Driving to California next month

Kathsgrdn

We will be in Monterey for about 4 days. I'm thinking of doing one touristy thing while we are there, other than basic sightseeing. Me and my adult kids. I thought about either going whale watching or doing a walking food tour of the city. Any other suggestions? I found a restaurant in Carmel that serves whole dungeous crab!!! So will probably go there for one of those days.

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sushipup1

You'll find lots of places for crab! Oh, now I miss it all. Best place for fish of all kinds is Phil's Fish Market, an easy scenic drive up towards Santa Cruz. There are whale watching tours from Moss Landing and water tours of Elkhorn Slough, as well. The whale trips are better than those going out of Monterey. Try a meal at The Sand Bar, Wharf #2 in Monterey. Much better than Fisherman's Wharf. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium is really amazing. Have a great time!

http://www.kahunawhalewatching.com/

http://philsfishmarket.com/

http://elkhornslough.com/

http://sandbarandgrillmonterey.com/

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lukkiirish

I second that Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing. As is Fisherman’s warf, but what I really urge you to do is to take a drive along the coast south of Monterey to Big Sur. The rocky coast and the Pfieffer Big Sur park are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

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sushipup1

Phil's is best on a weekday, gets crazy busy on weekends. Everything is pretty close to everything. Carmel is 6 iles from Monterey, it all runs together, If you drive down to Big Sur (hoping the rains don't ruin the roads again), have lunch at Nepenthe. Spectacular. If you don't want to spend a whole day in Big Sur, try Point Lobos, immediately south of Carmel.

If you want to try wine tasting, there are some tasting rooms that feature the local Monterey County wines. Or visit the wineries by driving south on River Rd. out of Salinas (20 miles).


https://www.nepenthe.com/

https://www.pointlobos.org/

https://montereywines.org/

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Kathsgrdn

We are driving up the coast from La Jolla, my daughter wants to show me it, so will stop and see Big Sur. We don't have a lot of time to drive around and my son can't go too far from Monterey. Thanks for all the suggestions, will check them out.

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socks

If you go whale watching, be sure anyone prone to motion sickness takes "something."

If you are readers, there is the Steinbeck museum. You could then walk along his old stomping ground, Cannery Row. Best of all is the aquarium, but above that is the view of Monterey Bay. I hope your weather is nice.

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sushipup1

Driving up Highway One all the way is not 'just dropping in". It can easily add 4 hours or more to the trip. As for "too far" from Monterey, nothing else (besides Big Sur) is too far. Steinbeck Museum is in Salinas, about 20 miles from Cannery Row. And there are few traces of the old Cannery Row, except in the imagination. Very touristy. But that's where the Aquarium is, and that's good for 3 or 4 hours.

What will your son be doing in Monterey?

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Kathsgrdn

Sushipup, he is in tech school there. We're driving his car to him because he will be graduating and going to another base.

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sprtphntc7a

17 mile drive in Pebble Beach golf course!! just gorgeous!!

driving down/route one! Big Sur is breathtaking!! almost indescribable!

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wantoretire_did

Driving in California has to be calculated in hours, not miles.

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Kathsgrdn

We will be driving up the coast, not down.

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lukkiirish

If you take the 101 up, depending on traffic, it should be considered a day drive. I’ve driven it a couple of times; it was 9 hours one time, 7 another. That’s from Northern Orange County. La Jolla can/will add another couple of hours (again depending on traffic). If time is tight, it would be better time wise if you to take the 405 fwy part of the way, like from La Jolla to say, LAX area and pick up the 101 there.

You’ll pass Big Sur going up. I’m sure you’ll recognize the Bixby bridge as it’s the back drop for many a movie.

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lukkiirish

Oh! And Kath, when you’re figuring out your schedule, keep in mind that the speed limits are much lower than they are in a lot of other places. I don’t recall what state your in, but it’s 70 where we are vs 55-60 there.

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sealavender

Maybe you could stop at Hearst Castle on your way up for a tour. Also, keep an eye on the weather; PCH in Malibu is closed for several days due to mudslides last night.

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maifleur01

I have to agree that the drive will be a day trip. Better if you can afford it to take a flight up the coast from San Diego and use your son's car once you get there.

