493 is the number of miles, 4 the number of days, 9 the number of meals, and 3 the number of amigas.
As a nod to our trip from a few years back, Gaby, Lillian, and I (or as we’ve coined ourselves, the Three Amigas) hit the road again — this time up the California coast along Highway 1 from Los Angeles to Big Sur. Though Lillian lives in Berkeley we somehow convinced her to fly south for the sole purpose of turning around to drive north again. It was all for the adventure of it, you know?
This trip taught me that something about road tripping creates a family dynamic among everyone in the car – even if you’re not related — at least that was the case with the three of us. If I had to categorize each of us, well, I’m likely the little sister whose always eager to chatter, who continuously sings aloud despite my less-than-stellar voice, and who wants to do way more in one day than is ever humanly possible.
Lillian is the mother hen type — in the best sort of way — because she keeps us on track and concerns herself with the details so we don’t have to. This trip she even took it to another level by giving Gaby and me warnings whenever we were getting too rowdy. “That’s one!” she’d say when we being too rambunctious for our surroundings or staying up too late to tell yet another story. Naturally, we’d fall in line even though there were no real consequences to our actions.
Gaby is the one who is always game for anything – be it a second breakfast at La Super Rica purely so we could try their tacos, an impromptu vist to a central coast winery, or a last minute power hike up a steep ravine just to see a waterfall.
Spoiler alert: the lack of rain this year meant that there was almost no water in the waterfalls at Julia Pfeiffer State Park but at least the hike helped us build up our appetites for the day’s lunch (as if we ever really need help with that).
The moment of the trip were our family dynamic became most evident was the morning we drove from Paso Robles to Big Sur. I had insisted that we visit the elephant seals, because, despite them badly needing deodorant and being unsightly beasts, I find them totally adorable. And I know I’m not alone on this one because there the third graders who were there were just as psyched as I was. (On a side note, I’m not sure what it says about me that I apparently have an entertainment threshold equal to that of an 8-year old.)
Moments after we left the elephant seals, we began the winding climb from San Simeon to Big Sur only to realize we hadn’t bothered to get gas. Apparently, filling the car wasn’t on our agenda despite the fact it was our only means of transportation for the next three days. So, just before we headed out of cell range, we searched out a gas station, called to make sure they were operating and open, and then pulled out the car manual to calculate if we could in fact make it the 18 miles to the gas station.
With visions of us pushing the car up the 15% grade that is the start to Big Sur, we were silently cursing ourselves (well, it wasn’t all silent) for the next half hour. But, as luck would have it, we made it to Ragged Point running on the very last fumes. We were so happy just to have arrived that we were cheering as we pulled into the station, even thought it was the most expensive gas any of us had ever bought.
From there we spent the day cruising the coast and checking out the Big Sur parks. I was totally blown away by McWay Falls because I never knew my home state had such a sight as this gorgeous cove and beachside waterfall. From there we poked about Julia Pfeiffer State Park in search of more falls and some killer views.
True to my nature, I convinced us to pack too much into one morning and tried to squeeze in one last hike before our lunch date at Post Ranch Inn. Though Lillian played her mom role well and thoroughly warned us we didn’t have time to do the hike and get to lunch on time, we went on without her and found out the hard (and steep) way that she might be right. Because we didn’t want another warning, we found ourselves sprinting up the 2 mile trek to the falls, stopping just long enough to snap a few of the photos you see above.
We made it back down with just minutes to spare before the fanciest meal we’d have the whole trip at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn. After frantically taking a page out of high school sports practice and changing in the back of the rental car, we rushed over to the Post Ranch Inn just in time and the meal was a phenomenal payoff. Our favorites of the meal were the Dungeness Crab Salad with Mandarins, Toasted Almonds, and Basil and the dessert of Lemon Curd with Cardamom Meringue, Hibiscus Sorbet, and Candied Fennel.
It was a quick 96 hours but worth every last mile and every travel headache for the stellar views, tons of laughs, and good memories. Here are our favorite hotels and restaurants from the trip along with a stop-by-stop map in case you ever find yourself in the area.
Where We Ate
Hip Vegan Cafe
928 E Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA 93023
La Super Rica Taqueria
22 N Milpas Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Post Ranch Inn
47900 California 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
Where We Stayed
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
905 Country Club Road,
Ojai, CA 93023
1021 Pine Street
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Glen Oaks Lodge
47080 California 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
Road Trip Directions
Here is a map of our trip including directions and stops.