Pacific Coast Highway – 2011

A little trip up the California Coast’s PCH

Well better late than never I suppose, this is one little project that i’ve been itching to work on. In 2011 I finally did something that I hadn’t done since I was a kid with my parents: drive up the PCH Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I guess I was maybe about 6 years old or so, and I vividly recall my mom yelling at my dad as he delighted in driving the rental car purposely fast along the tight corners and sheer cliffs. (oddly, all I remember is THAT and – for whatever reason – looking out our hotel window at the San Francisco skyline at night. I vaguely recall Fisherman’s Wharf too.)

In any case, I figured it was time to do it again so I could hopefully recall a few things!

We rented a convertible, even though a good portion of the trip was really too chilly for it. The trip was interesting as I look back since I really did not photograph THAT much (compared to what I normally come home from a trip with) I guess I was enjoying the ride, scenery and company more than anything else. There is a whole chunk of this trip – a day trip to Napa Valley – where I didn’t really photograph ANYTHING. I’m certain that could not have had anything to do with wine tasting….

In Napa btw, we had a GREAT lunch at Bistro Jeanty , well worth it and a good substitute to spending a Zillion Dollars on a dinner at French Laundry, which I could not justify, ‘bucket list’ dining or not.

…Regardless we got into L.A. and immediately hit the road (but not before a quick stop to In and Out Burger)

Near Santa Barbara we came across this house I was told about cluttered with all sorts of somewhat-carefully-placed crap. I really couldn’t tell if it was junk or somebody’s ‘art work’, but it was worthy of a few quick pics.

Of course,I can’t pass up an old drive-in (there aren’t many left in the U.S. In fact, this one was now just a flea market) I couldn’t even tell you WHERE this was at this point, other than ‘along the way’



I was a little surprised how the PCH travels a good deal inland, and does NOT hug the coast the entire trip. In fact, a good portion of it is really not all that interesting to be honest . Hands down though the most beautiful part was near Big Sur (check out the Glen Oaks Big Sur if you need a groovy place to stay!) – so if you ever do the drive, THAT’S the spot to head for right away!

I decided to break out the tilt-shift lens [photo geeky talk–sorry] on this trip–simply because I hadn’t used it much and wanted to mess with it. So here’s a shot of the water – for no good reason!

finally, the coastline gets more scenic!



click HERE for a full size of this panorama! Looks a lot cooler larger! [big file–warning in advance!]




I’d seen a lot of beautiful sunset photos taken at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur – where the golden sunlight shines perfectly through this rock opening .Yeah–well…when we arrived it as grey and cloudy as you could imagine–so I tried to focus on the waves instead. NO award-winning shots here, but it was certainly fun being there!



out came the tilt-shift again to ‘miniaturize’ some trees!




When I started researching the drive and where to stop, the Bixby Creek Bridge was one of the images and locations that always popped up. It’s one of those scenic spots that it seems everyone stops at–and it really is a pretty cool spot for a photos. This particular angle I read about online as its really ‘behind’ the bridge and away from all the people who just pull over a quick iPhone photo.

click HERE for a larger version of this image!



Once again, and I hate to keep saying this – but this image large is spectacular–so HERE IS A LINK to see it really big!!



As we got closer to Monterey, the terrain and greenery started changed a bit. Point Lobos State reserve was a spot we really hoped to see seals at, but didn’t (you hear that there are seals EVERYWHERE along the drive, but they must have all been on their own vacations, as we didnt see any–UNTIL–we went to a wine tasting room in Monterey of all places and there were TONS outside–as if placed there on purpose!)



Still, seals or no seals, the park provided some really neat vantage points

Point-Lobos-monterey-california Point-Lobos-monterey-california


Another odd and random find along the road! Can’t exactly get a rusty steel dinosaur as a carry-on….





So get this – in Monterey there is this loop called the 17 Mile Drive. (It’s 17 miles long-surprise!) It’s odd in that it’s a scenic route, but because it goes through a gated community – you have to pay to drive it. The only reason I wanted to go was to see the famous ‘Lone Cyprus’ tree, which was seen in the Hitchcock movie Vertigo. But here’s the catch : somebody actually REGISTERED the tree as a trademark – so TECHNICALLY, as a professional photographer – I can photograph it, i’m not supposed to show it to anybody in any way for anything commercial. So while this blog isn’t really ‘commercial’ i’ve opted to NOT include any shots, as I don’t need a lawsuit over a stupid tree. Google it if you’re really interested LOL… who registers a TREE??!!

Anyway – what I CAN SHOW you is the great view from our room at the Westin in San Francisco!


strolling around Chinatown  (an iPhone photo, actually!)



trying to get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge you don’t normally see



A random old sign I couldn’t resist! We opted to NOT stay here….


 We finished up the vacation with a visit to the Muir Woods, which is gorgeous but was so crowded we literally had to park like a MILE away!! Oddly, there was no monorail to whisk us into the park…



And finally for fun–a couple of snaps from a trip to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, where we O.D.’d on oysters!


thanks so much for coming along for the ride!

all images copyright Robert Norman Photography–so be nice and don’t steal any ok?

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