Northern California, Part Two of Four

Morro Bay

It's a big rock
We started our second day with a visit to Morro Rock, which just happens to be located at Morro Bay.

A really big rock

Native plants
The area is a refuge and preserve for wildlife and plants. Seagulls love it here, and sometimes falcons nest among the high rocks.

Power plant? What power plant?
The Dynegy Power Plant provides electricity for parts of the central coast and valley. It has been a center of controversy, with allegations of financial corruption, as well as issues relating to pollution and the use of ocean water for cooling.

Surf's almost up!
Surfers on Morro Bay.

Lots of space
The beach next to Morro Rock.

Hovering gulls
Seagulls hovering in the wind.

Most places we stopped, we saw these squirrels playing and lounging near the rocks and in the parking lots, often hoping for handouts.

How many does he have to catch to make a sandwich?
Steve called this guy the Squirrel Whisperer. He eventually had a whole flock of them crawling into his lap to be fed.

Elephant Seals

Get outta my way!
Along the Big Sur coast is Piedras Blancas beach, where elephant seals form temporary colonies each year while they relax and molt. Occcasionally someone gets rambunctious in the shallow water, but most of them just lie on the beach, quietly.


They look dead, but there is an occasional sign of life when one of them uses its flipper to toss sand over its body.

Yes, life's a beach

Big Sur Coast

The coast
Looking down from Highway 1.

Bixby Bridge, built in 1932
The Big Sur section of California's Route 1 is known for its beautiful scenery. Most of it was constructed during the 1930s. It's a winding, two-lane road with few turnoffs. Much of it had been closed since April, due to landslides. Luck was on our side; the road re-opened the day before we arrived.

Don't lean back
Rosemary poses at a scenic turnout.


More scenery


Cannery Row
Our last trip to Monterey was more than 20 years ago. Not much has changed, except that it's probably even more touristy now. The canning company signs are just there for nostalgia; today, these walkways connect shopping arcades.

A small boat for a big job
This mural on McAbee beach portrays the Portuguese whalers who launched their boats here in the 19th century. They would harpoon a whale and tow it back to shore to harvest the blubber.

We ate clam chowder five days in a row on this trip, including one morning for breakfast at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It was all good, but the best was at the Fish Hopper in Monterey.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968). A native of the Monterey area, he became a Nobel prize-winning author; his best-known work is The Grapes of Wrath. His novel Cannery Row was about the lives of people on Monterey's Ocean Avenue during the Great Depression. Ocean Avenue was renamed Cannery Row in honor of the book.

I'm fine, really

Carmel is a small, upscale city just south of Monterey, known for its many golf courses, including Pebble Beach. It has a cute downtown window-shopping area. Here, Rosemary pretends not to be freezing in the wind.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

For us, the biggest attraction at Monterey is the aquarium. The Kelp Forest exhibit is 28 feet high and holds hundreds of fish, living as they would in the wild.

More fish

Seals and seabirds
From an outside deck, we could view seals and seabirds on the nearby rocks.

So cute!
The penguins wear armbands imprinted with their names.

They line up politely to be fed individually, so the caretakers can keep track of what each one eats.

Its beak is a built-in drinking straw
Another exhibit holds exotic birds, like this kiwi.

Which way is up?

Tube anemones
Tube anemones

Camouflaged as salad
A seahorse known as the leafy sea dragon

A starfish on the glass.

A school of sardines in the kelp forest.

Spiny crabs.



Sea turtle.

Blackfooted penguins.


Northern California, Part One of Four

[Note: This was a car trip we took in 2011.]


The windmills of their minds
Solvang is a small town founded by Danish immigrants in 1911. The founders hoped to preserve and promote Danish culture, starting by building a traditional folk school and church. But it wasn't until after World War II, when the tourist trade picked up, that building facades were redesigned to look more like a Danish village, and building codes were created to require this style for future construction.

The public park features a large sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson.

I'll take one of everything.
Among the many shopping opportunities here, bakeries are the most exciting. We had a snack here just a few minutes after arriving in town, and came back to stock up on our way out.

Pastries are not the only food source in Solvang. At the Viking Garden Restaurant, Steve enjoyed the three-sausage platter (with sauerkraut, red cabbage and potato pancake).

The Danish flag
We arrived in Solvang the day before the expected visit from the Prince and Princess of Denmark. Excellent timing! Traffic was light, we had no trouble finding a parking spot, and the town was nicely decorated.

This roof needs some pigeon spikes
In Denmark a stork on the roof is considered good luck, so many buildings in Solvang are topped with these bird effigies.

Pismo Beach

Looking north
At Pismo Beach we stayed at the Shelter Cove Lodge, at the top of the cliffs where we had wonderful views of the beach and ocean. We had a great dinner at the Ventana Grill, which was within easy walking distance from our hotel.

That last step's a little tricky
The path to the beach.

The peaceful atmosphere and lovely scenery made this someplace we'd enjoy visiting again.

What dolphins would look like, if we had dolphins here

Emergency exit only

Daytime moon over Pismo Beach.

Steve on cliff

Steve enjoys the clifftop walkway.