jonasgoat

PCH

In leaving, los angelenos, san fran, stateside, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 8:39 am

So I decided early on in the planning stages to make the west coast part of the journey include a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, the 1, which imaginatively runs along the Pacific Coast, from LA to San Francisco.

It had been recommended by a couple of friends and it was something I felt I had to do. Obviously I’d have loved to have done it in an open-topped convertible, big muscle car engine, wind across my bald scalp, big beats spilling out of the ride. But needs must and funds were drawing tight. So I opted for a ford focus, nice engine, air-conditioned, lots of boot space, and the pre requisite of a cable to connect iPod to the stereo.

Drove down with a friend, who’d travelled over from New York to join the road trip from LA to San Fran, where’d we be spending some time with long-lost west coast friends, and spent the first part of the day, listening to the first of the world cup quarter finals, as we made the slightly torturous way out of Venice Beach to get to the PCH proper.

The drive was going to be split, across two days, as we were booked into a hotel in wonderfully wooded Big Sur. My only plan for the following day was to be in a town with a TV showing Spain vs Germany in the morning, grabbing breakfast during the game and finishing off the drive to San Francisco by the early afternoon.

So lets not pussy foot about, LA was still swathed in the grey june gloom, making everything look flat and tepid. But you know what it didn’t make a difference. The PCH winds around some of the most beautiful coastline, ups and downs, moving from a dual carriageway, into a single lane either way as you clawed up the cliff side, with vegetation brushing the passenger door as a lane away the ground dropped away tumbling into the ocean, whose waters were a roilingboiling grey.

The Focus was an automatic and all I had to do was step on the gas and then on the break, piss easy. But the steep climbs and descents and following drivers who were constantly riding the brake, when their was no need, meant you had to be more alert than I initially thought I’d needed to be. And the ever present cliff side sliding away to the left was enough to concentrate the mind.

The whole drive reminded me of the drive I’d done previously in New Zealand, down the west coast of the south island. New Zealand was more jaw droppingly beautiful and savagely vibrant, than this one, the greens, blues and grays punishingly pure and clean, even through the rains that swelled and slapped on the roof, the windscreen, the bonnet. Here on this west coast the vertical challenges of the route were just as interesting, just as visually fulfilling, even if the landscape wasn’t as saturated with colour.

Pulled into Big Sur, fairly drained, without actually realising how draining it had been, took a shower, managed to grab something to eat, even though pretty much everything in the vicinity of the hotel closed at ten, and slept the sleep of the just.

Woke up bright and early and set out to find a Carmel, Clint Eastwood’s old fiefdom, which was an hour or so down the road, and driving round the picturesque place for a couple of minutes, searching for parking whilst simultaneously trying to see if I could spy a sign heralding the world cup being shown somewhere. Found a car park without too much trouble and then headed off to find the TV and food, giving me a chance to have a quick look at Carmel.

Carmel is one of those sleepy, quaint towns, one of those places which has some sort of heritage committee to keep it clean and pretty, and everyplace up to spec. Walking round it and the signs for the shops and eateries, made me aware of how constricting growing up in a place like this could be. Obviously I was just roaming through the pretty shopping district that made up its heart, where the tourists who’d travelled down the PCH would stop off and water and buy artifacts of their time on the road, and enjoy the prettiness of it, the cultured manneredness of it. I on the other hand found it a mite artificial.

But I wasn’t looking for a home away from home, I was looking for the football. Stopped into a place and was pointed up the road in the direction of a couple more establishments. Didn’t find the ones I was told about, but found a diner/restaurant with a big HD screen and an American owner who was rooting for Germany. I was for Spain, as I’d stuck my neck out and predicted them pre tournament even when faced with the scepticism of a west ham fan in new Zealand who’d said this would be Carlo Tevez’s tournament to shine, my faith in Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Torres, Alonso, Fabregas and the rest didn’t falter.

I then proceeded to live and die with the team, the only one apart from two german girls who arrived after half time who had any appreciation or interest in the football.  On a side note it’d been easy enough throughout my time in the states to find somewhere to watch the world cup matches, most bars and diners came equipped with a big screen showing some sort of sport, and I’d been converted in LA to the joys of watching sports in HD, making a nonsense of the inbuilt fear I’d have to spend ages tracking down a small bastion of football fever in the land of gridiron.

So with me yelling, stifling yells, and being alternately stared at, or ignored by the patrons, I managed to get through the match without swearing too much or antagonizing too many disinterested parties, though I like to think that my enthusiasm swayed some of them to see football as an interesting/exciting sport.

So it’s back on the road and we’re heading swiftly onto San Francisco, we’re staying with a friend out in Berkeley and we deviate quickly from the PCH , get a bit lost trying to hit a freeway despite some good directions and then hit proper Freeway madness on the way into the Bay Area. The solitude and singlepath of the PCH is left behind and even though we’re making swifter time, the ducking in and out of traffic around me, reminds me of why I don’t generally enjoy travelling on the shortest routes between places by car.

We slip off the six lanes of highway and into a quieter neighbourhood, the Freeway a high concrete embankment away. And just like that we’re in Berkeley

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