Travelling the Main Street of America
The Mother Road ploughs stoically on towards the sea until at last, when all hope of escape from the endless megalopolis seems to have evaporated, there it is - Ocean Avenue, Pacific breakers, rainbow's end.
Take a break here for a stroll along the boardwalk, through the park and out along the Pier. The Will Rogers Highway memorial plaque is an essential photo stop, in the park right at the junction of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. If you've got the time, make your way up to 3rd Avenue. This is a pedestrian precinct and has the feel of a Spanish "rambla" with great shops and cafés, street entertainers and statuary. The only trap for young players here, as in much of the rest of the USA, is that Americans tend to eat early and many restaurants start to wind down soon after 9.00pm.
The end of Route 66 is not the end of our journey, of course. We still have the wonders of the coast road to come as we make our way north to Monterey for Pebble Beach and Laguna Seca. We'll overnight a few miles to the north, somewhere near Oxnard, to get you clear of the horrendous Santa Monica congestion for an easy start up the coast in the morning. On your way out of Santa Monica, note the Baywatch towers and spotlessly clean beaches looking exactly as they do on TV. If you want a dip in the Pacific, these sandy beaches around Malibu are your best chance. Later on, access to the water becomes more difficult and there are fewer beach patrols.
The Pacific Coast Highway (C-1) is a breath-taking cliff-edge run all the way from San Simeon up to Monterey Bay. The real highlights come with the dramatic section around Big Sur. Here you'll find sweeping cliff-top hairpins and fantastic bridges across coastal chasms, all hovering above the wild Pacific rollers. There were a lot of roadworks on the highway when I was there in October and the last few miles took longer than expected, but hopefully things will be flowing more freely by August. In any case, it will take you three times as long to travel to Monterey by the coast road as it would by the inland freeway. But in three times the time, you get ten times the excitement! Luckily, heading north you're on the cliffward side of the road, so the guy going south will go over the edge before you do. The coastal rocks and cliffs appear very soft; landslides are a frequent sight and you need to take the "Falling Rocks" warning signs seriously. I saw many large freshly-fallen rocks on the roadway. There are plenty of designated view points with parking space, so don't be tempted to stop on the road for that unmissable shot.
We'll probably be staying at Salinas for our four nights in the Monterey Bay area. It's very close to the Laguna Seca Raceway, there's convenient access to central Monterey, and Pebble Beach is only about 40 minutes away. You'll notice several very nice hotels in the city of Monterey itself, but they would blow the accommodation budget out of the water during the race weekend. In Salinas you get the access without the hassles.