Two Days in Paradise: The Pacific Coast Highway

In the world of classic cars, few things are more iconic than the sight of an early Mustang—especially a red convertible—on the highway.  And in the world of two-lane touring, no American road is more iconic than the Pacific Coast Highway. So it’s reasonable to assume that my recent two-day cruise along the coast of California gave hundreds of motorists a visual kick. From Santa Cruz south to San Luis Obispo on Thursday, October 4, and then down to Ventura on the 5th, I toured approximately 300 miles of America’s most famous shoreline drive.

The weather was idyllic: sunny and warm, with no appreciable humidity. Although a full month had passed since the end of the summer tourist season, droves of people were out enjoying the highway. There was no evidence of a sluggish economy in the region, even with the price of regular gas in Southern California at $5 per gallon. (No, that’s not a typo.) The parking lots of the upscale restaurants, shops, and inns along the route were crowded, as people were obviously in the mood to spend their money on more than fuel.

Day 1: A gull has the park overlooking the harbor at Monterey all to himself.

Day 1: I found myself stopping at every scenic overlook to admire the cliff-side views, such as this setting in the Big Sur area.

So, just how popular are Mustang convertibles? I was amazed to count literally dozens on the two-lane highway, mostly headed north. Nearly all were new 6-cylinder models, and it’s a good bet that most were rentals. My theory was borne out when I stopped at a scenic overlook and chatted with a couple in their sixties from Australia. Like me, they were touring the USA, but had rented their V-6 equipped 2012 Mustang at LAX. At the same overlook, a group of Harley riders stopped to stretch their legs. They wore expensive riding suits, unlike American riders, and turned out to be vacationing from Germany. All were Harley owners, but had rented their current machines rather than ship their Hogs all the way from Europe.

Day 1: Overseas tourists were out in force, including the Aussies in their black Mustang convertible, parked beside mine, and a group of Germans riding rented Harleys.

Day 1: Meeting other cruisers was fun, but this was the real reason for pulling off the road. Note the distant bridge.

Considering the iconic nature of driving a classic red Mustang on the Pacific Coast Highway, it was no surprise that the convertible drew a lot of attention.  I had a pleasant diversion while chatting with the Aussie couple, but the road and the scenery beckoned. By Friday afternoon I was passing through the picturesque city of Santa Barbara, after which I took the US-101 freeway into Ventura. Friday night found me sharing a teriyaki steak and shrimp dinner at a seaside restaurant with special friends and a couple of new ones, including David Bianco, co-founder of Elderhostel, Inc. (now called Road Scholar). It was a great start to a fun weekend with the Commemorative Air Force, So-Cal Wing, based at their museum in Camarillo.

Day 2: One of the less-crowded sections of the Pacific Coast Highway, shared with a couple of bikers and an import.

Day 2: Between Santa Barbara and Ventura, the 101 freeway runs right along the coast for several miles.

In all, I spent a full week in sunny California, all of it in marvelous October weather; but by the end of the stay I could definitely feel the pull to start my journey home. I was looking at three more weeks on the road and some 4,000 miles of driving, but never felt that the trip was becoming a chore. With another book event in the Phoenix area and several days’ worth of exploring the desert Southwest, I had much to look forward too.

I also had a strong hunch that the best was yet to come. And as my next posts will show, I wasn’t wrong.


2 thoughts on “Two Days in Paradise: The Pacific Coast Highway

  1. Beautiful photos! One of these days we’ll hit the Pacific Coast Highway.

    From my travels along Route 66, I’ve learned that many Europeans & Aussies come over for Harley tours; some actually DO ship the hogs over, but others rent. I’ve also heard from a source in the know that the Swedish have a heck of a good time. 😉

  2. Great photos and a great narrative. I live in Lake St. Louis, MO and own a 65 mustang convertible. I’m disabled and need hand controls. What brand/style works best on the old mustang? Please email me a reply at Thanks so much Roy

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