Big Sur, California

I didn’t even stop in the city this morning, just flew on through. It was cloudy and rainy like it has been every morning in California since I’ve lived here. But inevitably, as was true again today, just around mid-morning the low fog sweeps out to sea and leaves perfectly blue Californian skies for the rest of the day.

I don’t have much to cover today because I took advantage of the sweeping fog. Only twenty miles or so out of San Francisco, though it felt worlds away, I laid on a state beach and listened as the huge Pacific waves crashed into the shore, shaking my body further into the sand.

Even with the thick fog I kept warm, laying low, under the cold wind. But after a half hour of that, the clouds flew out over the Pacific faster than I’ve ever seen clouds move.

My memory of how wonderful the beach is had apparently faded with my tan. I spent nearly three hours on that beach, reading my book, drifting in and out of sleep, cooking without notice. I stayed too long, I think, because my face is hot and I’m scared to shave. And I’m about as red as my hat. I thought I was tan, impervious to the sun, any sun, but the California sun is a different breed, secretive and strong.

Three hours anywhere in one day kinda limits your options for the rest of it. It was practically four o’clock by the time I got to the next sizable town, Santa Cruz, so I stopped for lunch, briefly walked their downtown, and cursed their libraries (I tried two) that wouldn’t take floppy disks. I left town just at five, just as the shifts of Mexican immigrants changed in the fertile crop fields south of town — a delay that set me back another half hour.

I had to race through the beautiful Big Sur coastline along Hwy 1, still getting to admire the rocky cliffs and the impressive seaspray as the waves hit them, the 5000-foot mountains jumping straight out of the sea, glass houses perched directly on top.

I started looking for campsites as the Big Sur-area State Parks started popping up: Andrew Molera, full; Pfeiffer-Big Sur, full; a handful of private campgrounds, all full. On the south edge of town, only mildly into my familiar panic, I found a modern yet earthy campground (two aspects I don’t really like together) with vacancy. I took a random site — I’m not as picky as I used to be since I really only use my sites to pitch a tent and sleep. Sometimes I wish I could make a campfire and roast marshmallows or boil a pot of tea or soup, or do whatever else it is that people do at their sites, but I don’t. It’s merely a parking spot and a night’s accomodation, though I do prefer it to be woodsy and semi-private.

Tonight I’m directly across from a couple families camping together, each with a few five-year-olds, and they’re cute and not so annoying, but one of them has a flashlight that “roars” like a bear each time he turns it on and he’s been flipping it on and off for the past twenty minutes. They’ll go to bed soon, I’m sure.

This is John Steinbeck country. I’ve been quoting him recently, even today in a couple of correspondences for the same reason I’m going to paraphrase him right now. Steinbeck says that big trips are like big meals: that at first you’re starving and you’re ready to eat all of everything around you, but eventually you get full and you must forgo some things in order to keep your appetite and taste buds functioning. You have to cut things out and just eat the best things, and maybe not even all of them. And so it is true for myself and my journey. I’m getting full.

And because of my waning appetite and tired jaw, I’ve been experimenting with my projected schedule, thinking of ways to keep it light, eat the best things and do it quickly. I’m ready to wipe my mouth and do the dishes.

Which reminds me, I have some serious laundry to do and my car is getting filthy. In the downhill slide of this trip, I’m developing a great apathy towards the appearance of my car (necessitating the “car freshener” I bought at Wal*Mart a few days ago). I leave my towels and dirty shoes and books and trash piled all around the back seat. I get new floppy disks out every day and don’t take great care at folding my sleeping bag. The purpose is simple: I’m excited to do a full detailing job once I get home, to scour the cracks and under the seats and door pockets for little reminders of all the places I’ve been. And then throw them out.

Tomorrow I’m just driving further down the coast, closer to Los Angeles. This is a long coast.



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