Driving the 101

Monday, March 11, 2013

I still have to finish sharing all of our California adventures! Bear with me... we were only there for two more days! And while the first four days of our trip were scheduled, pre-planned and tour guided around, our last two days were very laid back and go-with-the-flow.

Dan had been speaking with a developer friend of his that he has worked on projects with for years who just happens to live in Orange County. We decided that after nearly six years of them communicating online, it was time for them to meet face-to-face. We got up early, rented a car online, packed a backpack, and headed out the door.

Let me admit right off hand... what happened next was completely my fault. When we arrived at Avis our rental confirmation didn't exist. Guess what day I had booked our car for? Friday! Whoops! Dan was so mad and I tried not to laugh at my silly mistake, and I was genuinely sorry, but why get all upset over something that can be fixed? Ohh, that's right... fees! Whoops! Eventually Dan talked his way through customer service (on the phone? because the agent at the desk couldn't change pre-paid rentals?) and managed to get our reservation changed, without the fee. Yes! We were off!

Dan hopped in the driver's seat of our little Chevy Cruze and I played navigator, and I immediately navigated us all the way west to the ocean. We hit the El Camino Real and headed north, the ocean by our side the whole way up. The views were breathtaking... popping over a hill could reveal these beautiful sights again and again.

We passed through Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encintas before popping over a hill and revealing a beach we couldn't resist stopping for. With temperatures around 67˚ and a light breeze it was a bit chilly, but there were volleyball players, joggers, and sunbathers on the beach anyway. We were fascinated that the beach was covered in round, smooth stones with not a shell in sight.

After a little exploring we were back in the car and on our way north again. We passed through Carlsbad and came to Oceanside, where Dan saw a sign for a pier. We parked and walked a few blocks to the pier, where I'm pretty sure I've been before. (It's totally possible that this was the pier I ate lunch on back in 2005 during my first visit to California; the Ruby's restaurant at the end of the pier is what brought me to this realization, but I could be totally wrong. There's no way to ever know.) The water was a bit too cold for me, but surfers were out in large numbers anyway.

 Oh really, fortune cookie?
We had to hop on the highway to go through Camp Pendleton, a huge Marine base that takes up a 20-mile stretch of beach and separates San Diego County and Orange County. The untouched desert through the base was just beautiful and perfect. Afterwards it was right back to the 101 and ocean towns. You could already tell the difference between the two counties; the homes in OC were larger and more proud, taking up every inch of oceanfront or cliff space. I can't imagine living in one of those homes!

We pulled over again in South Laguna to explore the beach there. The water was so blue! The sand was so soft! And there were whales! Humpback whales could be seen surfacing about 100 yards out, incredibly close to two kayakers who quickly headed out of their way. We both called our parents to brag and catch them up on our trip as we walked along the beach.

We arrived at an outcropping of rocks that people were climbing all over and I couldn't resist. A man with a clipboard approached us to tell us that the tidepools in the rocks were a nature reserve and if we had any questions we could ask him. The pools were full of clams, sea urchins, minnows, crabs, and one huge red starfish. I was so excited.

We wandered into the main part of Laguna Beach and shopped a bit, then headed up through the canyon to Irvine to meet Austin. Along with his girlfriend and another developer Dan knew, we all headed to their favorite taco place for dinner, followed by a search for their favorite midget Elvis impersonator. (Sadly, we never found him.) We stayed late for drinks and then I sleepily drove highway 5 back down to San Diego. I regrettably didn't take a single picture while we were with our new friends, but we definitely have a lot of great memories.