It’s true: driving Highway 101/Route 1 is as awesome as everyone says it is. You could make an entire vacation out of driving the 101 from Seattle to San Francisco (just veer off the 101 on the 1 in northern California). Wait, you should make an entire vacation out of driving this road.
The road follows the coast closely, sometimes too closely for comfort, except where some unusual feature forces it away from the water, grudgingly. You dip in and out of gorges where streams make their way to the ocean or sometimes cross high above them on bridges when the sides are too steep. Then the road straightens out on top of the bluff and you can see for miles, until the next gorge.
Besides being an amazing drive, there are all kinds of interesting side trips for your nauseous passenger(s) to enjoy. You can find oysters along the entire drive, there’s amazing coast (and cheese) in Oregon, there are redwoods and the Lost Coast in California. Wine country is never far away. There are countless beaches, bluffs, and lighthouses. There’s fog. Lots of fog. There are sea lions, sea elephants, harbor seals, hundreds of birds.
With all this great stuff, why stop in San Francisco…why not take the trip all the way down the coast, to Tijuana? Well, 101/1 south of San Francisco is just not that interesting, except for the portion that runs through Big Sur. South of San Francisco, there’s just too much sprawl. Instead of driving along a rural, unspoiled coast with just a few other people, you’re driving through endless mini-mall-ville with thousands of other people, watching one city blend into the next. There are power plants and huge naval bases. There’s too much going on to let your eyes drift out, over the ocean or along the coastal ranges. You could be anywhere. North of San Francisco, there’s no denying that you’re somewhere special, even when the fog is so thick you can’t see twenty feet in front of you.