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Headed to the Earthquake State for a ballpark tour? Well, Cali's got you covered with some wicked smooth rides, including CA-1, the coastal road that will take your breath away.

Don't forget the camera on this road trip detour between SoCal and NorCal because it's the picture-perfect jaunt between San Diego, Anaheim and/or Los Angeles to San Francisco and/or Oakland.

California's picturesque coast should sound more than tempting. Cruising along CA-1 brings plenty of clear days, sunny skies and spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

Where to begin?

How about Santa Barbara.

Leaving Smog Angeles, you'll head north on Highway 101 and wake up to the immense beauty that is Santa Barbara. Sure Stearns Wharf, the oldest working on the West Coast, will tempt your senses but don't forget the Old Mission Santa Barbara just a smidge inland. Here you'll witness flowers in full bloom and views of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Take a drive through Santa Barbara's hills up the road and be awed at the variety of horses that sit quietly in the morning dew of the canyons.

Ready to move on? Jump back on CA-1 through Hope Ranch where you might just bump into horses in the roadway amongst the million dollar homes. Once you've left Hope Ranch and come down the hill, don't miss the "thumbs up" black cardboard caricature by the roadside on CA-1 in Goleta. You'll find it inspirational and soothing, as you'll soon have a decision to make.

You can continue on CA-1 through Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base or take 101 up into greater San Luis Obispo to reconnect. There isn't a wealth to see going the long way but it does provides a different view of CA-1 than what you'll see on the rest of your trip. If you don't have time, stay on 101 and head to Pismo Beach, home of the Pismo Beach Dunes.

San Luis Obispo County's beaches exude a slower, more relaxed pace than that of SoCal's. For a moment, you might feel as if time is standing still. Each of its beaches has its own unique charm and character, from Grover Beach to the aptly named Shell Beach. You might consider crashing for the night in SLO itself, a quiet little college town just 10 minutes or so from the beaches. Take in a movie at the quaint downtown theatre or just hit the hay for a good night's sleep.

Day 2: Morro Bay and Morro Rock has your named written all over it. You'll be awed by the rocks dominance, yet sheer beauty, as the morning awakens your senses again - and appreciation for the Golden State. Continue on CA-1 to Sam Simeon where if you're lucky, you might see a little water crash over the coast road but not enough to deter your travels. The Hearst Castle sits atop the hill while sea lions sit in the water down below. At Piedras Blancas beach in Sam Simeon, the seals lay along the beach soaking in the morning sun and atmosphere just like you. When you're ready to leave the area, prepare yourself for even more immense beauty.

The drive between Sam Simeon and Big Sur is nothing short of spectacular and you may just want to make a full day of it at your own pace to discover its incredible quality of open space, diversity, rugged coast and cool breezes. Don't run out of film on this jaunt and prepare accordingly because you won't see much but open road, open ocean and open skies with not a care in the world. Don't miss the waterfall at Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, the sand dunes and unique bridges of the area either.

Depending on how you've paced yourself, Day 3 (or Day 4) find yourself just beyond Big Sur on the road to Pebble Beach, if you have time. The Del Monte Forest is so full of history and nature along its 17-mile drive that maybe you shouldn't try to make it - because you might not want to turn around after you've experienced it.

You want cypress? Its got Cypress - Cypress Point Lookout to be exact, offering one of the most dramatic views of the coastline anywhere. You want birds? Its got birds - plenty of them at Bird Rock. History? Spanish Bay is where Juan Portola, the Spanish explorer, camped in 1769 while searching from some place called Monterey Bay.

Speaking of Monterey, that should be your next stop should your time allow. But you might still be somewhere between Sam Simeon and Big Sur, or San Luis Obispo, or Santa Barbara, holding your significant other or child for a moment and losing track of time as you soak in the scenery.

That's okay though. There isn't a stopwatch on CA-1 and there won't be a pop quiz. Just come as you go, and go as you come. But don't forget San Francisco - and all its beauty - is still up the road. And oh yeah, don't you have a baseball game to catch or something?

Copyright 2002