Tuesday, December 7, 2010

California Dreamin' – Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway

A passerby balanced the stones just-so in the photo above, but that's the only place you'll see mankind's touch along this wild road that clings to steep hillsides, whips around impossible curves, and sweeps down to the coastline every now and then so the driver can catch his breath and relax his grip on the steering wheel.

This ribbon of two-lane road that stretches along the California coast deserves a more descriptive name than Highway 1. The asphalt traverses a land of stunning beauty and rugged appeal where only the birds and the sea lions seem at home. It may not be The Most Beautiful Drive in the World (The Amalfi Coast and the French Riviera come to mind.), but it is truly one of the most impressive in North America.
Plan to drive slowly, about 35 mph (56 kilometers), to savor the landscape. You'll want to take photos at every pull-out spot along the road. You'll wonder about the engineers who created this highway and notice that even the bridges seem to float between the cliffs. And when you get to the end, you'll want to turn around and do it all over again.
Seals rest on the beach
Practicalities -
Do not plan to scurry down this road because it's impossible even if you're in a hurry—the traffic moves slowly. Set a leisurely pace to truly enjoy the ride.

The bakeshop/restaurant in Big Sur serves wonderful food and the rustic ambience is fitting for this remote, rugged land, but it's somewhat difficult to find. If you see the post office, though, you're close. Find a place to park and walk up the hill a little way to the restaurant complex.

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