Arm Chair Road Trip Days 33 and 34: Big Sur and Monterey

January 30, 2021 — 1 Comment

big sur silhouette

After getting on the wrong highway in Pasadena (Did I mention how much I hate LA?) we finally headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway — our westward days were behind us.

Mtuseni was excited to drive past Malibu, though I’ve always wondered why celebrities like the place: you’re jammed between a narrow beach and a highway. And then canyons that occasionally burst into flame. 

The drive up the coast was gorgeous as always, though I’d forgotten how twisty and narrow the road is south of Monterey. It’s hard to take in the scenery while keeping an eye on the road. We pulled over many times — along with many others — to marvel at the sunset colors.


mtu rte 1 coast


route 1 bridge tall


It was long past dark when we pulled into our Monterey hotel, and true to form Mtuseni went right to sleep. I went into town to grab some dinner.

Walking among the shops and cafes, I had a familiar feeling of autumn in Northern California, and for a moment felt a twinge of nostalgia. Then I remembered how underwhelming it is: gray, shriveled leaves scattered on the sidewalk, a slight but not brisk chill in the air. Nothing like New England’s big fall show of eye-popping colors, earthy-smoky scents, and bustling winds: You know change is happening! Growing up in Boston and having the peak of foliage hit on my birthday week, I was always disappointed by fall in San Francisco. 

But downtown Monterey certainly is pretty. I had fish and chips and local brews at a dark bar, then the next morning Mtuseni and I had breakfast on the same street at a old-time cafe. After doing laundry in nearby Pacific Grove, with a sweet view of the ocean, we walked along the water in Monterey for a while.


monterey coast

Mtuseni and I pretended we were shopping for a house on our walk. I might be able to afford one of the mailboxes!


Check out our Instagram from the Monterey coast!

One problem I had when living in Northern California is that the ocean has a look-but-don’t-touch quality. It’s undeniably beautiful, but it’s cold and rough compared to the Atlantic. Ten years in San Francisco and I only got up to my waist at the beach a few times on strangely hot days in October. I like to commune with the ocean, not gaze at  it from a distance.


monterey coast 2

The water in Monterey is always such a striking blue. And the windswept cypress trees remind me of the umbrella pines in Rome.


Feelings of disconnection and memories of visits with an old boyfriend made Monterey feel melancholy for me. I didn’t realize this was a harbinger of the days ahead as we drove to stay with a friend in Silicon Valley. (Have I said how much I hate Silly Valley? Not as much as LA, but it’s right up there.)

big sur sunset clean

Sunset at Big Sur… stunning.


Check out my new Beck’s Next Act blog on life transitions… and other stuff!

One response to Arm Chair Road Trip Days 33 and 34: Big Sur and Monterey


    Don’t kid yourself. You couldn’t afford a mailbox either!


What do you think?...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s