I confess to having a bad attitude, a negative predisposition, toward Carmel. In my mind, Carmel was the home of snooty rich folks with poodles, specialty boutiques with high-end clothes, and the attitude that tourists are tolerated but not really welcome. There is some of that, but that's really an injustice to Carmel. Yes, it has an actor (Clint Eastwood) for mayor, and yet it's difficult to think of Clint as a snooty rich guy, and if you walk the streets of Carmel, there are friendly people, good and moderately priced restaurants with excellent (and non-uppity) food, and a refreshing lack of chain stores and flashy, trendy culture. It's a mountain village by the sea, and I'll consider coming back. My attitude changed, we moved on toward Big Sur, down the famous Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Goodness. The scenery is grand. Dramatic, breathtaking vistas, bucolic settings, mountains meeting sea around every corner, and yet even I was getting scenery overload after about 30 miles of curve after curve with few guard rails on the highway and 500 foot drops to the (gulp) jagged cliffs and ocean below. This is Big Sur country, home of the Esalon Institute, a center of new age thought, home of many bohemians (including Jack Kerouac, writer of that bible of the Beat generation, "On the Road"), haunt of not-so-plain folks like Oprah Winfrey and others who frequent The Post House Ranch, where the pool is clothing optional of course (to which my daughter said "Ooh, that's gross!").
I grossly underestimated how long it would take us to reach our next stop, Pismo Beach, just south of San Louis Obispo, as with all the curves we averaged only about 30 mph, and so, tired of driving, we pulled over for a stop at the Jagged Edge Inn just north of San Simeon, where publishing magnate William Hearst built his famous castle. Given the welcome lack of commercial establishments along the PCH in Big Sur, Jagged Edge, like the few other establishments along the road here, had a little of everything -- lodging, ice cream, a coffee shop, a gift shop, and, well, a guy who's the spitting image of Jerry Garcia. In fact, sitting outside one of the shops there was a whole set of guys that looked like The Grateful Dead leader's brothers -- bearded, with long hair, and that make-love-not-war-I'm-stoned demeanor. There's a lot of tye-dye here, plenty of folk art, and an abundance of do-it-yourself eastern religion/paganism type literature in the bookstore/gift shop.
After Jagged Edge, the road straightened out quite a bit. We made a stop though to see the hundreds of elephant seals that had come up on the beach south of San Simeon. They lounged in the sun, threw sand on themselves, bellowed at each other, and generally smelled bad. It was an interesting sight, that and the seals and otters we could spot in the kelp beds offshore.
By the time we reached Pismo Beach, we were exhausted. We ended up having dinner at a hopping Italian spot frequented by locals called Giuseppe's, which was excellent, about 9:00. We would never have dinner at 9:00 at home! It was great.
Well, it was a long day. I'm thankful that my family continues to endure my love of movement. I do love those car trips, curves and all. And the people and places you see? Well, they remind me that the world is variegated and colorful, and all the better for it.
It was a good day. No one got car sick.