Monday, August 21
Monterey, CA to Santa Barbara, CA
A Beach Party at Dawn, Then Down the Coast on Scenic California Highway 1
By 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Pirate's Cove on the Monterey wharf had bonfires, a beach band, and bountiful food for over 300 MINI Motorists getting warmed up for the first leg of MINI Takes the States, with conga lines of enthusiasts dancing through the crowd. To top it off, a full marching band ushered the crowd to the parking lot at 8:30 and gave them a rousing send-off.
Pirate's Cove was only a memory by 10 a.m. as the group headed down the coast on California's scenic and historic Route 1. Yes, that warning sign is accurate; curves ahead for next 74 miles! Winding curves and coast scenes with overhanging fog marked the first half as the group made its way through the Big Sur with a coffee stop-over at Nepenthe restaurant on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Route 1 is one of the most difficult highways in America to maintain, and was hard-hit by last winter's storms, so we weren't surprised to encounter one stretch of single-lane traffic control and gravel, but the rest of the road was smooth and exciting.
Here and there an RV or sport ute would slow our fun for awhile, and break up our merry band, late in the morning, it was fun to just stop by the side of the road every now and then to take pictures and enjoy the sight of little clusters of five or ten or 20 MINIs all in a row barreling around the curves on the cliffs above the ocean.
By the time we passed Hearst Castle at San Simeon, the sun was out, the road had leveled out and it was an easy, relaxing run to the coastal town of Santa Barbara, with its mission architecture and red tile roofs.
Except that these being MINI drivers, not everyone was willing to head down the highway in lockstep. A band of merry pranksters from Southern California MINI Maniacs, for whom this is their backyard, enticed a group of about 25 cars to follow them up into the hills above Atascadero on Highway 41, where they introduced us to Highway 229, a gem of a secret driving road hidden in the backhills. Paved with smooth tarmac, this little ten-mile stretch was nearly deserted, and made more elevation and curve changes in a mile than most roads make in ten. When we drew up in a group at the end, the chorus was unanimous, "Daddy, I want to ride the roller coaster again!" But it was getting late, so the locals and the entertained guests caught Highway 58 back to Highway 101 and headed on down the road to our evening stop in the scenic and upscale beach town of Santa Barbara.
For those going on, this was just a tantalizing taste of things to come, and for those who leave us this evening, they must be wishing they were driving the whole thing. Tomorrow we cross California's high desert on our way to Las Vegas and a great party at the House of Blues.
Time to head east to Las Vegas on Tuesday