Need for Speed (Almost)

Best California Road Trips series –

We actually did this road trip in May 2019. It was inspired by the movie “Need For Speed”. At the end of the movie was an epic race through the majestic Redwood Forrest and the Northern California coast. The road and the scenery looked amazing and something we needed to try. Ever since the movie came out in 2014 I had wanted to drive this road and now was our opportunity.

Route

This should be an excellent addition to our series of Best California Road Trips as with most of our trips the places we find along the way and the destination were more than we expected.

The Plan

As it happens with most of our trips, it starts with the Road. I did some research to find out which roads were used in the movie for that final race scene. It turned out that it was in Northern California not to far from where we live in the Central Valley. The final race scene in the movie actually starts on Hwy 253 just south of Ukiah, California heading southwest were it ends at Hwy 128. You then take Hwy 128 northwest where it runs into Hwy 1 were you turn south and head down Hwy 1 to the Point Arena Lighthouse where the race ends.

As with most of our road trips, I have picked the road and Miss Linda finds places to stay along the way. Sometimes our trip will vary just a bit depending on the places we find on the way. This is the Need for Speed (almost) part. We missed Ukiah and Hwy 253 on this trip and we did not make it to the Point Arena Lighthouse were the race ended until day 2 of our trip.

With our trip now planned we headed out for what would be one of our favorite adventures!

The Cars

We are in our C7 Corvette Z06 again on this trip as I am daydreaming about the cars that were in the movie. The weather for this trip was excellent. It was bright and sunny around 80 degrees when we left the valley and around 65 when we reached the coast. We had the top off the car for most of the trip which is always nice.

It was pretty amazing to watch the cars in the movie as they flew down Hwy 128 as the sun was streaking through the big Redwoods trees as the sounds filled the air. There were six cars in the final race of the movie. The combined value of these six cars was just under $9,000,000. The cars, A Saleen S7 Twin Turbo V-8 with 750 HP, A Lamborghini Sesto Elemento V-10 with 570 HP, A McLaren P-1 Twin Turbo V-8 Hybrid with 903 HP, A GTA Spano V-10 with 900 HP, A Begatti Veyron Super Sport W-16 with 1200 HP and a Koenigsegg Agera Twin Turbo V-8 with 950 HP. In this final race of the movie, five of the six cars were basically destroyed with one lone winner. If you haven’t seen the movie I recommend it as a fun and entertaining movie especially if you like exotic cars. If you have already seen it, great, if not watch to find out who wins

Koenigsegg Agera
Koenigsegg Agera

The Road

Hwy 128 was the road for the race in the movie. They pick up Hwy 128 from Hwy 253 in the movie. Hwy 128 actually goes right through the Napa Valley in the Heart of wine country. It took us about an hour and half to get to Winters, California from our house where Hwy 128 begins. The road is a nice two lane twisty road that goes around Lake Berryessa which is the largest lake in Napa County, California. This reservoir in the Vaca Mountains was formed following the construction of the Monticello Dam on Putah Creek in the 1950s. Since the early 1960s, this reservoir has provided water and hydroelectricity to the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

As you come down out of the Vaca mountains Hwy 128 comes to Hwy 29 which is also known as the Silverado Trail which is home to some amazing Napa Winery’s just south of St Helena. This was not a wine tasting trip, so we continued on to Calistoga where Hwy 29 meets up with Hwy 128 again. We continued on 128 toward Healsburg where we stopped for Lunch. We then hit Hwy 101 North for a few miles to find 128 as we head NorthWest toward Hwy 1 and our destination,

Hwy 128
Hwy 128

The Destination

Where will the Road take us this time…………. as Linda did her research she found a place called the Little River Inn which was just a couple miles north of where Hwy 128 meets with Hwy 1. We decided to head north to the Little River Inn and decided to head South on Hwy 1 to the Point Arena Light House on the drive home. The Little River Inn was an amazing place with incredible views of the Pacifc Ocean with a great restaurant and Bar. We decided to stay at the bar for dinner as going to the dinning room would end our view of the Ocean. We had a good time at the bar as their are a lot of locals that hang out their as well. It was a great evening, though felt a little tired the next morning………

Little River Inn
View from our room at the Little River Inn

The next day we headed about 15 miles north to Ft Bragg were we had lunch down on the warf. We actually watched as fisherman came in to clean and drop off their catch. We had some of the freshest fish and chips we have ever tasted.

