Driving the
Pacific Coast Highway

Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is made easier with Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen, a good handbook for the west coast drive.

Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast HighwayBixby Bridge

Avalon Travel's guide to driving the Pacific Coast Highway, Road Trip USA: Pacific Coast Highway by Jamie Jensen, is an attempt to pack over 1500 miles of road into less than 150 pages.

The author takes the drive from Seattle to San Diego, and recommends places to stop, places to stay, and places to eat – and picks out some of the best and quirkiest PCH stories along the way.

The first thing to say is that this book is an extract from Jensen's bigger book from Avalon Travel called simply Road Trip USA. That mammoth book of almost 1,000 pages describes 11 road trips all over the United States, including the classic Route 66 of course.

This book on driving the Pacific Coast Highway is simply the PCH chapter from that book, published in its own right. There's a companion Road Trip USA: Route 66 volume already published, and others are on the way.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

The next thing to say is that this is a companion rather than a driving guide. It's a very readable companion, and we certainly get the impression we'd enjoy the author's company if we were driving the Pacific Coast Highway together. But you don't get detailed driving directions so you'll still need to buy good road maps to help you follow the route.

Road Trip USA: The Route

The author starts his trip in Port Townsend in Washington, although there is a 3-page guide to Seattle at the start of the book. He then drives around the Olympic Peninsula and down the west coast, winding up in San Diego – which gets a 2-page city guide.

The other major cities on the route, Los Angeles and San Francisco, also get treated to city guides, though so too does Portland. In a book this small I'd have left Portland out, as it's quite a ways from the Pacific Coast Highway and hardly makes for a logical diversion. I'd have given the space over to somewhere else on the route – like Santa Monica, which for some reason the author skips altogether.

Oddities and Odd Inclusions

The best parts of the book are the quirky stories the author unearths on the way, and which he obviously enjoys sharing with his readers. They're the kind of stories and sights that make US road trips so great – stories like the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Arcata every Memorial Day Weekend, the chair in the café at the Devil's Punchbowl where Bruce Springsteen sat, and the town of Castroville where Marilyn Monroe was once "Miss Artichoke".

We love these stories, and so will you, as they're part of what makes driving the Pacific Coast Highway so great. It's about much more than the dramatic scenery of Big Sur, and the author knows it.

However, there are some other odd inclusions and strange omissions. We've already mentioned the fact that there is nothing at all on Santa Monica, and the author also drives through Forks without mentioning vampires once.

Then when he gets south of Los Angeles he goes a bit LA-LA, we feel, with a long entry for Disneyland, and another for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. Now the Library may well be a worthy place, and we mean it no disrespect, but it is about 40 miles from the Pacific Coast Highway and in a book that's under 150 pages, every entry counts. We love Disneyland too, but to us it isn't part of the essential PCH road trip experience.

Road Trip USA Illustrations

The book is nicely illustrated, with some old photos, like the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, and lots of lovely old-time picture postcards too. There are route maps all along the way, and some special feature spreads on things you'll encounter like El Camino Real and the California Missions, Big Sur, the Avenue of the Giants, and the Olympic National Park.

Apart from our minor complaints, this is a really enjoyable and inexpensive book from an author who clearly, like us, loves driving the Pacific Coast Highway. You can buy it from Amazon.

Some other driving pages

  • When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway depends on whether you want to drive in Oregon and Washington as well as California, and on the weather.

  • West Coast RV Parks

    One of the best guides to West Coast RV Parks, covering campgrounds in California, Oregon, and Washington, is West Coast RV Camping from Moon Guides.

  • Ways to Go

    Here are links to the different ways you can go along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most popular drives in the world but you can also cycle it.

  • San Francisco to San Diego

    Driving from San Francisco to San Diego has two main options, the fast way on I-5 or the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • The 17-Mile Drive between Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

  • Route 66 Meets the Pacific Coast Highway

    Historic Route 66 winds from Chicago to LA, going through Los Angeles, meeting the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California, at the Santa Monica Pier.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Stops

    Pacific Coast Highway stops include big city vacation destinations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and smaller places like Monterey.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips: Lonely Planet Guidebook Review

    Review of the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips book from Lonely Planet, which includes a California Driving Guide, by the Pacific Coast Highway Travel website.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide book covering the drive from Vancouver to San Diego.

  • Pacific Coast Highway in California

    The Pacific Coast Highway in California book shows in historic photos the building of the Pacific Coast Highway from its earliest beginnings in 1911.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Driving Tips

    Pacific Coast Highway driving tips for this great American road trip include finding cheap gas, watching the speed limits, and allowing plenty of travel time.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Drive Times and Distances

    Drive times and distances on the Pacific Coast Highway or the quickest routes from Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego.

  • Maps of the Pacific Coast Highway: Free Driving Maps of the PCH

    Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free.

  • LA to Hearst Castle

    Pacific Coast Highway travel offers advice on driving from LA to Hearst Castle, including distance, journey time, and route.

  • Epic Drives of the World

    Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Two Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in two days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Three Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in three days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Four Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in four days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Five Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in five days, including the best places to stay over, and the best things to do and see.

  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    Here are the basic facts if you plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, including which is the best direction and when is the best time to go driving.

  • Coastal California Guidebook

    Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

  • California Driving Laws

    If visiting California and planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway it's important to know California driving laws in case they differ from your own state.



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