by Bob Sparrow
Borrowing a format from friend, fellow adventurer and blogger, Jeff Kane . . .
The music: Coast of California, a haunting melody sung by the Kingston Trio
The wine: Big Easy, a Syrah blend from central coast’s Fess Parker Winery
I recently had the pleasure of experiencing 137 miles of the natural beauty of the California coastline. The occasion was a golf trip for a milestone birthday celebration for friend, Judy VanBoxmeer, put together by husband, John. It was an opportunity to make a drive I hadn’t made in over 35 years – up State Route 1.
State Route 1 is arguably the most scenic road in America. It has several aliases: Pacific Coast Highway or PCH to the locals, Cabrillo Highway as well as just Highway 1. It was built piecemeal in various stages, with the first section opening in the Big Sur region in the 1930s. It stretches as far north as the little town of Leggett, CA, in Mendocino County and in the south it terminates in Orange County, which I will probably do as well. Leggett is the home of some of the largest Redwood trees in the world, including the famous ‘Drive Through Tree’. But we weren’t going as far north as Leggett, we were headed to a place called Pebble Beach – perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 join together just south of the college town of San Luis Obispo and then splits again just north of SLO with Hwy 101 staying inland and Hwy 1 heading for the coast where it meets up with the Pacific Ocean at Morro Bay. Over the next 94 miles to Big Sur, the road hugs the coastline in spectacular fashion, passing through the little towns of Harmony (pop. 18), Cambria, the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco; then, after you pass through San Simeon (pop. 462) you have to force yourself to turn away from the spectacular coastline and look high up on the mountains inland to see Hearst’s Castle – an adventure for another day.
From San Simeon to just below Big Sur, the road really traces the coastline closely. This drive is not for the timid or those prone to carsickness; it is a winding road with barely enough room for two cars to pass. During our trip the road was narrowed to just one lane three times, due to either the road having eroding below us or from rocks having slid from above. Thankfully there are numerous places to pull over and watch the sea lions sun bathing, the surf crashing against the cliffs or the sun sinking into the Pacific.
As we entered the Big Sur area, the road turned inland just a bit and we found ourselves deep in a forest surrounded by trees of every description, coast redwoods, bay laurel, white oak, fir, pine, as well as the endangered wild orchid. Although Big Sur is sparsely populated (about 1,000), its beauty and serenity attract a good number of musicians, writers and artists throughout the summer.
As we leave Big Sur and cross over the iconic Bixby Bridge, we have about another 15 beautiful miles before we are greeted by the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea – southern gateway to the Monterey Peninsula.
As we sat down for dinner outside at ‘The Bench’ just off the 18th green at Pebble Beach on a beautiful evening, I was reminded that we were only a few days away from the ‘longest day of the year’ as the last group of golfers were just teeing off on the 18th hole at 8:55 p.m.
Our stay at the Inn at Spanish Bay started with a most beautiful day to play the Links at Spanish Bay, which is laid out along the coastline, and ended with the traditional kilted Scotsman coming over the dunes at day’s end playing his bagpipe. The following day we played Pebble Beach, fog was included at no extra cost, although it seemed like there were some extra costs in there somewhere! It was not as beautiful a day, but . . . hey, it was Pebble Beach! There is no real need to discuss my golf scores on these fabulous courses; the pleasure was in the beauty. The pleasure was in the beauty. The pleasure was in the beauty!
Great scenery, great friends and great expense made for a fabulous trip. I believe that every Californian MUST take the Hwy 1 drive at least once in their life.
Below is an aerial video from YouTube you might enjoy (Thank you son, Jeff for helping with the IT).