After a good night's sleep, it was time to depart Thousand Oaks and head north to Monterey. Ultimately, we would end our day's travels in the San Simeon area.
As we left the Hampton Inn around 6:30am we witnessed a couple of what appeared to be Federal agents gearing up for some sort of police action. They had their government issued black SUV parked in a side lot located between the hotel and a shopping area, as they were putting on their bullet-proof vests. As much as I would have loved to stick around to see what was happening, we continued to make our way to Hwy 101.
The 101 became jammed with the morning rush hour around Ventura and on through to Santa Barbara. The ride along the Pacific Ocean was nice, especially at such a slow, snail's pace. I especially enjoyed the smell of the fresh sea air, even though it was a bit chilly to have the window down.
As we turned inland from Santa Barbara, we could see the smoke from the fire that had been burning since Memorial Day weekend. The "White Fire" as it had been called, was located in the Los Padres National Forest and burned for four days before being brought under control . . . but not after destroying nearly 2,000 acres and costing approximately $3M to contain.
Taking the San Marcos Pass over the Santa Barbara County mountains, we were delighted to lovely views and vistas overlooks in all directions. In spite of the smoke billowing from the wildfire, we could still see the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Along our route, we made a stop at the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. The lake appeared on the Garmin to be huge, so we wanted to take a look around. Thankfully the park ranger at the entrance allowed us a 15 minute visitor's pass, saving us the $10 admittance fee.
The lake was huge, providing many recreational opportunities including fishing and camping. We also made good use of their nice, flushing toilets before departing the park. For more information on this Santa Barbara County park, check them out at: http://www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks05.aspx?id=13440 .
One of the more interesting features along our route were the "El Camino Real" road markers seen. (See photo attached to this story.) I had no idea what they represented, so once home I had to research them. (Thank you Wikipedia!) "El Camino Real" translates from Spanish to "The Royal Road" which connected 21 missions, four presidios and several pueblos. In 1892 a preservation effort was initiated and the bells were added to serve as highway markers. The first 450 bells were introduced in 1906.
Unfortunately, many of the original bells were stolen or damaged by vandalism. Approximately 80 have since been replaced by the State of California in order to preserve this State Historical Landmark that is also known as the California Mission Trail.
As we continued our drive, we traversed through several vineyards and wineries. As we made our way further north, the grape vines gave way to vegetable farms. We saw a lot of workers out picking strawberries, lettuce, kale and other crops we could not determine. Approaching the town of Salinas, we were sharing the highway with 18-wheelers hauling produce to the big produce processors and markets.
Known as "The Salad Bowl of America" it became clear why Salinas had earned such a nickname. There were rows and rows of haulers carrying vegetables. This is also the birthplace of John Steinbeck, author of "Of Mice and Men". Had we had more time, it would have been nice to tour the National Steinbeck Center or perhaps the Steinbeck Library.
Moving on from Salinas, we were soon approaching the seaside coastal city of Monterey. The city reminded me a lot of other beachfront towns and cities I was familiar with on the Atlantic Coast of the US. The views to the bay, as sailboats drifted leisurely across the water, were lovely. As we approached what I would describe as the "tourist area" the historical importance of the city became obvious along Cannery Row.
This was an industry and area that Steinbeck had made famous in his books. Fortunately, we were able to learn a little about the cannery industry during our visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium . . . which was our final destination in Monterey.