December 19 2012 by Sam Lowe
I suspect every traveler has a favorite chunk of roadway, either a paved highway, a secluded two-lane back road, or a dirt path that leads to memories of bygone times. Mine is the Pacific Coast Highway.
My wife Lyn and I have traversed this coastline adventure several times, and on each encounter we have opened new doorways and discovered pleasant little side junkets. But there is always this one constant - we have some favorites that require mandatory visits on every trip.
We always start in San Diego so we can say we traversed the full length of the highway, but our final destination can vary. Once we got all the way to Port Townsend, Washington, but we usually wind up in Seattle because, by this time, we've had enough hairpin turns and scary seaside dropoffs to last us for a while.
But while getting there, we always stop at Solvang, the recreated Scandanavian village north of Los Angeles. Sure, it's quite touristy, but it's also peaceful and the food is a delightful change from the usual on-the-road fare of burgers and fries. The Monterey Aquarium is next on our can't-miss list. It is among the world's finest and always puts us behind schedule because there's so much to see and so little time to see it.
Next, the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, a classic example of early Twentieth Century opulence. We have taken three different tours, saw the indoor swimming pool, saw where Clark Gable slept, saw how William Randolph Hearst lived like a king, and enjoyed every minute of it even though it's all beyond the reach of the average person.
n Oregon, we always stop at Canon Beach and marvel at the haystacks, large rock formations that jut out of the Pacific Ocean, then at Bandon, a small coastal village that features a no-longer-in-use lighthouse that's always a photo opportunity.
And finally, we usually arrive in Seattle and head for the Pike Place Market to watch the fish mongers toss huge salmons around like Frisbees, and listen to the street musicians plunk out their tunes on instruments made of plastic pipe and cigar boxes. Then it's off to the iconic Space Needle for a well-earned evening refresher. And if it's a clear day, we will see Mount Ranier in the distance while sipping a libation. If it's not a clear day, we sip anyway.
We always allow at least a week for the south-to-north trip and we rely on Best Western to provide us with comfortable lodging in such places as Dana Point and Long Beach, California, Seaside and Astoria, Oregon, and Ocean Shores, Washington.