One of my favorite places in the world is Northern California. My mom and I took a trip out to San Francisco and Carmel around this time last year, and I knew I couldn’t wait too long to get back.
Somewhat unrelatedly (though you will see the connection soon enough), I have recently begrudgingly taken up running. I like to think that I was conned into it by two of my friends, Sara and Jamie, when they suggested that I run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon with them a year-and-a-half ago. Ever since I agreed to run that race with them, the three of us have had an ongoing text and email conversation about running, general working out, healthy eating, etc. We also talk about way more fun and interesting stuff, of course, but for basically anything health, fitness or running related, we know we have a receptive audience in each other. It’s been a really great way to keep in touch with some of my friends who I don’t live as close to as I would like.
Ever since that first half marathon, we seem to get together once every six months or so to do another one in a different city. A few months ago, Jamie sent around an article she found online about the best spring marathons across the country. One of the marathons on the list was the Big Sur Marathon. Because of my love for Northern California, I clicked on the link contained in the article and began perusing the official marathon site. I came across the sub-page dedicated to the Big Sur Half Marathon. (As a rule, I’m much more interested in half marathons than full-length marathons.) It turns out that the half takes place in November of each year, so it’s a completely independent event from the full-length marathon. Finally, I had found my reason to get back to Northern California!
I will dedicate a separate post to the actual race, but we had a great (albeit very short) trip to San Francisco, Monterey and Big Sur, so I definitely want to make sure to talk about the non-running portion of the trip, too. For such a short trip, we accomplished a lot, so I’m going to break things up into a few posts, but I promise I will post about it all! I’m still so enamored with everything we saw while we were there, that I definitely need to document and share.
Jamie and I arrived in San Francisco at about 10:00 pm on Friday. We flew out of San Francisco at 6:00 am the next Monday. So it was a super short trip, but we were able to cram a lot of fun activities into a short amount of time. Once we arrived at SFO on Friday, we rented a car to drive down to Monterey. (The half marathon actually takes place in Monterey rather than Big Sur, so that’s where we stayed.)
Two things about this. One: the rental car situation at SFO is completely insane. I honestly do not think I could have navigated my way to the rental car counter had I been alone. Not only is it extremely far away from the airport, the signage is very unclear and unhelpful. Even if you know exactly where to go, though, it would take you 20 minutes to get there because the rental car counter is nowhere near the actual terminals. Once we actually made it there, things went pretty smoothly. We were even upgraded from whatever-the-cheapest-car-on-the-website-was to a Lincoln SUV. Hey, if it’s good enough for McConaughey, it’s good enough for me. The second thing is that Monterey is about a two-hour drive from San Francisco. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to drive down there after flying across the country after a full week of work. Live and learn. But seriously, don’t do this. We arrived in Monterey at about 1:00 am local time…4:00 am Ohio time. Woof.
Based on its proximity to the start of the race, we had booked a room at the Hotel Abrego. It ended up being a nice hotel and it was really convenient to the race, so it was perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, our check-in experience was a bit on the creepy side so I think our impression of the hotel was kind of tainted from the get-go. Let’s just say that Hotel Abrego apparently does not believe in staffing their most appealing, competent and non-ghost-like employees to work the night shift. But we successfully checked in, made it to the room and passssssed out.
In the morning, I woke up to a gentle light flickering on the ceiling. We had our blackout curtains drawn and I had covered the light emanating from the alarm clock before going to sleep. For the longest time, I just laid there wondering where the heck that flickering light was coming from. Eventually, I realized that the fireplace in the room had somehow automatically ignited in the middle of the night!! So weird!! Definitely contributed to the strange vibes we had gotten the night before.
Despite the blackout curtains and the peaceful crackling (…) of the fireplace, Jamie and I are both early-risers, so by 9:00 am on Saturday, we were ready to start our day.
After swinging by the Expo to pick up our race bibs, we headed out for a scenic drive. Our only plan for the day was to eat lunch at a restaurant in Big Sur called Nepenthe. My friend, Caroline, and her boyfriend, John, planned to drive down from San Francisco, where they live, to have lunch with us and hang out for the day. We didn’t need to leave Monterey right away, so we decided to take a detour on the famous 17-mile-drive before getting on the road to Nepenthe.
17-Mile-Drive is a stretch of road (a seventeen mile stretch, if memory serves…), between Carmel and Monterey. It is winding and incredibly scenic, as most of it goes right along the coast. There are all sorts of incredible homes and vista lookout points. Pebble Beach, the famous golf course, is also located along this stretch of land. Jamie and I, being the incredible dorks that we are, got out at almost all of the scenic lookout points to take photos and admire the beauty of the surroundings. Rather than blabber on about how amazing it is (which, it really is), I’m just going to post some photos below. I’m also posting a few from the trip I took there last year.
After completing this drive of indeterminable distance, we got on the road to head down to Big Sur and Nepenthe. I will be detailing our time in Big Sur in a separate post since this one is getting pretty lengthy. Let me just conclude by pointing out that I have absolutely never been on a more breathtaking drive in my entire life than the drive down Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur. During the hour that we were in the car, I think I must have commented at least 1,000 times on just how beautiful the scenery was. It may be cheesy to say, but there were times, I could have sworn I had left the United States and ended up in Ireland.
(I also remarked how glad I was that I was the one driving because I think this portion of the trip would have made me feel incredibly car sick had I been a passenger. There is certainly no shortage of twists, turns and hills, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind if you get bad motion sickness like I do!)
Anywho – check back soon for a recap of our Saturday afternoon in Big Sur as well as a race recap! Hopefully I won’t ramble quite as much in those posts…but we all know I will.