Alice’s Restaurant

04 Nov

(Another song title, of course.)

The original plan for today was to head down to Monterey, go to the aquarium, then have a wander around and see what else there was to do while we were down there. However, with the Bay Area currently having a bit of a mini heat wave, we decided that today was too nice to waste being indoors for a long time.

After looking at the map and getting a suggestion from a local on Twitter, we decided on the following plan: head west to the famous Alice’s Restaurant for a bite to eat, then keep going west to pick up the Pacific Coastal Highway and find some beaches.

Rather than going directly across the Bay on Dumbarton Bridge, we decided to be cheapskates and avoid paying the toll by going the long way round the bottom of the Bay. This gave us a chance for some geeky name-spotting: Dell, TiVo, IBM, Polycom, Microsoft, and the famous Hangar One, amongst others; although we managed to completely miss Google.

We turned off the freeway and headed towards Skyline Boulevard and the hills. As we were passing and had plenty of time, we took a little detour through part of Stanford University’s campus, which looked very impressive. And very expensive.

The drive up into the hills was one of the windiest roads I’ve ever been up, and it’s definitely up. The speed limit on the east side is just 35mph, but there’s not much room for error on some of the corners.

Alice’s Restaurant seems to be the Californian equivalent of the Hartside Cafe, but with better food, nicer weather, and not such a good view because it’s surrounded by trees. Lots of interesting cars and bikes were parked outside, including a matt black and carbon fibre GT-R next to an old Ford Mustang, which made an interesting contrast. Of course, there were lots of Harleys, as well as many European and Japanese bikes. Big adventure bikes such as BMWs, KTMs and Ducati Multistradas seemed to feature quite strongly, but also an assortment of sportbikes. There was the most basic Monster that I’ve ever seen, that had even done away with its clutch and timing belt covers, and also an S4R in Il Tricolore colours that I’m sure Mrs E would have liked…

After having a spot of early lunch in the restaurant, a quick stroll round the tourist-tat-shops, and buying an obligatory T-shirt, we kept heading west towards the coast, downhill this time, but still with the road winding its way down through the trees and eventually into more open rugged land. We spotted the Pacific Ocean as soon as we reach the Pacific Coastal Highway, and mutually decided that we should stop at the first place we could to admire the view, as it was just breathtaking.

After standing around on a precarious cliff edge for a few minutes, taking photos and saying ‘Wow,’ we decided to keep heading south to find a beach we could actually get on. We saw lots of beaches, most with a few but not many people on, but there weren’t many people in the water at all. We decided to stop at one that had a few cars parked near, and when we walked onto the beach we found out why there weren’t many people swimming: the warning signs advised of cold water, rip tides, undercurrents, sharks, etc., etc. … didn’t sound like much fun.

We had a walk up and down the beach, watching the very impressive waves come crashing in, and the pelicans gliding just above them with any apparently effort. They were right about the water being cold: the surfers didn’t just have wetsuits on, they had hats, gloves and socks too. Even the surfers at Whitley Bay don’t generally bother with that!

We decided to head further down the PCH to see what else we could see. Just north of Santa Cruz, we went to have a look at Natural Bridges State Beach, although these days there’s just one Natural Bridge, the outer and inner arches having collapsed.

We were going to have a look at the lighthouse located to the east, but as we drove towards it we found that we were being detoured away from where we wanted to be: apparently the O’Neill Cold Water Classic surfing championship has just started this weekend, and the place was heaving. We thought we’d managed to be very lucky and find a free parking space, until we were chased out of a church car park by a pastor who was obviously having a bad day!

Giving up on watching the surf championships, we decided to head in to Santa Cruz itself and see if we could have a look at the pier we’d seen. Which turned out to be Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, with cars parked all along its length. We settled instead for stroll along the boardwalk, and decided that it was all very much like Blackpool really.

As we wanted to make sure we got something to eat, and we have to go to work tomorrow (shame!), we took the more direct route back to Newark; ‘direct’ being the Santa Cruz highway, another road where they seem to have squeezed in as many bends as possible into a short stretch of road.

Amazingly, we don’t seem to have got sunburnt. Must try harder next weekend!

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Posted by on Sunday 4 November 2012 in California


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