This area is home to the Alexander Valley which is another great California wine region. We had received many recommendations for wineries in the area, however we have so many wineries were we live we where looking for something different. When we were having lunch in Ft Bragg, I simply typed in “wineries close by” and three popped up. One looked to be about 13 miles north of Ft Bragg on Hwy 1. No one had told us about this place…… but we decided to check it out. This was the find of the trip. As we headed north on Hwy 1 along the coast we saw the winery. No big signs and not a lot of people

Pacific Star Winery
Relaxing at Pacific Star Winery

as we turned in.

The owner who is a Napa Valley wine maker transplant started the winery in 1998. She does not grow her own grapes but buys then from the surrounding Alexander Valley. She makes the wine right their on the property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The owner was the one who was pouring our wine as we tasted as she told the story of how the winery sits right on the San Andreas Fault.

This was an unforgettable experience. The weather this day in May was perfect. It was 65 degrees with little to no breeze and clear blue skies. We bought a bottle of Red Wine and took at seat in the adirondack chairs sitting right on the cliffs with the waves crashing below our feet. It was one of the best bottles of wine we have ever had even though I don’t remember exactly which wine we had. The weather, the views and the wine caused us to stay for over 3 hours just enjoying the entire experience……….. it must have been the location. You have got to check this place out.

The following day on our way home we headed south on Hwy 1 to Point Arena Lighthouse. This is where the race from the movie ended. We parked the Vette next to the lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1870 and was damaged by an earthquake in 1906 as it sits along the a fore mentioned San Andrea Fault. It was rebuilt in 1908 and still stands today.

Point Arena
Point Arena Lighthouse

You Never Know what you will find

This is definitely a trip we will probably take every year. The drive was great, the food was great, the unexpected find of a winery sitting right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean will be hard to top.

Wes

Santa Cruz

Best California Road Trips series –

So it was Thursday morning January 2nd and I was back at the office after the New Years day holiday. I did not have a lot on my calendar for the day and Friday was not busy either due to the holiday. I checked with my wife, Linda (we do work together) and her calendar was slow as well. Hey, lets go on a road trip!! I said. She looked at me funny and rolled her eyes a bit and said sure………. and with that one of our best California road trips was about to begin.

Route

In this blog I am going to share with you how a plan comes together, in this case last minute and leaving the next day, the car, which is a big part of the motivation for the trip, along with the road we will be driving. Of course, we will also talk about the destination which is actually secondary to the decision as the “Road” dictates the reason for the trip and the destination as a result of where the road takes us. In almost every case we find something special and unique about the destination that makes the trip that much better.

How a plan comes together

When my wife had finished rolling her eyes she finally asked me where we were going. A friend of mine, who is an avid surfer in the Santa Cruz area, had told me about this nice two lane winding road between Saratoga, Ca and Santa, Cruz Ca. I am always looking for nicely paved, winding road for a great driving experience and my wife is a great co-pilot who also enjoys the adventure and destination. Santa Cruz is close enough to where we live that we decided to make it a two-day one night trip

With route and destination determined, Linda did her thing. She got online and started checking for a place to stay in Santa Cruz for our one night stay along with some cool places to eat………… our own little Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives adventure.

The Car

Yes, that is my car on the Home page. It is a 2016 Corvette Z06. I absolutely love this car and it is so much fun to drive as well as being a great road trip car. It has 650 HP and a 7 speed manual transmission. There is nothing I enjoy more then flying into a corner, hitting the brakes hard, down shifting, hitting the corner and then getting back on the gas hard upshifting as we head to the next corner and then braking hard to do it all over again. Linda is great as a passenger and enjoys the aggressive driving as long as I don’t do something

Z06
Z06

stupid…………

The car is also extremely practical in how comfortable it is and easy to drive. It has plenty of room for luggage which a lot of exotic cars don’t have. In our Z06 we can even remove the roof panel for the open air experience and we are still able to store two suit cases and a shoe bag (yes, we must always have the shoe bag) in the back.

The Road

Highway 9 was the reason for this road trip. We hope to have a series of the best California road trips in future blogs. Highway 9 is a little over 30 miles of nicely paved and maintained road winding through the Santa Cruz mountains taking you near redwood forests and many small towns, such as Boulder  Creek, Ben Lamond and Felton.

Hwy 9 to Santa Cruz
Hwy 9 to Santa Cruz

We live in the Central Valley of California where it is so flat that the only hills we have are the freeway overpasses. The nice thing about the Central Valley is that we are less then the 2 hours from the Sierra Mountains to the east or the Pacific Ocean to the West. We won’t spend any time talking about our boring drive on I-5, 205, 580, 680 and 880 and the typical crowded bay area traffic to get us to our starting point of Saratoga Ca.

