Ah, the California coast. It’s jagged yet delicate angles of mountains and sea. It’s eclectic terrain. When I was 16 I had the opportunity to road trip north from Los Angeles to Yosemite. A trip for the hungry, the jubilant wanderers, the wine enthusiasts, and those unafflicted by motion sickness.
The trip was artfully and precisely laid out by my aunt, who planned the drive and each stop along the way perfectly. According to her plans, we would drive up Route 1 for a week beginning in LA, stopping at Hearst Castle, Monterey, San Jose, San Francisco, Napa Valley, and then finally would curve inland and stay a few days in Yosemite before making the trip back to LA.
I had taken many road trips in my life before this, but none that stopped in a different city every night. Spending only hours at each stop requires you to learn each city as much as you can before leaving it in the morning.
While searching my laptop for photos of this trip, I realized that I took this trip before the age of Instagram or Snapchat; before I even had an iPhone. Because of this, I spent little time taking pictures and even less time fumbling around with a device or staring at a screen. I was fully present and almost completely unplugged. The pictures I do have were taken on my plum Nikon Coolpix S4100, some blurry, some off-centered, and many out of focus, but all dearly cherished.
Hearst Castle was probably my favorite stop. Prior to touring the castle, Citizen Kane was my only frame of reference of William Hearst, his career, and his grandiose dwelling. William Hearst was the owner of Hearst Communications, the nation’s largest newspaper chain at the time. William inherited land, Rancho Piedra Blanca, from his mother in 1919. The land spanned 14 miles of coastline. Borrowing architectural designs and interior decor from his travels overseas, the castle is a renown pastiche of European buildings. The mammoth architectural feat was under construction from 1919 to 1947 when William fell ill and left the castle for medical care. William Hearst died in 1951 and the castle was never completely finished.
The mansion sits atop a mountain looking out at the Pacific ocean. Even unfinished, it is intricate and lavish and painstakingly beautiful. How could William have known that he had dreamt something unattainable? How could he have ever imagined that his greatest treasure, his dream come to life would stand forever incomplete?
Avid John Steinbeck readers will think of Monterey and think only of its Cannery Row; “a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” The Monterey I visited was far more tourist-centered than that of Steinbeck’s depiction, but still, a quaint oceanside town that was evenly rugged, refined, and picturesque in all the right ways.
Napa Valley, the place where vino dreams of red and white come to life. Being 16 at the time, I spent the day strolling through winery tours, sipping on the less coveted Napa Valley grape juice, and learning all there was to know about wine and its conception. I attribute this trip to my quick and unwavering love of red wine. Learning about the different structures and bodies is still one of the most tantalizing parts of drinking wine. We toured three wineries while in Napa. One being, Castello di Amorosa, arguably Napa’s most well known and easily recognized wineries. The name, Castello di Amorosa, translates to “Castle of Love” in Italian. Seeing that Napa Valley’s love language is undisputably wine, it’s not a coincidence that this “Castle of Love” is, in fact, a castle filled with wine.
One of nature’s greatest and most exquisite masterpieces is Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Standing amongst the ancient giant sequoias is humbling beyond words. These massive trees stand at about 250 feet tall, 30 feet around and can live to be 3,000 years old. The oldest sequoia is recorded to be 3,500 years old. If you thought I was gushing over the wealth of history at Hearst Castle, you have no idea. These trees have stood through the advent of ancient and modern civilizations. It’s remarkable. Truly.
Without question, this trip set my desires to travel ablaze. It was so incredible to get to go on this trip at such a young age. Each stop along the coast was unique and filled with unyielding excitement. California holds such a vast collection of experiences and wonder. It was my first grand adventure.
I really hope you guys enjoyed this travel diary. I wracked my brain trying to remember restaurants that we stopped at along the way, but 7 years is a very long time to hold on to such details without photos & Insta location tags to reference. I have a few more “throwback styled” diaries in the works and a few exciting trips planned for this year. More recent travel diaries will definitely include restaurants and other fun activities.
*Citation: I got some of the information in this blog from hearstcastle.org