“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death.”
We woke up bright and early to a smokey San Francisco haze, remnants of nearby wildfires that’s currently regarded as the “worst in history.”
The morning’s overpowering smell of burnt ash triggered both memories of past travel as well as the symbolic novel sentiment that I feel like I have been jumping from one wildfire to another this year.
But somehow, by regaining autonomy for our lives and standing in line for breakfast at popular bakery Tartine somehow helped alleviate the apocalyptic feelings that we’ve long been associating with 2020.
With breakfast and coffee in our stomachs, we set out from San Francisco at 9am for a 2 hour drive to Monterey.
We spent about half an hour here walking around Old Fisherman’s Wharf and watching random otters lying on their backs.
Then another hour driving down Highway 1:
Once we saw Bixby Creek Bridge we knew we had reached the grand finale of the Pacific Coast Highway — The Big Sur.
Some traditions don’t change —
3 years ago:
After passing through the photogenic and recognizable Bixby Creek Bridge, we took our time down this road, taking in all the splendid sights this legendary highway has to offer.
By 2pm we reached Nepenthe for a well timed, much needed lunch:
Although our original plan was to continue onwards to McWay Falls (a unique, 80-foot-tall waterfall flowing onto a small beach), and the seals at Elephant Seal Vista Point, the current wildfires in the area made Highway 1 inaccessible less than a mile past Nephente (the red shaded areas are the active fires).
Not wanting to get in the way of essential work and evacuees, we turned our car around towards Salinas:
Hopping from Highway 1 to the 101 and then onto I5 (currently devoid of traffic given a combination of the pandemic, wildfires and that it was a Sunday), we made good time on a 5 hour drive south towards Los Angeles where an impressive welcoming party was waiting for me at Chosun Galbee BBQ’s outdoor patio in KTown:
Balkans trip 2017 reunion!:
Finishing off our long road trip down the Pacific Coast, we had one more round of drinks outdoors at La Ddong Ggo:
The next morning we woke up at our accommodations at The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica where we finally took our time with a lazy breakfast:
And after giving ourselves an entirely free day in LA, we eventually set back north again towards San Francisco for our 5 hour drive and a step closer to the end of our journey: a 4-day Amtrak train on the California Zephyr from SF to NYC via Chicago.
I gotta say, even with all the half-hearted grief I’ve given to Los Angeles as a biased native New Yorker all my life, the past 21 hours in this city on our last official stop on our Pacific Coast Highway itinerary have been nothing but cathartic — and it appears to be not just for myself. Witnessing so many people directly and indirectly pour out pent up emotions from their lockdown/pandemic experiences in front of us have been sobering; keep in mind as a group of COVID-negative, antibody-positive, or naturally immune New Yorkers we’ve been relatively liberated from our single prolonged lockdown for almost 4 months now, whereas Californians are currently in the midst of or emerging from a second lockdown. Therefore for many of our friends in LA, our arrival and dinner together was the first social interaction (and for some, a real hug) they’ve had in months.
After my 21 hours here I’ve now viscerally internalized the difference to not only “know,” but also feel through these human connections that we’re not alone and that there is light at the end of this long long tunnel.
So if our brief sojourn into your lives from NYC made any difference for you to keep going — even if it’s just for an hour we had together — then I’m already more than thankful that we came.
And somewhere out there, a mother and her son just found the random note I left behind at Sea Level Bakery in Oregon!!
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- At time of posting in Big Sur, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 56% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear