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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!!