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raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio

Hmm, weren't the freeway speed limits higher a few years ago?

It usually took me 8 hours to drive from Encinitas (northern San Diego County) to San Francisco, using the freeways. To Monterey is shorter, but the route is slower as well. Along 101/1 is truly a lovely drive. There is a fish restaurant in Templeton, just off the highway, across from a Trader Joe's, that is my fave place to stop for lunch.

My only times in Monterey were almost all for an overnight after a hiking vacation in Big Sur (and very many years ago) so really can't suggest an activity. TripAdvisor is my go-to resource.

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sealavender

The fish restaurant is Pier 46; I love that place, too. I used to spend time up there for work and always made it a point to have a meal there. It's really small inside, but if the weather is nice, there is outdoor seating.

Pier 46

There is a lot of good wine tasting in that area, and probably some closer to Monterey. I would definitely do the Aquarium. You might want to see if there are any Monarch Butterfly wintering sights up that way, too. I just checked; there is one nearby in Pacific Grove!

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Kathsgrdn

Lurkish, thanks for the highway advice. I mapquested the distance to make sure we could do it in a day, otherwise we would've had to skip La Jolla and go straight to Monterey. The speed limit on the interstates and parkways is 70 most of the time in Kentucky. I figured driving the coastal road would be much slower.

Maifleur, we are driving his car to him and flying back home. Plus, I've always wanted to driving 101, will see if it is worth coming back and driving the entire coast someday. ( :

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wantoretire_did

You can’t plan on going 70 mph on any interstate in southern CA, at least to well above LA, if not further.

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DawnInCal

Kath, the drive up the coast is well worth it if one has the time. We once drove from the Oregon border to San Diego on the coast hwy. It took several days (planned) and it was a simply spectacular route. If you ever find yourself in the northern part of the state, be sure to check out the giant redwoods. They are a must see.

If time is an issue for you, and it sounds like it is, I agree about taking one of the major freeways part of the way and then cutting over to the coast.

Have fun!




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lukkiirish

Well, I hope you’re able to at least fit a good chunk of it in, it’s so worth the time! I’m kind of jealous, I love that drive!



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sushipup1

Once more, I repeat. Taking Highway One thru Big Sur will add 4 hours to the trip from LA. Fastest LaJolla to Monterey? Tough it out thru Orange County and LA, then take 5 to 46, cut over to 101 and Paso Robles. Or cut over to One/101 (they are the same in some areas) just south of Ventura. You'll be on the coast until above Santa Barbara. If you stay on One (it is not the Pacific Coast Highway anywhere in Northern CA) and go thru Cambria up the coast, it will take a lot longer. A lot longer.

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Elmer J Fudd

There's misinformation in some of the comments.

Most importantly, I agree with sushipup - staying on Highway 1 north starting around San Luis Obispo will add a bunch of time to the trip. It is a pretty drive but maybe one to do another trip if time is limited. I echo her 5 to 46 to Paso Robles and thence 101 North as the fastest way to get to Monterey from the south. Turn off 101 toward Spreckels to drive through fields or in Salinas to get to Monterey. You can get a flavor of Big Sur by driving south from Monterey for a morning or afternoon drive, just get on Highway 1 south and continue going straight past Carmel.


LA is a big city with a lot of congestion. When coming up from San Diego, you need to plan on leaving the SD area mid morning and passing through LA around mid-day/early afternoon to avoid rush hour traffic. Use Waze or Google maps navigation for advice on what segments of what freeways to take, there are many permutations available and no one way is always best. Sometimes staying on 5 to and through downtown is better than the 405, though there's road construction east of Downtown right now. It depends on the day. I've made the drive from here to nearly the border and back a half dozen times in the past 3 months (and many dozens of times in past years) and this has been my experience.


(The intersection of 405 and 101 isn't around LAX as someone said, it's about 20 miles north of there in the San Fernando Valley)


The normal speed limit is 65, on freeways and roads of limited access. If it's 65, you can safely drive 70-72 without worry of a ticket. There are stretches of freeway outside of urban areas where the speed limit is 70, including parts of 101 between NorCal and SoCal and Interstate 5 North from (and south to) Grapevine to past where I get turn off, maybe to Stockton and then again after Sacramento. However, outside of peak hours in SoCal and seemingly especially in San Diego County, if you're going 70 in one of the middle lanes, people will be flying by you on both your left and your right. On interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley, the speed limit (as I said) is 70 and 80+ is normal in the left hand lane.


