When you think of the classic American road trip the words Route 66 probably leap to mind. The reality is that the first stretch out of Chicago isn’t that interesting (so I’ve been told) and by the time you reach the South West USA it’s been largely replaced by dual carriageways that by-pass the old towns which have, in many cases, become desserted and lost.
California State Route 1, also known as Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway is different. It remains true to itself, clinging to the American west coast, turning with every curve of land jutting into the sea and a surprising remoteness from the rest of the state.
The stretch between Carmel and Ventura Beach (between San Francisco and LA) enjoyed a day of our company in 2014. The white Vauxhall Passat hire car carefully tracking the contours of the road with an average speed of only 30mph. Chris spotted a whale. Numerous vista points demanded stops for photographs and moments of natural beauty that seemed, somehow, to outdo that found on other coastlines.
The wooden Bixby Bridge crossing a canyon as it enters the sea without an estuary. Elephant Rock looking extraordinarily accurately named. A beach full of seals. The young frolicking in the sea. The mature sun bathing and fighting.
And there was so much more. It was a wonderful day and my only regret was making it a one day drive instead of splitting it into two days. Alas, a necessity of a tight schedule. The following day took in the tackiness of Hollywood Blvd. the difference couldn’t have been more stark.
There was a vague notion that I’d return in September and do that road again. But the ending of California’s drought has brought rain and landslides. And Highway 1 was already closed by rockfall when yesterday brought the mother of all landslides. A little bit of me is gutted. Not for the sparse communities and exclusive resorts cut off (although I am sad for them). It’s just one of those places I wanted to see again and now, very possibly, won’t.
It seems likely that they will clear and reopen the road. If they do and the notion of a USA driving holiday takes your fancy, this road beats Route 66 for me.