Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

09 February 2017

Washington State To Florida - 2016: The PCH

Ah, the famous Pacific Coast Highway.

Let me admit this right up front: I don’t much like Southern California.  Oh, I get it… I understand what everyone sees in the place and why everyone wants to live there.  Trouble is, everyone already does.  It’s just way too crowded for this boy. I myself would have avoided it, but Jacob wanted to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, and the boss wanted me to stop in Riverside (within the L.A. area) to look at a helicopter.  So California was unavoidably on our route. 

There is one problem with going down the Pacific Coast Highway…well, two problems, actually.  The first is that you see stunning vistas at every curve in the road! that make you want to stop and take a picture.  The second is that you end up with a gazillion pictures and have to choose only a couple of them to put up on Facebook or in a blogpost.  The day Jacob and I drove the PCH it was cloudy and hazy.  Since this is the Time Of The Internet you can Google much prettier photos of the road than the crappy ones I took. 

California State Route 1 (the PCH) from San Francisco down to San Luis Obispo is an incredible road; one that everyone should drive in their lifetime.  It's one of my all-time favorite roads.  The scenery is simply breathtaking, even on a scuzzy day.  (There is a northern extension of the PCH that goes up the coast out of San Francisco.  I’ll have to explore that one later – maybe when I drive back up to Washington in the spring!)

The PCH is a fun road.  It pretty much hugs the coastline, rising and dipping with the terrain but generally high above the water so you get dramatic, sensational views of the Pacific Ocean and the bluffs between you and it.  But it also passes through forests and farmland.  It's really pretty incredible.  There are turnouts and parking areas aplenty where you can stop and get photographs that'll bring back fond memories for years to come.

Unfortunately, the PCH is a victim of its own beauty.  It can be crowded!  You have to be careful, for there is usually a parade of cars racing from one scenic overlook to the next.  At each one people scramble out and rush to take snapshots and selfies, then jump back in and hurry on.  If you get caught in such a clump of tourists it can be very frustrating.  The key is to pace yourself and not go with the herd, stay between them.  Take the time to drink in the scenery.

Here's Jacob, somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway, doing what he does best. 

A long, long time ago my mom was living in Los Angeles.  My youngest sister, Eleanor (who we for some reason always called Susie which we later learned she hated) planned to be married at a place in the hills north of San Francisco.  Beautiful setting.  I flew out to L.A. from Florida and rented a Ford Mustang Convertible.  Mom and I took “the 5” northbound, but a couple of days later when we headed back south I opted for the PCH.  It was a great ride…sunny day, top down…perfect!  There wasn’t much traffic and I was, ahem, enjoying the curviness and hilliness of the road.  The mood was spoiled however by my mom’s constant shrieking, ”BOBBY, YOU’RE GOING TO KILL US!  SLOW DOWN!!”

Moms can be such a buzzkill.  I had to turn the radio up really loud to drown out her screams.  She hasn't driven with me since then, come to think about it.  Hmm.

These days I no longer have the need to see how fast I can go around every corner.  And the big, ol’ overloaded Buick crew car just has no such sporty-car pretentions.  Did I mention that the boss asked me to carry 500 pounds of aircraft parts to an overhaul facility in Oklahoma?  Plus all of my crap, and Jacob's bags.  Our ass was dragging...well, the Buick's ass was.  It most definitely did not want to be hurried.  Driving it on a winding, hilly road like the Pacific Coast Highway was like dancing with a fat chick: You have to plan those changes of direction well in advance.  And she’d run out of steam fast.  And getting slowed and/or stopped took some anticipation as well.  It was a lot more fun in the svelte Mustang, let me tell you! 

Just before sunset Jacob and I stopped for supper at a place called the Whale Watchers CafĂ© in the Big Sur town of Gorda.  Nice, side-of-the-road joint like you’d hope to find on a road trip like this.  We were the only customers.  The place has gotten some really mixed reviews online.  The waitress/owner said that the mushrooms in the dish I ordered were picked that day by her husband.  We ate a decent, if unremarkable and overpriced meal in a very peaceful setting.  However, the clam chowder in a breadbowl was pretty good, actually.  It was too cloudy/hazy to see the sunset though.  But we sat and ate and watched the Pacific Ocean roll in as daylight faded.  It would've been romantic if I hadn't been with Jacob.  Still, quite enjoyable.  And no, we did not see any whales.

We made it all the way down to Pismo Beach, where we found a nice motel with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub.  This was becoming something of a prerequisite.  So far, we weren’t exactly making good time.  This would come back to haunt us as the trip progressed.  

Next morning we continued southbound.  Once you hit Santa Barbara you realize that you're in southern California now: Everything is more crowded.  At Ventura we went inland for a while on the 101.  Then we cut across the Malibu Canyon Road to get to the coast again.  While it was a gorgeous drive, we were locked in a never-ending conga line of traffic, and all of the turnouts had "No Parking" signs so you couldn't even stop to take pictures.  Bummer.  Malibu itself is a huge disappointment - way overcrowded and congested.  This ain't the California that the Beach Boys sang about.

We made it all the way to the Santa Monica pier, stuck in gridlock traffic.  It was not fun.  Finally I found I-10 and we beat feet toward Riverside.

I wish that we'd had better weather for the trip down the PCH.  I wish I took better pictures.  And I wish that we'd had more time.  It is not a trip that should be rushed.  Still, it was worth the diversion.