Going Home: A tour along Highway 68 in Salinas and Monterey California

23 Feb

Growing up, I didn’t know I lived in a tourist destination.  And nestled in between agricultural Salinas and scenic Monterey, I only sort of did.  Salmon was local and wild because it lived in “the bay.”  The Pacific Ocean was both stunning and demanding of respect (cold water, rip tides).  Pebble Beach was a just a foggy place where people golfed (ok, slight exaggeration.  I knew it was special).  We had droughts and earthquakes.  Clint (as in Eastwood) was, and still is, a beloved local celebrity and steward of the land.

I haven’t been back very frequently since I left for college, much to my parents’ dismay.  But after a recent visit this past weekend, I felt it was time to write about it.  I’ll leave the complete reviews of Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur to others.  Chris Gray Faust (of Chris around the world) has done a nice, very recent “California Dreaming” series.  My take is decidedly more personal and a little off the beaten track.

The charm of Highway 68

Highway 68 is the mostly two lane road the links Salinas and Monterey.  It does connect with Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) for a section in Monterey before splitting off again.  And it has treasures all along the way.  Or maybe they are just treasures to me because they play a role in my past.  Either way, they are still worth checking out.

The Farm

The Farm: Local and organic situated at the Spreckles exit just outside of Salinas, they sell produce, have great kids programming, and sell homemade pies along with produce.  Closed during the winter months, I stopped by to take a few pics.  There were a few people tending to the fields and a happy spotted goat scampering on a roof.  Being here reminds me of the way I wish I could eat every day (a personal chef would be nice too).  I have one of their “Bunny lettuce” signs framed in my apartment in Denver to remind me of my roots.

Toro Place Café: Literally just off the highway (on the eastbound side), this place says dive in all the best ways.  How does a Cali girl learn to love biscuits and gravy?  You guessed it.  It is also inextricably linked with my sister and our childhood and summer and picking blackberries in our backyard.  So I don’t know how the food is these days and frankly I don’t care.  Go for nostalgia alone.

Toro Place Cafe

Tarpy’s Roadhouse: Not too far from the local airport on the westbound side of the highway.  I ate here just last weekend and the food was pretty good.  The warm sourdough bread always served hot has forever served as the standard by which I judge bread.  The grounds are beautiful.  My family celebrated a lot of milestones here, and it always feels like home.

Tarpy's Roadhouse

The Golden Tee (2nd Floor, Monterey Peninsula Airport): Oh, my darling local airport.  If only United didn’t make it so expensive to fly non-stop to you directly from Denver.  Good food, nice view…worth going.

Carmel Beach: Ok, so this is touristy, and I don’t care.  Carmel itself is just so darn cute (be sure to visit the Cheese Shop in Carmel Plaza).  Dogs are welcome on the beach which makes it a fave with locals.

Carmel Beach

Nice views of Pebble and those Cypress trees all make for lovely photos.  No matter what life is throwing at me, somehow I feel like I can always breath again when I’m here.

One final word

So perhaps a more personal post than most…for me this is where “someday” began.

Header Photo: Carmel Beach.  All photos © W2S Hilary

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