Traveling Highway 101 in California - The Beauty & The
It was our first wedding anniversary and John and I decided to
travel the famous Highway 101 in California. We had never been to
California before so we researched the trip thoroughly.
John and I flew into San Diego airport, rented a car and began
our journey. California seemed like a paradise to us. The warm,
dry climate with beautiful tropical plants and trees. It was
simply gorgeous! We felt like we must be close to Heaven!
Later that evening we drove down to a nearby beach and watched
the sunset. Afterwards we topped the evening off with a late
dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Then we settled into our hotel and
planned our trip for the next day.
We woke up early the next morning and had a light hotel
breakfast. Afterwards we set out on our trip traveling up the
California Coastal Highway known as Highway 101. That particular
day was our first wedding anniversary and we were like two young
kids again, happy and carefree! We saw the most lovely beaches,
and stopped at look out points over the ocean along the highway.
To us such beauty and wonder was mesmerizing!
I discovered that California is mostly a desert landscape. It
has such history and beauty, with a lovely Hispanic influence.
I felt I could view the ocean for the rest of my life and not
tire of it also! It's lovely blue green waters and aquatic life
are beautiful beyond description! The sounds of the ocean are so
We drove through many famous California towns traveling north
on Highway 101. Malibu was just one of the many hip towns along
Our goal was to drive from San Diego north to San Francisco on
Highway101, and stop to sight see along the way. We wanted to film
the sun setting over the ocean each night. Of course we were also
video taping the lovely inviting beaches and other sights also.
The second night we made it as far as Camarillo, California. We
settled into a nice hotel and decided to drive over to a local
beach to view the sunset. The map we used showed a couple of
beaches about five miles from our hotel, so we started driving
towards them. We were in rural orange grove and strawberry field
country. It all appeared very nice and peaceful.
We began driving down the main street in a nearby town that
supposedly led to the beach. As we drove we saw police doing what
appeared to be a drug bust along the side of the street. That was
very creepy, seeing people on the ground and being handcuffed with
some ominous looking onlookers at the scene. We continued driving
a couple of blocks further, and in a separate incident, police
cars surrounded a vehicle that had hit a light pole. Police had a
man pinned to the ground and were handcuffing other people. The
incidents we saw in this small town were so shocking to me that I
told my husband let's just get back to our hotel. That is exactly
what we did as soon as we could! We had dinner next door to our
hotel that night in a quiet family restaurant.
These two incidents, so close together, on the same street, and
in broad daylight, had really made me nervous. Traveling through a
new state, new towns, not knowing anyone, or much about the areas
we were traveling through. My mental red flags were up, and I
suddenly became very apprehensive about our trip!
After a night's rest we felt refreshed and it was a beautiful
day. We hit the road again. The highway led us into the foothills
of the mountains for many miles away from the ocean. The scenery
was new and different as we drove along. We were once again having
a great time, trying to forget the incidents of the previous
I could just imagine what it had been like back in the days of
the wild west, Indians peeping over a hillside, or cattle being
driven along by cowboys. The mountainous, desert, scenery made my
mind wonder about the days of old.
Our destination that day was Morro Bay, California. We drove
through beautiful Santa Barbara on the way there. We decided it
was a city worth stopping at on the way back through to do some
Soon we were back driving along the edge of the ocean once
again. That was always our favorite part of the drive. We made it
to quaint, lovely, Morro Bay early in the afternoon. We went sight
seeing there right away. We saw the famous giant rock formations
coming up out of the ocean, and people surfing nearby. The wind
was blowing very hard and it was surprisingly cool enough for our
jackets. I had had the impression that all of California was sunny
and warm. Not true! It is sunny and frigid at times!
We then decided to take a short drive on further north up the
coast for a look at some other sights. The scenery became even
more beautiful as we drove north. The breakers coming off the
ocean onto the beaches were awesome! We saw walrus seals and a
beautiful lighthouse. We met some interesting people to visit with
at the scenic overlook areas. As we drove north, we saw a heavy
fog was rolling in so we didn't venture any further. We went back
to our quaint hotel room and rested a while.
We dined in the harbor at Morro Bay that evening at a wonderful
seafood restaurant and met some nice German people sitting at a
nearby table. They were touring the west coast on a bus trip. They
could not speak much English, but they were very friendly and
comical. We communicated regardless of the language barrier.
After souvenir shopping the next morning, we decided that San
Francisco was just too far north for these middle aged travelers
to go. We decided to slow down a bit and start sight seeing on our
way back south toward San Diego on the Highway 101 of course!
Santa Barbara was first on our list of towns to tour on the way
back down Highway101. We stopped at the visitor center there and
ventured out on the wharf nearby to take in the sights. Of course
our video camera was always rolling so we could cherish the
scenery for years to come. We met some nice people from
California, and we talked a bit about our individual home states.
Then my husband and I grabbed a fresh seafood sandwich from a
little open air cafe and watched a dolphin swimming near the
wharf. Soon it was time to get back on the road and go further
My husband was using his new GPS to navigate our routes. John
loved the way it took him where he wanted to go. I did not like it
because it took us on longer routes to our destinations quite
frequently. At times it took us on routes through some derelict
At Santa Barbara we made a wrong turn and found ourselves on a
side street just off of the highway. We decided to drive up the
block and turn around, to try to get back on the highway. All of a
sudden, seemingly out of no where, a large group of Latino men
started running at us from the side of the road rushing our
vehicle! I started screaming and my husband gunned our vehicle and
started on through the crowd of yelling men. They appeared to be
very threatening. Somehow my brave husband got us turned around
and he sped us out of the situation. As I turned and looked back,
the large group of men were shaking their fists and screaming at
us. My heart was still racing and I was crying from fear.
We still to this day do not know what that was all about, but
it scared me half to death! I immediately got a migraine and my
husband and I couldn't even speak for about ten minutes. We were
both out of breath from the shock of the whole ordeal. I was
nervous for the rest of our trip in California. After that I began
watching the local news at our hotel, and the news media were
talking of gangs and gang violence in California as a whole. I was
suddenly aware of danger that I had never before expected.
We spent that night in Huntington Beach, California. I didn't
even want to go out to eat dinner. I went to bed early, and I told
my husband I was ready to go back to St. Louis!
The next day we took our time and traveled further south. We
didn't stop until we got to La Jolla. We got a nice motel there
along the beach and stayed for three nights. We stayed close by
the motel, seeing the sights in and near La Jolla. It seemed safe
there and the area was very lovely!
I was still shook up from the previous bad experiences, and I
stayed close to my husband for safety wherever we went.
The last day of our trip we went to San Diego and toured a
battleship. Then we went to Coronado Island sight seeing and had a
late lunch over looking the harbor there.
I was very ready to go home the next day when we flew out of
San Diego. I said I would never go to California again!
I may eat my words someday and visit northern California. But I
would prefer to go there with friends that know the area very
I do not know if this was just our bad misfortune or if these
frightening incidents happen often to tourists in California and
it is just a big, well kept, secret. If you go touring in
California or other places near the Mexican border, and out west
for that matter, do your homework! Especially on travel safety!
Find out everything you possibly can about the levels of crime in
the areas you are traveling through. Then learn travel safety
precautions and be aware of what to expect. Also prepare for the
We have been many other places in a lot of other states, and
never experienced this kind of terror or anything close to it that
we experienced in California. It was a real adventure in more ways
than we ever thought possible!
All in all, we did enjoy the awesome scenery, and brought some
good memories along with the bad ones home with us. We had self
taught travel experiences that my husband likes to call
If you are planning to travel, happy trails and safe travels
where ever you may go!