Trip Adviser is a good resource for what to do and where to stay. Have a good trip, whenever it is.

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Kathsgrdn

We have all day to drive, is that not going to be enough time?

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sealavender

If you are proposing driving the 1 or PCH the whole way, then no, a whole day will not do it. From Long Beach through Santa Monica, it's basically a surface street with heavy traffic. Taking the 5 to 46 will make it a lot quicker; it's very fast with a lot of big trucks, and the Grapevine area between LA and Bakersfield is subject to freezing/snow. I am also not a fan of the drive from the 5 to Paso Robles on the 46; miles of nothing, James Dean death site. The coastal route, 5 to 405 to 101, is not as fast but more scenic. Expect major congestion from Orange County through Thousand Oaks, though.

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sushipup1

From LaJolla to Monterey would be a long drive even if you don't go highway One. Also depends on the day of the week. If you can get a very early start on the weekend, you'll usually get north of LA pretty easily. Weekday? Time a mid-morning departure and pray that traffic isn't awful.

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Kathsgrdn

Thanks for everyone's advice. Time before the last time I drove in that area was when my son was a toddler, it was a nightmare then and his father refused to drive out of the area after driving in to go to Disneyland. I'm not looking forward to it, at least around LA. Next time, my kids were older and I drove around Bakersfield after taking them to Sequoia National Park. I tried to stay away from the cities before heading East and home. I'm thinking of letting my daughter drive the first leg of the trip. We will be there right in the middle of the week.

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golfergrrl

Just 1 caution to add. If you're going to come up 5, check the weather over the Grapevine. You don't want to get caught in snow / ice. We just came home from Palm Springs a couple days ago. We drove through LA and up 101. I averaged 70-75 the whole way. And no, I wasn't the fastest car on the road. You'll have plenty of time to come up 101, but not detouring to 1.

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Kathsgrdn

Golfergrrl, what is the Grapevine? I just realized Monterey and Big Sur are only an hour away from each other so we will just go on a day trip after my son graduates.

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Kathsgrdn

Nevermind, just watched a youtube video of it. lol.

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golfergrrl

It's the nickname given to the part of 5 that transverses the Tejon Pass. It reaches an elevation of 1999 ft. It was actually closed today due to crashes caused by bad weather.Grapevine

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watchmelol

I agree with golfergrrl. Plus highway 5 is too boring and 101 offers more options.

This is our rainy season. The PCH itself is brutal in the northern portion just below Big Sur during the winter season. But the area between Pismo Beach (just 11 miles south of San Luis Obispo) and right off 101 and Cambria is beautiful and an easy drive. From Cambria you can cut back across to 101 for the rest of the trip up. It would be easier to drive back down to Big Sur from Monterey for a short day trip then to drive all the way up to it.

As for Monterey nobody should miss the Aquarium. If you decide to take a whale watching tour go with Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center. The red building at the very end of the wharf. Nancy Black runs an excellent tour. On weekends there are often various festivals near the main wharf.

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Ali

That will be fun. I love visiting that area which is rarely. It has been so dull and dreary this year, I wish I was going with you.

Have a fun, safe trip.

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caflowerluver

If you have time you might want to drive north of Monterey and see the whole Santa Cruz area.

Things to do in Santa Cruz

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Jakkom Katsu

Couple of tips, we go to Monterey/Carmel quite often:

1) Plan to hit the Aquarium AFTER 2p if you go weekdays. All the schoolkids pile back on to the schoolbuses and leave at 2p sharp. Don't miss the jellyfish on the second floor; the backlighting was an innovative technique pioneered by the MBAq to show the jellies off beautifully.

