View Full Version : Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

27-02-2012, 11:50 AM
Well my bizarre life continues to throw strange curve balls at me - some good, some bad. So far this has been a little gem.

I'm on leave, but as my wife wouldn't let me have the kids for half term I volunteered to go to work rather than mope about at home. So last Saturday I was asked to fly to New York, stay the night on Long Island and then fly back to London, landing Monday. I then bought myself a ticket to Los Angeles with the intention of jumping straight off my inbound flight onto the outbound LAX. Tough on the body but hey it fills the days.....

On my way to work last Saturday I got a phone call asking if I fancied going to San Francisco instead as one of the pilots had been swapped onto the Las Vegas flight and now they were short. OK I said but I'm going to LA on Monday on holiday, so how about I fly the aeroplane to San Fran, stay the night and then make my own way to LA from there?

OK they say- go for it.

So here I am, currently sat in a Motel at 4.30am full of jet lag half way down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).

Now I have ALWAYS wanted to do this drive- it's supposed to be one of life's great must dos. But because I wasn't expecting it I'm not properly prepped. No maps, no camera, no car booked, no accommodation- I am totally winging it.

Hence- shite iphone pics and more narrative than I really wanted to do.

Sunday morning- SAN FRANCISCO.

Woke up at 1.30am as I'd forgotten to switch my phone off and somebody decided it was a good idea to text me. Bugger.

Eventually met the other pilots for breakfast at 8am and went to this place on the other side of the Golden Gate park


This restaurant stands on the site of a massive colonial house and sea water swimming baths called the Sutro baths, named after a very wealthy fella who wanted to make the worlds biggest swimming pool.

It looked like this:


but now it looks like this


Anyway after a spectacular seafood omelette in the Cliff House


I needed to arrange a hire car.

Problem being the hire car depot in central San Francisco tends not to have the widest range of vehicles available.

I was offered a Toyota Camry or Chevy Impala (the Chevy Impala used to be such a cool car but is now soooooo vile.)

"Nothing with a V8"?

Nope- but we have got a Dodge Charger.

I thought she said Challenger so I jumped at it. Got to the car park and a bronze Challenger was sat there looking naughty.

So was my white Charger.


3.6L V6, 292 bhp.

I think these are actually a Mercedes E-Class of yesteryear underneath, but there are some nice touches.


Plugged my iPhone in and it instantly recognised it and put all my music on the touch screen display


And so off I went, time to find the US1 and head south, next stop Carmel.

27-02-2012, 12:00 PM
Bonkers flight trip bit:lol:

27-02-2012, 12:01 PM
It`ll probably be all the more memorable due to the lack of planning :veryhappy:

So how many days do you have to make the journey ?

27-02-2012, 12:12 PM
I'm meeting me bird in LA tonight, so basically I gave myself a day and half to drive the 400 miles or so winding down the coast road.

27-02-2012, 12:27 PM
Right where was I?

Ahhh yes San Fran to Carmel.


Busy roads, loads of traffic lights, heavy traffic. Listened to the stereo and decided I had made a terrible decision as I could have flown to LAX for $80. Simples.

Then I got here:


It was 4pm on a Sunday and the place was totally deserted, but completely open, so I just went off walking around.

http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a397/leavingeasy/th_9aeae7f7.jpg (http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a397/leavingeasy/?action=view&current=9aeae7f7.mp4)

Found some cool pace cars


Took some pics and looked over the amazing camping facilities


Tried to blag a lap with some guts doing a photo shoot for Mazda but they had JUST shut the track (noise regs forbid it's use outside certain hours- how painfully familiar)

So went and did some skids in the car park around a little circuit they had coned out - a 3.6L automatic hire car with a half switch off able TCS was always going to be useless, but it still lit the tyres up LOADS! (sadly no pics)

Then headed off.

Didn't expect much as I've already been to Carmel and so I skipped that, and after the boring journey from San Fran I thought the PCH had been over sold.

How wrong I was


What I was met with was a sign saying 68 miles of bends and hills. Wish I'd photo'd it as I assumed it was just American litigation protection.

Nope- it was 68 miles of empty road, chasing the shore line, then climbing into wooded mountain paths, switch backs, drop offs, nasty corners, like an endless nirvana of cambers and apexes.

The old Dodge might be white and clumsy but it felt amazing. I'd loved to have had a V8 and a manual box, or better still my M3, but I was in absolute heaven. No pics, no time- 90 mins of full intensity concentration as the sun set and I just went even faster.

Passing Hearst Castle the roads went straight and I thought I'd better find a bed for the night.

Right now I'm in a fantastically seedy MOTEL in a town called San Luis Obispo. It's 5.30am. I just want the sun to come up so I can do some more driving (but I suspect the traffic from here on will be less fluid, the police less tolerant and the fun less rapid- but the views should remain outstanding)

Hopefully seeing N/B later in the week, have teabags to deliver!

27-02-2012, 12:37 PM

27-02-2012, 12:40 PM


Ian H
27-02-2012, 12:51 PM
Nice one Nick :thumb:

Drove from San Fran to L.A. a few years ago in a soft top (not great car but a v6 with roof off).
Awesome drive made special as they had one of the car shows at Monterey so saw loads of Italian exotica.

