Driving to a New Beginning // 5 Highlights from our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Rain beetled on our windshield, crackling like static electricity. It was the kind of rain that made me want to drive the actual speed limit. The kind that left big splotchy streaks on my soft cotton pants while we were loading up the car.

Our road trip was off to a blustery start.

When we first talked about traveling from Washington to California for my husband, Onur's, new job, my antenna perked up at the idea of a "Road Trip!"

  •  We could see the redwoods!
  •  Drive along the ocean!
  •  Stop at cute beachside towns!
  •  Take one last trip before Onur started his new job!
  •  Have "the tank" (a.k.a our trusty Subaru) with us from the get-go in California!

My publisher, Avalon Travel, shared our excitement, sending us Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip to help us on our way. The colorful book covers cities and scenic stops along the 1700-mile Pacific Coast Highway, including Washington State, Oregon, and California. We loved the historical trivia, maps of local communities, "must-see" points of interest, and just simply having a wealth of ideas at our fingertips.

While two-thirds of our trip involved driving rain and thick wind gusts (what can you expect from January weather in the Pacific Northwest, right?), little bursts of joy brightened our day: a homey coffee shop in Bandon, Oregon, seeing Jessica Fletcher's house in Mendocino, California, hearing the ocean in the middle of the night from our room at the Little River Inn, and admiring the warm, international orange of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here are five highlights from our Pacific Coast Highway road trip:

1. Bandon Baking Co & Deli was a wonderfully cozy stop with warmth, humor, and heart. A paper scroll mounted next to the coffee bar announced it was National Peanut Butter Day, while a map with pushpins hung over the sugar and creamer station, encouraging out-of-town visitors to pin where they're from. A sign behind us read, "Sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug." and the walls were covered in local artwork.

We ordered a peanut butter cookie and our Pacific Northwest favorite—a bagel with egg and lox—sat down at a window seat, and happily enjoyed a break from the rain.

2. The Southern Oregon Coast One of the most dramatic views on our drive was the Pacific Ocean from Highway 101 in southern Oregon. The stormy, cornflower blue sky merged with the seaglass green ocean on the horizon like a Rothko painting.  It was truly mesmerizing. Even better: there were lots of turnouts along Highway 101 to pull over for impromptu stops to ooh and ahh at the coastal tableau.

3. Mendocino I had read that Blair House, a bed and breakfast located in Mendocino, California was used to portray Jessica Fletcher's home in the long-running television series, Murder, She Wrote. According to Blair House, many early settlers in Mendocino were from back east, and the local architecture reflected their east coast homeland. So, it worked for the show's fictional setting of Cabot Cove, Maine. How about that?

Another highlight of Mendocino was the Goodlife Cafe and Bakery, a friendly breakfast spot where Onur and I fortified ourselves with their Mayan bowl: scrambled eggs, black beans, sliced avocado, salsa, and cheese. We also loved the beautiful cups and mugs made by local potters displayed on their shelves.

4. Little River Inn, just three miles south of Mendocino, sits on the east side of California State Route 1 overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I had dreamed about staying at the Little River Inn for years based on the quiet location and relaxing images of sunlit porch chairs outside of their cottages. Just as cozy though were the Inn's hotel rooms with a communal porch. Privacy screens jut out from the sides of sliding glass doors to give you a bit of solitude with your morning coffee. We loved that in the middle of the night, we could hear the soothing sounds of the ocean. In the morning, we were greeted by the glowing pink sunrise over the ocean, followed by a rainbow. It was pretty magical, and reminded us of another cozy, oceanside stay that we love in Washington: Kalaloch Lodge.

5. Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge There is nothing more iconic in the Bay Area than the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was determined to stop and hopefully, if Onur was willing, grab a photo of us in front of it. We took the last southbound exit before the Golden Gate Bridge, and Onur pulled over at Battery Spencer. After grabbing a couple shots of the bridge with my camera and tripod, we drove to a lookout just up the road to get our inaugural picture. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans, as a hail storm blew in just as we parked! We didn't get our picture, but I bet we'll never forget that moment.

Like anything in life, our road trip hit unexpected bumps along the way. And at the same time, we had moments and memories that took our breath away. We'll never forget the rainbow from our porch at the Little River Inn, or our comical attempt to enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge in a hailstorm.

A couple days after our trip, Onur and I were taking a walk in our new neighborhood when a word popped into my head: Attraversiamo.

Attraversiamo is Italian for "Let's cross over," as in, "Let's cross to the other side of the street." I first read it in Elizabeth Gilbert's book, EAT PRAY LOVE, where she talks about its symbolic meaning for her in her life's journey.

She writes on her website:

"Readers of EAT PRAY LOVE will remember this as the last word in the book. Italian for 'let's cross over' — the most elegant way I can imagine to remind myself to let it go, to put it all behind you, to face the future rather than dwelling in the past, to stand up and try again."

As we drove beneath the steel towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, it felt as if we were crossing over into the beginning of our new life in California.

Walking hand-in-hand with Onur in the baking sun, I thought, "Attraversiamo."

Let's cross over.