STOP HERE ON RED —>
EXPECT 5 MINUTE DELAY
I’ve never seen such a thing. The normally two-lane highway — with one lane heading to Monterey, and the other back down to Central Coast — has narrowed down into a single one. The red light conducts the traffic going in two different directions into a narrow passage marked by the striped, orange cones.
One lane. Somehow, all the way up here, in Kerouac’s country, coming and going doesn’t seem to matter. We are all one: simply on the road.
Ahead, the plastic poles cut across our lane diagonally, and the orange netting stretched between them provides zero protection from the loose stones that seem to have come off the side of the mountain. The high rock is exposed and dark gray, darker than the wet asphalt of the PCH. Here, the highway had to have been built by heros, used to conquering any mountain. Or, perhaps, it was carved by the machetes of the retired Valkyries, tired of fighting.
The traffic behind us is starting to accumulate. The Jeep of military green has a brand new rack on its rooftop. It’s empty. A line of Subies and Prii must belong to the locals. They know how to navigate these roads, with patience and an even hand. But I wonder if for them — the chase is over.
A row of similar cars going in the other direction finally passes us. Our light changes.
We begin to continue.
As the view opens around the bend, we both gasp: Unmanned machinery sits amidst the piles of construction material. There are rolls of metal netting with which the heros must secure the side of the suddenly disobedient rock. A giant crane of royal blue is left upright and I immediately want to go swinging off its rusty hook suspended seemingly at an arm length away. It has begun to drizzle and the machines parked on the other side of the road, over a short bridge, are blurry behind the fog. Sleeping monsters. There are a couple of newly erected cement walls, on both sides of the road. They’ve got their purpose written in stone, but with five meter spaces in between each one, they appear to be thought up by Richard Serra himself. And underneath it all, there roars the Pacific. It’s white with foam and gray with rage. Mercilessly, it slams its hissing waves against the giant fangs of the rocky shores.
To look down feels like a bird’s flight, but it is best not to do so while driving: The heights tempt the mind’s wings into the abyss.
The line of cars on the opposite side of the site simultaneously waves hello with their skinny hands of windshield wipers. The faces behind the rain-splattered windows seem calm and exhausted, but not at all resigned. They are aware, actually. For fifty miles at least, I haven’t heard any thumping of car radios or the abrasive screech of honks.
We cruise. Come up on yet another sign.
The forewarned patch is just a dip with gravel on the bottom. The white railing to the sides winks at our headlights with yellow, round mirror eyes.
We drop, survive.
It’s not so bad. And just like that: It’s over.
The mountains get higher here. The fog is denser and it wraps around the black peaks. It blends the line between the seemingly undoable heights and the sky. The Ocean beneath is blurry, and although the drop can no longer be measured by the eye, the exhilarated heartbeat knows it’s no joke. I hear its whooshing. Glorious.
The limit that marks the end of that terrain and starts Big Sur sneaks up on us: And suddenly, things change. The mountains are not so rocky and covered with all shades of green and rusty red. The roots of vegetation replace the metal netting done by the heros; and they seem to do quite a sufficient job at taming the exposed rock. The rain begins to come down evenly, but not yet pour. There kicks in the smell of mushrooms, dying leaves and wet bark.
The fields with feeding livestock return. A row of inns and hiking humans marks our return to calm civilization.
HENRY MILLER LIBRARY
SOMEONE ELSE’S GALLERY
BREAKFAST LUNCH AND DINNER
We pick up the pace. The Redwoods. Magnificent umbrellas of evergreens. Stalagmites of eroded yellow rock. The fire-engine red of succulents.
We keep on moving. Sometimes, we follow the lead of those who seem familiar with the passage. Their pace is calm, belonging to those living in surrender. The occasionally impatient ones pass us while we pull off to the other side of the white line. Here, we’re all still one, and simply — on the road.
We pass it and again: It’s not so bad.
We keep on following the road.