- Photo Essays
Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream its Over’ is blaring from the car stereo, windows are all rolled down as far as they can go, we have a good supply of chocolate and the salty Pacific air is making my eyes sting.
Yes, this already has the makings of the perfect Californian road trip.
Our budget, green Ford something-or-other is not quite the convertible we’d hoped for, but with all the windows down it’s the next best thing. Trying to leave the old Spanish mission town of San Luis Opisbo turns out to be trickier than first expected as the first set of traffic lights contradicts everything my years of driving on the left hand side of the road has taught me.
With my travel companion skilfully navigating a rather scenic route out of town and shouting intermittent driving instructions to me (Pedestrian! Merge! Stay right! What the hell are you doing?) we finally hit the open road.
But by the end of the first day I have mastered the logistics of left-handed drive (sort of), not to mention driving on the (ahem) wrong side of the road and we are somewhat cautiously burning rubber up the Pacific Coast Highway, aka California’s Highway 1.
Everyone we’ve met so far on this trip has said ‘you can’t miss Big Sur’ which is what has inspired this rather impromptu road trip in the first place.
The particularly picturesque stretch of coastline and Redwood forests that is Big Sur was once a favourite haunt of the writer Henry Miller.
Once we’ve had our fill of Big Sur and after an obligatory visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Library, we mosey on up the coast staying at numerous seedy motels, riding the state’s oldest roller coaster in Santa Cruz, getting hopelessly lost in the very quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, eating peanut butter cheesecake in Seaside near Monterey, and falling asleep to waves crashing on the cliffs at Point Montara Lighthouse.
And all the way the smell of the ocean air is intoxicating and the rugged coastal views increasingly distracting and it’s a constant struggle to keep my eyes on the road.
But I am very aware of the sheer drop to the ocean below that potentially awaits my momentary lapses in concentration.
By the time we return the convertible-that-wasn’t, I’ve finally got the hang of this right side of the road business and am even managing a few lingering looks at the views without veering off the cliffs.
The look of relief on the hire car owners face once he realises these two Aussies girls have returned his vehicle intact, is very amusing.
I reluctantly hand over the keys. It’s Amtrak from here on in.