You'll have no problems driving from Pismo to San Fran in a day--non-stop it'll take around 4 hrs+/-. I drive this route pretty often and just did it a couple days ago. You should build in time since you never know if you might encounter heavy traffic due to an accident, etc. (I think the longest it's ever taken me was 5 hrs due to a lane closure). The quickest route to 19th Ave. in San Fran would be: #101 no. from Pismo, to #85 (no. towards Mountain View), #280, and then #101 (which will continue to the Golden Gate if you're going out of San Fran). The reason the really long driving time was quoted to get to Carmel was because they must have taken Hwy. #1, the coast route, all the way--which is MUCH slower (altho' very scenic). The fast route I take isn't as pretty (altho' you do see rolling hills and farmland) and you're traveling inland with no ocean views, but you'll find a number of gas stations and restaurants, particularly in the Gilroy and Salinas areas, so you can stop mid-way. Gilroy is a good "pit stop". There's a Chevy's Mexican restaurant just a bit west of #101 where I usually stop for lunch. Good luck--and enjoy your drive!
thanks for that info - very useful.
We were hoping to see the Big Sur - can we drive part of the way along Highway 1 and then go inland to get the faster route?
There's no quick way to get to the Big Sur Area from #101 once you're well inland. The problem is that you then have to get thru the Santa Lucia Mtns--the range that runs the length of the Big Sur area--and this will add hrs to your trip. It would make more sense to just take Hwy 1 all the way up the coast from Morro Bay. Many people make this trip in one day and have no problems with it, but I'm not one of them. The coast route will prob. add 2-1/2 hrs. to your trip. If you're doing it in very rainy weather or around a holiday weekend, it will add up to more than that. It really depends upon how much time and effort you want to put into driving. If you can add an overnite stay to your trip, you could very comfortably take Hwy 1 all the way to San Francisco, but be sure that none of your passengers are prone to motion-sickness as it's extremely curvy in stretches. If you don't want to drive the coast route all the way you could take #101 no. and then go west to Monterey, and from there take Hwy. 1 thru the Big Sur Area, perhaps down as far as Pfeiffer State Park. If the weather is relatively clear, you'll have some beautiful views. Be sure to stop at Point Lobos State Park which is just so. of Carmel--spectacular ocean scenery there.