2) If you're going to Carmel, don't miss the beach, which is lovely; and if you're around on a Fri or Sat, make a reservation for Tor House, the marvelous stone home built by Robinson Jeffers, one of California's Poet Laureate: http://www.torhouse.org/tours/

Also, since you'll be in Monterey, don't miss the very finest French patisserie in an area full of pseudo-French bakeries - Parker-Lusseau Bakery. Their main store and bakery kitchen is at 731 Munras Ave., open only Wed-Sat. The smaller 539 Hartnell St. store is open longer hours, Mon–Sat. M. Lusseau makes true Parisian croissants:
delicate, flaky, and so buttery you can eat them plain! His pastries and cakes
are exceptional, too. We like to stop by for a quick lunch of the smoked tomato/goat cheese quiche (there's also a spinach and a Lorraine) and some properly made espresso.

Check the website before you visit; the main store is closed the month of January for some interior work, although the branch location reopens Jan. 15th after a 2 week winter break: http://www.parkerlusseau.com/

If you want to have a splurge night out, you can't do better than Montrio/Monterey. Reservations a necessity; it's extremely popular with locals. Chef Tony Baker is classically trained and a brilliant California cuisine chef - and don't miss his desserts, which are sensational. We prefer it to Passionfish/Pacific Grove et. al., although we love lunch at Lucia @Bernardus Resort, Carmel Valley.

I also vote for getting out of the LA Basin in the most efficient manner Wayz can manage, then cutting over through Paso Robles/Cambria to hit Hwy 1 (assuming weather cooperates and no road closures).

Should you need a break from driving, exactly halfway between Cambria and Carmel is the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur. It's about 10 min up in the hills above Hwy 1 - stunning views, with a small bookstore/gift shop and clean bathroom free for use. Note the hours: New Camaldoli Hermitage - visitors

Have a great time! Wonderful area, one of our favs.

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sprtphntc7a

if u happen to eat dinner in Monterey, try Monterey's Fish House. it was absolutely delicious... a little ways off the touristy traps on the wharf.

locals go there. that's what i always look for when traveling "where do the locals go".

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sushipup1

Is that the place on Del Monte, near the NPGS? Tried it once, and it is good. It just wasn't on my radar.

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sprtphntc7a

yes, that's the one! we went in 2014 and we loved it!!!

oops, sorry OP, just re-read your original post, and yes, you will be in Monterey for 4 days :-}

just and FYI if u do go, it looks uninviting on the outside, but inside its really nice... those blinds don't do anything for the appearance!

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raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio

Just be aware that, in my experience, mapping apps will underestimate the travel time over a given distance. I think that they can't account for heavy traffic, slower speed limits in sections, and so forth.

I drove to Richmond VA for the World cycling championships in 2015 and my app told me it would take about 7 hours -- it took nearly 10, mostly because posted speed limits were lower than expected..

I used to drive from Encinitas to Agoura Hills (Interstate 5 to 405 to 101) in about 3 hours in the evening or on a weekend. Six hours to San Luis Obispo. That was 25 years ago.

I would suggest you could go up the coast road from La Jolla to Leucadia, then hop onto the 5 at La Costa Avenue ( it doesn't go through Camp Pendleton anyway) and take it to the 405 then to 101. I don't think that the Orange County coast is compelling enough to drive through get back off the 5, although if I had time to stop, I might for San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Beach.

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Elmer J Fudd

raee, I spent nearly a month in San Diego over several driving trips between Thanksgiving and now. I came back most recently last week. I disagree with your suggestion about the coast road north from La Jolla, also about the 405 through LA. For the first, even at the height of traffic northbound (which would be mostly missed if leaving 9-10 am), the coast road has lower speed limits, stop signs, and traffic lights. From La Jolla to Leucadia would be a heck of a slog. The freeway would almost always be better.


25 years ago, nav functions with real time traffic updates affecting routing weren't available. If you always went the same way, the likelihood is that many of those trips might have been better using different routes.


405 vs the 5 through LA? depends on the day and the time of day, as I said before. One of my trips back, my very reliable GPS with reliable real time traffic info recommended it. By when it was too late to change, there was an accident in Hawthorne that delayed me by about 45 minutes. Staying on the 5 through Anaheim, etc., would have been that much faster but I was just a few minutes too soon past that decision point to know. The other turn-offs to alternate routes had passed by the time I got stuck.


