course it’s foggy or blowing a gale in which case the experience might be diminished somewhat…).

At Fanshell Overlook on the Drive I could see some sea fog starting to build and roll in and I thought it would cloud over again today so I started to rush a bit – difficult on the narrow road as there are cyclists everywhere – to make sure I finished the Drive in clear weather but by now it’s cleared up again. That weather again…

After exiting the Drive I consult a map and park up on the road just above the entrance to the beach at Carmel Bay. It’s a lovely bay and beach and I wandered down to the sand for a closer look. Back in the car I take the scenic route around the Bay, something I discovered on the web. This takes me on the aptly named Scenic Drive, right on the coast around Carmel Bay, literally hugging the coast. There are loads of houses on the road, overlooking the Bay, some actually on the beach or cliffs. Carmel’s a quirky town and the houses live up to this.

Around another headland and past Carmel River State Beach, the route takes me to the Carmel Mission. This is a church and mission established in 1770 and it’s still active today. In fact I think I just missed a wedding and there’s a Sunday Mass in preparation so my timing is lucky in terms of being able to wander around the place. It’s the oldest mission in California, and the Basilica is really beautiful inside. There’s a large courtyard out back. It was nice to see some old history in the US for a change, so much ‘history’ as they portray it seems to have happened almost yesterday.

Carmel Sunset BeachCarmel Sunset BeachCarmel Bay seen from Carmel PointA house overlooking Carmel BayMara Beach by the Carmel RiverCarmel MissionStone commemorating the Pope's visitInside the BasilicaBell towerRear courtyardRear courtyard

Back in Carmel town I park up looking for some lunch. I’ve been here once before (on a Sunday also) and didn’t look around much but it was very quiet. This time there’s loads of people walking around and it’s very busy. The town is quite small really, all the shops are small and quaint and are mostly art galleries, restaurants and upmarket tat purveyors, which is not my scene at all. The town has very strict planning and development laws and as such it’s almost stuck in a time warp from many years ago.  Carmel is worth a visit though to see it, just don’t plan on spending a long time there. I don’t want a proper lunch in a restaurant – and they’re all bloody expensive anyway and most look full – so I hunt for a sandwich shop and eventually find one, the Carmel Bakery. Yes, it’s another turkey & Swiss delight – do they not make or serve anything else in CA? – and I find a bench in a secluded small park-type area off one the main roads in the centre. I munch away and slurp my iced tea – nothing as vulgar as Sprite or Pepsi to buy in the Bakery y’know – and after finishing up I wander round a bit more. I use a guide I picked up to identify some of the oldest – and quirkiest – buildings in the town such as the Tuck Box, but to be honest it’s not that interesting so I decide I’ve seen enough and head out to Point Lobos State Reserve as planned. The weather is warm and sunny as I head out of town.

Out on Hwy 1 again, suddenly, 3 miles out of Carmel just before I reach the Reserve, the fog has descended from nowhere, the sky is clouded over and the temperature has dropped to 63º from the 74º it was a few minutes ago. I debate whether it’s worth going in on the basis of “will I see anything at the coast”, but as I’m here I decide I may as well have a wander so I park on the roadside – to save the $10 entry fee, I’d read about this tip somewhere online – and enter the park, free of charge. I walk on the trail towards Whaler’s Cove through the forest and shortly the Cove comes into view. It’s a lovely spot, albeit covered in cloud. I walk around the Cove towards the Whaler’s Hut where there are some interesting displays and artefacts, including huge old whale bones. The name is true, they did actual whaling offshore here in the 1800s and this station is one of many on this part of the CA coast where they processed the dead whales for whale oil. It’s very interesting and I’m glad I stopped by here. The clouds however are still around and so I decide to go back home rather than do one of the many other trails that there are in the Reserve.

Whaler's Cove

Whaler’s Cove

Whaling Station at the Cove

Whaling Station in the Cove

No surprise that the skies clear by the time I’m back in Monterey but an hour or so later they start to build again and by 6 pm – nearing sunset time of 6.38 pm – the sky is almost completely covered so there will again be no sunset drive tonight, sadly.

I watch some of the 49ers game on TV and then head out to the Brittania Arms for food and drink. It’s quiet when I arrive but the game is still on TV on a large screen. However the barman is not very friendly so I just sit quietly and watch the action on screen. Later on I order a burger, which is good. The barman has warmed up a bit by now, but not by much, and we chat every now and again. The 49ers lose a close game and then I hear the barman telling someone that the karaoke will start soon. Oh dear. Time to leave. So it’s back to the hotel for a nightcap in my room and soon to bed.

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