Posted by: GeekHiker | April 15, 2009

‘Crusin South

So last weekend I made a quick run down to Orange County.  Yep, behind the proverbial “Orange Curtain”.

Somehow I got it in my head that I needed to drive the rest of Highway 1.  In my travels over the years I’ve driven, at various times, pretty much all of it.  It starts as a simple turn-off from the 101 in Northern California, goes over a number of switchbacks, then dramatically hits the coast and heads south to LA.

I’ve driven it all the way from the start to San Francisco, followed it around the peninsula and past Santa Cruz and Monterey.

I’ve taken a long, long day and driven the spectacular section through Big Sur, stopping at nearly every pull-out, awestruck.

I’ve driven through Morro Bay, out past Vandenberg Air Force Base, and use it all the time between LA and Oxnard to access hikes in the Santa Monicas.

I’d driven it though city streets about as far as LAX, where it dips under the south runways.

But I’d never taken it from LA down through Dana Point, its final terminus before I-5 takes over and continues the journey towards San Diego.

So I packed up and headed out Saturday morning.

* * *

I spent most of the weekend just cruising around, going wherever my whims took me.

Heading south of the airport, the road takes you past the beach cities, around past an oil refinery, and past industrial sections of town near the port of Los Angeles.

Big Sur, it’s not.

Then it passes through Long Beach and, after that, the further you go, the higher the house values get.  By the time I saw the ocean again, I’m not even sure I was rich enough to be looking at the tony neighborhoods I was driving past.

Most of the afternoon was spent along the bluffs at Crystal Cove State Park, looking for life in the tidepools.

Hwy 1 OC 01
Shoreline at Crystal Cove State Park

Hwy 1 OC 03
Tidepools at Crystal Cove

Hwy 1 OC 02
Flowers at Crystal Cove

I then walked over to the old Crystal Cove Cottages.  These cottages, dating from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, are slowly in the process of being restored.  It’s a bit of a throwback to an earlier era when families would come down to the seashore for the summer and stay in small cabins or camp out on the beach.

The cabins are for rent today, via the State Park system.  Damn, if only I had someone to stay with.  *sigh*

Hwy 1 OC 04
Looking down at Crystal Cove

Hwy 1 OC Pano 01
Crystal Cove Cottages and beach

Despite that, I headed up the hill to Ruby’s Shake Shack.  No reason not to treat myself.  And so I did, with a dark chocolate mint shake.

Saturday night was spent at the hotel reading and writing.  Even though the room had a TV, I felt less urge to turn it on than I would have at home.  I wonder why…

And then there was the tasteless fettuccine alfredo for dinner.  The less said about that, the better.

* * *

Sunday I drove out onto the Balboa Peninsula.  I’d thought about going there the previous night, but elected to skip it.  I’m sorta glad I did.

The Balboa Fun Zone, with its arcades, small ferris wheel, shops, fair-food restaurants and ice cream shops actually made me pine to not be single since it looked like a great way to spend a Saturday night.

I shrugged it off (as best I could) and hopped back in the truck, cruising back down to Crystal Cove SP.

This time, I hiked the inland side of the park, climbing up a steep ridge to views of inland valleys and the broad Pacific.

Hwy 1 OC 06
Greenery at Crystal Cove State Park

Hwy 1 OC 05
Along the trail

Hwy 1 OC Pano 02
Rattler along the trail

Tired and hungry by the time I returned to the car, I headed back to Crystal Cove, where I wolfed down a turkey sandwich at Ruby’s Shake Shack (the Beachcomber restaurant being too expensive for my solo-traveler tastes).  And yes, I had a shake.  Oreo, thanks.

Then it was back on the road, heading through small, very expensive towns and past a few more beaches before finally driving past the Dana Point Harbor.

Hwy 1 OC Pano 03
Dana Point Harbor

A short distance past that, I reached the terminus of the great Highway 1.

Only, there’s no “there” there.  No sign that you’ve reached the end of the road.  Just an on-ramp to the I-5.  The pavement itself goes under the 5, changes to a regular street name, and climbs into a tony gated community in the hills.

It was kinda disappointing, but maybe that’s just the romantic in me.

* * *

And that, as they say, was that.

The trip was okay, and it was good to get out of town.  Still, I found I came away with two desires:

1) To take a couple of weeks and travel the whole route, and do it right.   Hotel reservations, camp reservations, maybe a convertible.


2) I traveled it in bits and pieces by myself.  Next time, I want a friend along.



  1. I’ve driven the Big Sur section three times and it never ceases to amaze. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever seen.

  2. You shake tease you!

  3. This makes me wish I’d been there, the pictures are alluring and everything seems so peaceful. The multitude of shakes doesn’t hurt either!

    How far were you from the rattler?

  4. I have family in Dana Point and spent 3 summers vacationing on Balboa Island – I have a huge soft spot for Orange County (despite its annoyingly homogeneous population). So glad you got to enjoy some of its bright spots.

  5. Oh, all you bloggie buddies out there are making me miss the west coast so much! (and our annual Bay to Breakers meet up isn’t happening this year) Sad.

  6. Homer-Dog – Yeah, it’s been too long since I’ve driven it…

    Just A Girl – You don’t have shakes in Canada?

    Spleeness – Heh, there were only two shakes. 😉 About four feet as I walked around him. He didn’t move. Heck, he didn’t even shake his rattle to warn me. Lazy bum.

    Mel Heth – I did, but I also knew it’s not the place for me. That’s not to disparage it, jut not a fit.

    Hebba – Who else you know out here? I have so few west coast readers!

  7. Me! Pick me! Ugh, I give up. I shoulda just come out this weekend. Frig.

  8. *sigh* beach, ocean, blue sky *sigh*

  9. I’ve heard Highway 1 mentioned in so many books and movies it almost seemed like a character itself. I’m glad you took the time to interview this guy for me….he sounds like the sort that I’d like to hang out with: interesting yet unassuming, a nice balance of bigcity bustle & countryside calm, and able to just fade away without creating drama — but with the knowledge that he’ll be there for you the next time he’s needed.

    Huh. I was talking about Highway 1, but now that I read back over it? It seems like I was describing the interviewER as well as the interviewEE. How bout that?

    I guess that’s why I like hanging out with you in blog-land. 😉

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