We decided that this would be the weekend that we would explore the north central coast. We left our house early on Saturday and first stopped in Santa Cruz. We walked along the famous Beach Boardwalk, which reminded us very much of an amusement park where we both worked while growing up in Monticello, Indiana. And just like Indiana Beach, the Boardwalk had many of the same carnival-style rides. We walked the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf where we saw plenty of sea lions. I just love to see those big sweeties and hear them barking!
We headed on down the coast to Monterey where we stopped in the shops at Fisherman’s Wharf and saw more of those barking cuties. We were heading onward to Big Sur where we had a camping reservation for the night but Andrew saw a huge army surplus store which he had to explore. I’ve been in these stores before with him and this one wasn’t any less scary/creepy than the others, i.e., very dimly lit dirty building with lots of people holding guns. But outside the store there was a sign like a beacon in the night guiding us toward our next adventure… the 2011 Artichoke Festival in the Artichoke Capital of the World (I didn’t make that up), Castroville, CA! This little gem of a festival was really fun and had great food. We snacked on roasted artichokes, funnel cakes, and homemade root beer before heading back to the car. We stopped a couple more times to pick up some produce at roadside stands along the way (these are so common in all the farmland and are impossible to resist).
We knew we were in Big Sur when we started seeing the breathtaking coastal views. That’s really not an exaggeration. I was gasping when I saw the coast of Big Sur. It’s absolutely spectacular. We pulled into the campground we were going to spend the night in and set up the tent at our site- a little spot along the river. We didn’t have much time left before sundown so we hopped back in the car to drive around and see some more of the beautiful coast. Andrew had been to the area before, so he showed me the spots where he had spent time and also told me, “When I thought about living in California, this is where I thought we were moving.” This made us both laugh because it is quite different from where we live. We are both more small-town than we realized before moving to California and living in the crowded area that we do can feel stifling at times; however, we both feel so lucky to have these gorgeous areas around us to be our “escape.” And we intend to see as much beauty in California as we can so we are ready when it is time to move on to another location.