August 1, 2005

Start: Sunset Beach
End: San Francicso
Miles traveled: 479 miles
Route Taken:
Pacific Coast Highway to Long Beach Freeway (I-710) North to San Diego Freeway (I-405) to Ventura Freeway 101 North to Highway 1 North to 68 east to 101 North exit San Francisco.

            The roads I have been on in my life are numerous, both in this country and others and few compare to Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Monterey. It is the best stretch of road I have ever been on.
             When I bought my Harley three years ago, it was the first long trip we went on. I could not think of another trip I would have rather taken to break in Libertad.
          It might be the water, in fact I am sure it is, that clouds my objectivity. I still believe Pebble Beach Golf Links is the best course I have ever seen, but again that is the water talking.
          My love of the ocean is no secret. Water has always calmed me. When I reach the middle of the country my mood definitely changes. Being landlocked is something I feel and it takes a bit of adjusting.
          Leaving town was tough. There was a lot of traffic even for a Sunday morning and I thought it would break up by the time I got out of Los Angeles County.
            It did for a bit, but for the first time in a while I realized how many people are now on living on the fringes of big cities. It’s not really an earth shattering discovery, and one that I am sure has been made before, but it was still startling.
             The traffic was heavy all through the San Fernando Valley, which is normal, but it usually breaks up once you get to Thousand Oaks. Not anymore. It continues to run thick through Oxnard and then gets really slow once you reach Santa Barbara.
            About 200 miles from my house and cars started to disappear. It was rather disheartening. There is some peace until you approach San Luis Obispo, then it begins again.
            I expected it on Highway 1. It is a Sunday in the summer and something that beautiful can’t be exclusive. RVs, SUVs, trucks, cars, motorcycles, they all were on the road and it was slow all the way from the beginning at Los Osos until I could bear it no longer and exited at Highway 68.
            It would have been nice to take it all the way to San Francisco, but it was just not possible with the volume of vehicles on the road.
That took away from the beauty of the drive. The sound of the ocean was drowned out by revving engines by frustrated drivers. Horns scared away the birds that often hug the coastline, flying parallel to the road.
            This one experience won’t ruin my opinion of this road, it is still my favorite.
            The stunning beauty begins even before you hit the ocean. You are inland for a bit in San Luis Obispo heading west towards the ocean.
The road splits rangeland on both sides, with livestock smattering fields of rust colored grass.
            The blacktop rolls effortlessly throughout, dipping and curving. Right about when you wonder where the ocean is, it appears on the left. The rugged coastline juts in and out and just when you think you’ve seen the most gorgeous view, you turn the corner and another one appears even better.           Crossing the line that separates San Luis Obispo County from Monterey County is where the ride becomes a religious experience. The Los Padres National Forest on the left, the Monterey Pines are visible on the right and the buzzards and hawks fly above.
          From San Simeon to Big Sur it is 65 miles and there are small towns in between that almost seem like markers, just little mementoes of the ride, their purpose minimal. Gorda, Lucia, Posts, all provide momentary distractions.
          The remaining 36 miles from Big Sur to Carmel is the climax to the ride. Its splendor is exquisite. The magnificence washes over you like the water on the beach below and carries out whatever worries you have to waiting sea.
          Heading back east to Salinas to catch the 101 I saw the new faces of John Steinbeck characters.
          Mexicans have replaced the Okies of the manual labor market and they are treated about as poorly. Probably more so, since they are brown skinned and bring with them convenient stereotypes.
          Empty parking lots are filled with men looking for nothing more than some work to feed their families. Most of them are here illegally and that compounds the hatred that is directed towards them.
          I know a lot of people in this country that don’t want to work, to do the jobs that these men eagerly volunteer for, but it seems we want to pin the woes of this state on them.
          The problem exists, there is no doubt, but I don’t think a person should ever be punished for trying to better themselves. There has to be a way to make the process simpler and easier so they can assimilate into society.
          I know a lot of other people in this state I would rather export, most of them have offices in Sacramento.
          The heat continues as I pull out of Salinas and work my way to Gilroy. It is there why I am reminded why I am on the motorcycle. The smell of garlic surrounds me its aroma sweeping up into my nose.
          It is a small piece of evidence as to why motorcycles are better for travel. The road is at your feet, the sounds have no barriers to reach your ears, neither do the smells to the nose. There is no glass to hinder the eyes. It is there before you, ready for you and you for it. Hunter S. Thompson once said it is the closest thing he felt to flying and I would have to agree.