The 101

For the second leg of our Route 66 trip, we drove from Los Angeles to Seattle. I’d like to say we drove all 656 miles of Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) but that would be very inaccurate so we’ll just say we drove a variety of west coast roads to get to Seattle.

There were several reasons why we did not drive much, if any(?), of Route 1. The primary reason was road closures due to landslides and the secondary reason was time. We stayed for a total of four nights in California during our trip. The only other state where we stayed multiple nights was Arizona where we stayed two nights. Every other state was a one-and-done state.

Our Route 66 trip concluded in Los Angeles where we whirled around the city checking tourist attractions off of our list on a beautiful Friday in late June. We closed out the evening cheers’ing with a beer. We were scheduled to depart in the 6 o’clock hour the following morning so it was another early night for us.

By midnight our luck had taken a turn for the worst. There was a loud banging sound in the hotel that could be heard in my room but not my dad’s room and kept me awake all night. When I stumbled out to the Corvette at sunrise, I found my dad standing next to the Corvette with the hood and trunk open. It was not a good sign but my first thought was that he was checking the oil. We’d driven a ton of miles and knew we would need an oil change at some point during the trip, so maybe today was the day.

My dad looked at me and said, “Car won’t start”.

Oh shit.

He went on to say that he thought the battery was dead but wasn’t sure because the car was in “security lock” mode which locks down every component of the car, something that would not typically occur with a dead battery. I thought a dead battery was no problem because I was certain he had one of those portable battery chargers that he recommended I buy for our household a few months ago when the battery on our car mysteriously died and was later rendered faulty.

He then said, “One of those portable battery chargers would come in handy right about now”.

Oh shit.

By this time, the hotel manager had joined us in our investigation. He did not know that my dad is an expert mechanic (among many things) and did not need help. We needed a damn portable battery charger!

The manager was a nice dude who was able to help us locate the closest Chevrolet dealership so that we could direct the tow truck driver to it, if necessary. He also provided me with a coffee and breakfast sandwich for my sleeping troubles and explained that he thinks a “stuck” vent hood in the kitchen below my room was probably the sound I heard.

In hindsight, I do not know why we opted to call a local tow truck service versus OnStar as our first “call to action”. People do not think rationally when in crisis mode and that was the case for us.

I believe we thought that a local service would arrive quicker than someone from OnStar. If I remember correctly, we were told an estimate of 20 minutes for the local tow service. We called back after 60 minutes and asked for an updated ETA and were told 20 more minutes. Twenty minutes later we called back and attempted to cancel the local tow truck service but they refused so we shrugged our shoulders and said oh well.

During this period of chaos, we also logged a ticket with OnStar and we called the local Chevrolet dealership asking if they had availability to look at the car in the event it was more than a dead battery. The receptionist told me, “We are very busy today! It is a Saturday! There is a line of cars around the block!” I guess the answer to that question was “no” which meant the possibility for us to be stuck in Los Angeles until Monday evening was medium.

We were nearly two hours into waiting for a tow truck when a woman popped her head out of her hotel room and yelled, “The lights of your car were on all night”.

She went on to state that she and her daughter had arrived late and noticed the car’s lights were on but thought someone was in the car. I do not know why she would think this or why she did not notify the front desk of the light situation. Every guest at the hotel had to register their license plate with the hotel because it was paid parking and the front desk could have alerted my dad and we could have possibly avoided the issue entirely if she had alerted someone.

She then yelled, “I’ve got jumper cables in my car. I don’t know how to use them but I’m willing to give you a jump”. We took her up on her offer.

She met us in the parking lot 20 minutes later, we jumped the Corvette and it purred like an angry lion which is its normal purr. I was happy. Dad was happy. The Corvette was happy.

Ten minutes later the tow truck driver arrived and we told him that his services were no longer needed and he simply said, “OK”. Ten minutes after that, we departed the hotel with our first destination punched into Google Maps, Cambria, California.

We met Dexter’s ex-dog runner for a seaside picnic and beer exchange (I surprised her with her favorite beer from Seattle) in Cambria. She moved from Washington to California about a year ago and has no regrets. The continuous rent hikes and Seattle no longer being the Seattle she had known to love over her very long residence in the city ultimately pushed her out.

There is an 11-inch difference in height between Mel and me. We did our best to even ourselves out so that she could “look tall” and I could look “less tall”. I miss her.

Even though our departure from Los Angeles was delayed nearly 2.5 hours, we decided to follow our original plan and drive The 101 to Cambria. This was the only stretch of 101 that we drove and the closest we came to the Pacific Ocean on our drive up the west coast.

This stretch of road and the small towns along it were very picturesque. Santa Barbara looks like a place I’d like to live because it’s nestled in the Santa Barbara Wine Region and near the sea. Both lovely in very different ways.

I’ve added Santa Barbara to our list of places to explore in the future even though Peter and I are not the biggest fans of the two primary grape varieties grown in the region: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Maybe Santa Barbara is better suited for a girls’ weekend. Either way, I’ll return at some point in my life.

I was able to spot a few sites Mel mentioned along our drive like the dog peach in Pismo Beach and that there are no fast food drive-thrus in San Luis Obispo or “SLO” as the locals call it. There has been a ban on fast food drive-thrus in SLO for 36 years. When originally put into law in 1982, the city council cited the avoidance of litter and reduction of air pollution as the two reasons for the ban.

When Peter and I moved to England, I missed the convenience of drive-thrus and I admit that the notion of returning to the US and the return of the drive-thrus put a little extra pep in my step but Seattle doesn’t have many drive-thrus so we have effectively been without drive-thrus for eight years. Life isn’t so terrible without drive-thrus.

After our windy but lovely picnic, we said our goodbyes and my dad and I hopped back in the Corvette but things were different. I was now in the driver’s seat for the first time of the road trip and I would be responsible for driving the west coast leg.

Our final destination for the day was San Francisco and it was several hours away so we opted to cut back across to I-5 and drive I-5 to San Francisco to make-up some time. There is nothing picturesque about I-5.

We arrived in San Francisco as the sun was setting. The view from my $370 hotel room was great! Yes, $370! Per night!

The Corvette is very low to the ground and steep inclines are not the Corvette’s friend so parking options were limited in cities of steep hills like San Francisco and Seattle. We decided to pony up the cash and let valet deal with the parking situation. We rolled up to the hotel and the first words out of the valet guy’s mouth were, “This car cannot go in the garage because of the incline.”

We nodded ok.

He said, “We will have to park it out front, like, in front of that Maserati. Is that OK?”

I said, “Sounds great” and tossed over the keys. I was more than ready to call it a day.

Google tells me we drove approximately 460 miles that day and though that was not our highest mileage day, it was one of our longest days because of the dead battery mishap in the morning.

I slept like a rock that night and woke refreshed and ready to hit the hills of San Francisco and ready to start showing my dad the highlights of the city.

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