While researching places to camp in Monterey, Tim suggested the Laguna Seca Raceway. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. Turns out the race track best known for the U.S Grand Prix and the American Le Mans also has a campground – actually it has several. Since the nearby county park had a 21 foot limit, and all the private campgrounds in the area were a bit out of our price range (even the fairgrounds charge $50/night), we decided to give the raceway a try. Much to our surprise it was really nice. Instead of the expected parking lot layout, the sites were arranged on the hills above and around the race track, offering sweeping views of the mountains and the racetrack.
This time of year there are no major races going on at the track. Bad for the excitement level, but probably good for the noise level. In the off season the track is mostly used for racing school and small regional events. On the days we visited the course was open to Bentley drivers. Or something like that. There was a sign saying Welcome Bentley and a few cars speeding around the track. We walked the pedestrian path around the track and watched as the cars whizzed past. In addition to some grandstands near the finish line there are tons of grassy areas around the track for watching the race from different vantage points. We were the only spectators, but I can imagine just how busy this place must be during one of the big races.
Besides walking around the track there wasn’t much more to do at the campground so we headed to downtown Monterey for some exploring. There are two tourist destinations that visitors to Monterey frequent- Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. We decided to follow the masses and hit both of them up. The wharf turned out to be basically just a tourist trap lined with restaurants and cheesy souvenir shops. It has an interesting history, but today there’s little evidence of the fishing and shipping mecca that it once was.
From the wharf we walked along the coastal trail for about a mile to Cannery Row. The site of what was once a thriving sardine canning industry has now given way to fancy hotels, shops and restaurants. Some of the old canning factory buildings still reamin and have been converted into tourist destinations. We poked around some of the stores, and spent a long time at the Cannery Row Antique Mall. Two stories of antiques are housed inside a huge old building that was once a warehouse for the Carmel Canning Company. The inside was bursting with antiques and it was only our tiny living space that prevented me from shopping up a storm. This is definitely a place to remember if we ever live in a traditional house again.
An interesting bit of history about Cannery Row is how the name came about. You might think Cannery Row would be a natural name for a street once filled with canning factories. In fact, during the height of the canning industry the area was called Ocean View Avenue, and only re-named Cannery Row in 1958 to honor John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name.
My favorite view on Cannery Row was this tree trimming scene. It may still be mid-November, but we’ve seen holiday lights and decorations going up all over. I love the tall skinny tree (it’s fake of course) next to the palm tree. Only in California!
We’ll be making one more stop on the coast before heading east across California for Thanksgiving in Vegas and then onto the Lake Mead area for some boondocking. Looks like we’ll be saying goodbye ocean and hello desert.