We did it over a couple of days stopping at Carmel.

One of the must drives in life :wink:

Will dig some pics out later.

Ian H
27-02-2012, 12:53 PM
start of journey


Ian H
27-02-2012, 12:56 PM
Not got access to all the pics but have got these of the PCH...



27-02-2012, 12:57 PM
Git. Need to do this. :veryhappy:

Terence Ledger
27-02-2012, 01:09 PM
Cool. Need to do that sometime

27-02-2012, 01:23 PM
The coast road has some stunning scenery but my fave has to be the drive from Bakersfield to Morrow Bay.

That road is like the 'Ring for mile after mile - very undulating and twisty owing to the seismic faulting of the landscape.

Here's the route if anyone fancies a proper drive next time they're in California:


27-02-2012, 01:45 PM
Oh no now you've thrown my plans into chaos!

Look at that route and look where I am: San Luis Obsipo

Right on it!

OK on your recommendation I'm going EAST!!!!

27-02-2012, 03:09 PM
Check out


on the way past


27-02-2012, 06:45 PM
Great stuff Nick, hope to see you in one piece :lol:

27-02-2012, 06:47 PM
Sounds good.
We dd that trip in november in a yellow corvette.


27-02-2012, 07:36 PM
I've driven the PCH twice now, it's a fantastic run once the twisty bit starts!

Last time I was there!

28-02-2012, 03:10 PM
So having left my quality hotel that looked like it should be on the movie set of a slasher movie


I jumped in the Dodge to find it already started to fall apart- but then it is American made.


I decided to defo take Ultegra's advice and broke off the PCH in order to head inland towards Bakersfield.

Unfortunately with nothing but an iPad pic of the world, I promptly got lost.

However when I did get there I was met with this sign- which I figured was a good omen.


What followed next was 90 mins of the most amazing driving experience I have ever had. It was like driving the Ring but it just never ended. Straights followed by tight twists, undulations, jumps and tumble weed.

Yep tumble weed.



No pics as quite frankly I was a having far too much fun!

The views continually changed. One minute huge open plains, then up in the mountains, then following a valley. It felt like Scotland, then it started to rain- now I was in Wales.......

And boy did rain- all the way to Taft (which turned out to be a huge oil drilling town- proper red neck and pick up truck central)


28-02-2012, 03:22 PM
So for this bit I decided to cross the mountains straight over to Ventura a climb of 5000ft and some more top twists.

What I didn't expect was this....


and the temp continued to drop (30f whatever that is??)


So I stopped off to gas up and was told by the local cop that the road ahead was covered in snow and he recommended I turn back and take the motorway.


So I ignored him


I eventually made it to the very top- having scared the crap out of myself (I decided to see if I could do a big long set of snowy 11's, all was going well as the auto box slushed through second gear- but when it went into third the whole car went sideways, my bottom hole tightened significantly and very very gently teased the car back into a straight line as my heart close on exploded with adrenaline)


top tips from the Americans


The drive down the other side was just stunning, descending below the cloud line


Again- far too much fun being had to take pics

28-02-2012, 03:34 PM
Found these in Ventura



This was a missile park- I felt the need to straddle one of course:



Dull drive from there towards Malibu, and then I saw the sign for the Mullholland Highway.

For those who don't know this is where the LA gear heads go to get their fix. It's known as the LA Nurburgring.

I decided I wouldn't as I'd already driven for hours, but hey what harm could it do......


So press this


select this


Start here


Do this (click to see vid)

http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a397/leavingeasy/th_6f324a11.jpg (http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a397/leavingeasy/?action=view&current=6f324a11.mp4)

And spend 15 mins driving really stupidly in a 2 tonne automatic hire car.

So madly in fact that the brakes over heated.


Yep that's smoke

It was at this point I may have run out of talent. Or good sense.

You see I knew the brakes were getting bad, but there were JUST two more hairpins to negotiate, then it was a slow drive to Pasadena.......

Bugger it, that was ONE hairpin too far.

No brakes, no run off, hello Armco!

Thank God for fully comp insurance!!!!!

28-02-2012, 03:43 PM

28-02-2012, 04:25 PM
There's something about this place that turns normal people into lunatics. Guessing the effect is doubled on somebody like you, Nick :lol:

Darren Langeveld
28-02-2012, 04:43 PM
Good work.

That fully comp waiver really is good isn't it?

28-02-2012, 04:46 PM
This looks awesome - definintely high up on my list of road trips to do soon :thumb:

28-02-2012, 05:30 PM
And to think I was going to forward this thread link to the hire car company just in case you didn't crash...:whistle::lol:

Still well Jel.

28-02-2012, 05:40 PM
Oakie. You are a hero :thumb:

Epic trip so far. Yes please. I'd love to :lol:

28-02-2012, 06:34 PM

29-02-2012, 06:24 AM

Taft to Ventura looks absolutely fantastic, thanks for sharing it with us.:thumb:

Videoing the wheelspin, you bloody great big lanky child.:rolf:

Hitting the armco, you bloody great big lanky stupid child. :rolf::rolf::rolf:

29-02-2012, 07:44 AM
Looks like an epic trip Oakie. :thumb:

You bellend for running out of tallent.:lol:

Dave G
29-02-2012, 09:25 PM
This is simply brilliant.

