Day Three:

We got up extra early, loaded up the Element and hit the road without breakfast figuring we'd just grab a bite somewhere down the road.

Our first stop was just a few short miles away in Pacific Grove. Our goal was the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary where each year tens of thousands of migrating Monarch Butterflies stop here and each year they leave once again. One of the truly amazing parts is that it actually takes three generations of butterflies to make one cycle of this migration. How the hell can they do that stuff?!

The small park had taken a hammering in the storm. We weren't sure what we'd find, maybe all the butterfly's would have been blown away, maybe there would be gazillions of them. It took us awhile to start seeing the butterflies and once we did they were everywhere. We were expecting them up in the trees but actually they were hunkered down closer to the ground. Becky had to relocate one from the walkway.

One of the larger varieties of butterfly can be seen here:

Back in the car and another short hop down the coast to the somewhat overly precious "Carmel-by-the-Sea."

I'm not usually not all that up for affluent white-guy stuff but the town does have a certain charm. Besides it being comprised to a great extent of twisty, narrow, purposefully not named streets, it can also lay claim to having had Clint Eastwood as a former Mayor. We both really liked this old woody wagon we came across while prowling for breakfast.

I'm here to report there are no Mom and Pop cafes in downtown Carmel. We ended up having forgettable pastries at a Starbucks. After "dining" we wandered down to the very best part of the town. The beaches. The sand is VERY white and VERY fine. The beach almost feels soft. We liked it.

Our next stop was the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Mission Carmel) in San Carlos. This one was tough to find. Finally with the help of the GPS (by this point we had nicknamed her "Carmen the Garmin"...Garmin being the brand name) we found it.

Carmel Mission was the second of the series of missions in Alta California. It was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1770 and remained his favorite. The wood from his coffin in enshrined here.

And he is also buried here. Why the coffin and the body are no longer together I really couldn't say. I'm thinking it's maybe one of those mysterious "Catholic" things.

The mission is in great shape (the same can't be said of all the missions as we shall see later on in the trip). The main sanctuary...

...and the graveyard outside. My memory is that this is the "worker's graveyard" but I think I must be wrong. From what I've heard of the building of the California Missions the native workers generally didn't get the respect necessary to "deserve" headstones.

I know, I know...this is a lot of pictures of the mission. It's just that it's so damned photogenic.

The first library in California. It contained over 200 volumes at its peak. Very comfy looking.

The main sitting room...

Father Serra's personal bedroom. Very not comfy.

And back on the road heading south on California's Pacific Coast Highway, the legendary Highway 1. It's a perfect blend of sunny skies and spectacular scenery.

Just after noon we came upon something that had taken me quite unexpectedly on my motorcycle trip the year before, the elephant seals at Point Piedras Blancas.

Until recently these huge beasts stayed in areas away from humans. IN the early 1990's, they started showing up on the beach here. At first there were just a few, then more came and more. Now the beach (which is right alongside the road) is at times packed with thousands of these monsters. Our timing was perfect and even though there weren't huge numbers of the seals lying about there were males, females and babies!

Some of the show was in the parking lot (built for seal-watching...along with easy access paved paths) where Becky discovered this and just had to ask the owner if she could take a photo.

After a short hop down the coast we arrived in the town of San Simeon to take a tour of William Randolph Heart's home, better known as "Hearst Castle." We had reserved tickets online (reservations are required for tours) for a specific tour (Tour #1) at a specific time (2:30) and amazingly we arrived right on schedule.

The new visitor center is still under construction.

Our tour guide introduced himself (Becky likened him to a young Dan Aykroyd) before we all boarded our bus for the five-mile trip up the mountain to the Castle proper (the property covers 40,000 acres).

The views are can just make out the road up in the picture below.

Everything about this place is purely over-the-top. I wanted to dislike all the ostentatious opulence but in the end it won me over. It is a fabulous structure and on par with many of the old world houses and castles of Europe. It's amazing what some people can create when supplied with endless amounts of cash.

Many of the statues, ceilings, mantles, etc. were purchased by a roving band of buyers Hearst had scouring Europe and the East. Not a bad job to have, I suspect.

This looks uncomfortable.

At the time of Hearst's death in 1951 his home wasn't yet complete. Much of the rear part still looks like this...

Whereas the front looks like this...BIG difference!

It being the holiday season the main dining room was still decorated.

Hearst played host to all the Hollywood celebrities of the age as well as people like Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. Hearst had house rules that applied to everyone. Only one alcoholic drink before supper and EVERYONE must attend the formal dinner in this room. As a mark of the man's eccentricity he insisted on paper napkins, wooden toothpicks and mustard and catsup bottles on the formal table.

His indoor pool is simply amazing...

After the 1 hour 45 minute tour Becky and I took in the movie about "The Making Of..." at the Imax theater back in the visitor's center. As could be expected, it glorified this somewhat controversial guy but all in all was enjoyable enough. Outside, zebra were grazing.

We scooted back into San Simeon, grabbed a forgettable motel room right alongside the highway and called it a day...a long day.

To continue on to Day 3 of our trip please click HERE!