Passing Big Sur on the California Coast

The family skipped out early the next morning to head to the San Fran airport for a flight back home. I slept in, then headed to my aunt and uncles. I ate the last of the leftover jambalaya while my uncle made me some sandwiches for the road.

They drove me down just south of Carmel, a town they were going to for the day. I stuck my thumb out there, ready for the next ride. My intention was to camp around Big Sur a couple nights, I'd heard many a story about it's awesomeness, and had two days before I'd have a host around Paso Robles, that's where my friend Candice had recently moved to work at a winery. She was renting out a place nearby, her landlord wasn't keen on her having overnight visitors.

I watched a guy cross from the beach to the parking lot through a shallow stream, he headed behind me to his car. A little while later I heard a honk, it was him signaling me. I went to the car and he offered me a ride, he was cruising down the coast, foot loose, just exploring and enjoying. He'd just moved to Cupertino, from Maine I think.

We cruised down the coast making stops at every other corner so he could snap some pictures, the view was incredible. We were far above the ocean on sheer cliffs, the waves were massive and stretched far, I'd never seen such an aerial view, it gave me a new respect for the ocean and the planet.

After the second stop, we got back in the car and he pulled a hand gun from under his seat, stashing back in the trunk. He told me he always carried a gun, and had it ready before he let me in just in case, but was comfortable now.

He was an all around happy guy, it seemed I'd caught him at a pivot point in his life. This trip down the coast and picking me up was reminding him of his hitchhiking days. He said he'd spent about three years on the road traveling around. We swapped some hitchhiking stories, we both had plenty.

We made it to Big Sur, driving through the woods now, the ocean was no longer seen. We stopped at a lodge with the premise of getting a beer, we climbed up the steps to the top deck and he bought a couple pints of Guinness. From where we were drinking we overlooked the ocean and the vast hills between, birds flew around close to us and he tried to guess what types they were.

He told me about some issues he'd had with hard drugs while on the road, particularly one bad overdose in the middle of nowhere. He'd since stopped doing such things, even stopped drinking for a good 25 years, but obviously he'd gotten past that by this point, Guinness in hand.

Further up the road we went, I kept peeking around for a good spot to camp, everything seemed fairly good, but I was enjoying the ride too. We made a stop for him to take a picture of a windy road going up a butte that led to a lighthouse, cows in the foreground against the fence by the road. Some girls stopped to do the same, they recognized each other from a gas station stop earlier in the day. He told them he'd picked me up, they joked about taking my picture in case something happened.

We came across a little store and he picked up a six pack of Stella, we drank them down as we continued to south, there was no shortage of beautiful views of the ocean, remote beaches and rolling hills. He told me about his thoughts on religion, something he'd turned to after the drugs, he was something like a priest or a minister. He'd also been very close to joining a cult when he looking for direction, Jim Jones' cult, the one with the Kool Aid. He'd also know Ben and Jerry in the early days, saying he turned down a job when they first started, but still hung out at their ice cream shop on a regular basis.

Soon we both had to pee, we stopped into a busy parking lot in the middle of nothing, it seemed just like a lookout point. No bathroom was found and we pulled out to keep driving and find a spot off the road. The crowds of people made me curious, I followed their gaze to the beach where I saw hundreds upon hundreds of elephant seals. We took a leak on the road and turned right back around, joining the crowds and watching the seals lay out and flip sand on themselves.

We continued down the road, at this point he had a bar or a city on his mind, feeling he'd gone too far now to turn around. I suggested Paso Robles, being that it was probably the closest city, plus it was my ultimate destination, even if I'd be a couple days early.

On the way we saw a big castle high on a hill in the distance. We pulled up to a gate we thought may lead to it, he hopped out and took some pictures while we guessed what it may be. Trucks appeared, rolling down the driveway to the gate, Tim (the guy driving me), asked them what the castle was. They informed us this was private property, and not the property of the castle, but if we drove a little further up we could find out more.

It turned out to be Hearst Castle, there was a big parking lot and building for this attraction with bus tours and the whole deal. We downed our last beer and wandered into the building to look around, then headed back for the car. We made a stop at the next store where he picked up another six pack, oatmeal stouts this time.

We popped them open, kicking them back as we turned east away from the coast, towards Paso Robles. Extensive rolling green hills surrounded us on both sides, we pulled over to admire it better. In the distance we saw a heard of cows running full speed along a dirt road winding along the hills, provoked by what I'm not sure.

We got to Paso Robles, he decided he'd either find a room to stay in or motivate himself to drive back. He dropped me off at a grocery store that seemed fairly central, we parted ways there. Candice was appropriately at a wine tasting, I'd wait there for her to come pick me up and see what the night would bring.