What route are you taking?
Roughly (mapquest) I-680 to US101 to CA156 to CA1 to CA46. Thank you in advance!
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The route you have planned is a 7 hour drive WITHOUT stops. I have to agree with Supercilious on this one. It's just too much time in a car for an older person and there's the real possibility you won't make your dinner rez by 6:45 IF (And you will!!) make any stops along the coastal drive.
IF you choose to go with Highway 1, here's a short list of places to stop briefly en route:
Elephant seal rookery near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
Suggest you pick up sandwiches, etc. in Carmel before driving through Big Sur so you can stop at a scenic stop for lunch along the way. There are few decent dining options along the coast. Nepenthe is considered a favorite, but there are a LOT of stairs involved, which may be difficult for an older one.
There is handicapped access to Nepenthe. There is a driveway on the right side of the parking lot that takes you to a handicapped parking lot right next to the restaurant.
In Cambria, Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill is very good. They have a spacious outdoor patio there and heat lamps if the weather is cool. I love their Fish Tacos here and you will have pretty views of the ocean from the patio. :)
Thank you for your advice...sounds like going down Hwy 1 needs to wait for a different trip. If we travel Hwy 101, are there any recommendations between Calistoga and Paso Robles? We can take a side trip to Monterey/Carmel, I think. On the map, there is a Carmel Valley Road that looks more interesting than heading down the valley. Any and all suggestions welcome...I appreciate your time.
If you want to cut over to Monterey from Highway 101, I suggest you take the Highway 156 exit for the Monterey Peninsula. This will put you a few miles north of Monterey and allow you some time for seeing some of Monterey and Carmel's great sights. I would NOT take Carmel Valley Road to get back to Highway 101. First, the traffic through Carmel to get to Carmel Valley Road is heavy and slow and, second, once past Carmel Valley, the road is less traveled and VERY twisty, which will only slow you down. Unless you're already in Carmel, I wouldn't bother.
I suggest you post a question in the Carmel or Monterey forum and ask the locals if they've driven that road and if they recommend it.
Fastest way back to Highway 101, take Highway 68 east to Salinas, turn right on E Blanco Road and continue until you reach the 101 on ramp.Edited: 1:55 pm, October 12, 2012
Great feedback. Thanks for your help.
We did a day trip from San Mateo to Hearst Castle on Tuesday (leaving about 7:15 a.m.), taking 92, etc. to 17 to 1 and stopping for maybe 30 min (coffee, gas, bank, etc) at center to east of last light going through Carmel and it took us almost 5 hours, when it normally would have been less - we got stuck at several (maybe 3 or 4) construction zones, and connection from 17 to 1 was maybe a 20+ minute backup with an accident on 1 around Soquel. After touring Hearst Castle we had dinner in Cambria (about 4:30 ish) and hit the road before 6, heading down to 46 to Paso Robles and the 101 connection and made it back to San Mateo before 9:30, with one potty stop in Salinas at In-and-Out. The point - allow extra time. A doable day trip from there, but be prepared. One note, we didn't even notice Moonstone - sounds good to me!, but ended up eating at an Italian restaurant because several of the others we looked at were closed until 5 and we didn't want to wait and have an even longer day. Calistoga would have been probably 2 hours further, at least (had been there 2 days before)