Driving on California State Route 1: Highway to heal

koenau @koenau
· 14 days ago · 6 min read · United States · #budgettravel


Thundering surf, rolling waves, steep cliffs and a road on which the soul seems to be drive directly to heaven. Welcome to a ride on the Highway 1, one of the most beautiful street in the world.

"Big Sur is the face of the earth as the creator wanted it to be," wrote Henry Miller once. If you want to know what he is talking about you only have to drive from Los Los Angeles further north, because Miller nowhere you can find the the freedom and beauty of California better as on the legendary Highway 1, street along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur is only one town inbetween the route from LA to San Francisco who need nine hours to drive. The Spanish called the coast El Pais Grande del Sur.

Half way is nine hours long

“I got a place, I do call mine, got me a space where I can breathe” sings the the band The Waifs in theyre song “Highway One”, that goes on with “Got my garden, got my trees, and if you're ever out this way, and if you still call my name, I'm not that hard to find I live on Highway One twelve hour drive”.

A hymn for a route into the heart. This drive should be the final chapter of every western USA roundtrip for everyone. Highway 1 is a prayer, a cinema visit, a dream come true on wheels.

If you go north you have the ocean over your left shoulder and the road straight ahead. This coastal road was decided in 1919, and after 18 years of inhumane laboring by prisoners, it was completed in 1937. Nowaday it is nearle 2000 kilometers long, leads through forests, small western towns, past steep cliffs, luxury houses and wide beaches.


Highway 1 is not just a road, but an adventure - and for many travelers it is also the most beautiful coastal road in the world. Drive to the left into one of the parking lots. See the sea. Feel the wind. And listen to the rushing traffic.

Meet the Elephants of the sea

In San Simeon you will see Elephant Seals, an animal was considered extinct until a surviving colony was discovered in a lonely bay. In 1990, just under two dozen elephant seals were seen on the beach in this area. But the world is going better and migration pattern of the seals began to extend. In the last 30 years their population continued to grow every year and now about 17,000 elephant seals have their homebase here.


You can`t touch them, but volunteers have made safe places with a view. Viewing is open to the public free of charge, the best place for that is the Elephant Seal Boardwalk, an ideal location where volunteers in ranger uniforms ready to answer all your questions about the real hard life of the seals, their long excursions along the coastline and their endless months at the open sea.


A good thing too is the interstate a few miles inland. Most of the business traffic todays flows there so you have the chance to be one of only a few cars coming up from the south, where the views is dramatically. At the end of a green coastal plain, the Santa Lucias tower like a fortress wall.


Highway 1 is heading straight for it until it disappears in a mountain fold. The Bixby Creek Bridge waits 20 kilometer south of Monterrey, it is a wonder made from steel in 1932, 80 meters high and 200 meters long. Stop before you reach the bridge to get the best view.


Delicate veils of fog often float across the plain from the sea. There is no crowding here either, in one of the country's most popular vacation spots for tourists. You cannot taken a bath in this waters, but you can see redwood giants that are up to 2000 years old on the hills. And always the Pacific, blue and empty up to the gently curved horizon, with a sundown at the end of the day that is gold and red and yellow and orange. Both colors are terrifying and magical.


Some dream destinations have magnificent mountain landscapes. Others have fairytale beaches. Highway 1 has both things and the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, a real gem of trees, waterfalls, springs, trekking trails and views down to the ocean. Narrow paths lead steeply skyward, to airy views high above the world, from where the rising and falling Pacific looks like a living being.

A trip over Highway 1 and especially the Big Sur coastline immediately brings to mind all these images and this feeling of freedom that is so popular with American landscapes and highways.


Imagine the windows of your car are open. A pleasant breeze blows through the hair. And behind every serpentine you see another coastal panorama waiting for the Pacific to clap powerfully against the rugged rocks. Left of you is no more west. The next stop to the left is Japan, where every days starts.


Think about this for one short moment. You`re really at the end of the world.

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