In the spring of 1998, my best friend and I set up a trip to drive the pacific coast highway. Jay lived in a small town in Illinois, and I am in Las Vegas, Nevada. It took a few weeks to set up the trip. Jay flew into town on a Friday night; I went to the airport to pick him up. I had bought a new Jeep Wrangler; this was to be our ride on this trip. As he picked up his luggage, we talked about what we would need for this adventure. Where is the old truck he asked? Walking to the parking garage, over there, I said, pointing to the jeep; we are going in style for this trip. Throw your bag in the back seat.
We arrived at the house where my wife met us at the front door, in her hands were two glasses with ice and scotch in them, I can see already this is going to be a fun trip she said, handing each a glass. After several hours of good conversation and a few more scotch’s we turned in for the night, the morning was coming very early for us.
The next morning, we were up a little before sunrise and started packing the Jeep, all done, the sun was coming over the mountain as we started down the street heading towards I-15 to California. We had decided to have breakfast in Baker, California, about a two-hour drive. After driving for a while, there it was Baker! What we see of it, still about 4-miles away.
After we ate, our next stop would be Borrego Springs, turning off I-15 heading towards Big Bear Lake and I-10 on a small two-lane highway. At I-10 we headed west until we saw a sign that said Salton Sea exit here, only about 2-hours to go before we reached the town of Borrego Springs, where we would spend our first night. Thanks to my brother-in-law giving us a key to his condo for the first stop on the road, driving through the area, we could see the beauty of the desert that several never see. We pulled up in front of the condo, unlock the door, and went in. Tom’s Condo is on a golf course, had a beautiful view of the valley. Putting our bags down, I found a half-empty bottle of Scotch in one of the cabinets, while Jay found a couple of glasses and ice. Jay filled up the glasses, handing me one. Here’s to best friends. Opening the back door, we went out on the patio, where you could see the golf course and the rest of the valley.
As the night set in, we decided to get something to eat. We had passed a small Mexican restaurant about a half-mile from the condo. I drove, and we picked up a couple of meals to go and headed back to the condo. We set up to eat on the patio and watch the night sky. Looking to the west, we could see car lights coming down the curvy mountainside. Point to the Mountains, That’s where we are going in the morning, I told him.
After a good night's sleep, we lockup the condo and head towards the west road up the mountain, driving up the winding mountain road heading towards Las Angles was a slow ride to the top. After a while we reached the beach road and headed north, stopping in Malibu for a few pictures and food for the road. We picked a couple of sandwiches and a drink at a local restaurant, started up the highway past Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. The view was spectacular, the closer we got to San Luis Obispo. We started to get an awful smell. It was coming from the water, so we pulled into a parking area and headed down to the beach. To our surprise there in the water and all along the beach were about a hundred elephant seal’s rookery spreads out all over the beach from Point Piedras Blanca to about four miles north of the entrance to Hearst Castle. Back in the jeep and looking for a place for the night, just ahead was a motel on the closed to the beach.
Checking at the motel, I ask where do we park the car? He said go out the door turn left, and there is a shelter, closed parking I ask; we are not in LA here he said, haven’t ever had a vehicle stolen or broken to sense we open ten years ago. I parked the car and went back to the front desk where jay had the keys to the room and said the restaurant is on the pier, we threw the bags in the room and headed down the pier. On both sides of the pier were sailboats, Jay opened the door to the restaurant, the sun was going down over the water and reflection off the water. I ask if they could seat us near the window, Yes Sir is this good? Perfect jay said. After we ate and a few beers, we headed to our room.
The next morning, on the road we decided to stop at the Hearst Castle, Just a few miles ahead. I made a right turn up a small road to the parking area where we would get on a bus up to the Castle, there would be about a half-hour wait for the next bus, said the lady at the tick counter; We found a seat and sat down, watching the people that were already there. We could the bus coming down the mountain road pulling to the unloading area, after emptying it pulled around to an area where to young girls got on and began to clean the inside, then the driver got back on and drove around to pick us up.
Going up the mountain road, you could see part of the Castle, along both sides were fenced in areas with several different species of animals and birds. As we came closer, the driver told us a little bit about the area. He stopped several times to point out and explain what the small buildings were. When we finally stopped, there was a guide who would take us through the rest of the tour. As all of us piled from the bus the guide said; Welcome folks, I need to go over a few rules while you are in the castle; first you may only take pictures when I say its ok, secondly don’t wander away from the group, there are some wild animals in the are and they are dangerous.
There are two Olympic type pools on the property. As we went through the very large, I was amazed as to how large all the rooms were and decorated with items from all over the world, after spending over an hour on tour the bus arrived, and we headed back to the entrance.
Back in the jeep, it was time to head towards San Jose before dark; it took about an hour the traffic was as bad as LA. Six lane expressways, as usual, we were in the middle of rush hour. It was a long day we were tired and hungry, made a quick exit, and headed east. Found a motel checked in; Grabbed some sandwiches from around the corner and headed back to the motel. The next morning, we headed to highway 395 and the Yosemite National park located in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California, bounded on the southeast by Sierra National. A must-see for any trip to California.
We arrived at the edge of the park where we pulled up to a gate entering the forest there; Stood a forest ranger. Welcome; here are some pamphlets and a map’s handing them to me, Jay ask the ranger how many miles is it through the park, about 25 miles he said, but you may want to take a few of the side roads, this will add few more and give you a lot more spectacular scenery. Thanks for the information, we may do that as we drove off.
Driving a few miles with jay taking pictures, we made our first stop, on the right side was a magnificent waterfall that plunged into the ground then flowing under the roadway, and down the mountain. The overspray mist covered us, and jay had to hide the camera to keep it from getting it wet. We were headed back to the jeep discussing what a site, we could see a small deer crossing the road ahead. We continued down the road admiring the scenery; a few miles went by before we stopped again, this time at a small stream, taking our shoes off and stepping in the cold water. That felt good jay said; yes, but we had better go if we want to get to lone pine for lunch.
As we left the park onto the Highway, there was a sign that said Lone Pine 30 miles, and it was a good thing we were low on gas and hungry. We pulled into the first gas station we saw, as luck would have it there was a restaurant next door. Filling up with gas and food, we were back on the road again. Just ahead was the turnoff to Panamint Springs the entrance to Death Valley.
Started down the winding road, we were beginning to feel the heat rising. This time of the year temperatures could reach up to 120 degrees. As we reached the bottom of the valley, we could see about 10 to 15 homes; all were painted white with white roofs, headed further into the valley the heat was getting hotter, so hot it felt like the hair on our arms burning off from holding them out the window. As we passed the road that led to Scottie’s Castle heading towards Amargosa Valley meant we had about an hour to go for our last stop. We would stay the night, there and head home in the morning. Little did we know this would be our last trip like this. A few years later Jay Passed. May God watch over him.