Navigation software? Yes, I think all have bad data of various kinds. Funny enough, all the nav app and hardware companies buy such data (from companies like Here, formerly Navteq) and there are only a few sellers of this so if one has a specific problem, others will too. Another issue is that for a long trip, some only update travel time for traffic problems that are relevantly nearby. If you're making a 300 mile drive, it doesn't help much to know as you leave home that there's an accident at mile 280 of your trip causing a delay. It's likely to be gone when you get near. Unless that's something a route change made early on would affect. I always double check with a glace at Google Map traffic info a few times through my trips.


Driving through LA in the evening is a good alternative instead of midday. Be sure not to leave SD too early and get clear of the metro area to the North or to the West.

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golfergrrl

My car's NAV doesn't show traffic, so I use Google Maps. It tells you the fastest route. You can add extra stops. It shows all traffic and incidents. If there's a delay ahead of you, it will offer a re-route in real time. You can also use the "search this area" feature to find gas, restaurants, hotels, etc. The only thing is doesn't show is "cop ahead". LOL

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Elmer J Fudd

A growing list of late model cars have compatibility with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. These apps use your smartphone as the brains to display and produce GPS functionality (Google Maps) on your car's screen. I've encountered many rental cars I can use this capability with. Using the app that corresponds to the phone you have (with the phone's USB cord) makes the functionality easier to use and displays on a larger screen. I expressly took a pass on a more expensive model of the latest car I bought (needed to have built in GPS) when I learned the model was compatible with an Android phone. It works very well, much better than the built in GPS on my wife's Toyota.



Cars with Android Auto


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Kathsgrdn

I use Google maps too and it usually tells me about traffic issues. Someone told me to try another app, I did just out of curiosity and totally didn't steer me away from a completely blocked off interstate area due to construction. I went back to Google maps.

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roy4me

If you have time while traveling up 101 I live in Nipomo, about 12 miles south of Pismo. We could have lunch there. My daughter lives and works there.

Hearst Castle is worth the time but may take several hours.

Hwy 1 is a beautiful but slow drive and with all the rain we are getting it may be closed due to mudslides.

If you can't stop for lunch, wave as you go by.

I am Carol in California .





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rob333 (zone 7a)

I'm only just now looking, I but I was right when I figured my fellow Montereyan sushi would answer correctly. Yes! spot on.

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share_oh

No clue about driving but I have visited friends that lived in San Jose a couple of times and we went to the Monterrey Aquarium (loved it) and went on whale watching trips - highly recommend!

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1929Spanish-GW

Hi! Popping in from Southern California. Let me share these two photos from my car in early December with perfect weather on a Tuesday. Pay attention to the drive time:distance. North Orange County to Santa Monica and back.


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Kathsgrdn

Carol, sure if my daughter wakes up early enough to get there by lunchtime. Would love to meet you after all these year!

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roy4me

Would love it.

My number is 805 929

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Kathsgrdn

Carol, sent you a FB message.

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Elmer J Fudd

Unless it's a Saturday or Sunday, and/or you leave La Jolla VERY early in the morning, or drive through and past LA the night before, I think it's quite unlikely you'll be to Nipomo by "lunch time"

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Kathsgrdn

I may do that Elmer, thanks.


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sushipup1

To make you feel better, once you get past LA on the way north, you can expect smooth sailing. Yeah, there can always be something unexpected to slow you, but just breathe a sigh of relief and put Southern Cal in your rear view mirror. The rest is a nice drive.

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sushipup1

Any updates? The weather's been lousy, and may affect plans. Let us know.

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Lars

Traffic is not bad in L.A. on Saturday morning or Sunday morning, as a rule, but it is always a good idea to avoid rush hours. Even the weekdays are not that bad if you avoid rush hours. Also, Google maps will guide you through the fastest way - there are generally many alternative routes possible, although the Sepulveda pass on the 405 can be difficult to avoid. The Getty Museum in the Sepulveda pass would be worth visiting, if you had the time. I often take Hwy 1 through Malibu instead of Hwy 101 when going north - not because it is necessarily faster, but it is very scenic and has a calming effect on me. Not recommended in the rain, however.

