At this point, I am very used to hopping on the Pacific Coast Highway (often called the PCH or the One) for very long stretches. Despite my familiarity with the road at this point, I still get excited every time I get to visit a new section. From rolling hills to crashing surf, from sheer cliffs to rocky shoals, the road highlights the beauty inherent in the union of land and water. The section of the PCH through much of Oregon and northern California was very familiar to me because I had biked it in 2013. And while I had driven the section between San Francisco and Los Angeles before, I didn’t remember much of it.
Just south of Santa Cruz I hopped on the One, sporadically stopping at beaches or snapping pictures from overlooks as the road chased contour lines up and down the topography of the coast. It was Tuesday, which meant that traffic wasn’t too bad. Parking at various overlooks, however, was tight. Every time I stepped out of my car, I realized that people from all over the world surrounded me. Scandinavian dialects, Romance languages, Asiatic tongues, and Slavic voices murmured from every direction. Rental vehicles jockeyed for position on tight turns and for parking spots alike. I found myself wondering, as I had at Niagara and in Yosemite, if there were more foreigners enjoying the drive that day than there were Americans. Who knows, but I am thankful that these places have been protected both for Americans and for the world!
It isn’t too hard to narrate a journey down the PCH. My windows were down. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild coursed through the speakers. The sun was shining. Some overlooks were empty. Others were packed. One even had a guy playing electric guitar while staring out at the Pacific. Not a bad way to spend a day if you ask me… If only I knew how to play guitar! Eventually, I rolled past San Simeon, under the watchful gaze of the Hearst castle perched high above a low lying coastal plain with beaches full of lion seals. I stopped there to watch the sunset and listen to the barking seals before heading off to San Luis Obispo to do some work and watch coverage of Super Tuesday. In a normal election cycle, I might have been able to tune out the din of politics simply because I am so out of touch. That is basically impossible this year. I logged onto the WiFi at Whole Foods and listened to results coverage while I processed pictures before heading over to Home Depot for the night. It was definitely one of the quietest parking lots I have visited, but there were a couple of young coyote pups that made quite a racket early on.
Tomorrow, I will continue down the one until I hit Los Angeles!
Mapping the Southward Journey