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Highway One

by Tara

My brother has taken the day off so we can spend the afternoon driving up the California coast on scenic Highway One. We definitely aren't used to traveling at more than a snail's pace yet— Tyler and I are both reeling, feeling heavy, head-achy and queasy (thanks to all the tight hairpin turns and steep hills). Neither of us were prone to motion sickness before our trip!

As we cruise by a forest just off the coast, I shield my eyes from the view, blocking the disorienting strobe-light effect of harsh light and shadows flickering against the pavement as we drive through the trees.

Twisty California Coastal Road

Somewhere along the way, we stop for a quick break and breath of fresh air, looking to sample some local produce at a roadside stand. While we investigate what they have on offer, a burly man with a Russian accent gruffly exits a nearby truck to attend to us. We sample some nuts, purchase a pint of strawberries, and skip back to the car with our goodies.

California Coastline Roadside Snack Stand

Heading out once more, we're feeling a bit better—the twists and turns of the road have unraveled a bit, relaxing into gentler sweeping swaths of pavement. Thus, we head to our first destination of the day: Muir Woods National Park.

Lian & Tyler at Muir Woods National Monument Redwoods at John Muir Woods Redwoods at Muir Woods Redwood at Muir Woods

It would be nice to spend ages among the trees, hiking, camping, escaping the crowds of tourists, and slowly capturing it all, but today is just a quick visit, a teaser of things to come, should we someday choose to return. The ancient, majestic trees are certainly worthy of more time than we have!

Tara & Redwood at Muir Woods Tara & Redwood at Muir Woods

Back in the car we go, past scenery that reminds us of Greece and the south of France. My mind is thrown back to the day we climbed from Marseilles to Cassis, listening to the cicadas, feeling the sun hot against our backs, inhaling whiffs of pine and catching glimpses of crystal blue sea. For a moment, I am lost in the memory, but my mind quickly returns to the here and now, and I realize that I'm in a place every bit as engaging as my daydream.

California Coastline

I feel so lucky to come home to this, America, a land in which I really haven't traveled all that much. An enormous country of possibilities and stunning landscapes lies before us, ready to be explored. And the best part about it is, it's mine, located conveniently right out my back door, with no visa worries to think about. This is the beginning of that exploration, I think. This is what it looks like to travel in America.

Pretty Coastal Flowers

And so I stand, creating new memories with my brother and my partner, squinting into the sun, watching a raptor swoop in circles, envious at the sight of it gliding effortlessly, high above the Pacific.

Swooping Coastal Bird Tara & Lian

Sleepy little beach towns dot the craggy coastline—when we all get hungry for dinner, we pull into the Sand Dollar, a nice cafe in the quaint village of Stinson Beach. Fish tacos, grilled salmon sandwiches, and English style fish and chips all look good so we order them up, with local beer to wash them down. When we're through, a glimpse at the bill makes us balk for a moment, but I close my eyes, cringe, and sign my name below the total. This part of the world is expensive!

Coast Cafe Chairs Coast Cafe California Coastal Home Children at Play Sign

After eating, we're almost ready to head back towards the Bay, but a final stop leads us off the road to some sort of old fort. We clamber out of the car once more and walk down a pier, looking out at the vast blue water and blinding sun sinking fast towards it. Wind whips at my hair, and Lian captures a rare photo of Tyler and I, looking out at the vaguely Amalfi-like coastline.

California Coastal Sunset Tara & Tyler

With just a bit of time before the sun sets, we hurry back to San Francisco, in hopes of catching the Golden Gate bridge before sunset. Lian takes us to the best viewpoint, a short climb up a hill right next to the iconic structure. At the top, the bay is spread out before us, spanned by the behemoth, fiery-orange structure. At first, it doesn't look that big, but then we see how small the cars are, zipping across like tiny insects.

Golden Gate Bridge Golden Gate Bridge

We take the requisite "standing in front of something famous shots"…

Tara & Tyler (Us) at Golden Gate Bridge Tara & Lian at Golden Gate Bridge

…and then Tyler goes photo-crazy with our wide-angle lens, inches away from Lian and my noses.

Tara & Lian Tara & Lian Tara & Lian

A brief, chilly visit to the other side of the bridge concludes our day of adventuring, as the sun sinks low and the skies begin to darken. As city lights flick on, shining bright against the now grey-blue waters, I am thankful for today's sight-seeing, just the first of many explorations in this country we call home.

Golden Gate Bridge at Dusk Golden Gate Bridge Viewing Telescope

Thanks for being our tour guide, Lian!



It's official now, we're going to the US! Those trees! Holy Moly!

Loving your raven locks, Tara.

Oooh, I hope I have that feeling when we get back to Aus (I'm so worried I won't)!
Posted by Katherine on July 10th, 2011 at 4:52 AM
You should drive Nettle through the trees along Avenue of the Giants! The redwoods and sequoias are AMAZING.

Thanks about the hair! I think I told you this (not sure) but I wanted it dyed dark red in Bangkok... and I came out with black hair. Way too emo for me. Thankfully it faded. :-)

Whatever feeling you have when you get back to Australia will be okay. I'm guessing you'll be full of mixed motions and conflicting feelings, just like us! We had some pretty hefty culture shock, too, that we haven't written about yet.
Posted by Tara on July 10th, 2011 at 8:42 AM
Hi Tara and Tyler,

I've been reading your website a lot whilst I've been planning my trip, and I'm now cycling down Highway 1 and just went through San Francisco a couple of days ago.

Your website is great and an inspiration for others who are preparing similar trips, thanks!

You should definitely tour your own country, I have been loving it here and the hiker/biker camp sites at state parks make it very easy and also cheap as chips at 5$ a pop.

If you want a nice 1 day ride ending in one of these camp sites, camping surrounded by huge redwoods, try going to Samuel P Taylor state park which is a nice easy ride from San Fran :)

Good luck for your future travels!

Posted by Nico on July 10th, 2011 at 3:58 PM
Hi Nico, we're so glad you find our site helpful. Thank you for the travel advice; we'll definitely keep it in mind for our next tour! :-) Enjoy your time in the States!
Posted by Tara on July 16th, 2011 at 6:28 PM