The Rocky Road to Pismo Beach

After a couple tasty spinach omelets, we packed up and left Pacific Grove on a very wet and windy Monday.

The discussion that morning was whether to take Highway 101 or Highway 1 to Pismo Beach, our next destination.  Highway 101, the inland route, is a multi-lane, well maintained, flat, busy, boring road that would get us to our destination safely and quickly. Highway 1, the coastal route, is a two lane road carved into the side of a cliff.  Besides the unparalleled beauty afforded by this particular stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur, the road is also known for rock slides and wash-outs during sustained Pacific storms.  It was pouring rain, the third storm in the past week, so we decided to take the boring but safe highway 101.  And then promptly got on Highway 1.

Looking back on the day, we made the right decision. The views were spectacular, the drive invigorating, and we arrived (luckily) unscathed in Pismo Beach.  However during the drive we were wondering…….what the heck were we thinking.  Here we were, 34 year veterans of California, fully aware of the dangers of driving this stretch of Highway 1 in bad weather, dodging falling rocks, boulders, and tree branches.  Here we were, in a slow-moving caravan surrounded by vehicles with out-of-state plates and rental cars……tourists…who didn’t know any better.

About 30 minutes into the drive we passed a snow plow.  Snow plow? We quickly deduced that the plow was pushing rocks and boulders to the side of the road.  We figured, good. No more rocks.  Then another plow passed, and another.  Soon we were driving over, around and through all matter of debris.  Instead of gazing out on the ocean, Robin was staring at the bluffs and cliffs on the look-out for falling rocks.  And the rocks….they did fall.

Highway 1 through Big Sur

Highway 1 through Big Sur

We passed by a lot of this…..timing is everything!


Only one hit the Old Home.  It sounded like someone was playing drums under the car.  I fully expected to find a nice dent on the side but apparently the rock bounced under the car and ping-ponged on the undercarriage.  No damage (that I can see). Whew.

We did stop at a couple interesting spots including another Seal Sanctuary and Morro Bay (the site of my very first kidney stone in 1984), known for its huge rock.

Morrow Rock

Morro Rock

Interestingly, upon arriving at the Sandcastle Inn and turning on the news, we learned that traffic on highway 101 was at a standstill due to a large boulder blocking all lanes of traffic.  Go figure!

After arriving safely we decided a nice dinner was in order, so off to Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana for some fresh seafood and pasta.

Pismo Beach is the quintessential California beach town.  Located on the central coast in San Luis Obispo County, the town is bordered by a wide 17 mile long  beach.  At any time of day you will find joggers, walkers, surfers, scavengers (those guys with their metal detecting sweeps), volleyball players, dogs, and sun bathers meandering up and down the sand. The long old pier is a favorite for fisherman. We enjoyed watching them catch Sebastes alutus (ocean perch).

Our two full days were spent mostly on the beach or the local restaurants (no surprise there).  Here are a few pictures from our stay in Pismo:

View of pier from our balcony

View of pier from our balcony

View of our hotel from the pier

View of our hotel from the pier

Me going for a jog

Me going for a jog

Robin on her least I think that's Robin

Robin on her walk… least I think that’s Robin

Popular spot for surfers

Popular spot for surfers

Happy Chanukah

Happy Chanukah

Clam chowder at Splashes

Clam chowder bread bowls at Splash Cafe

Tri-tip sandwiches and a basket of fries at Firestone grill near Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (thanks for the recommendation Ryan!)

Tri-tip sandwiches and a basket of fries at Firestone Grill near the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo (thanks for the recommendation Ryan!)

Perfect sunset

Ended our stay with another perfect sunset



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2 Responses to The Rocky Road to Pismo Beach

  1. Nancy Cilenti says:

    Loving all your posts. We too enjoy Pismo Beach…have friends in Santa Maria. Glad you made it on Hwy 1 safely! Only-in-California scenery…you made the right choice! That first sunset picture with the seagull is a postcard!! Magnificent!!

  2. I’m just catching up on your posts – what a beautiful beach and hotel!

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