It's pretty much what I would do but I'd try for more damage.

What a legend.

29-02-2012, 11:22 PM
awesome read Nick jealous.. on my list to do ride the PCH

29-02-2012, 11:40 PM

TBH Bren all I could think of was how much MORE epic it would be on a bike.

Well right unto until it started snowing.

Just driven the US 2 up to Pine Creek. Another 48 miles of amazing empty roads. Sadly driven very slowly as Doris in the car making it clear that speed would not be tolerated due to extreme drops off the side of the road and the threat of much pain to my test-e-clay.

No pics as I forgot my bloody phone.

Meeting N/B for brekkie tomorrow then I have to go home!

Still I'm in Miami on Sunday, perhaps I'll hire an airboat......

29-02-2012, 11:48 PM
renting airboat would be cool, i asked in FL if i could drive th eone we went on and they said no..lol

01-03-2012, 12:04 AM
I did this in a Mustang convertible (6 cylinder) - It was good, but too many tourists when I went... that said, I went at the end of Uni term time in the states - and stayed in San Luis Obiswhatever too... it was fecking awesome!! First time on the trip that the whole English accent thing really worked. :lol: Its a 'university town' - we loved it there, even though we also stayed in a pretty rubbish place, the Travelodge IIRC??

Enjoy, very jealous - will be back there sometime soon. :thumb:

01-03-2012, 06:27 AM
Superb! :thumb:

01-03-2012, 07:29 AM
Fantastic !

If you are going to crash, there is no better time than in a rental with every extra cover taken. !

Neil Mac
01-03-2012, 08:15 AM
Brilliant :thumb:

I've driven PCH, in my MIL's 1998 Corolla automatic (with dodgy brakes), and it was awesome. I highly recommend staying in all the places you didn't stop in.:lol:

I'll be popping over to CA next month, as it happens. However, I won't be driving north from LA, more likely popping slightly south for a little trip (Newport Beach, most likely).

01-03-2012, 10:06 PM
Neil, heading south from LA - well worth the trip to San Diego, if/when I move out there, that'll be where I'll start. :thumb:

03-03-2012, 03:10 AM
I want to do these roads again.

First time I did the PCH was in a Saab 900 Turbo... when it came on boost in the middle of the corner next to the cliff was full on hilarity

03-03-2012, 05:49 AM
I want to do these roads again.

I'd say "I'll be your wing man", but do I really want to get into the death-seat of an RHD 205 GTI...? :lol:

Gary Kinghorn
03-03-2012, 06:21 AM
Brilliant read Nick.

Did you get to tea bag N/B in the end:wink:

03-03-2012, 08:40 AM
Sadly not as the morning we were due to meet up Doris got sick.

Dropped the car back at the rental company, told them I'd dented it- he didn't even look, just asked if I'd hit anybody else and when I said no he said, "so it was a parking mishap?"

Errrrrr kind of.......

Landed from LA yesterday morning and then last night flew to JoBurg- which is where I am now. My life just gets weirder.

Going karting in Kyalami tomorrow morning with a F3 racer.

Diamond Hell
03-03-2012, 01:24 PM
This is like a report from the lives of the not-particularly-rich-or-famous-except-in-Northloop-circles.

Top quality random mission though. :thumb:

03-03-2012, 02:13 PM
That trip with a motorbike and nice weather must be truly great. I wouldn't say no to driving it the same as like on this report, though, nice one!

03-03-2012, 02:37 PM
This is like a report from the lives of the not-particularly-rich-or-famous-except-in-Northloop-circles.

Top quality random mission though. :thumb:

Sums up my life very nicely!

Perhaps I'll be on cover of NL Hello, alongside the NL equivalent of Princess Kate and Posh Beckham. (Weeman and Dan?)

03-03-2012, 03:41 PM
Sums up my life very nicely!

Perhaps I'll be on cover of NL Hello, alongside the NL equivalent of Princess Kate and Posh Beckham. (Weeman and Dan?)

I would be Kate as I have the better ass

Cheburator Mk2
09-03-2012, 02:58 PM
Drove half of it in a Vette in Dec 2009... It cost me $500 in a speeding ticketbrickwall... Fookin' redneck in a Mk5 GTI egging me on to race him, only to get zapped by a cop at 101... Oooops occifer... Me no from 'ere... Me no spik English... Me likey America:shame:... Errr, no, pay up...

Lovely road. will go back again to do it in another vette...

20-03-2012, 08:01 PM
Sums up my life very nicely!

Perhaps I'll be on cover of NL Hello, alongside the NL equivalent of Princess Kate and Posh Beckham. (Weeman and Dan?)

That's a day I dream about.

Can't believe I missed this thread, you sir are a leg end.

20-03-2012, 08:22 PM
This is brilliant, I missed it the first time, glad Dave bumped it.