Scott’s Big Adventure, Day Twenty Eight: Chowchilla to San Francisco [feat. Monterey]

Once again, pretty much a travel day. The only real attraction on the agenda is Monterey, and even that is going to be a brief stopover. One thing that has become obvious to me is that I could easily have doubled the length of this trip in order to spend enough time at each of the stops. Take Monterey for example. I’ve been there before and seen the aquarium and cannery row and fisherman’s wharf. But if I hadn’t and I wanted to see that stuff, I’d need to allow at least a full day to see it all. Plus I’d want to go down to Carmel and go on the 17-mile drive (or whatever it is). Same with all these other places. I could easily have spent a week at the Grand Canyon, photographing it from all angles at all different times of the day. Oh well.

Heading out from Chowchilla more-or-less directly west towards the coast. In the Central Valley, all of the roads are pretty much straight. There are no geographical obstacles to go around. This valley is amazing when you think about it. A rich, fertile, intensively-cultivated area that’s bigger than a lot of entire countries. The midwest may be the nation’s breadbasket with all of the cereal crops, but everything else is grown here.

One thing that is surprising about California, if you’ve never been here before, is that even the “small” state highways are built to freeway standards. Highway 1, the winding coastal road, is a 6-lane freeway from Monterery up to Santa Cruz.


I took a short detour into Hollister, CA just to see what was there. I had a friend in college from Hollister, who always introduced the place as “The Earthquake Capital of the World.” Apparently, the are several major faults—including the San Andreas—which intersect right in the middle of town. You also see a lot of people walking around in “Hollister” t-shirts and sweatshirts. I didn’t see anything special about it. Just your typical medium-sized town.

There is an annual motorcycle rally that takes place here on July 4th. A “riot” that took place during the 1947 rally was the inspiration for the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One. But other than that, I can’t really see much here to make me want to come back.


I got into Monterey at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Like I said earlier, I’ve been here and done that. But I was hungry for some fresh seafood after spending a month east of the mountains, so I went to Fisherman’s Wharf. I stopped at the first stall and had a shrimp and crab sandwich. Yummy. Continuing on down the pier, there were about 4 or 5 places that were handing out samples of the clam chowder, so I had my fill of that too. I took a bunch of pictures and video which I’ll post someday.

Highway 1

Left Monterey at about 3pm, heading up the coast for San Francisco. As I said, Hwy 1 between Monterey and Santa Cruz is (mostly) now a 6-lane freeway. At Santa Cruz, it reverts to its 2-lane, windy coastal road. Not many people were on it as I traveled north. The weather was nice and sunny, but being on the coast, it was a little chilly.

My video camera’s battery was almost dead, so I didn’t shoot much of this leg of the trip. I only stopped once or twice to admire the view. There were a lot of roadside pullouts where surfers were congregated, but I didn’t stop at any of those. I wanted to get to SF before sundown so it would be easier to find my way around and find a motel.

San Francisco

Hwy 1 turns into a 12-lane (!) freeway as it enters The City and merges with I-280. Got there before sundown alright, but also right at rush hour on a Friday night. I cut across town and, mostly by accident, ended up cruising through the Castro District. Pretty colorful place. I’d never been here before and wanted to see it, so it was a happy accident.

I found a decent, fairly inexpensive motel near Civic Center, dumped off all my gear and headed to North Beach. This is an area in San Francisco where all of the Italian restaurants and shops are located. Just north of Chinatown. I parked the Vespa and wandered around taking pictures of the neon signs. Speaking of parking the Vespa, San Francisco has lots of motorcycle parking slots on the streets. Just about every block has a section of motorcycle parking slots, 8-10 in a row. And the parking meters only charge 10-cents an hour! Portland could take a lesson from this.

I had dinner at my favorite SF restaurant, The Stinking Rose. No vampires in this place. Everything is made with garlic. They say that they season their garlic with food, and they aren’t kidding. One of the standard appetizers is Bagna Carta, which is a pan of roasted garlic that you spread on bread. Yummy. I had spicy shrimp fettuccine for dinner. After eating at this place, you’ll smell like garlic for days.

Stopped at City Lights bookstore. Powell’s is better.

I also spotted a few places to have coffee tomorrow. Nothing like having a cappuccino at an Italian coffee shop.

I love San Francisco. So many cool places to eat and drink. A perfect place to ride a scooter. Other than the occasional killer earthquake, why live anywhere else?

Plan for the Rest of the Trip

I’ll start heading up the coast tomorrow. According to my GPS, its about 750 miles from here to Astoria. I could do that in about 3 days, but I think that I’m going to stretch it out into maybe 5 days and take it easy a bit. Before this trip grew into Scott’s Big Adventure, it was originally going to be just a nice, leisurely ride down the coast of Oregon, stopping for a night every 50 miles or so. It won’t be quite the same, but from here on up, I’m going to only ride for about 3 hours a day, then check into a motel and try to get caught up on these blog entries, and picture postings, and maybe a video or two, all before I get back.

If everything goes well, I should be back home sometime on Wednesday or next week. Ciao.