2014 Roadtrip: Merced, CA to the Monterey Peninsula, CA

When we left Merced at 11, it was 60° (on May 6th) at 171' in elevation. We arrived in Monterey/Pacific Grove, CA at 1:30 p.m. and it was 65° and windy, after 116 miles. It had It had rained in the morning (hardly can complain since California is in drought) but it cleared. We first passed farmland/pastureland on Hwy 59. Then we drove on Hwy 152 (divided and scenic). We were seeing the golden hills of the Diablo Range. They were dotted with small trees. Then we crossed the Coastal Range. There were lots of wildflowers. When we got on Hwy 101 there was lots of traffic. We saw lots of distinctive-looking Monterey Pines and we knew we had arrived. Then Dimitri said he could smell the ocean. Et violà, there it was! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the ocean. And we saw the coastal clouds!

Dimitri found our accommodations at the Howard Johnson Pacific Grove by searching the web (660 Dennett St., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. (831) 373-8777, e-mail: hojopg@hotmail.com, www.montereyhojo.net). When he saw the pictures of the Howard Johnson property in Pacific Grove, he knew he had found something special. The rate of $130 per night (special rate for 3 or more days) could not be beat. Before we arrived, on our way into Pacific Grove, we stopped at two potential rentals. They were expensive and very down-market. The Howard Johnson property in Pacific Grove was nestled in a residential area among thick trees. It felt like the country; indeed there were lots of deer roving the area. Also outside the unit was a fern tree (planted, not native) and that brought back memories of all of the fern trees we saw in New Zealand.

Our room, 120, has two levels. The bedroom, with a chest of drawers (and mini bar) and fireplace, was three steps down from the living room. Its ceiling was cathedral-like and had a ceiling fan. The living room had a sofa, coffee table and flat screen TV on top of a cabinet with storage. At the other end of the unit was a large kitchen with a table and chairs and the closet and bathroom. The kitchen had a stove top, full-sized refrigerator, a coffee maker, a sink (with a disposal) and lots of counter space and cabinets. There wasn’t much if any kitchen equipment but we asked for a toaster and stuff and we got some things--enough to make eggs for breakfasts. There was a deck running the length of the unit. It was newly renovated and we liked the way it was done. The complex was once townhomes and there is a comfortable, homey feel to the unit. The light was good enough and so was the heat. The breakfast (included) was good enough too. There were oranges and apples in addition to the standard complimentary breakfast fare.

On our first morning, we were the only ones in the breakfast room. It was quite cool and cloudy in the morning. Many afternoons would get sunny, however. But not as warm as Bishop. Our second morning in our unit Audre made breakfast. We had eggs, baguette from Trader Joe’s (1170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. (831) 656-0190) and croissant from Patisserie Bechler (1225 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. (831) 655-5920, www.patisseriebechler.com). The sourdough baguette and mini croissant were very good. It was nice having a kitchen after 2 weeks without one.

Outside our unit, beyond our deck were trees and a dirt path that led to the Ocean View Road and the beach. On our first afternoon we biked the path behind our unit to the road and then turned right to follow the coast to Monterey and Cannery Row.  By the time we got back, we had biked 7 miles and had had a wonderful ride—right from the unit. Seeing the ocean after 18 months was thrilling. By the shore, there was a brilliant carpet of magenta iceplant blossoms. There were lots of sour figs—a coastal succulent that is everywhere in California.
After the 18-month hiatus we've back at the ocean!
There was much construction going on at the Howard Johnson. Out of the 40 units, 7 were left still to be renovated when we were there. It was not noisy inside our unit, however. On Thursday, more guests arrived and we were told that on the weekend, it would be fully booked. Evidently, the contract with Howard Johnson is being replaced with a contract with Best Western in June. We were happy to stay at the Howard Johnson/Best Western for 10 days even though there were annoyances. For instance, the Internet speed was slow and the connection was unreliable (until a workman came and repaired the system). Also the pipes in the shower “sang” (actually screamed). The thermostat was difficult to control. It would be set at a hair under 70° before we went to bed. At 5 a.m., it would be 65° so Audre would move the control up just a hair. At 7 a.m. it would be 75°. Go figure.

All in all we were happy with our accommodations on the Monterey Peninsula.