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Kathsgrdn

Sushipup, we leave later in the week. Will let you know how it goes. My daughter was diagnosed 2 days ago with the flu so we are both on Tamiflu. Hopefully I won't get it. She is already feeling better so it must work. I had the flu 2 years ago and I was out of it for about 6 days.

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sushipup1

Stay well, and safe travels. Hope the weather is good for you, too.

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watchmelol

Bring warm clothes and tire chains if you plan to cross mountains. The grapevine was closed today due to snow. Lots of high winds and overturned big rigs.

There is little smooth sailing any where in the state due to the recent weather. add time (a lot) to wherever you plan to go. Definitely not a good time to drive the coast.

It's been wet all week and today was sunny but really cold in the greater Bay Area north of Monterey.

The Santa Cruz Mountains also got snow and the hills surrounding San Francisco Bay area got a more than usual dusting.

This is a picture of the snow pack in the mountains behind Newport Beach in Southern California (Orange County) a friend shared today.

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sushipup1

But the snow rarely lasts too long on the ground (except in the mountains) unless the weather takes a freaky turn. We've driven over the Grapevine the day after it was closed to snow, and it was clear by then.

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Kathsgrdn

I haven't owned chains since I lived in Northern NV. I only used them once, on my way home from work in Reno, had to drive through mountains home. I don't know why Kentuckians don't use chains, even in the hills...no one uses them. I've driven to work and back in blizzard like conditions and four or five inches of snow and ice on the ground. Oh, well....we are driving my son's Prius, which got whipped around by the wind earlier today. Hope the rain and wind aren't too bad on our way up to Monterey. Looks like dry and cold until we hit Arizona. Then it's going to be fairly nice. Rain on the days we will be heading up to Monterey. Hopefully it won't be too bad. We were around 70 degrees here yesterday and now it is freezing cold again. Had to take the trash down to the road and nearly froze my butt off!

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sushipup1

Hope your trip is wonderful! Smooth sailing and warm sun! Stay safe!

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Elmer J Fudd

Stay on the coast route when driving north (Hwy 101) and you most certainly won't have need for chains. More likely suntan location will be useful. A mid to late week rain storm is possible so manage the timing with that in mind. Enjoy yourself.

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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

Not to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the north bound journey on the 405/west bound 101, but there are stretches of those freeways that rank in the top 10 in the country for traffic congestion during rush hour.

Timing is everything. A stop at the Getty Museum in the Sepulveda Pass -- through which the 405 passes -- can help to put you on the road at the right time. You might consider driving west on Sunset to PCH/Route 1 to avoid the infernal 405/101 interchange. PCH joins up with the 101 just past Oxnard. The drive is pretty and easier on the nerves.

Check for news of PCH closings if there is anything resembling the slightest of rainfall.

Edited to add: Also check for conditions on the Grapevine/Tejon Pass if you decide on the 5. There have been closings due to snow during the most recent storms.

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Kathsgrdn

On 405 now driving through LA. Traffic isn't too bad. Just passed an accident but barely delayed us. It is raining lightly right now. Should make a late lunch with Carol as long as we have no issues!

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rob333 (zone 7a)

Safe travels!

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Linda C

Hwy 1 is closed North of Ragged Point, which is just North of Hearst Castle.

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Linda C

Hwy 166 where it merges with Hwy 101 is also closed.

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sushipup1

She shouldn't even be planning for either of those roads, if she stays on 101 (as long as 101 is open) above Santa Barbara. But I hear the weather is lousy.

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roy4me

I enjoyed meeting Kathleen and her daughter,Lauren today while having lunch at Rancho Nipomo.

Lots of wind and it looks like they will experience rain as they drive North on the 101.

So nice to meet them after all these years.

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eld6161

NIce! Kath didn't mention a meet up, unless I missed it.

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OklaMoni

How many KT peeps have you met now Carol?

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Kathsgrdn

We made it here around 7 pm. It was great to meet Carol! She was really sweet and brought us gifts: cute, cloth shopping bags. It rained pretty much the entire way up the coast. I drove the last few hours so we were going quite a bit slower than when my daughter was driving earlier. No one drove the speed limit or even near it!

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