We took a vacation week to drive down the California Coast on Hwy 1, from the Bay Area to San Diego. Made stops at several very nice spots on this scenic route, where the incredibly blue ocean stretches out forever, lovely, lazy beaches invite surfers and sand castle builders, and the sky seems to get bluer with every passing smile.
Here is the PCH, thru the eyes of a sweaty pedestrian.Ponderosa
The Big Sur area has this wonderfully remote feel – a rugged coast line, the road snaking through hills, several hundred feet above the sea, Coastal Redwood forests, and picturesque streams, artistic homes perched on hillsides, and this history from the 60’s, of hippies and yoga, pot and TM, long haired bikers and Jim Morrison.
The Ponderosa campsite is 13 miles from the coast, some 3000’ up in the hills, extremely remote. The nearest store is at an Army Camp, 12 miles away. No showers – a nearby pool in the creek the only place to bathe, as was testified by the ‘bouquet’ from the delightfully quaint campground host.
I set off early, downhill, in a cool, crisp mountain morning, and am soon past the other campground. Spotted water taps there, and decided I could run far, and refill, later. It is quiet – I occasionally hear what sounds like distant trucks, but do not see a single vehicle the first 7 miles – or a human! The shade deepens as I climb. It feels intensely private, so alone, I am wrapped up in the run, the trees, and the mountain I realize I am climbing. I have run over two miles uphill, when I turn back to fill water – reached my time limit. One could just keep going with this perfect weather. And the quiet.
I had run the Big Sur Marathon in my mind, when driving the coastal road. A difficult course – so many hills, but rewarding. So very scenic. And some really interesting sidelights, like a fine gentleman, playing his Grand Yamaha at Bixby Bridge, dressed in tails. Doing it in a car, I was daunted by the hills, and decided to stop dreaming of Big Sur – but this long run up the mountain has me thinking - the ground here has good vibes!
The sun is out, now, and feels good. Warming. I pass three cars, and see some activity at the lower campsite. No water there! Rescued by mine campground host, who fills my bottle with water of some questionable origin and age.Morro Bay
There’s this large rock jutting out of the ocean, off the coast of Central California. It’s pretty dumb, actually, but they’ve built a nice little touristy town around it, and the fine weather. The sunset at Montana Ore was spectacular.
I run early morning, the sun just coming up, along the shore. Nice homes with a great view. Piers with a variety of boats. I pause to ask directions. A clean cut guy, wearing a Stetson and an apron. Curious. Says he is a visitor too. I find my way to the State Park and run past a ridiculously crowded campground.
I pass my friend again. He has set up an easel, and is half way through a painting of the rock, and Morro Bay!It’s Just Malibu
Santa Barbara turned out to be ever so nice. A cloudy morning, and then a pleasant, sunny afternoon. Very posh homes, and up market malls. A town that shows its wealth.
Malibu. Houses perched on hillsides, far apart. Endless beaches. Surfers riding swells. Young kids on surf boards, getting lessons, their instructor in the water, bellowing, mothers in bikinis taking in the sun.
I run a ‘back country’ trail. This rich, spoilt area has picnic tables and porta potties on a back country trail! Signs point to Reagan House and the site they filmed M.A.S.H at. Some stretches of the trail have concrete road. The creek is brackish and uninviting, but the hills are picturesque. It is hot, in the sun.
I see two burnt shells of jeeps – all that is left of M.A.S.H. A lady walking her dog points out where MediVacs took off in the opening scene of the movie. She says ‘when you watch the movie, you’ll know it is not Korea – it’s just Malibu’!Carlsbad
We head down the coast to Southern California. Palm trees and endless beaches. Surfers. It is laid back, relaxing. There is a vacation atmosphere, even in the office complexes.
I run through silent streets in Oceanside. Such a lovely name for this little town. I take the Coast Highway through town – a mistake – no views of the ocean. I veer towards the beach as I enter Carlsbad. Low tide. The water is way out on the shallow beach. I run in the soft wet sand. Just pad along – could do this barefoot!
Groups of surfers, where the waves are high. They look so good, paddling out on their boards, in wet suits, riding the waves in. I see ocean kayaks in the water. Reflect on holidays, and the lifestyle one could have in this suburb of San Diego.
Off the beach and on the promenade to cross a finger of water snaking inland. I see a long distance runner on the beach. Recognize the gait, and tell tale supplies hanging off her belt. I keep pace with her, from up above, and am happy I am able to do this, 10 miles into my run. I have never looked for a running partner, or a group, preferring my thoughts, and the time to focus on posture and style, and to reflect.
The sun is warm on my face as I run bare chested, enjoying the sensation of the soft beach, listening to the gulls. It is wonderful to end this long run with a dip in the ocean. The cool water so pleasant on tired legs.
I could get used to this!Islandia
It is the last day of this glorious holiday. The boat slips around this resort hotel are full in the early morning sun – just a few vacationers up for a walk, yet. I run over the bridge to the next stretch of sand. More sail boats.
San Diego seems to have more boats than cars, and more surf boards than people! I see a pony tailed man setting up his fishing rod. Beach bum or Qualcomm millionaire – who knows?
By evening, we are back in Bay Area traffic, reflecting on the intensity here, the drive, the passion. So different and so far removed from palm trees and beaches!
I vote for drive and passion.