Highway 9 is a little known road even by the locals in Saratoga. We had stopped for Lunch at the Big Bison Burger Barn in Saratoga which was on Big Bison Way. As road signage was vague and we were not a 100% sure where Hwy 9 was, we asked two workers at the restaurant. One had no idea and the other directed us to take 880 to Santa Cruz………….eeek, 880 is a terrible congested bay area freeway. As it turns our, Big Bison Way where the restaurant was located, is in fact Hwy 9.

When we headed our after lunch on Hwy 9, it was about 1:00 PM. It was beautiful sunny day, about 60 degrees. The road was great!! It was a nice wide two lane road and our first 4 to 5 miles we had no traffic and I was able to get in some nice aggressive driving in the “twistys”!! The redwood forest added to the beauty of the road, however it also provided some shady areas to the road that had some moisture from the morning fog, so you need to be a little careful.

We did run into some traffic after our first 4 to 5 miles. It was not super crowed even then, just a couple of cars, however there are not a lot of places to pass. The road is a little more populated then I would have thought, with various residences (some really beautiful and big homes) along with some of those other small towns I mentioned. We did not stop at any of those small towns on this trip but have plans to go back and check them our. Probably the best time to take this road would be in the spring or summer early in the morning.

We had not even given any thought to the drive home at this point as our trip was all about getting there. We thought about going back the same way on Hwy 9 and checking our some those small towns but after looking at the map (I still like pulling our the old paper map and spreading it our over the table) it hit me that we were right at Hwy 1 which runs most of the length of the state right on the coast. So we decided to take Hwy 1 north from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay Ca and then take Hwy 92 East back to the Central Valley.

Hwy 1 near Santa Cruz

Saturday was another beautiful day as we headed our with sunny skies and a high temperature for the day of 63. We have driven most of Hwy 1 in the state, however we had not driven this particular section before. Hwy 1 is always beautiful and winding with amazing scenery of the ocean and cliffs. I don’t know if there is ever a good time to take this road to avoid traffic………. traffic is always there so we just slow down and enjoy the view. It is a little over 40 miles from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay and this section of Hwy 1 was mostly a straight road with a few winding sections, however the views of the ocean and cliffs were amazing.

After leaving Half Moon Bay we headed east on Hwy 92 for about 14 miles toward San Mateo where we would find all of our crowded Bay Area freeways to begin the boring part of our trip home. Hwy 92 turns our to be another nice well maintained two lane twisty road through the Bay Area mountain forests. It would be one of the best driving roads our there, though it is hard to say when that would be as it was super crowed and hard to imagine a time when it’s not.

The Destination

Highway 9 was the reason for the trip which took us to Santa Cruz, however sometimes the best part of the road trip is the destination or the places along the way. Our first stop along the way was the Big Bison Burger Barn in Saratoga which I mentioned previously. It is nice place with an extensive craft beer selection and of course burgers. It was a great place to stop for lunch

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz

before heading off on Hwy 9.

We arrived in Santa Cruz in the mid-afternoon, again the weather was great at about 60 degrees and sunny. We checked in at the “Dream Inn” which is the only beach front hotel in Santa Cruz. The four star hotel offers great views from the room’s balcony of ocean sunsets and the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk which has been in existence since 1907 along with the historic “Big Dipper” roller coaster which was built in 1924 and is a National Historical landmark. It is one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in the world. Linda and I enjoyed a nice walk along the boardwalk.

For dinner, Linda had found a place called the Water Street Grill in Santa Cruz. This may have been the find of the trip. When our Uber driver dropped us off our front we were a little worried as we thought it looked like a take our place. As we walked in the door we saw a nice small dinning area off to the side which helped us relax. The Water Street Grill is a local family owned farm to table restaurant. This was a 5 star experience from the service, the presentation and the food. We highly recommend this place if you are in the area.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the Beach Street Cafe. This is a local breakfast and lunch only cafe just across the street from the Boardwalk. This was within walking distance of our room at the Dream Inn.

As we headed home on Hwy 1 we noticed a lighthouse ahead which was unexpected treat because we love lighthouse’s!! They are always set our on a point on a cliff to protect the ships from getting to close to shore and crashing on the rocky reefs. The scenery at a lighthouse is always full of jagged cliffs and gorgeous views. This was the Pigeon Point Light Station which is one of

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

the tallest in the country, built in 1872.

As we continued on to Hwy 1 to Half Moon Bay, we stopped at the Half Moon Bay Brewery for Lunch. They had nice outdoor seating overlooking the harbor and the weather was great!! After lunch, we headed our Hwy 92 toward home.

Great Trip

This trip was a perfect example of why we love road trips. A great, enjoyable road to drive, great weather and great new places to discover and enjoy along with creating great memories!!

Stay tuned for more of California’s Best Road Trips!!

Wes