Happy birthday to me… Pacific Coast Highway, county fair and rodeo
Day 10 – Monterey to Bakersfield
It was my birthday and future ones will find it hard to compete now, we would be driving through Big Sur. The Soberanes fire was on the coast during our trip so all of the state parks south of Carmel were closed, but there was still plenty to see and the views from the road are amazing.
Leaving Monterey at 9am we continued south on highway 1 passing Carmel and Point Lobos which we had visited the night before. Our first stop was Bixby Creek Bridge – there is some parking on the north side but not a lot so get there early.
The misty atmosphere continued for a while but eventually the sun came through. We wanted to stop at McWay Falls but this pull out was closed due to the Soberanes fire which we could smell in places as we continued down the coast.
As we continued south the views just got more impressive. We didn’t use many of the pull outs as both the driver and passenger can enjoy the views from the road. The road is windey but no worse than any UK roads. Pretty much all of the edges are protected with crash barriers.
We were pleased we decided to make the drive south, this allowed uninterrupted views of the Pacific as our lane was closest and we didn’t have to cross over to use any pull outs when we wanted to stop for any photos.
Keep an eye out on the land now and again, you may see some wildlife there. We spotted a deer. There are also plenty of seabirds to see and the chance of seeing whales, although we weren’t as lucky as we had been while travelling the Oregon coast and didn’t spot any.
We had planned our lunch stop to be at Ragged Point Inn which is the last elevated section of Big Sur. We arrived a bit earlier than planned, it was only 11.30. There is plenty to see at this stop though if you head behind the buildings at the roadside, including a garden full of flowers – and butterflies.
Rather than eat inside we planned to eat at the fast food counter which has picnic tables out front for use. There’s enough choice for lunch here without having to spend an hour inside having a formal meal. We had a couple of sandwiches with fries to share surrounded by funny little birds waiting for any crumbs.
So we had almost completed the Big Sur drive and the main section of the Pacific Coast Highway (which continues on to Santa Barbara and Malibu) our last stop was at San Simeon where the Elephant Seal Rookery is located. Even though it wasn’t the best time of year for seals there were still a lot on the beach, all females which don’t have quite as impressive noses as the males do but still great to watch.
From San Simeon we made our way in land to Bakersfield. Passing through vineyards and then oil fields, having not seen any nodding donkeys before it was a surprise to see so many in one place. It isn’t the most exciting or picturesque drive of our trip but it wasn’t too long. We arrived at our hotel for the night, the Holiday Inn Express Bakersfield, which was ten times better than the hotel from the night before.
Now Bakersfield isn’t the typical choice for a Pacific Coast trip but we wanted to experience the Kern County Fair and when we found out there was a rodeo on we had to visit. We got an Uber from the hotel to the fairgrounds and it was just $10 each to get into the fair, worth every cent! It was huge and so much to see.
First we made our way round to the dive pool where we watched 4 divers dressed as penguins dive from a high ladder into a small pool. The grand finale was a dive from 85ft! We also watched the Turkey Stampede nearby where they were racing turkeys, three different races were held with different turkeys chasing a red truck with food in the back, all good fun and attracted quite a crowd!
We grabbed something for dinner from one of the stalls, we got two meal deals that included a beef dip sandwich, fries and a drink, $24 for the both of us, which I couldn’t come close to finishing. Part of the county fair is very much like country shows in the UK where farm animals are shown, we had a quick look around the animal tents and stuck our head in the auction house – you can’t understand a word the auctioneer is saying! The most we heard was a lamb being sold for $11 a pound.
Our last stop before the rodeo was a quick one but one I’d most looked forward to – All Alaskan Pig Racing. Why wouldn’t anyone want to see piglets jumping over hurdles? Again there’s food for them which they run towards, they’re so quick though I couldn’t get a photo. I wouldn’t like to try and catch one if they got loose.
We made our way to the arena for the rodeo and took our seats. We had tried to book tickets in advance for this from the UK but foreign card payments weren’t accepted. We needn’t have worried though we got tickets no problem on the day.
The first event was kids riding sheep, mutton busting, there were a couple who were really good and stayed on a while but most didn’t last long before falling off. I can’t see this in the UK but in the US there were lots of parents taking their kids to volunteer to have a go! Once the sheep were put away the main events started after the national anthem was sang and American flag displayed. We saw bucking horses, roping bulls, wrestling steers, barrel racing and probably my favourite event we watched – bull riding. The night was finished off with motorbike stunts which were a great finale act.
We left the fairgrounds soon after the rodeo ended along with most other people it seemed like. We ordered an Uber and waited, and waited… the app eventually said that it was cancelled because we hadn’t shown up – we were waiting right where we said! It started quieting down and we felt a bit uneasy walking away from the fairgrounds to the main road so headed back and tried Uber again. We did eventually get an Uber back to our hotel after almost an hour in what was starting to feel like a dodgy area.
All in all a very varied trip to the Pacific Coast and not quite like the typical plan most people seem to follow but we wouldn’t have changed a thing!