Category Archives: Big Sur

Valhalla, Big Sur California

The second leg of my trip.

While Mary Ann went to Panama, a place I am not ready to visit again, I went to California. I had not seen my mother for over a year and I was due. I also needed a New Driver license. I also was gifted great seats to a Dodger game. AND I wanted to visit my oldest friend in Big Sur.

My mom was great. She will probably outlive me. She still drives around, although it is time for her to buy a smaller car.

The driver license thing had me worried. I had not driven anything other than a boat, a camel and an elephant for over 5 years. I studied for the written test for a week before I left. I want to be able to rent a car here in the UAE if I need it  for a weekend excursion to some oasis, but I could not because my California license had expired. My sister set me up with an 8 a.m. appointment. I was out of the DMV at 8:07. No test. Just $32 and a how do ya do. My sister, while happy for me, mumbled something about now she knows why there are so many fools on the road. Heh, if you can drive an elephant…

This is lot harder than driving a car and should probably be made part of any driving test.Well, maybe not.

That afternoon I rented a car. It was a 2011 Ford Fusion. It was great! I was able to plug in my Ipod and play my own music. All there is on the radio in LA anymore is versions of Mariachi, Chinese gongs, and right wing talk shows. Anyone of which would drive me to drink. Now I know why there are so many drunk drivers…

The next day I went to Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium to the unfamiliar). I picked up tickets a buddy had left for me at will call.  The price tag on these tix was like $120 apiece. Ridiculous. But they were great seats.  It was a midweek day game, my favorite. It was against the Phillies who will probably go all the way this year.  The Dodgers took a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first couple if innings, then the Phillies came back and trounced them. But it was great game. Thanks for the tix Robbie, I owe ya.

Me and my buddy KK. He was best man at my wedding. I am older than his father, but we get along like brothers. He is the kind of friend that you can make half a joke with and he is already at the punch line. Love ya KK

Our seats were so close we could smell the sweat coming out of the Dodger dugout as they blew a six run lead.

The next day I took off on unarguably my favorite drive, Highway 1 to Big Sur. I know this road like nothing else. If I knew anything else as well as I know Highway 1 I would have a PhD in the subject.

Ths drive is as exciting as it is beautiful. If you get lucky and there are no Winnebagos, or if you drive it very early in the morning, and you have a sporty car, you can be Mario Andretti for a couple of hours.

I timed my arrival to meet up with my oldest pal John at Lucia Lodge where he has been a waiter longer than either of us can remember. He works two days a week and gouges enough tips to survive just fine. Lucia Lodge sits on a south facing cliff overlooking the granite cliffs of the Big Sur coast. All year long you can watch the waves crash against the cliffs, and red tailed hawks soaring overhead.

This what you pay for when you stop for lunch at Lucia. The proprty has been in the same family since it was homesteaded. It is an old Kentucky family called Harlan. If you know any American history you should know that the Kentucky Harlans produced two of our best Supreme Court Justices. The other side of the family headed west, as far west as they could go, and settled here.

If you can take your eyes off the view you will notice  tourists from all over the world who stop in for an expensive lunch. As John tells them when they say “15 dollah for buggah?” he just points at the ocean and says “$7 for the burger, $8 for the view, and don’t forget to tip”.  By the time 4 Germans are done eating and drinking $8 beers, (and of course a couple of $5 coffees for the driver) the tab for lunch runs about $100. But John has created an art form out of being a waiter. He has them laughing so much that they do not mind that he added an 18% service charge and  fork over the big green backs. And as he reminds them “enjoy the view”.

John moved here in 1976. He bought 20 acres of land that yours truly wanted, but he ponied up the money first. I would never had made the paradise out of the place that he has, and I am lucky because I can visit it whenever I want. I used to take advantage of that privilege quite often when I lived in Sonoma County, but I think it has been 5 years since I last visited my Valhalla. It is now at exactly the comfort level I would have made it, if I had the gumption.

I like to sleep in the hammock John bought in Costa Rica after we drove there together.

His views are incredible. He can see 50 miles out to sea, over valleys chock full of redwoods.

This is just a piece of his view.

No one can get to his place without knowing the combo to his locked gate, and even more importantly a very sturdy vehicle to climb the roughest road I have ever been on, and I have been on a few.

This gate prevents any damn tourists from getting to his property. It has been rammed, sawed at, everything but blown up. Keeps the rif raf out!

A mile closer to his house is his country style gateway. I laughed when he planted these trees. They were just little things that I thought would never grow. But 35 years later...

He is what you might call "off the grid". He has been since he lived there. In fact the entire "south coast" of Big Sur is off the grid. He has enough solar panels to light up a small village. He has his own well with really sweet water. He gets cell phone reception and satellite TV. He could get internet, but he just does not want anything to do with it. I have to call him from home and send him post cards when I travel. He and my mother are the last two off-line people I know.

He has friends that stop by. I have known this guy JC for many years also. Here they are sharing a smoke of something I cannot talk about in this public forum. They play guitar, argue politics, and try to predict the weather by staring out to sea after they are done smoking. You know, normal stuff.

On "town day" we left early in the morning. You can see the fog creeping up the valley. When you drive down from this 3000 foot elevation, you drive through it, then under it when you get to the coast. The tourists do not know that it is 40 degrees warmer 1000 feet up, so they keep driving.

Once you get below the morning fog, along Plaskett Ridge road,you get some excellent views. This is a view of Sand Dollar Beach. Back in the day when I drove a VW bus and spent a lot of time here, this was an unofficial nude beach. Now, between the wanna be surfers and tourists, you cannot get nekkid there anymore. Hell, it is tough to find a place to park. Over-poulation screws up everything.

This is the school on Highway 1 right under Johns house. It is called Pacific Valley School. The community has a lot of truly talented people who teach beyond what the teachers teach (music, ceative writing, arts etc) and someone there is an excellent grant writer. They keep getting more money for neccesities like solar systems and niceties like tubas. The school is currently down to 20 students, grades 1 through 8, but with their funding they have 4 paid teachers. It is a great example of what a community can do when talented people are motivated. With all that said, very few of the students who graduate the local high school go away to college. Why? Because they live in Valhalla, Big Sur!

These flowers are called Naked Ladies. I just may be responsible for bring the bulbs to Big Sur from Sonoma county where they are endemic. At least I hope I am, but I cannot be held responsible for anything I did back in those days. These were outside the school yard, a place I probably would have planted them.

On his “town” day, we drove through a town called Cayucos. I had to laugh. I had never noticed the name of this little ville before. This time I made him stop at a couple of realtors. I would truly like to retire there, all I have to do is convince my wife.

Sadly it was now time for me to drive back to Los Angeles. I should mention here that gasoline costs about three times what it did in my old days of driving a VW bus on this trip. However, I actually spent less on gas because of the mileage on the Fusion. People should stop complaining and embrace the federal MPG statutes. It all works out in the end.

Thanks for reading. Tell a friend. Make a comment.

Next post, the ‘Nam. I never thought I would go there, but I am married to the most wonderful woman who makes even my wildest fantasies come true.

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