An Artist’s Summer Vacation – Big Sur..”No, You Really Are Too Big Sir”

The Big Sur Highway

Tammy and I are known for making spontaneous decisions for the good of the greater adventures in life, a characteristic that is often a virtue and occasionally a flaw. Upon our arrival in California, we stopped for fuel at Interstate 5 and made a last minute decision to postpone our northern movement in favor of heading straight for the coast. I’ve always wanted to see Big Sur, a seventy-mile stretch of coastline with waterfalls, cliffs and crashing waves. What a perfect opportunity to pull off at a roadside stop or two, snap some pictures and maybe even pull out the easel and lay down some paint en plein air.

Its funny how the experience that is anticipated in our imaginations is almost never the experience that remembered after the fact. Highway One did offer incredible views and this stretch of road did indeed earn it’s reputation as one of America’s Most Scenic Drives. But somewhere around the second or third narrow and winding turn I began to wonder what we had got ourselves into this time. Turn too wide and risk colliding with oncoming traffic and perhaps fly over a thousand foot cliff, turn too tight and scrape the side of the motor-home on the cliffs and with each turn the situation became more sobering. Where are all of the other 40-foot long rigs and where would a guy turn around if he had to?

For over three hours we found ourselves being tested by the Big Sur Highway and by our nerves. The thought of pulling over at a wide spot in the road to capture images and impressions of the spectacular setting was quickly over-ruled by the desire to get safely out of the situation before the sun set. Onward I pressed, both hands firmly gripping the wheel, bits and pieces of my life flashing before me. When I was a kid, My Dad made a spontaneous decision to attempt to drive the family over Schofield Pass in a Lincoln Continental. Schofield Pass is one of Colorado’s most challenging four-wheel drive roads. After he realized his miscalculation, he put the car in park and ran up the road a bit to look for a place to turn around. I remember seeing him slip on a patch of melting snow, falling and breaking a number of ribs. And now, here I was in a similar pickle wondering if impulsive ignorance is hereditary.

Well, we did make it to Monterey just as the darkness of night fell. Relieved and exhausted we found a place to camp and quickly fell into a nightmare-riddled slumber. One day we will go back and drive the Big Sur Highway and see those waterfalls and crashing waves from the comfort of a much smaller vehicle.

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