Road Trip Day 8_Dunnigan, CA to La Jolla, CA

Miles-645.3

Total Miles- 2,595.6

 

Well, its done.  I’m here.  Home.  How do I feel?  Tired, cracked out from the final 8 hour push, honestly proud.  I feel I accomplished something.  What exactly, I have no idea, but at the least now I can confidently say I’ve seen every corner of my beautifully diverse country.  I probably could’ve driven another week in California alone(I had the time), but it just felt right to end it today.  Bookends.  Sunday to Sunday.

Today was another long driving day where not much happened that would be interesting to write about, but make a long story short, I’m happy to say I connected the final dots that make up the very western portion of the US.  Up until today, although I’ve “lived” in LA for over 6  years I’d never been north of North Hollywood since a family trip to the San Fran area in 1994.  Originally Big Sur was a major destination on my trip, but after googling the drive time, getting sucked into a 5 hour side trip didn’t sound right.  I almost abandoned the Northern Cali coast altogether, but as I was pulling out of Dunnigan, thinking about lunch, cioppino crossed my mind.  Since the bison search in ND/Montana its been my mission to taste my way across these new portions of the States as I drive across them.  My first(and pretty much only) exposure to cioppino is here in La Jolla at El Pescador, one of my favorite places on earth.  Fish market with everything you could want from the sea, sashimi to smoked salmon, all house made.  Cioppino is a seafood stew with San Fran origins, basically a poor fisherman’s’ stew of today’s catch in a spicy tomato sauce. I didn’t feel like dealing with the hassle of driving into the City by the Bay, but even better, why not go to Carmel and find some cioppino next to the ocean that houses the delicious denizens that make up its contents.  I figured if I dug it I could continue down the coast to Big Sur and extend my trip another day.

 

My goal was to check out Carmel, maybe cruise the NorCal PCH for a bit, and find a nice seafood shack to grab a quick bowl of the zesty seafood and tomato stew.  I was expecting it to be like my experience on Oregon’s coast.  Well…don’t think there is a “shack” anywhere near Carmel, unless by “shack” you mean multi million dollar vacation home.  Even the coastal highway was different, kind of like any other medium sized freeway you’d see anywhere.  I know it gets better, but just didn’t feel like I had the time to dedicate to head into the Big Sur region.  It ended up being a perfect mid-day stop though.  Irie and I walked along the beach for a while, her love of the ocean seemingly curing her of whatever ailed her, and then I set my sites on finding that cioppino I was craving.  The search led me to Dametra Cafe.  At this point I was honestly annoyed.  Annoyed that I couldn’t find a shack(ended up costing $25! welcome to Carmel I guess), annoyed by how rich everyone around this town was, annoyed that I was fucking starving and I ordered my soup 30 minutes ago.  But every time I was about to punch the closest russian billionaire I saw and storm away, the sweet hostess would come out, give Irie a treat and assure me it’ll just be another couple minutes.  It did end up taking 40 minutes for a take out order, but it was WELL worth the wait.  They gave me some free dessert to boot.  My precious stew in hand, I instinctually(at this point) headed back to my car and tucked into a perfect cioppino, with the sound of waves crashing and a view of the ocean.  It made my day and was possibly the perfect button on the exploring part of my trip.  The photos might look ok, but I wish I had sound and smell to go with it to show you how divine the moment was.

***

That moment was this perfect end of a perfect road trip.  Full, content and introspective I hit the road and powered through the final stretch of this long drive.  The rest of of the ride was nice, but uneventful.  Couple things I noticed-  1.  As a quasi resident of LA I’ve grown to hate the 101, but up north its pretty cool.  Nice open, country road road through high plains and farm country.  2.  Its shocking how little sprawl there is around LA.  Literally no signs of civilization until you get to Burbank.

***

Tomorrow real life starts again.  Instead of checking maps, counting mile markers and exit signs, taking detours on a whim,  I’ll be meeting up with people, thinking about work, hopefully not driving anywhere.  This trip was exactly what I needed, and an extraordinary accomplishment.  As of right now I driven every cross country interstate and most of the major North-South highways.  Full disclosure, I think I’ll loose Irie, my copilot, sometime in the relatively near future, and now I don’t really know where I would want to drive if I had the opportunity.  I’m sure I’ll drive back to New York, but it’ll be more of necessity than wanderlust.  It won’t be the same.  This trip was the last part of the puzzle.  I’m happy.  I’ve conquered the USA.  There’s plenty more I will discover, but tonight I have a rare victory in the lifelong battle to see the world.

 

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