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Cross-Country Road Trip Day 9: Pacific Coast Highway

This was the day we officially started up California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. This was also the day when we officially decided the route back. I’d had three different possibilities floating around, but in the end I decided to go with the middle route, which would get us the most states without going too far north. The fact that it had the shortest driving times per day was not an insignificant part of the equation.

First, however, we took the San Diego Freeway to Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

Mission

holy water

mission altar

mission lady chapel

Our next stop was Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano

I was really excited about visiting the California missions on the trip, but after these two, I felt I was mission-ed out. It was strange too because normally these kinds of things are right up my alley. I am a sucker for beautiful, historical buildings, but somehow after only two missions, I lost interest. I don’t know why.

After San Juan Capistrano, we got on Route 1 and drove through Orange County’s beach towns, which were full of expensive stores and lots of traffic. We stopped for lunch in Newport Beach at an Italian restaurant we randomly picked, Modo Mio, which was also a lucky find. We also got mini cupcakes at neighboring Sweet and Saucy. We drove up as far as Huntington Beach, and then turned off to take the freeway through Los Angeles.

California Sunset

Our plan for L.A. was to drive through it as quickly as possible. We did get stuck in traffic for a bit. I think there were 14 lanes at one point, but we congratulated ourselves that our New Jersey driving skills were honed enough to deal with it. Except for the crazy California motorcycles. Probably because of the weather, there were many more motorcyclists than on the East Coast, and they seemed to take it as matter of course to weave in and out of traffic and lanes at whim.

We managed to spot the Hollywood sign from the car.

Hollywood Sign

The sun was setting as we made our way out of L.A.

Los Angeles

We drove on to our next stop, Santa Barbara. We checked in to the Inn at East Beach, which looks like a classic California motel, with two stories of rooms arranged around a central pool area. I liked the Inn, not least because it was privately owned and operated, but the room decor was reminiscent of the 1980s, especially the decorative pastel leather bed pillows that we immediately banished to the floor. The location, within walking distance to the beach, would have been a big plus if we planned to stay longer than just one night.

We went out to find some dinner not long after arriving, and we wound up by chance on the main Santa Barbara shopping area, State Street. We were a little late getting there and we had to inquire at a few places to see if there was any chance of getting a table. We ended up at Tupelo Junction Cafe, where the menu seemed to be Southern comfort food. They served our drinks in mason jars. We got salads, hush puppies, and homemade potato chips, and we were happy again with our random restaurant choice.

We realized at dinner that we were just over halfway done with the trip. It seemed hard to believe that in just over a week, we would be back home.

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