The next few days were spent on the road – southwards along spectacular Route 1, as far as Santa Barbara, then back to Pacifica through the hinterland along Route 101. The time spent in Big Sur and beyond was replete with memorable sights and experiences – the sublime beauty of the misty coastal vista; foregoing the luxury (and budget-killing expense) of a local resort-style motel to camp instead under ancient Redwoods (yes, I brought a tent with me); a lazy afternoon reading Asimov in their dappled shade; walking from the campground to the local hotspot – the legendary Big Sur River Inn (opened in 1934), for a cold beer and live jazz on the patio that overlooked the (little) Big Sur river; the afternoon blending seamlessly into evening and a hearty, country meal; walking back to the campsite in the dark to a peaceful night’s sleep sheltered by the forest sentinels; exploring secluded sandy beaches nestled amongst the intricate sandstone formations; the trail leading from the highway, down to the ocean where a pencil thin waterfall emptied directly into surf below; the unexpected delight of seeing sea otters in the offshore kelp beds; soaking up the sun and salt air along the boardwalk in Santa Barbara — as well as admiring the local biota — with Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen”, as a fitting accompaniment, playing in my head.
For the remaining three days of my stay, I was back at the Pacifica Motor Inn. One more trip downtown on a clean, efficient BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit — modern, spacious cars with seats upholstered in fabric, not vinyl) which used a pre-paid, mag-stripe card system — quite the novelty at the time. I had some US funds that I wanted to spend, so Happy Hour at the Hard Rock Cafe (Number 6) seemed like a good place to spend it. On my last full day, I visited a museum near San Jose that specialized in all manner of technology – electonics, computers and other nerdy stuff. On returning to the Inn, the key to my room would not open the door. I hurried down to find out what was going on from Mike and Freda. They had taken the liberty of “evicting” me, so that I could spend my last night as their guest — and enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal. Icing on the cake — and a fitting end to a wonderful adventure.
July 1986: Arrived in San Francisco for a totally unscripted, two week, solo adventure. The only thing arranged ahead of time was my transportation. The gentleman in front of me in the queue for a car had also been on my flight. Mark (can’t recall his name, so that’ll do) had reserved a hand-controlled car that suited his minor disability. The agency had screwed up and his ride was not available. As my itinerary was blank anyway, I offered him a ride to Stanford, where he was to attend a conference. After dropping off Mark, I headed towards the Pacific – after all, it was California and the ocean beckoned. After reaching the coast, I turned north – back in the general direction of San Francisco to scout for my night’s accommodation. The first motel I stopped at was a bit too dear, so I drove on and decided appeasing my hunger was more important at that moment. I made a casual inquiry at the restaurant – my waitress told me of a nearby motel which might fit the bill. It turned out to be a very good choice.
The Pacifica Motor Inn was steps from the beach and the proprietors made me feel right at home. Mike, originally from Detroit and Freda, from Toronto, had met while working in Switzerland. Upon returning to the States, they married and just a few days before my arrival, took on the job of managing this recently opened establishment. This became my base of operations for the next eight days. Wandering the vertically-challenging streets of ‘Frisco (as I lacked the patience to stand in line for a cable car), viewing the cityscape from the art deco Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill; birding along US Route 1 north of the Bay area, absorbing the pristine natural beauty of the old growth Coastal Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, and kicking about on nearby beaches and headlands, filled my days. Surprisingly, though it never rained for my entire stay, I never saw a sunset, as the fog would roll in reliably every afternoon. Several evenings were spent socializing with Freda and Mike – dinner out; dinner and/or drinks at their place – they even set me up for a dinner date with another one of their guests – Laura, who had driven cross-country from Florida.
Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz
One of the murals in the Coit Tower rotunda
Coming soon – Part 2: South to Santa Barbara