Goth Panda

Cross-Country Road Trip Day 11: Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey

This was a long day. We started out at the lodge restaurant for breakfast. The lodge restaurant had very good food, but it was a little pricey. I wonder if this is the case in Big Sur generally, since that is the only place we ate. Maybe we could have found someplace less expensive if we had tried.

After breakfast, we went on a short hike up to a waterfall, and then a lookout point.



You can see the ocean off in the distance.

Then we set off for Carmel and Monterey, our last stop on the coast before turning inland. We made it to Carmel before we were ready to eat lunch, so we decided to drive the famous and scenic 17-Mile Drive.

The 17-Mile Drive kind of annoyed me. First, they charge you to drive on it. I guess I can understand that. Carmel is full of rich people and rich houses and rich golf courses, and they probably don’t want to share their natural beauty with freeloading hoi polloi.

But I was also annoyed because most of the 17-Mile Drive is not all that scenic. The scenery was better in Big Sur, and it was free. The most scenic part was the drive along the coast, which to be fair is lovely.

17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive

We ended up back in Carmel, where we decided not to stop. The town is tiny and full of expensive stores and it seemed like there was very little parking. On our way out, we passed miles and miles of slow moving cars trying to get in to the town. This only confirmed our impression that we should get out.


We went to Monterey for lunch, and a friend of ours recommended Rosine’s, which was lucky because it was very good and we didn’t have to guess where to go. Then we walked down to the marina, where they had an ice skating rink set up in the 76 degree weather.


After this, we turned off the coast to the interior of California. I was surprised that once we got off of the coast, California was mostly desert, with some farms and orchards that invariably displayed placards in support of an irrigation initiative up for a vote. All of the gas stations we stopped at played Mexican music.


We stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant attached to a Quality Inn in Barstow. I was initially wary of this combination, despite the Yelp reviews, but it turned out to be quite a happening place.

By this time, it was late. It is about eight hours from Monterey to Las Vegas, but it seemed to take us much longer than that. We crossed the border into Nevada, which is lit up enough to be visible from miles away. They have casinos just inside the border, in case you don’t want to make the extra push into Las Vegas.

By the time we got to Vegas, it was well after nightfall and it was very confusing to drive in for the first time. The lights were distracting and the signs hard to read. We were staying at the Signature at MGM Grand, and the MGM entrance we turned into turned out not to be the right one. When we did find it, we were in the wrong lane, the one for returning guests and not new check-ins. Finally we made it to the right place, and of course they only had valet parking, which is not ideal when our possessions are scattered all over the car. We had to check in at a different tower than the one we were staying in, because we’d arrived so late. By the time we got to our room (which was very nice), we were exhausted and already sick of Vegas.

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