Our last summer trip was a drive along California’s highway 1. This isn’t your typical road trip and should be on everyone’s bucket list. There are so many places to visit and mind blowing scenery to take in but so worth the extra hours it adds to your itinerary if you’re heading north.
The weather was perfect when we started out on our three-day weekend adventure. These elephant seals can be seen regularly sunbathing on the beach by Hearst Castle, near San Simeon. The seals started arriving in 1990 and at first only a few dozen could be seen lazing around. Each year their count has exploded and now totals about 17,000.
Whales and dolphins can also be seen if you keep a sharp eye on the ocean, but the road is so twisty and tight that the kids should be the only ones watching for them.
Always be ready to pull to the side of the road for the most amazing views. I lost count of how many times I wish I had stopped but missed out because it’s almost impossible to turn around. As you near Big Sur, you’ll travel over some fantastic bridges and hidden places to eat. We stopped at the Restaurant at Big Sur River Inn, service was decent with the food being on the expensive side and nothing to get too excited about. But what it lacked in flavor, it made up at the back of the restaurant. A crystal clear shallow river runs past, and you can grab a seat in the water or on one of the giant rocks and drink an ice cold beer while the water tickles your feet.
I was lucky enough to be given this 2016 Kia Sorento to do this amazing drive. The kids were all over it and no wonder, it was fully loaded with every imaginable electronic feature and so comfortable and easy to drive.
Kids favorite- Reclining rear seats and seat coolers.
My favorite- Keyless and automatic trunk opening.
The four of us easily fitted in it along with enough luggage and beach toys for three days. I remember the previous generation of Kia cars and this one is completely opposite! It made easy work of the almost 1000 miles we drove and wasn’t too thirsty on the gas. Kia seems to have come leaps and bounds with technology and comfort.
Big basin Redwoods State Park is north of Santa Cruz and perfect for an easy hike with the kids. We walked through some huge redwoods and the kids had a lot of fun matching the trees to the descriptions on the map. Longer hikes are available and camping is also allowed in the park. As we were leaving the top of a tree came crashing down blocking the road and sending us on a 20-mile detour. Gas stations are sparse around the park so make sure your tank is on the full side.
A trip to Santa Cruz wouldn’t be complete if you missed tasting ice cream from The Penny Ice Creamery. It’s all homemade in small batches, this one was chocolate raspberry with toasted marshmallow fluff on top! The food continued to be awesome even on the way home and a stop at Next Door Bistro in Paso Robles for some charcuterie and cheese was another place I’d recommend to stop at.
You’re probably wondering what Santa Cruz has to do with tater tots. The connection is easy if you’ve eaten at Burger. With a menu list of burgers a mile long and some with donuts for the bun, this is a must try place. My fries came with blue cheese and bacon so I thought I’d recreate them at home. They’re so easy to make and just in time for football season!
I can’t wait to head north again…
Blue Cheese Bacon Tots and a Trip to Santa Cruz
- 1 2 pound bag of frozen tater tots
- 5 slices bacon cooked and chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3-4 ounces creamy blue cheese *see notes*
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- 2 whole green onions chopped up finely
- Bake the tater tots in the oven as per the instructions on the bag.
- While the tots are cooking melt the butter in a medium sized non-stick pan.
- Add the flour and whisk until it starts to bubble.
- Cook over a medium heat whisking constantly for about 2 minutes.
- Gradually add 1 cup of the milk to the pan slowly, whisking all the time to avoid lumps.
- Heat over a low heat and add half of the blue cheese.
- Let the heat of the sauce melt the cheese whisking often.
- Add another 1/4 cup of the milk gradually followed by the remaining blue cheese.
- Whisk until all the milk has been combined and the sauce is smooth and creamy.
- Season with salt and black pepper.
- Add 1/2 cup of chopped bacon to the sauce and mix through.
- If the sauce starts to thicken too quickly add the remaining milk and any extra that you may need to keep it consistent and not too thick.
- Once the tater tots are done place them on a platter or deep bowl.
- Pour the sauce over the tots.
- Garnish with the remaining chopped bacon and green onions on top.
- Serve at once while still hot.
Make sure to use a creamy blue cheese like Castello or Gorgonzola. A chunk will work better than crumbles.