Thanksgiving in Big Sur

Two years ago, for Thanksgiving, we packed into a car and drove the 101 up to Big Sur to spend the weekend camping in the forest.  Two Thais, one Moldovan, one Brazilian, one Frenchman, and me.  We had an underwhelming turkey dinner at the UCSB Student Centre and then we were off, spending the next few hours winding our way along the California coastline until we eventually reached our destination.

It was pitch black, and Darrell our driver was not used to handling such a large car, so to say we were on edge is an understatement.  And then: "you are one mile from your destination".  Joy!  We all started peering out of the windows into the blackness and the trees, until..."you have reached your destination".  There was nothing out there.  Darrell executed a terrifying three-point-turn and headed back the way we'd come.  Finally, with everyone in the car scouring the trees, we found a steep lane on the right of the road, and we'd reached our destination.

The whole thing worked out alright, considering we hadn't researched what temperatures in Northern California would be like in late November (in Santa Barbara we'd just got used to every day being gorgeous).  Well, I mean I hadn't brought appropriate layers because I didn't own such things, and ended up wearing a Union Jack blanket for the duration of the trip.  We ate s'mores, we went for walks through the redwoods, we watched the sunset over the ocean.  In all honesty we did end up in the cabin that served as bar and shop for the campground, most of us under 21 so not drinking but, uh, using the wifi and drinking cappuccinos.  Ok, I admit it, we were all of us city kids (the Thais have their iPhones surgically attached to their hands, and Juju the Brazilian detests sunshine and exercise).  We cooked our dinner ourselves on a campfire, but we probably wouldn't live up to more outdoorsy people's definition of 'camping'

U.S. Route 101 ('the 101' sorry I'm like that SNL sketch) is a beautiful road with breathtaking views.  Though my heart belongs to SoCal, I'd definitely like to revisit the north of the state.  I've met so many people who've road-tripped the 101 and it makes for a great holiday - start up in San Francisco, stop off in Big Sur, Santa Barbara (because it's underrated), Santa Monica, then do the whole LA thing.  Pretty good way to see the state, although there a few places inland worth seeing, but maybe you could try and incorporate Yosemite or Joshua Tree if you had the time.  The elephant seals above can be found basking on the beach not far from where we were camping.  They are fabulously lazy and just spend their days lying around honking at each other.  Another great stop-off is Hearst Castle, a palatial estate perched in the hills in SLO county, not feasible for us because it would have eaten up our driving day, but worth making time for if you can.

Our final stop on the drive home was at the intentionally-quaint town Cambria in SLO County, old Western-style buildings and touristy trinket shops.  There really isn't much history in California, San Francisco is the oldest actual city and of course most of that was destroyed in the 1905 fire and subsequent earthquake.  Much of the 'old West' stuff you get in Cali is inauthentic, and even the 'ghost town' of Calico is more of a theme park (no rides, but intentionally reconstructed).  However, Cambria is a cute little place, more quaint in terms of being small-town America than hearkening to the frontier spirit.

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