A road trip is not just an affordable way to get from point A to point B while seeing various sights. It’s also a way to test the limits of your relationship inside a confined space while eating trail mix and listening to podcasts.
R and I recently took the famously (and actually) awesome Route 1 up the California coast to our friends’ wedding outside San Francisco. We survived despite major mechanical issues and my inability to take sharp curves over 5 mph! Here is my advice following our total of 21 hours on the road (yes, it should take 12, tops).
Leave L.A. around 6pm on a Thursday
If you live here then you know that Thursday is the worst traffic day of the week for reasons completely unknown to the entire population of L.A. and that 6pm is the worst hour of that worst day of traffic. Leaving at 6am on a Friday is the easy way out! 6pm on a Thursday, however, gives you the chance to really test that patience with and hour and a half of “slow-and-go” getting on the 101. If you are anything like R, you may attempt to abort mission somewhere around Sunset and Doheny (“I don’t know if I can do this. Let’s just leave tomorrow). If you’re anything like me, you’ll passive aggressively convince him to keep going (“Wow. Okay. Well, if that’s what you think you need to do. I mean, I’m not driving this leg, so I guess it’s not really up to me…).
Know that a completely blown out tire sounds a lot like a loud motorcycle, but it isn’t
…Not by a long shot, and you’re going to want to figure that out quickly so you can cross four lanes of traffic and safely exit the freeway before the tire shreds to pieces and you’re left on the side of the road at 9pm in Calabasas with three tires.
Upon exiting, find the nearest gas station that sells Pop Chips in its mini mart, because those are about to be your dinner, friend.
Then, and you’re going to want to this quickly, laugh your asses off. It is the only way to keep from breaking something and/or crying. Hopefully you too will find a friendly AAA man by your side within 20 short minutes, and hopefully he too will not have a spare tire forcing you to drive on the donut at 50 mph the rest of the way to Santa Barbara. Because if your patience haven’t already been tested to their limit, they”ll definitely make it there over the next two hours it takes to go one hour north.
Eat at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara
They close at 9pm, so you’re going to want to force your girlfriend to let you drive 60 mph for the last 15 minutes so you make it before close. Order La Super-Rice Especial, and a Negro Modelo. Re-love life.
When in Solvang, attend the Thursday night Karaoke Session at The Solvang Brewery
You will see people you did not expect to see outside a Christopher Guest movie set in 1999 and hear songs you did not know existed. Note: this is Solvang, and it is not to be missed.
You’re going to want to hit the road the next day around 8am to fit everything in
So be sure to wake up at 6:30am so you can get ready at a leisurely speed and then enjoy a delicious breakfast of Dutch pancakes at Paula’s House of Pancakes. Why act like you’re 29 when acting like you’re 65 allows you to accomplish so much more in a day!
If you happen to find a folding chair in the trunk of your car, immediately start using it in a trip-long game of “who can take a more ridiculous picture on this chair?”
Award points for creativity, complexity and how many people were like WTF when you took the picture.
Go to Hearst Castle, and spring for a tour of the Great Rooms
It is a must-see.
Try to consume only small meals throughout the day
This way you won’t be too full to eat something at every single adorable location you see along the way. We went too big, too fast at Sebastian’s Store in San Simeon, so we didn’t have the chance to fully enjoy Nepenthe in Big Sur.
Podcasts are a good way to pass the time when you’ve run out of things to talk about.
There’s only so many hours you can spend analyzing the last episode of Homeland and predicting the entire season.
If you don’t love driving up an insanely windy mountain on a cliff that plunges down to the Pacific Ocean, don’t make your only leg of the trip Route 1 from San Simeon to Carmel.
I mean, I did it, and I did it just fine, but it was touch-and-go.
You need one hour in Carmel and two hours in Monterey
Of course you could spend three days in each of those places, but in “stop in” terms, those are the limits. Get a coffee and some pastries in Carmel as you stroll Ocean Ave, then walk down to the beach to take some pictures. In Monterey you must, must, must go to Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle for their famous clam chowder and what should be famous fried oysters. Walk around Fisherman’s Warf and the downtown area. Drive to Cannery Row, especially if one of you has to go to the bathroom when you start the walk there from Fisherman’s Warf…
It’s really hard to get a good picture of the scenery out the sun roof of your car, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.
Be careful with your alcohol consumption at the dinner you attend with your good friends in Palo Alto.
You’ve been on the road since 6am. Two cocktails are probably going to put you to sleep in two minutes.
Take a 5 home, but be prepared. There really is nothing to see.
If Route 1 is perhaps the most gorgeous stretch of American highway, Route 5 is definitely the ugliest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the fastest way back home after an epic wedding the night prior.
I implore you to do this trip at least once in your life. I intend to do it way more times than that, but next time I intend to carefully examine the level of air in the tires before we go. You should too.