Pacific Coast Highway: Beginning the Journey

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View of the Pacific Coast Highway, California State Route 1, Big Sur. Photo by Jim Pond
View of the Pacific Coast Highway, California State Route 1, Big Sur. Photo by Jim Pond

Most of us have “bucket list” vacations. One of mine was to drive down the western coast of the US. This 1650-mile drive along the coast provides amazing ocean views, much of which contains high rocky cliffs jutting up out of the ocean. While it’s often referred to as the “Pacific Coast Highway,” in reality the only part of the drive with that official name is a part of the California State Route 1 which hugs the coastline. Regardless, most people call the coastal drive the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), and so I do too.

When driving the Pacific Coast Highway, you can drive from the north coast of Washington and continue all the way down to the southern tip of California. On our journey, however, we chose to start south of Seattle, Washington and finish in Los Angeles, California.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

There are a multitude of reasons people want to experience the Pacific Coast Highway. For some, ocean views and breathtaking cliffs are calling them. Photographers dream of catching that perfect shot of the coastline. For others, it is the different sights along the route. Lighthouse enthusiasts have over 60 lighthouses that could be reached with careful planning.

For me, it’s the thrill of seeing the ocean rendezvous with the coastline, to see its captivating beauty, and to experience the culture of the coastal towns that line its route.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t drive the PCH? For those that are prone to car sickness, it may not be the best choice as the road winds back and forth. If you’re terrified of driving near a cliff, you may want to sit in the passenger seat with a blindfold. Finally, it may not be for those who do not want to be reminded by signs littering the highway that a Tsunami is possible.

Haceta Head Lighthouse on Pacific Coast Highway Central Oregon, Photo by Debbie Miller Pond
Haceta Head Lighthouse on Pacific Coast Highway Central Oregon. Photo by Debbie Miller Pond

As for me, I’m excited as we begin our journey. In my mind, the trip had so seemed romantic, and I had envisioned myself in a convertible with the top down, the wind in my hair.

In reality, my husband and I rent a car with just a sunroof, and even then I complain that my hair is getting messed up. Rental convertibles are hard to find and expensive if you find them.

We’ve decided to go in September when school is back in session. Maybe there will be less cars and RVs to get stuck behind on the two-lane road.  (Visions of the movie RV with Robin Williams dance in my mind.)

Since it is fall, we decide to start in the north and drive south. Fall has already begun in the north and temperatures are starting to dip. I’ve been known to wear a turtleneck on a ship in the Caribbean. I don’t do cold well.

We start on the PCH south of Seattle, WA and our overnight stops are planned. For many, part of the fun of driving the PCH is the adventure of finding a place while on the road and stopping when you feel like it.

For me, the fear of having to spend the night in a motel called “The Bunny” that hasn’t been updated since 1960 spurs me on to plan ahead. I’ve got our hotels already booked.

Sharing the road with a cyclist on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by Debbie Miller Pond
Sharing the road with a cyclist on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by Debbie Miller Pond

The sun peaks out as we leave Seattle. It will be the last time we see the sun in quite a few days. As we begin our dive, we encounter many cyclists who appear to be prepared for a long trek down the PCH with their packs straddling their bicycle. I see them slowly traversing the hills, trekking along through the rain, with cars perilously close to them and am glad to be in my car. But for some, cycling is heaven.   This road is shared by both car and bicycle so be respectful of each other as the journey continues.

I am excited for this drive to begin……………..

This is part one is continuing series on Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway

Next Up: Long Beach Peninsula: Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Southern Oregon Coastal drive. Photo by Debbie Miller Pond
Southern Oregon Coastal drive. Photo by Debbie Miller Pond

Author Bio: Debbie Miller Pond is a freelance travel writer for Go World Travel Magazine, a digital publication covering travel in more than 90 countries. A Registered Nurse, Debbie writes frequently on travel health, as well as travel in North America.