It was our first wedding anniversary and John and I decided to take the famous 101 Highway to California. We’ve never been to California before, so we looked at the trip in detail.
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John and I flew to San Diego Airport, rented a car and started our journey. California seems to us like paradise. Warm, dry climate with beautiful tropical plants and trees. It was just gorgeous! We felt we needed to be close to Heaven!
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Later that evening we went down to the nearby beach and watched the sunset. Then we ended our late-night dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We then stayed at our hotel and planned our next day’s trip.
We woke up early the next morning and had a light hotel breakfast. We then went on our journey, traveling up the California Coastal Highway known as Highway 101.
This particular day was our first wedding anniversary and we were again like two young children, happy and carefree! We saw the most beautiful beaches and stopped for views of the ocean along the highway. For us, such beauty and wonder was mesmerizing!
I found that California is a mostly desert landscape. There is such history and beauty, with wonderful Spanish influence.
I felt I could watch the ocean for the rest of my life and not get tired of it! Beautiful blue-green waters and aquatic life are beautiful beyond description! The sounds of the ocean are also soothing!
We went through many famous California cities traveling north on Highway 101. Malibu was just one of many hip cities on our trip.
Our goal was to drive from San Diego north to San Francisco on the Highway 101 and stop to see on the road. We wanted to shoot the sunset over the ocean every night. Of course we were also filming beautiful inviting beaches and other attractions too.
The second evening we reached Camarillo, California. We settled into a nice hotel and decided to go to a local beach to explore the sunset. The map we used showed several beaches about five miles from our hotel, so we started driving to them. We were in a rural orange grove and strawberry meadow. Everything seemed very pleasant and peaceful.
We started driving down the main street in the nearby town, which was supposed to lead to the beach. While driving, we saw police doing what looked like a drug bust on the side of the street. It was very scary when I saw people on the ground and they were handcuffed by some ominous onlookers. We continued driving a few blocks further, and in a single incident, police cars surrounded a vehicle that struck a light pole. Police forced a man to be pinned to the ground and handcuffed to other people. The incidents we saw in this small town were so shocking to me that I told my husband to come back to our hotel. This is exactly what we did as soon as possible! Tonight we had dinner at a neighboring hotel next to our hotel in a quiet family restaurant.
These two incidents, so close to each other, on the same street and in daylight, really upset me. Traveling through a new country, new cities, not knowing anyone or much about the areas we traveled through. My mental red flags were lifted and suddenly I became very worried about our journey!
After a night’s rest we felt refreshed and had a wonderful day. We set off on the road again. The highway takes us to the foothills of the mountains many kilometers from the ocean. As we traveled together, the landscape was new and different. Once again, we had fun trying to forget the incidents of the previous night.
I could just imagine what it was like in the days of the wild west, Indians peering over a hill or cattle kept with cowboys. The mountainous, deserted landscape made my mind think about the old days.
Our destination that day was Moro Bay, California. We passed through the beautiful Santa Barbara on the way there. We decided that this was a city worth stopping back to take some views.
Soon we were back on the edge of the ocean. This has always been our favorite part of the quest. We made it to the quaint, lovely, Morro Bay early in the morning. We went immediately to see there. We saw the famous giant rock formations coming out of the ocean and people surfing nearby. The wind was blowing very loud and surprisingly cool enough for our jackets. I was left with the impression that all of California was sunny and warm. Not true! It is sunny and cool at times!
We then decided to take a short drive north up the coast to see some other sights. The scenery became even more beautiful as we drove north. The breakers coming out of the ocean on the beaches were great! We saw seals and a beautiful lighthouse. We met some interesting people to visit in the scenic views of the area. As we drove north, we saw that there was a strong fog rolling, so we did not drop in anymore. We returned to our quaint hotel room and rested for a while.
We had dinner at the port in Morro Bay that evening at a lovely seafood restaurant and met some nice German people sitting at a table nearby. They were touring the west coast by bus. They couldn’t speak much English, but they were very friendly and comical. We communicated regardless of the language barrier.
After shopping for souvenirs the next morning, we decided that San Francisco was too far north for these middle-aged travelers to go. We decided to slow down a bit and start seeing our way south to San Diego on Highway 101, of course!
Santa Barbara was the first in our list of cities to tour on the way back on the 1001 freeway. We stopped at the visitor center there and ventured out to the port nearby to explore the sights. Of course, our camcorder was always rolling so we could keep the landscape for years to come. We met some nice people from California and talked a little about our individual states. Then my husband and I grabbed a fresh seafood sandwich from a small outdoor cafe and watched a dolphin swim by the harbor. Soon it was time to get back on the road and continue south.
My husband used his new GPS to navigate our routes. John loved the road that took him where he wanted to go. I didn’t like it because it took us longer routes to our destinations. Sometimes he would take us on routes through some deserted neighborhoods
In Santa Barbara, we made the wrong turn and found ourselves on a side street just off the highway. We decided to head up the block and turn around to try to get back on the highway. Suddenly, at first glance, from wherever you are, a large group of Latin Americans started running toward us from the side of the road, hurrying our vehicle! I started screaming, and my husband fired at our vehicle, and I walked toward the crowd of screaming men. They seemed very threatening. Somehow my brave husband made us turn around and he drove us out of the situation. As I turned and looked back, a large group of men were shaking their fists and shouting at us. My heart was still pounding and I was crying in fear.
To this day, we do not know what this is about, but it scares me half to death! I immediately got a migraine and my husband and couldn’t even talk for about ten minutes. We were both breathless from the shock of the whole ordeal. I was nervous the rest of our trip to California. Then I started watching local news at our hotel, and the news media talked about gangs and gang violence in California in general. Suddenly I realized the danger I had never expected before.
We spent the night in Huntington Beach, California. I didn’t even want to go out to eat dinner. I went to bed early and told my husband I was ready to go back to St. Louis!
The next day we took our time and traveled further south. We didn’t stop until we reached La Jolla. We have a nice motel there by the beach and we stayed for three nights. We stayed near the motel, seeing the sights in and near La Jolla. It looked safe there and the area was very beautiful!
I was still shocked by my previous bad experiences and stayed close to my husband for safety wherever we went.
The last day of our trip we went to San Diego and toured Bitcoin. We then went out on a view of Coronado Island and saw a late lunch to explore the harbor there.
I was very ready to go home the next day when we flew out of San Diego. I said I would never go to California again!
I may someday utter my words and visit Northern California. But I would rather go there with friends who know the area well.
I don’t know if it was just our bad misfortune or whether these frightening incidents often happen to tourists in California and it’s just a big, well-kept secret. If you are touring California or other places near the Mexican border and west for that matter, do your homework! Especially with regard to travel safety! Understand all that is possible about crime levels in the areas you travel. Then learn your travel safety precautions and be aware of what to expect. Prepare for the unexpected too!
We have been to many other places in many other states, and we have never experienced this type of terror or anything close to it that we experienced in California. It was a real adventure in more ways than we ever thought possible!
Overall, we enjoyed the great outdoors and brought some good memories along with the bad ones back home. We had self-taught trips that my husband likes to call adventures.
If you plan to travel, happy trails and safe journeys wherever you go!