We were on our last day of the roadtrip, and for this I had planned to drive up the very scenic Highway 1, stopping first at Hearst Castle, which is not so far away.
Unfortunately when we got there all the tours for that day were fully reserved and booked. Whoops, my bad for not checking the website ahead of time and expecting to be able to get a tour the same day. Man, internet sure does make some things more and yet less convenient.
But whatever; we looked through the telescope at it (it's quite far from the visitor center) and I brought them through a tour of the mansion via the picturesque postcards in the gift shop. We also cruised the free museum/exhibit they have there on the history and study of the antiques Mr. Hearst used in his house.
After that somewhat disappointing stop, we took our time going down Highway 1, enjoying the gorgeous views of the ocean. I really do miss California when I'm in places like these (not that I don't miss California all the time, which is also true).
We stopped at a funny sign for an elephant seal vista point and got to see the blubbers there:
I'd have to say this was a hilarious way to introduce my friends to some of our natural wildlife. Once again I grew up with these animals and terrain so it didn't seem strange to me that we could look at these seals and hear their noises. Their noises sound sort of like burping, as reference.
We watched them for about half an hour, noticing the males fighting in the water in dominance games, and laughing hysterically when seeing the ones who were laying on the beach flick themselves lazily with sand. The very informative sign about them said that scientists don't know the reason they flick sand on themselves, though it may be a stress-relieving technique. Pahaha, blubbers and their stressful lives.
About an hour or two later, we stopped to have lunch at a little spot on the side of the road. This is the definition of beachside cafe - it smelled awkwardly of drying/rotting seaweed and the lone waitress was a little slow. After we got up and paid for our checks we were waiting outside for one of our members to come back from the bathroom and she came up to ask us if we'd like a seat. We'd only left less than 5 minutes before and had been sitting lazing in the sun for a solid hour while slowly eating our salads and sandwiches. Perhaps not all there.
German K, Hong Kong P, and I did however, spot some whales in the distance, as recommended by the name of our cafe. It was cool to see blowholes of water shoot into the air.
I tried to pick up the pace of driving back, mostly because I was anxious to get back home and spend some relaxing time not driving. Unfortunately this didn't really work in my favor since all road ends up being quite windy on the way back. But I did make it, of course, and we only stopped one more time because there was a cool wooden cafe off the side of the road that very loudly proclaimed that it had European espresso. Clearly for the coffee lovers in the car, after drinking all sorts of different grades of coffee on our trip (mostly from the drip coffee makers in our hotel rooms), this was a must-stop.
And then we were back home, fancy free, in my parents' house. We even made it for dinner, which was a lovely simple chow mein with three mushroom miso soup.
I knew we would all sleep deeply that night, finally having our own rooms again and in a quiet, peaceful place (our last hotel room had the misfortune of awkward air conditioning and heating problems, light leaking from the bottom of the door, and a constant turning on and off of the refrigerator...needless to say, none of us slept very well).
Home sweet Californian home.