Take the Long Way

Getting to the water in the Bay Area isn't hard. Besides the fact that the Bay Area encloses — by definition — the San Francisco Bay, if you're somewhere on or near the peninsula, you probably aren't more than a 40-minute drive (give or take) to the Pacific Ocean. Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, even the City itself are all pretty easily accessible via any of a number of highways.

The more urban parts of the South Bay, though, are separated from the coast by the Santa Cruz Mountain Range. And it just so happens that through those mountains is the best way to go.

The mountain route from the South Bay to Pescadero.

Using Sunnyvale as a starting point, at an average driving time of 1 hour 40 minutes, and spanning a distance of just over 50 miles, it's neither the fastest, nor the most direct, route to the beach; it's an easy drive, though, and the scenery by far makes up for the "inconvenience."

I was lucky enough this past weekend to have two of my dearest friends in town for a semi-impromptu visit, so I took Monday off, and we took the drive to the beach. The sky was unusually clear for such a warm day — so clear, in fact, that in the photo below (taken from point "C" in the map above), if you look very closely to the left of the panorama (click it and zoom in!), you can see straight through to San Francisco — a distance, this calculator tells me, of over 30 miles.

Silicon Valley in all its glory.

But I don't want to bore you with "vacation photos."

OK, yes I do, maybe just one more.

Bean Hollow State Beach, or at least that's what iPhoto tells me.

Sigh. It really is unfair how many pretty things California ended up with.

Anyway, the point is, if you're looking for a way to waste time in Northern California, you could do worse than taking a drive. In fact, upon being presented with the news that one friend's flight was delayed (thanks to the ever-reliable US Airways — who, incidentally, never responded to a customer support inquiry made two weeks ago; don't fly them), the other friend and I were able to turn a pillow-shopping trip to Palo Alto into a half day adventure, just by taking a different road back.

According to Automatic, last week I drove 368 miles. It's only Wednesday, and already this week I've done 261, with another 60 guaranteed in work commute alone before the week is up. With the trip to the beach and all of this weekend's exploring, I've filled my tank 3 times since last Thursday. And yet the funny thing is, with a grand total of 640 additional miles under my belt since my last blog post, here I am, sitting in the same room, on the same couch, probably drinking the same lemonade as when I wrote the first one.

If I hadn't engaged in all those little diversions, if I took the shortest, straightest route to work and back that I could find… well, I'd still end up in the same place, just with fewer stories to tell.

So what's the harm in taking the long way?