Riding up California Highway 1 – Day 1

California is a beautiful state with so much to see and do, but my favorite part of the state has to be the coastline. I’ve driven up and down historic Highway 1 many times, but had yet to experience the incredible views from the back of a motorcycle.

So John and I packed our bags and geared up early Saturday morning and made our way to Monterey from Santa Barbara. Our BMW r1200rt has side bags to carry our luggage and a top box to put extras in.

We went up and over San Marcos pass high above Santa Barbara and headed inland. Wanting to get to Morro Bay quickly, we chose to hop on the 101 up to San Louis Obispo, where we caught Highway 1 toward Morro Bay.

Riding a bike can be a challenge when traveling to the coast, as the temperature can drop significantly. Add some thick coastal fog, and it is downright chilly. We always “dress” to ride, no matter the weather.

Both of us are firm believers in riding gear, which includes boots, long pants, riding jacket, gloves and a full-face helmet even in hot weather. The saying is, “You dress for the slide, not for the ride.” Which sounds ominous, but safety is very important on a motorcycle.

Seeing the thick fog, we stopped in Morro so I could add a few layers and put on my scarf to keep my neck warm. What a difference that scarf makes.

The famous Morro Bay Rock hidden in the fog

With the gray of the fog, the Pacific was showing no signs of its usual magnificent deep turquoise, and we hoped the weather would clear farther north.

Riding on the back, or pillion, of the bike I have to turn left or right to see the views. Keeping my head forward would get a bit boring.

Looking off to the left I watched the gray fog disappear into the gray ocean with just a hint of white showing the curl of the waves. I still loved the views as we went from low land up to the dizzying heights towards Big Sur.


There is so much to see on that ride, even if you aren’t looking towards the ocean. If you blink, you’ll miss the tiny town of Harmony with its population of 18. A multitude of hawks, eagles and sea birds were circling overhead and I saw a small herd of elk off in a grassy meadow.

There are fields with “coastal cows” as I like to call them, and way off to the right, high above was a tiny glimpse of Hearst Castle. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it is stunning during the holidays. (hint, hint, John)

Our first stop was Ragged Point for lunch.

The usual spectacular view was underwhelming in the fog

On the weekends in the summer, there is a band playing outside and it has a very festive mood. The fog was still lingering, which was frustrating as just over there, to the right, was blue sky.

Right across the Highway…

It was as if the fog and sun were in a fierce battle to see who would win the day. The sun was pushing hard, but the coastal fog wasn’t giving up her ground easily.

We had a delicious lunch and took a walk to explore the place. I didn’t know they did weddings there and was excited to see one being set up.

Getting back on the bike, we headed North towards Big Sur. As we wound inland just a bit, we were welcomed with sunshine filtering down through the tall Redwoods. Big Sur is such an iconic California coastal town, it’s a must see for any newcomer to our state.

We didn’t stop on our way up, but planned to hit Big Sur Bakery on our way back. Instead we rode onward and upward through Carmel and then found the Hilton Garden Inn in Monterey.

We were both a bit tired from the foggy ride and ready to find dinner.

It was a fun day and although the fog held her ground, we hoped that the contender would show his face tomorrow.

…to be continued.

Reader Comments

  1. Stephanie Skelly

    What fun to read this! I grew up in the East Bay.. spent 3 summers in San Francisco … the coldest winters I ever spent.. lol.. until I lived in Minnesota many years later, but I digress. I spent three months in Pacific Grove/Monterey, too.. and loved the area (though not the cost of living!) I have been to Hearst Castle, but not during the holidays.. please, John, make the trip.. and Loretta, please take photos to share.

    Thanks for sharing.. looks like a great trip, so far. It’s fun to live your adventures vicariously. Looking forward to tomorrow’s installment.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you Stephanie.

      I know just how cold SF can be, even in the summers! Pacific Grove and Monterey are among our favorite places to visit, and how wonderful you got to spend months there. Can’t wait to see Hearst Castle!

  2. Amy Kennedy

    Oh my goodness! I loved this post! I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post! What a cool life and an amazing weekend! Thank you thank you for sharing your story and your pictures! Love!!!

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      You are so sweet…we had such a wonderful weekend. We love our adventures together and it’s fun to share them!

  3. Angie

    Inspired to do this tour again, 10 years after the first. It will look different because I am different, thank you for the fierce inspiration. I love you on that motorbike💋

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